Listen to the Podcast or Download as MP3
Dr. ROD: Talk with me about the concept of hands on learning and what that means now. When I think about hands on learning, I harken back to my days where that meant working with my hands on play-doh, and I’d think that takes on a different stance today with technology and what you’re doing with your students.
KRISTI: You’re right, it does. If you walked into my classroom now you’d see what appears to be a normal kindergarten classroom. There’s a housekeeping center, Legos, blocks, painting, those sorts of traditional centers you see in a normal classroom, and it just so happens we also have a cart of iPads, one for every student. The 1-to-1 aspect has allowed me to give access, to every one of my students, to a wide variety of activities and information which was not previously available. Prior to iPads we had 2 desktops in our classroom, and in a classroom of say 30 students, the access is just not there for students to use the computers more than once a week or so. The iPad gives them instant access at any time of day and the activities that we do maximize the opportunity for the kids to learn.
Dr. ROD: Take us inside your classroom to when you first put a piece of technology into a little ones’ hands.
KRISTI: It is exciting! They take to it far easier than any adult does. Many of them, even if they don’t have an iPad at home, are exposed to the technology of their parents.
In the beginning of the school year I start small. We learn how to handle the iPad. We introduce them to a couple of apps that we might be working on in that small group. Each day however, I increase the ability for them to explore and use some of the other apps with supervision.
Also, I personalize their learning and so the children have some voice and choice in what they do. They may have the choice to demonstrate a particular skill to me in writing on real paper with a pencil or crayon, or perhaps they might choose to demonstrate it in a particular app that they have. That voice and choice gives the children the opportunity to take charge of their learning.
Dr. ROD: Kristi, do you see that change as the school year progresses? Do you see them picking up the technology more?
KRISTI: Mostly yes, I still have a few, and what they may do is they may sit down and start out with a real book and then they may switch over and read one on their iPad. The MacBook has free software that you can download called iBooks Author, and I have created some of my own books. The great thing about iBooks Author publications is they’re interactive. You can put Widgets in that allow you to insert videos on keynotes, comprehension checks, 3D images, all sorts of things the children can manipulate in the text.
My boys, for instance, are very into dirt bikes, and so I’ve written a little dirt bike book that’s on their reading level and it is always available on their iPad. Wherever they are, whatever they’re doing they always have what we call a ‘just-right book’ at their fingertips. Just-right meaning it’s on their reading level.
Dr. ROD: What role do parents play in a successful technology integration process at the Kindergarten level?
KRISTI: Their support of course is absolutely necessary and when I say support it’s that they are willing to do whatever needs to be done.
The parents at home that do have iPads or iPhones, they are very interested in the apps that we use. I feature an app in my newsletter, an app of the week sort of thing, and many of the parents will get the app that I feature so they have it at home. That way their child can use it at home. One of our apps that we use quite a bit is Book Creator. I will email a book home to a parent so they can see what their child’s been working on, and I just recently had a parent who purchased that app book creator, so that their child could continue to create books at home because the child was expressing so much interest in it.
Dr. ROD: Speaking of your favorite apps, what are your favorite “go to” apps that you think are significant for a kindergarten population?
KRISTI: Explain Everything, and that’s a wonderful app for annotating. My students can either draw their own image or import a picture from the internet. They can label it, annotate it, and they can even import video and annotate and label that, which is a really huge part of our science standards. Children learn to label like a scientist but more importantly, they can record themselves in their thought processes on that particular app.
Pic Collage is a free app that we use for demonstrating word works, vocabulary, math, we use it all across the curriculum. Another app that we like is Pages, we do a lot of typing up science journals and reading response journals in Pages. The kids have really gotten into iMovie and they are making their own movies to share with the class.
Dr. ROD: How has technology illustrated students original works with their parents?
KRISTI: I’ve actually had parent-teacher conferences where kids have their portfolio in front of them and they’re pointing out the parts of the water cycle. The parent can actually hit the play button and hear their child.
Dr. ROD: Let’s go to mentoring Kristi. I know that you take pride, from what I can tell, from providing assistance and support to your colleagues in this area. What are the challenges your colleagues are facing when it comes to integrating technology into their classrooms?
KRISTI: Right now the current barrier is that many schools don’t have 1-to-1 technology initiatives. One of the things I’m doing with them is brainstorming ways to make the device meaningful during the time in which they have it. It’s definitely not lack of interest on the educator’s part. It is often challenges with infrastructure or the physical possession of the devices.