Today’s Contributor: José Luis Perales
I’m a sixth year, first-grade teacher at Sanchez Elementary and I love what I do. I also love the fact that I work for a district that embraces the use of technology and innovation in educating our students.
The school I work for is labeled as a Title-I school, basically meaning that the majority of our population comes from a low-income family. In my few years of experience, I have seen how this label, or status, affects our students. Many of them normally tend not to be experienced in controlling a laptop, much less knowing what Google Chrome is. Yes, I know these are first-graders, but it is never too soon to begin learning how to utilize today’s technology.
Every school year, as I get a wave of new first-graders, my mindset is to begin arming them with skills that they can take with them throughout their schooling career. Keeping in mind that I will be working with 6-7 year olds, I feel that I have to make some major adjustments to many of the things that are presented to me during technology trainings for using BLEND, and so forth. Luckily, for me, I have been provided wonderful support and I received many great ideas as well as encouragement to develop a unit of study for my students that would get them started in using BLEND.
My Technology Design Coach and I began small, given my large class size of 23 students at the time, and we decided to simply have the students practice logging on utilizing their QR codes. We taught them what they were, and modeled how to put the code up to the camera. Many students found this quite easy, so they were able to practice it multiple times. For others, there were some technical difficulties. The code didn’t’ work, or it just had to be bent at a certain angle, which was quite difficult for some of my students. Then after this session, I realized I might want to get students trained on how to grab a computer and log on completely independently. I knew it was going to take some practice, but with help, anything seemed possible. One thing I have realized is that first-graders really like anchor charts, and will use them when they feel lost. Therefore, it almost seemed natural to just list the steps of the process I wanted to teach them, however, I had to think of the students who cannot read independently just yet. With this, I thought, first-graders are good at working with partners, so I will just have to pair them accordingly. With that said, students began practicing getting their own computers. The more we practiced, the less help they needed from me. After all, that was the goal I was trying to reach… creating independent students.
Many times, primary teachers are afraid/uncomfortable integrating technology in their lessons and classroom. I can’t blame them too much. I myself got into a routine early in my teaching career of making copies, lecturing, small groups, and games for centers. It was easy to plan for that, and for me, I was simply emulating what my co-workers were as I was trying to survive my first couple of years teaching. Now, things are a bit different. Being part of a community of technology leaders, I feel inspired to try and innovate with my own students and really teach them new skills they will use forever. Social and emotional lessons are now tied with understanding what good digital citizenship means, and my students practice it when using technology. I encourage all primary teachers who are on the fence to make some sacrifices to your schedule and really begin teaching your students what resources our district has made available for them. In my experience, the sacrifices to encourage more technology has been a rewarding one.