Today’s Contributor: Meredith Davis @msdavisgtkinder
A little background: I am a bilingual kindergarten teacher and the PPCD (special education) inclusion teacher at a Title I school. I have students with ADHD, anxiety, sensory issues, intellectual disabilities, emotional disturbance, comprehension issues.
Technology in any classroom can seem intimidating, even impossible, especially when teaching early childhood students. In older grades they have been exposed to different programs, used a mouse before, know not to lick the iPads. In Pre-K and Kindergarten, not so much.
The beginning of the year seemed very overwhelming when introducing technology to my class. At my school we use Imagine Learning, Dreambox, and MyOn, so students get exposure to computers and iPads. I held my breath, hoped nothing would be damaged beyond repair, and got them started. Typing in a sequence of 10 numbers for their student code wasn’t happening, so I used QR codes. Students had trouble using mice so I put stickers to indicate good hand placement. And what do you know, it worked! It took time, lots of patience and repetition, but it worked. This must mean that they can do more…
Next, we tried a Code Hopper and a Code-a-Pillar because all students need scaffolding, not just students with special needs. Code Hopper is a sequence of steps that they physically do, and Code-a-Pillar is a sturdy caterpillar that connects different body parts in order to follow the sequence of steps. This took even more patience and repetition, especially since some of my students liked to put it in their mouths. However, I noticed that my students took it upon themselves to protect this classroom treasure, assisting other kids on how to use it properly, turn it on and off, and reminding them it’s not for eating.
In order to be able to use any technology, or anything really, safely in my class, I have focused a lot on SEL as well. Students have learned that we are a classroom community, all responsible for each other and everything in the classroom. They take ownership of their materials, their behavior, and the behavior of their peers. If they notice someone who is mistreating an iPad, for example, they will most likely go and correct them before I do. This is an integral part of why technology works in our room. If students don’t respect the school community, they will not respect and take care of the items that belong to the school.
Over the course of the school year I have also been observing my comfort level with technology in our classroom. Honestly, it was not a lot at first. All of my worries and doubts completely overwhelmed any good that I saw coming from it. But over the course of the year, little by little, it has grown so that my students’ abilities can grow. We have gone from introducing a computer mouse, to discussions with students on proper usage, redirection, and help from the students. If you want to use technology in the classroom effectively it takes effort. It takes time. It takes days where you want to pull your hair out, and shut all the technology in the closet, or you close the computer center with a big sad face. But then you take a deep breath, figure out what went wrong, and try again. I know that I am a firm believer in getting students started early, because if the Early Childhood teachers don’t then they’re already behind when they get to first grade. If you don’t use technology in the classroom then you might not get the headaches. But you also don’t get the teamwork, the camaraderie, the excitement, and the smiles.