April 18, 2019

Mini Musings - Technology in Lower School: A few of my favorite (tech) things

by Mary Brook Townsend, 5th Grade Teaching Assistant and Technology Integration Specialist

“If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.”
~John Dewey

It is true that everyday at McGillis is filled with smiles and laughter; however, as an educator seeing that joy connected to innovation and engagement is when I know that authentic learning is truly taking place. My role this year as Technology Integration Specialist has allowed me the opportunity to initiate and support both students and teachers as we delve further into integrating technology. Using technology as a tool for creation, rather than passive consumption, allows students to take an active role in their learning. By fusing the curriculum to new technology tools and skills, students are not only learning, but are also beginning to see themselves as powerful creators.

First Graders in Ms. Emily’s and Ms. Lou Ann’s class used technology as a way to showcase and display student learning. After reading both print and eBooks focused on a plant, animal, or insect, students then used their new knowledge to create a presentation using the Draw and Tell app. Within the app, they used both factual and visual knowledge to draw, narrate, and add text to their presentations. While working in the app, first graders learned how to record their voice, draw with a stylus, save their work, and much more. Watching the students explore and create with the app showed strong engagement, increased learning, and provided them with overall pride and joy in their work.

Fifth Graders connected their new programming skills with their knowledge of the Triangular Trade. Using Sphero Minis, students worked in pairs and used block programing to direct the robot with specific degrees and distance. Next, Fifth Graders added symbolic colors as well as factual narration to explain the “trades” that were taking place at each stop. It is important to note that students were not merely enhancing their coding and programming skills, but also were designing and producing an educational model. Student pairs worked through this activity in a rather quick 45 minute period, forcing strong teamwork, and at times, increased frustration. While students were provided guidance, the overall design was theirs to construct and create. At times, the room was filled with cheers and simultaneous audible exasperations, yet the programing and authentic learning continued to take place. Observing both failures and successes, what struck me was increased motivation and the strive for achievement. Students were compelled to create a program that “worked” and that they could take pride in completing.

Both of these projects are prime examples of technology integration with classroom curriculum, further speaking to the gains students make when creating and producing. From Fourth Grade’s digital portfolios to Second Grader's designing different rock types using Augmented Reality, K-5 students have all experienced the pride and ownership that stems from using technology as a tool to invent.

Perhaps next time you hear an, “I’m bored”, think about asking your student to make, build, and create!