In my classroom, utilizing the I-Pads to showcase student learning has been a rousing success. We began this term by focusing on PicCollage, a collage creation app that allows students to demonstrate their learning through many different tools. Our first few lessons revolved around experimenting with the app and its many features. It is incredibly user friendly and within half an hour my students were able to create multiple picture collages. Their first project was to create a collage using words and pictures that showed the different types of plants that would grow in a particular biome.
For a mapping unit in Social Studies, I had the students interact with Google Maps. To begin we learned how to use the tool and to look up addresses. After students became familiar with the software, we used Google Maps to look up our school and to create a map of the surrounding area. The students were given only slight parameters for the project (they must show the school and the surrounding area). The students were able to experiment with their maps, deciding on the size of map they would use and how to orient the map to show the greater community. I found this to be a great hands-on way to teach my mapping unit and a way for students to show some individuality in their final products.
We have also been fortunate enough to receive Digital Literacy grant this year for I-Pads; dedicated to helping our Grade 4/5 classes improve their math fluency. The project so far has revolved around students documenting their learning and teaching math concepts through video tutorials using I-Movie. Students have also began to use a great app, Explain Everything, to also document their learning. The end goal is for students to create online portfolios, using Fresh Grade, to document their learning and to share with the surrounding school community. It is an exciting adventure that the students are enjoying thus far.
This year has also brought to light many issues we are finding when implementing technology in our classrooms. Software updates have continued to haunt us this year, with many lessons not succeeding due to Flash Player updates needing to be done, program failures or not being able to refresh our list of Apps on a continued basis. With no release time to tackle these issues for staff, it is a never-ending game of catch up that has proven to be disheartening. Access to technology is also a limiting factor. With two cow carts of laptops and one of I-Pads to share across ten divisions, we are limited in how many times a week our students have access. With the growing dependence on technology availability that will be coming with the new curriculum, many staff are concerned about how much time with technology their students will be receiving.
The biggest struggle I have experienced this year, is the lack of computer knowledge our students are coming to school with. Many of our students are inexperienced with how to turn a computer on, how to save work and what the many buttons on the keyboard do. It was an eye-opening experience earlier this year, when many skills that I took for granted, needed to be directly taught to my students. It is something that I encourage all teachers to consider before delving too deep into any technology use. What skills are our children bringing to the table?
Where We Are Going
Through the experiences of this past year, I see a great need for our school to develop and adopt a K-7 digital literacy program. We are beginning to work closely with our feeder high school to discuss what skills they would like to see children arrive with in Grade 8, and how best we can implement those skills in our classrooms. Developing key computer literacy skills for each grade will help our students build up their knowledge, and, hopefully provide the skills to help them succeed in our future curriculum.
We are also in the beginning stages of planning Maker Space projects for our upper intermediate students, with support from technology teachers from D.W. Poppy. The goal will be for our upper intermediate students to help design and build a community garden on our grounds. Using both critical thinking and design based learning students will be responsible for planning all parts of the garden and forming connections with the high school to build many of their designs. This is hopefully the beginning of an ongoing connection our students will have with their high school.
It is an exciting journey that we are about to undertake, in which I am so thankful to have our DLC community to support and inspire us, in helping our students become successful digital learners.