KinderKidsDraw!

Having been a middle school teacher for most of my career, I have to admit the littlest kids were my biggest fear when I accepted this elementary-focused position. But, oh, they are just so adorable! No matter what happens during the day, the moment I walk into the kindergarten classroom, or they come into the Learning Hub, I can’t stop a huge grin from spreading across my face. There’s nothing quite like a knee-level hug from 10 five-year-olds at once!

After working with one of our fantastic pre-Kindergarten teachers last year and getting a little bit of an idea of just what the youngest of our little darlings can do, I was anxious to try another project this year.

I heard a lot of talk before I started about how the younger kids “can’t” use computers and how they “don’t know how” to work a laptop. So, those of you that use technology with your kindergarten classes will know just how pleasantly surprised I was to see just what they can do, and for those of you that don’t – they can do a lot more than you would expect.

Certainly you have to break each step down into manageable chucks, of course you can only do short bits at a time, and for sure, they need a different type of support than middle school students, but they absolutely can use technology – and a lot quicker and more independently than I was lead to believe.

This year I’m working with two amazing ISB Kindergarten teachers (and 8 other teachers around the world) on the KinderKidsDraw project. Basically, we started from the idea that the kindergarten students used to go to the computer lab (which no longer exists) to “learn” KidPix once a week with the technology teacher. After thinking about the fact that once a week, for 20 minutes each time, and often extended breaks in between, may not be the best way for kids to build their understanding of new concepts, and maybe KidPix isn’t something we want them to “learn” since we’re looking to enhance core content not teach software, we came up with a new idea:

Use KidPix to enable students to draw their understanding about the new concepts they are leaning in class. Spend perhaps 20 minutes a day for 3 days in a row breaking down the drawing steps into small chunks so that they can create a finished drawing every few weeks. Then, taking that finished drawing, upload the picture onto VoiceThread and have the students record what they learned that is represented in the picture. Over the course of the year, these VoiceThreads can become an electronic portfolio of their developing understanding in various subjects.

We started with the “All About Me” social studies unit by having students draw (first by hand, to be able to compare later) a picture of their face, and then record an introduction to themselves on VoiceThread. It was interesting to see just how many of the students preferred drawing on the computer, even though they said it was much harder than drawing on paper.

Each class has now posted their completed VoiceThread on our collaborative wiki so that we can help students find connections with their peers all over the world.

On Thursday we watched the VoiceThreads from Spain, the US, and Canada as a class. As we were watching, we paused every now and again to ask how many students in the room have a common interest with the students in another country. It was fascinating to see their looks of surprise when they realized that kids all over the world love Ben 10, cupcakes and the color yellow.

Once they had an introduction to each class, I worked with our students (one-on-one) to select one specific student from another class, and then record a comment on their VoiceThread introduction. They were very quick to choose which ones they wanted to leave a comment on and they absolutely loved hearing their own voice play back through the VoiceThread.

Next up we hope to do something around the topic of weather and seasons. It will be interesting to see which of our students have actually seen snow previously and sharing the pictures of our different seasons should be a real eye-opener for those that have lived in southeast Asia all of their lives. The plan is for these connections to continue throughout the school year so that our students can begin to have the experience of create an (age-appropriate) personal learning network with their peers in other international and public schools around the world.

We are definitely proceeding slower than I would in the intermediate and middle grades, and I am doing a bit more facilitation than I would with older students, but it is working. The students are enjoying the experience and they are totally ready and excited to “talk” to other students around the world. It’s still pretty amazing to me that a five-year-old in Bangkok can get to know a five-year-old in Spain with just a few quick lessons and audio recordings!

What do you think? Can kindergarten students “do” age-appropriate technology-rich projects? Or should I be focusing my attention on the upper grades?

Chalk by onlyalice
A Puzzle of Paint by brentdanley

11 thoughts on “KinderKidsDraw!

  1. Pingback: KinderKidsDraw!

  2. Yes, yes, yes Kindergarteners CAN do age appropriate technology rich projects. The attention you are focusing on them is so worth it. Imagine the first graders you will be having next year ! 🙂 You are building towards an amazing group of students that will have everything they need to create, think, share and collaborate with many different tools.

    My experience with the Kindergarteners has been that they are as receptive and as ready to work with ANY tool as their fantastic teachers are. They are sponges and willing and ready to go with you where ever you will take them.

    They need, of course, more one on one time than their older peers but have the attitude “I want to do it myself”, while some of the older grades are much quicker to say “I can’t do it- help me”. 🙂

    Your observation, that is is better to work more frequently rather than once a week on a project, has proven to be true for us too. For that age group it is important to allow them to see the connections between lessons and allow them to build on their skills. If too much time passes between lessons it is like starting from the beginning. One week in the life of a 5 year old is a lot longer.

    The classroom teachers are key to make this work for the little ones. The more they connect the projects to the rest of their curriculum and daily routines, the more the students will be ready to use the technology as a tool that it is meant for, not as a stand alone program to be learned.

    In order to allow the classroom teachers to integrate technology and reinforce concepts frequently, not just the once a week lab time, they need to have tools readily available in the classroom too.
    Too many times are the ELC (Early Learning Center) grades overlooked when distributing hardware (SmartBoard, projectors, extra computers, document cameras, etc) to the classrooms.

    If we start using technology to connect the lower grades to others and have them use tools to express themselves and their learning, then we will grow them into students who will expect/demand more from their learning.

    Your KinderKidsDraw project is a perfect way to get started with that age group.

  3. This is exactly what we believe in our school district here in Pennsylvania, U.S.A. In fact, I passed on your KinderKidsDraw project to a couple teachers in my district, and they signed up last week. We also eliminated labs in our district because we feel students work better in chunks at a time or several days in a row rather than one 30-minute session every 6 day cycle. You’re right on about breaks, special assemblies, and weekends stretch those sessions way out and students lose any sense of continuity. We recently have been stretching our instruction all the way down to Kindergarten for many of the same reasons. They want to learn, they are capable of using technology, and think about how much farther ahead they will be next year as first graders. I think you should keep feeding those sponges – keep up the good work! Thanks for your insight and hopefully you’ll be hearing from some of our schools soon!

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  5. @Silvia,

    Thank you! I really appreciate this! I was really going with my gut instinct and seeing where it would take me (although I do have a background in elementary ed, I certainly don’t know all there is to know about early childhood education). I’m lucky to work with such open-minded and talented classroom teachers that let me try these kinds of projects with their students.

    @Chris,

    Thank you for all your positive feedback and personal insight! It is good to know that I’m on the right page with this type of project – and it will definitely be interesting to see how these students are with technology when they get to first grade.

    It’s already amazing to me just how quickly they adapt. They expect to be having these kinds of experiences and they expect them to work – it’s not exciting for the “wow” factor for them, it’s just the way they communicate. One student said to me: “I want to talk to my friend x in Houston today,” not even realizing that this was some kind of special project set up with specific classes – he’s just used to Skyping with his friends back and home, and why wouldn’t we do that in class too?

    @Heather,

    Excellent! I’m so glad to have you on board! Want to add your VoiceThread to the wiki? Maybe we can find some other ELL classes to work with you too?

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  7. Thank you guys for the wonderful job you are doing here.It’s really an inspiring adeas and projects that people surely will do the same.

  8. Kim,
    I am in a constant battle with Kindergarten and first grade teachers who feel computers are completely inappropriate for their students. I really don’t see how they can not use this project. Crossing my fingers. What a fantastic idea!

  9. @Simon,

    Thank you! So glad the idea is inspiring!

    @mpodulka,

    I hope you are able to get your teachers on board! This was a great early project for us – not a lot of stress, but a lot of great outcomes! Please feel free to join the wiki and we will add you in!

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