The time is here to choose that “final” project idea! How did time just fly by like that? Am I ready to revamp a whole unit to incorporate all/many of the things learned in COETAIL? Being that Course 5 will begin in January, there are only a couple of options to choose from, well, really only one in my mind…science.
This is a critical time in Kindergarten for literacy skills and the students must meet standards and benchmarks for their grade level by the end of the year. I can’t readily “experiment” with this. At least I am uncomfortable “gambling” their future on some unknown. I don’t mind taking risks but my professional ethic also reminds me to do no harm. (Not that they would necessarily be harmed per se…just not up to the end of the year benchmarks. I am sure the first grade teachers would also appreciate this.)
We have the Garden Unit in science for most of second semester (February to mid May). The length of time for this unit is conducive to building the skill set to integrate technology authentically (not the crash course or the Cliff Notes version). In this science unit, we start by learning about living and nonliving things, tying in our Wood and Paper Unit from FOSS. We look at structures and behaviors of different parts of plants (i.e. leaves, stem, roots, flower). We compare different kinds of plants (i.e. vine versus plants with stems) and purposes (i.e. grown for edible parts, grown for aesthetics).
It’s an exciting unit of study for the students where they can make observations and see change on a daily/weekly basis. One of the goals is for the students to compare and talk about these changes and differences. In a way, it seems a natural fit to embed technology in this unit. This allows the students to record more of their thoughts and reflections than with typical pencil and paper in a science notebook.
The shifts in pedagogy for me will be to teach students to be more verbal about their observations and comparisons on camera, to validate their thinking using words and explaining their thinking versus pictures/illustrations, and to use technology responsibly and respectfully on an individual basis independently.
As I think of possible hiccups for the students and for myself, I am visualizing what happened last week as I asked the students to use the camera on the iPads to document how they changed the wood sample when they sanded it. Literally out of the corner of my eye, I caught a student (who was so focused on getting the picture of how he had sanded the corner of wood sample) almost let the iPad slip out of the leather cover. (Even though I thought I had prevented the problem by locking the screen in one position to force them to use the camera in one direction.) For adult hands, we can hold onto the iPad single-handedly and push the camera button. It looks very different in Kindergarten hands. For one, their grip is not firm and multi-tasking (holding, focusing, and pushing the button to take a picture) is a new concept.
Another concern and challenge is how to manage all their documented work. At the moment, I am uploading all the pictures students take with the iPads and cameras and printing pictures for their science notebooks. Ideally for this unit, it would be a digital portfolio for each student. We have 5 iPads and 4 “laptop” computers (that act like desktops). We can check out a class set of digital cameras temporarily from the library. Although our science investigations and documentations were always individual endeavors, perhaps it’s time to rethink and have students work collaboratively.
My challenges will be:
- to continue to explore and establish my PLN with primary educators using technology
- to try out different apps and software and see which one is the best fit for the demands of the individual and overall tasks (and not the other way around) in a primary setting
- and to set up access to tech tools and digital portfolios that are Kinder-friendly.
There’s nothing like on-the-job training for the students (and for teachers too). But accidents can and will happen and I have to let go and let students have as much access as possible when using technology to document their thinking and reflections. It doesn’t hurt to try. Some ideas may flop and some might be successes. I know that I am not alone. We (my online network, my colleagues, my students) are on this journey together and will grow and learn together.