Apps, web sites, gaming, coding, computers, iPad’s; are these the things that come to mind when you hear about technology in the classroom? The definition of the word according to Merriam-Webster does not limit itself to digital examples; a pencil is a form of technology. The Greek root of the word; techno means skill or art. Therefore, when you really think about it, we have been using technology in one form or another in the classroom, long before computers.
What is technology?
This is an important observation because it demystifies the idea of “tech”. We are living in an amazing time when we are connected to the past, present and future through the click of a mouse, or increasingly, the swipe of a finger. There are strong feelings on both sides of the argument as to whether our technological advances will be our saving grace or eventually our civilization’s downfall. Whichever side you are on, one thing you cannot deny is that if you are not on the tech boat in the classroom, you will drown. After being a media teacher for 4 years, and an early childhood teacher for much longer, there are two things I have concluded–
- The majority of students do not know as much as you think they do about technology.
- Integrating technology in the classroom is not in addition to; it is instead of.
Do the students know what Technology is?
I think many experienced teachers assume that their students, even in the early childhood classroom, are already far ahead of them in terms of how to use digital devices. I agree that young children are far more comfortable with their IPADS, and with every generation are getting more intuitive in terms of how to use them. However, just because you know how to open an app and push the buttons doesn’t mean you know what you are learning, or even realize that you are learning.
Technology is ‘instead of’
Most teachers will agree “There’s no time for anything else!”, and that is where the idea of “instead of” comes in. Integrating technology is about the redefinition of a traditional pedagogy. Check out the SAMR model for an easy guide to the difference between substitution, augmentation, modification and redefinition of tech integration.
Combining digital confidence and redefinition for teachers is a time consuming proposition. Luckily for us, the complete lessons found in each Gynzy grade level integrate CC standards, higher-order thinking skills and basic computer skills like clicking and dragging and site navigation. Even children on the cusp of reading can make their way around a Gynzy activity by recognizing the icons and avatars.
For example, my 2nd grade tech class started the year playing the Letter Selector activity to come up with words that described a season; fall. We worked together in groups to come up with sample words, and then each child created their own list of 8 words. Once each child had their list ready, they created a memory game using their descriptive fall words. Even in a classroom with only one smart board, you can make a game and introduce new vocabulary instead of doing a worksheet. This is a simple substitution that provides the students with a new way to achieve the same results; learning new words.
Engage your students
As many more schools move toward bring your own device (BYOD) initiatives, it will become easier to have children create their own content, even in early childhood classrooms. The important part of this of course is still the teacher who helps the child understand what they are actually doing when they choose specific words to describe something as ephemeral as a season. Use Gynzy activities to introduce topics and ideas. You can use Story Dice to write Rebus Stories, Counting Fingers for addition/subtraction and the Plant Life Cycle to explore Visual Thinking Strategies.
The best way to learn how to use these resources is to take the time to explore, create and make mistakes. Making technology, in all its manifestations, available to you and your students will allow you the time to get more comfortable with it. We also have to stop thinking of technology as an “intrusion”. Step away from the teacher’s edition and look around the room at what your children are playing with and more importantly what they are ignoring.