The Animals have arrived!

Mark Kenny/flickr
Mark Kenny/flickr

Well all good things have to come to an end, or so it has been said.  But is this really the end?  Yes it is the end of our Coetail learning experience but hopefully this learning will become more integrated and a regular aspect of our teaching as we will continue to explore different ways to use technology in our professional and daily lives.

I’ve had my perceptions of youngins “messing around”  changed.  I’ve learned that everything has some element of something created before but used in a new form.

Today, I am sharing my final project with you showing you how I have stayed true to my grade level’s unit on Animals but with a redesign of how my children learned to teach others about animals.  

Here is our UbD Unit planner that I started with entitled “Animals Around Us”.  I’ve added the web address for our video as well as a link to our pdf lesson video and activities.  Feel free to take a look.
When looking at the SAMR model I feel that we reach the Redefinition stage.   Summer Tech Institute 2011 defined  Redefinition as the computer allows for the creation of new tasks that would otherwise be inconceivable without the technology.  My class was able to take information from the internet, put it into a Youtube video to share and teach their learnings with global citizens.  To reinforce their teaching video, they included hand drawn pictures of the video’s focus animals.  Together as a pdf, this lesson is able to be shared anywhere around the the globe for English speaking learners to learn from my students teaching. Children teaching children.  Pretty cool huh?

Here is the link to our lesson, video and activities.  

Kids project link:

Throughout this unit we have used a variety of applications to get us to this place.  We have used:

  • The Internet for our research
  • Smartboard sharing ideas with the class, showing how to do a google search
  • Computer research
  • iPad using iMovie
  • iMovie  videos
  • PicCollage photos
  • Microsoft Publisher to create our game boards
  • Google Docs notes and to create our storyboard
  • Google Keynote Opening page (explored)
  • Google Slides for list of researchers, credits and Thank You
  • Canva for my title page, list of researchers, credits and Thank You

It might seem repetitive looking over this list, but I tried all of these apps, some without success and some with success.   I have to say, I am like my young children who are fearful of the unknown – testing buttons and geegaws in these “new” apps.  But I found that the app didn’t bite back when I used some of their buttons.  I did find, that some apps were easier for me to use than others.  I think that just has to do with how the brain works.

Here is the unveiling of my final project.  I hope you enjoy!

Mashup or Evolution?


Exploring/photo by lgrunwald
             Exploring/photo by lgrunwald


As I grew up my father took lots and lots of travel photos.  He’d send them out to be developed and once they all came back it was time to sit through watching hundreds of slides from our trip.  I remember all of us oohing and ahhing and the memories the slides brought back to us.

But then my father died over 30 years ago and my brother who was quite “tech savvy” in those days always wonder what he could do to preserve the hundreds of thousands of slides my dad had kept for the memories.  Obviously both of us have moved a few times in the past 30 year so how can all of these slides be stored in a more compact manner.

At first Karl tried copying the slides to the internet by photographing the slides.  A few years back I received a CD with worthwhile “family” photos.

I’m not sure what and how he is saving these photos because over the past 30 years so many solutions have been found to preserve and store photos!

So what is my point?  I have been working on my video for my final Coetail project.  Many how things have changed just in the few short years I have been teaching.  And then again they haven’t changed quite so much!  Remember the articles we read in Course 2 about mashups!  People find ways to reuse what has created before and apply it an update version.

Ten years ago when I began teaching I photographed my students throughout the year and then made a compilation of class photos and songs we sang throughout the year and gave these as end of the year gifts.  I loved hearing their oohhhs and ahhhhs!  I don’t remember what program I used but eventually I started using Audacity.

All year long I still take pictures of my class.  Sometimes because they are simply cute 4 year olds.  Sometimes I take the pictures to show milestones achieved.  And sometimes I take the pictures for the parents and put the photos on Seesaw so they have a birds-eye view of what is happening in the classroom.

But now I have to make a ten minute video!  Wow!  That is a long time!  What app am I going to use?  Am I going to be able to maneuver around the app to do the things I want to do and need to do?

I’m using iMovie.  Maybe not an creative choice but my choice nonetheless.

My first road block was how do I upload my pictures.  Ok, I created an album with my chosen pictures.  Then I began to create collages!  That was cool, I was able to use more pictures but in a smaller space.

Oh, no!  My photos aren’t downloading for me as I thought would happened.  I had to spend time manipulating buttons, search for directions on the internet and asking colleagues for help.

OK, got around that and my photos are downloading.  Now, I want to put them into some systematic order.  Well that was easy!

Oh no, I just realized my little video clips haven’t downloaded yet.  How am I going to make that happen?  Back to asking questions and getting responses.  Great – Success!

Patiently standing in line/photo by lgrunwald
Patiently standing in line/photo by lgrunwald


OK, so now I see my video is 5:17 minutes long.  Oh boy, what am I going to do?  I need a 10 minute video.  So I watch my video again.  I see that some of my photos are not on the screen long enough for the viewer to see the entire photo.  Hmmm?  What to do?  Then I realize that if I stretch the photo in the video, the photo will linger in the video long enough for the whole photo to be seen.

While I’m playing with this some other interesting bits become aware to me.  I can place titles right on the photo with the help of iMovie!

I started this project a week ago, the video making process.  I am now re-reading directions on things to consider while making your video.  Remember the Course 3 about Understanding Presentation Design?  I think I have condensed my video so much by overusing collages.  Maybe I should go back and review what I have and see if that is the most effective way to display those pictures.  What do you think I did?

I am off and running with my 10 minute video and having fun!

You know, iMovie isn’t really that different from Audacity!


PLN’s are our future

Mark Kenny/flickr
Mark Kenny/flickr

I haven’t been very active for the past fews months.  Lots of things have been happening that has interfered with something called daily life.

Occasionally, I’ve check my Twitter account and The Pre-K Spot on Facebook and looked at Pinterest to see who has been knocking on my doors.  But I’ve been living in a hole and really struggling with getting out of it to see what has been happening beyond my four walls.

I am aware of tweets that have had to do with Google Summits and EdTechTeam, Inc. and RVIS-bh, but I have to say I haven’t seen many of interest for a Pre-K teacher.  Even among my Cohort here I teach the youngest students while many others are holding IT positions at their schools and go on up to teaching high school.

So I’ve lurked around to see what others have been doing and how they have met their need for developing their Personal Learning Network.  My friend Amber alluded to how Pinterest can play a role in one’s personal PLN.  Hmmm! That’s interesting.  I use Pinterest often to gather ideas and  information but I’ve never put information up.  I’ll check that out!

The blog talks about how “Pinterest is one of the top social media channels for visual content.”  She really encourages you to “optimize your boards and pins for search”.  If you use those same keywords on your boards, it will thrust you up into people’s view more often and increase your visibility therefore, expand your viewership.

In the Social Media Examiner’s, article entitled 5 Ways to Get Your Pins Noticed on Pinterest,

She talks about branding.  

  1. “Add a descriptive keyword that you want to be associated with to the end of your business name.”  Hmmm, this sounds like when we add lots of tags to our blogs hoping that one or more will catch someone’s interest and lead them to read our blogs.  That makes sense.
  2. Pin Consistently!  “Pinning consistently can help people discover your pins and increase the number of followers you have on Pinterest.”
  3. Pin at Optimal and Different times of the day.  “Pinning at different times throughout the day and night will help your pins be seen by new local and global audiences.”
  4. Repin your old pins!  Spreading out your pins will help you gain followers each time they appear in their feed.  This can also encourage them to see what else you have on your boards and expand your visibility.
  5. Participate on Pinterest Group Boards

Wow!  I remember learning about day traders who bought and sold stock from their home and earned a decent living for themselves and their family.  It certainly sounds like this is the direction of developing your Personal Learning Network.

I think it is my loss that I haven’t kept up with this new social media.

Back to my reference to a group called The PreK Spot found on facebook.  I don’t think this page is competitive as it is an opportunity for mutual sharing of ideas, advice and simple sharing.

The PreK Spot/lgrunwald
                The PreK Spot/lgrunwald

Meanwhile, I have set out an “ad” to people on Twitter, The PreK Spot, my own facebook page as well as my co-workers in our Early Childhood department.  Friends, who aren’t teachers but have worked with me in the past, have offered to view our video.  But I’m not sure how they will play our games!  Some on my team have offered to watch and play our games!  I’ll let you know what they think when they get back to me.

Playing our game/Lgrunwald
Playing our game/lgrunwald

Contact me if you’d like the pdf we have put together!  My kiddos were so excited when they realized they were watching what we made together and had a blast playing our games and feeling empowered because THEY knew the answers and wanted to shout it out!

Animals Around Us/lgrunwald
Animals Around Us/lgrunwald


Thinking and re-formulating

Swan floating in (wpaczocha/pixaby)
       Swan floating in (wpaczocha/pixaby)

Lots is happening…or not happening because BIG events are occurring.  

While the BIG decision is being further thought about, formalized, reconceptualized and then re-formalized again, I have had the opportunity to chat with several school principals around the world.

A common question asked is how is technology used in the Pre-Kindergarten classroom. Actually, this seems to be a common question among educators.  Should 4 year olds really be using technology in the classroom.  If so, how would that look?  Does the child sit there with the iPad in front of them, earphones stuck into their ears, and they (supposedly) work with the app the teacher has given them?  Or is there another way?    According to NAEYC technology should be used with our little ones alongside of us.  

As I gather and prepare material for my final project I see how our local culture affects are children’s curiosity.  They love to be singled out to work with the teacher/adult but when I’ve passed the iPad to them for independent work they shake their head and push the iPad back into my hands.  If they are gifted with time on the iPad to “play games” the opportunity is welcomed.

So….now I need to rethink.  How am I going to guide my little ones into using technology to help build a lesson that can be shared with others.

Mark Kenny/flickr
                   Mark Kenny/flickr

My final project will focus on our Animal theme as stated from Course 4.  The past unit has been structured for the teacher to play “sage of the stage” and tell students what they need to know.  Students are then provided with reinforcing activities which could be sorting animals by habitat, learning how to differentiate between a cheetah and tiger, or maybe learning how to draw the animal.

These are good ideas but do you see how and where technology is being used?  By me the teacher, yes.  By the student – not so much!  NAEYC suggests pre-kindergarteners can “search digital files for photos of places, people, animals, or objects and converse with children about what they are finding.

So, what and how can I bring technology into our classroom in a meaningful way.  All of my kids have personal iPads at home to play random games.  When I first decided to redesign our theme, I was looking at using QR codes with the children telling about the animal.

As I continued to redefine my project, and thinking about the administrators asking how would I use technology in my class, I felt this would be a good time to introduce my students how the internet is used in daily life.

Together we will research about animals that catch our  interested.  We will learn about how we can ask the internet questions and receive answers.  Then we will put our work together in a way that we can share it with others beyond our school.

From here, we will re-formulize our Animal theme, with us working on the computer together to collect information that we can use to develop and use to teach our friends, to help them also learn about our favorite animals!

Cheetahs at rest (gekkodigitalmedia/Pixabay)
Cheetahs at rest (gekkodigitalmedia/Pixabay)


The Animals are coming!

Ready for school (free_dragon fly)flickr
Ready for school (free_dragon fly)flickr

Another course comes to an end at the end of this blog! Just one course away from completion of my Coetail journey! Here I am suppose to outline what my final FINAL project will be – one of my favorite topics – ANIMALS!

I teach little 4 year olds who have been learning how to cut, color and form their letters. Introducing, or reintroducing since some of the them use them at home, iPads in the class seems counterproductive. But I think as we enter the second semester we will be ready to pursue the use of iPads. I will be starting to turn some of the class learning over to my students.

Reviewing my Coetail journey thus far, I felt I should include the main aspects of the course so I have some authentic practice as well as provide my students with some authentic opportunities when using the iPads. I’m sure many of them have experience playing games and watching videos on their parents phones and their personal iPads but as a teacher, this will be their introduction to how iPads can be used as an educational tool.

Our first course was focused on how we, as international teachers, can connect with other teachers around the world. Many of us use Skype and Facetime with family and friends, but how can we communicate as educators and encourage our students to learn about the global society surrounding them.

Our second course was about using technology responsibly. What happens when I post something? What happens when I delete it? Is it really deleted? Or not?

Our third course talked about how we can share our ideas and thoughts through photos creating “digital stories” and making videos or infographics.

This course, Course 4, talks about our storytelling journey through time – oral sharing, the written word becoming the published word to sharing over the World Wide Web and how this journey as taken its course in the classroom. And where i could be leading us?!?

My 3 week theme on Animals will address these points through further tech integration in my classroom. Remember, I said I teach 4 year olds. The beginning of our school year isn’t the an appropriate time to bring the iPads out, but I think by the end of January/beginning of February will work. Here is a brief outline of how my Animal theme will touch the different aspects of this course.

  1.  Connecting to the world beyond – The videos and digital stories my children produce will be viewed by some of my global friends and their students. I hope that we can have some sort of dialogue through the use of the great app called Seesaw.
  2. Digital Citizenship – Since my children are just beginning to write independently, we will be using the iPads to play some apps and to learn how to take photographs and make videos. While learning these skills the children will be supervised by an adult to ensure they remain on task using the device responsibly.
  3. Visual Literacy and Digital Storytelling – My children will be taught how to record their learning sharing with us their favorite animals, where they live and why this is their favorite animal. To prepare for these activities, my children will be learning how to answer questions and how to ask questions of each other. This will help them become better inquirers.
  4. Digital Journey – Here my children will learn how to use the iPads as a learning tool and a means of global communication. Their final assessment will be based on a video they make about their favorite animal. As our class we will work on a dramatic performance based on our favorite make believe animal story.

I hope at the end of this theme my children will understand new ways of using technology, how to communicate with children around the world and gain confidence speaking while the iPad is running.

Mark Kenny/flickr
Africa  Mark Kenny/flickr

Anyone who is reading this blog that is interested in connect with my class, please feel free to respond to this blog below.

Usage Plans in Place

Trusty Transistor Radio/emilyd10(flickr)
Trusty Transistor      Radio/emilyd10(flickr)

I remember when my brother turned 13 and was given a transistor radio (I know!).  He was given ground rules at the very beginning that he could listen to the radio in the evening but if my parents found it left on (yeah for batteries) it would be taken away.  Well of course the inevitable happened but the radio was given back soon for him to have another chance.

One evening I was at dinner with a friend and we noticed a family of 5 arrive.  Dad sat at the head of the table and laid his phone down on the table, whereupon everyone else passed their devices to him to stack upon his own.  Devices were off for dinner!

I haven’t asked my 4 year olds about their personal device use yet, but in the past my students have usually offer information about their device use at home.  When the devices are pulled out in our classroom, it is usually for a predetermined amount of time – Center time.  Device use in our  Early Childhood classes isn’t been a free time or anytime activity and is usually for a short period some days.  Device use is a privilege so everyone wants to be respectful of the classroom device use.

Although, I have noticed how my children’s attention flow and ebb depending on how long I use a certain teaching method.  Our morning meeting on the smartboard is no longer than 10 minutes and then we move onto a whiteboard activity where they are asked to think and provide information or are directed to use small whiteboards, before it’s time to get up and move.  These combined activities will last about 20 minutes.

After recess and snack, we have a large learning block.  Most of this is active work time for the children but broken up into smaller groups with a short play break before beginning the next task.  

I don’t think brain breaks are a new thing, I think what Larry Rosen, the psychiatrist, article entitled “The Amazing Power of Tech Breaks” is saying that we need to acknowledge the role of devices in everyone’s life and usage plans need to be developed for device use and then clearly modelled and practiced so everyone has time for the needed brain breaks.

My personal use varies from what I do on my personal time and what I do at school.

This year our school moved to BYOD for the entire secondary school and all of the previous website blocks were removed. A previous Coetailer had created and implemented a appropriate use policy for the school.  This was cool for some of us because we now had access to facebook at our own discretion.  During my planning time I have found that I appreciate taking a mental break to read something other than school work.  My choice is (was) to glance at MSN or emails.  I tried looking at facebook but realized that facebook was a sort of “entertainment” for me, and I was losing the entertainment value when I looked at it at school.  I have personally found that the short break, reading something other than school text, refreshes my brain and I can return to work.

I chuckled with the Larry Rosen’s comment that students have learned to blindly text in their laps!  When I substituted for a high school class years ago, I found that the students were even texting in the pockets!  Such wizardry!  Why don’t they go to such extremes when working on their lessons!  I like his suggestion of all tech devices being placed on the desk upside down during class.  

Stacked/amber who? (flickr)

What device usage plans do you have in place?

“I know that I know nothing”

"Socrates" Carlos Franco/Flickr
“Socrates” Carlos Franco/Flickr


I jotted some notes down while I was working through our readings.

Here are a few random thoughts…

  1. During the 5th century, The Socratic discussions began using” the tools of philosophy and rhetoric to entertain or impress or persuade an audience to accept the speaker’s point of view.  Plato famously formalized the Socratic elenctic style in prose—presenting Socrates as the curious questioner of some prominent Athenian interlocutor.”
  2. A hypothesis (plural hypotheses) is a proposed explanation for a phenomenon. For a hypothesis to be a scientific hypothesis, the scientific method requires that one can test it.

What will education look like in the next 5, 10 or 20 years?  It looks like education as we currently know it is influx.  It also seems educators are suggesting that maybe people like Socrates and Plato were on to something!

One author says education needs to become better integrated with technology and students need to come up with questions to be answered as they learn.  Other authors say that education should be handled directly from the internet through video lessons.  A paper from National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media (2012)  says technology should be introduce to the young child with guidance from an adult but encouraged to be used as “one of many tools that young children can use to carry out their play ideas, acquire knowledge and skills, and solve problems. Using technology is an interesting end in itself (discovering how it works), as well as a means to an end (extending roleplay, solving problems).”

Some repeating themes seen here.

Going back to Socrates and Plato, students were encouraged to question and discuss their ideas, their curiosities, and debate their ideas with their peers.  These conversations began with a premise and moved on to be either agreed upon or to move on in a fluid way to another premise.   

Over time, education has moved from a one room classroom where many different ages are taught specific subjects to where we have separated out the subjects giving each a designated amount of attention.  Today we are beginning to exchange our one subject teaching to mashup teaching – bringing several disciplines together to create a project based learning (PBL) environment.  As PBL is incorporated into the student’s’ learning, questions are created and pursued by the student and through technology and discussion with others students conduct research related to the PBL learning.  Their learning outcomes (or projects) are then shared beyond their classroom walls out to the world through the use of  technology.  Validating students learning by sharing with others outside of school helps motivate students to repeat this process and build self-confidence as well as a deeper understanding of the PBL task.

Children playing with big blocks/James Emery (Flickr)
Children playing with big blocks/James Emery (Flickr)

What is going to happen to Early Childhood classrooms?  I think we are already beginning to see that the very young child develops more appropriately with play being an integral part of their day.  Their learning is experiment and tested through their role playing and copying what they have heard in their story books and lessons. Technology can be a part of their daily learning but should not hold a central place for these young minds.

How is our future educational system going to evolve?  No one know but everyone is speculating!  

Play Based Learning



Play!  My children love to play.  I can learn a lot about my children watching them play.  They play because they know what play is about.  They learn a lot through play.

To them playing is self expressive, fun and creative.  They  explore ways to create something from their own imagination.  At the beginning of the school year my children sneak to the dramatic play or building area as often as they can, or whenever they are given time to play.  In general, they play with what is familiar.  My job is to introduce them to new ways to play using building materials, learning how to express themselves with stuffed toys or puppets and especially showing them how to play with others.

In the first few months of school my children are playing along side of each other, sometimes very peacefully.  They are playing on their own, exploring their own ideas beside a classmate who is following the same practice.   But they aren’t playing together.  This is a period where children are learning about each other.  Questioning whether you are someone they would like to get to know, can communicate with and trust. So as the children parallel play, they are also watching the children around them.  What are you doing?   Do you like the same things?  Do you handle the toys like I would? Around this time you’ll hear the children saying, “caring is sharing!”  Which to them means I want, so you have to give to me.  

This is a teachable moment to teach 4 year olds what sharing really is – negotiating, working with someone else, trusting someone else to be kind to you, someone whom you can communicate with.  

So how does this miracle happen?  Through modeling from the adults in the room.  I find that if I begin working with something in the class, the children will gravitate towards me and observe what I’m doing and ask what I am doing.  Then they will either ask if they can join, wait to be invited to join, or just join in.  As we work together we talk about what we are doing and I will offer help or materials for their work.  How many join in will depend on the time of the school year, or maybe, what we are working on.

The other day, I began playing with the train tracks.  I was laying them on the table and children came along and began setting up the track while others helped themselves to the trains and began playing.  We had a little tassle over someone having something another wanted and we talked about how to handle the situation.  The word sharing came up in the conversation and we moved on.  Those constructing the track continued.  Those playing with the trains on the track continued.  

As we continue to play with things in the class with an adult “overseeing” the children will learn how to be better at playmates.

Here in the Middle East is is quite hot for the first 6 weeks or so of school so we have recess inside.  All of the Pre-Kindergarten children will spend one recess in our block room playing with legos, blocks and imaginary foods.  If you watch the children, you will notice different types of playing going on.  The child with siblings will gravitate to playing with others, taking turns.  Older children will be playing next to other child and the only child will be off  playing by themselves.

I love when outdoor recess begins.  Yes, there is a lot of redirecting going on, but slowly the children begin playing with each other – playing superhero or zombies – running around burning up energy.  As they play day after day, trust is built and friendships are made.  Those friendship are brought back into the classroom and explored further during class free  time.

So what does this all have to do with classroom learning, flipped classrooms, PBL, using technology in the classroom?

Learning how to play helps build the foundational playground for learning how to work with others, taking risks, exploring the unknown, testing and accepting failure and find other children who share similar interests.  As friendships grow, we begin to share things we like to do with our friends, we begin exploring those common interests and pushing each other into exploring and gaining new knowledge.

This can be seen with older children in our Minecraft group.  Children’s heads are bent over the iPads or computers with a low hum running around the room.  On occasion, you’ll see one child get up and move to another friend for conferencing about a question or solving a problem.  You’ll see a group gathered testing their virtual world and sharing their world with another for a test.  

Save the Children (children playing)/flickr
Save the Children (children playing)/flickr


All of these practices are learned through play.

UC Davis Cancer and UC Davis Children’s Hospital Children’s pdf talks about skills children  learn through play.  These skills build a foundation for further grown as a person and learner.

  • Develop physical skills – Gross motor skills and fine motor skills
  • Develop cognitive concepts – Children learn to solve problems, colors, numbers, size and shapes, enhance their memory skills as well as their attention span. Children move on to higher levels of thought as they play in a more stimulating environment.
  • Develop language skills –  telling make-believe stories and jokes keeping the mood light hearted.
  • Develop social skills – Learning to cooperate, negotiate, take turns and play by the rules.

Developing these skills prepare children for success creating questions in the flipped classroom, developing appropriate projects for the Project Based Learning unit and gamification.

Infinity and Beyond!

WikiImages (Pixabay)
                 WikiImages (Pixabay)

Project based learning (PBL) has been talked around our school for probably a year now. This year the elementary classes have been challenged to turn one of their units into a PBL lesson. We have three staff members who have attended workshops on this and are now guiding our teachers in new PBL design units.

What is PBL? Why are schools and educators talking about it?  PBL is student-centered pedagogy that involves a dynamic classroom approach in which students acquire a deeper knowledge through active exploration of real-world challenges and problems.

Buck Institute recognizes and focuses on a few criteria

  • Recognize students’ inherent drive to learn,
  • Engage students in the central concepts, and principles of discipline
  • Highlight provocative issues or questions that lead students to in-depth exploration of authentic and important topics.
  • Require the use of essential tools and skills, including technology, for learning, self-management, and project management.
  • Specify products that solve problems, explain dilemmas, or present information generated through investigation, research, or reasoning.
    Include multiple products that permit frequent feedback and consistent opportunities for students to learn from experience.
  • Use performance-based assessments that communicate high expectations, present rigorous challenges, and require a range of skills and knowledge.
    encourage collaboration in some form, either through small groups, student-led presentations, or whole-class evaluations of project results.

Since we are a standards based school, Buck Institute also adds on that the project needs to be standards based.

But once again, I think to myself, I think this wouldn’t work well with my students. I continue to think about PBL and how I can bring it into my class. You see, at the beginning of Pre-Kindergarten, my children are so dependent on their caregiver doing everything for them. Then they come to my class and I have my arms folded around my waist, and encourage my students to think and try for themselves. I ask them to think about what they could do to solve their problem. I’d say at least 50% of my students have never been asked that a question. They are use to taking the problem to their caregiver and leaving at their feet. Where the caregiver, unthinkingly, picks up the problem and solves it unconsciously. The child gets the problem solved and moves on, never really thinking about how the problem was solved. When I was a child, I would have struggle looking for a solution. OK, mom might have given me some verbal direction to move the solution along. But my children today haven’t developed language skills to talk about problem solving.

Get my point – the beginning of the school year, is not a good time to introduce PBL.

By the second semester students have begun to learn how to express their ideas through verbal communication as well as begun to read. A sense of community has grown in the classroom and children have learned about common interests with others in the classroom and feel much more secure in exploring “new” ideas with their classmates. They’ve also been introduced to looking things up on the internet to deepen and expand our understanding.

My children’s predicament is really pretty common. As a staff, we have become aware of how much our children need to be challenged to think for themselves and hence the introduction of PBL in our classrooms. Our students are certainly intelligent enough to work on projects – many are devoted Minecraft fanatics! And, as many young people, they can be easily drawn into something interesting and stimulating.

I have a few units during the second semester that can be expanded into PBL units. One is Space. You know, “Space – the final frontier” – far, far away, up in the sky! I’d like to make it real for them. I’d like to bring it into our class for my students to gain a personal connection with space to help it mean something tangible for them.

I’d like to connect my child to check out Hubble pictures on a regular basis. I’d like for them to go to a virtual rocket launch. I’d like to see them build a rocket of their own that they can incorporate into dramatic play. I’d like them to see pictures of the planets and be able to name them because they recognize some unique things about each planet. I can see my children write about what they think they would experience if they went into outer space. I’d like to see them use our iPads to record their learning to be share with others. I can see them putting together a dramatic performance telling their friends and family about their learning!

Yup, this will work in April this year! Stay tuned…

NASA - Imagery (Pixabay)
                 NASA – Imagery (Pixabay)

Inventing or Integrating

Fractal Vision 27 - Blue Currents/flickr  Stills taken mostly of configs I wrote for an early version of g-force, using captured electric sheep fractals as the textured background sprites.
Fractal Vision 27 – Blue Currents/flickr Stills taken mostly of configs I wrote for an early version of g-force, using captured electric sheep fractals as the textured background sprites.

How would I evaluate my own practice of technology integration in my PreK class? Actually, I’ve been asking myself this same question for the past year.

Before, when I was teaching Kindergarten I played a major role in the purchasing iPads for our Early Childhood. In Kindergarten I found that I could provide the child with learning extensions through apps that supported our learning. We used apps that supported both literacy and math skills.

But when I found my children would venture off on the iPad doing other things not necessarily related to our classroom learning I looked for other ways to use the iPads. IPad use began to look differently in our class. I felt the tool was very supportive to the child who was exceeding and for the child who was approaching.

Last year, when I moved to Pre-K, I asked myself again, how do you introduce the iPad in class to children who learned to play games on them, sometimes for the mere benefit of a babysitting tool? Can they become a deterrent or an asset for a children who need to be focusing on alphabetic and fine motor skills?

I’m still asking myself what is the best way to integrate iPads in our class but I’m getting more ideas thanks to our readings such a digital storytelling and videography.

So where do I feel I am integrating technology with our learning?

In the article Beyond Substitution: The SAMR Model is included

Based on this table, I am definitely at the augmentation stage. My second year teaching I was gifted with a Smartboard and learned to love it. I have used it faithfully for my morning meetings since. I adjust my morning meetings as my lessons plans indicate. When I teach theme lessons I usually put my material on the Smartboard, as opposed to a powerpoint presentation. I make worksheets all the time using Publisher. I use Youtube a lot for educational music videos and extending our learning. I go to the internet if I have a child who shows interest in a particular subject and open up the research for everyone to join in. And, I now use Seesaw to communicate with my parents. I use other apps as well but these are my “go to” tools.

These apps and other technology tools allow me to be creative in organizing lessons and ideas designed for my children. What I create is unique for my students and for this year’s lesson. These lessons are changed each year. Could I do some of these same things with a blackboard and typewriter? Maybe. But they certainly wouldn’t be as extensive nor show immediate relevancy. The communication through Seesaw would definitely not be happening, instead it would be notes home without any photos!

But I feel I’m moving towards the modification stage. The digital storytelling really interests me. Recently I was downloading photos on Seesaw and had a group of pictures about a particular topic. They are now in their own album waiting to be put into a digital story to help parents understand what we were doing. We have an event coming up next week that I will do something similar to – group the photos and record the child telling about the event. I am pretty excited to do this and it will make a nice memory for my parents and students.

So how does all of this relate to our school’s technology integration philosophy? Our school now has a number of Coetail graduates! There are a number of teachers who use technology to communicate with schools in the US, who connect with other schools to work on curriculum based projects as well as many class projects that require internet information. I am fortunate to work at a school that considers technology an important part of our curriculum and strongly encourages us to explore new ways of teaching and reaching out to other schools to broaden our understanding of what is happening beyond our walls.