Parents and educators often face difficult choices while navigating through discussions about technology in an elementary setting. Entrusted with the care and developmental support of some of our youngest learners, exciting opportunities to develop so-called twenty-first century skills may sit alongside concerns about an unfamiliar classroom landscape that includes new technological tools.
A Way to Support
It is important to affirm that any approach for technology integration in the early years of school should focus on how we engage children in meaningful learning experiences, and the ways in which technology can support that vision.
A device cannot take the place of a wonderful teacher, kind friend, or that feeling of wet sand between your toes. Technology does not replace developmental play. Engaging in meaningful collaborations and communities and exploring hands-on, messy, and tactile materials should be a the core of learning experiences for children.
While there are many digital tools that can be used in the development of literacy and numeracy skills, my inner art teacher is most interested in those that connect children with their own precious and innate creativity.
Connecting with Creativity
When students are encouraged to think and act creatively, they are often open to new ideas, willing to accept challenges, and may readily embark on a process of dinging out for themselves. There are also strong links to collaboration and problem-solving skills, as well as increased ownership over their own learning.
While it should go without saying that all children are inherently creative, the challenge for educators often lies in protecting this natural attribute. I often refer teachers to some of the practical and effective approaches that elementary contexts leverage in support of this goal, such as:
– Asking open-ended questions such as “How could you…” “What if…” and “What might come next?”
– Delivering constructive feedback that reflects on and rewards creative approaches.
– Incorporating opportunities for experimentation and hands-on exploration of materials during problem-solving.
– Creating an environment where challenges can be openly discussed and failure is positioned as a step towards learning and success.
– Developing an ability and confidence to engage with new ideas.
These examples are not situated in any subject-specific pedagogical approaches, and represent elements of best practice across year levels and diverse contexts. In considering these simple practices, we may also find useful guidelines for best practice in technology integration.
Mobile Devices for Learning
The rapid appropriation of devices such as iPads to support teaching and learning in diverse classroom contexts has been in response to long battery-life, durable constructions, and simplicity of use. These devices are too useful for us to ignore, we should use them as a way to nourish, support, and connect our students with their natural ability to create.
Cathy Hunt is an Apple Educator, presenter, visual art teacher working with a 1:1 iPad classroom for students in years 6-12 at The St. Hilda’s School in Queensland, Australia. Follow on Twitter @art_cathyhunt.
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