I love incorporating technology into my curriculum and introducing it to my students in meaningful ways. The good news is that teaching them to use technology isn’t difficult. My kindergartners can navigate iPads better than I can. The challenge is incorporating tech-rich material in a way that’s meaningful and relevant to what we’re learning and that doesn’t take away from their learning experiences. Here are a few ways I successfully introduce technology and resources that are safe, engaging, and developmentally appropriate.
Finding safe, tech-rich material for the youngest students
1. Use video to warm up, engage, and transport students.
Every tool I use needs to reinforce whatever concept we’re learning or otherwise be tied into the lesson. It must meet the standards we’re working on, and it needs to be engaging.
One tool I’ve found incredibly useful this school year is Boclips for Teachers, which provides educational videos. I can find video resources for anything, including animation and songs that my students love. It’s such a timesaver because I know I’ll find an appropriate video for whatever lesson I’m teaching, and once we sit down to watch it, we don’t have to sit through all the ads—or worse, see inappropriate images that can sometimes come up with an on-the-spot YouTube search.
We use videos as a whole group in a variety of ways. In math, we work on number sense with videos to practice rote counting, number recognition, decomposing, and shapes. In our literacy blocks, we use videos to work on recognizing letter names and sounds, sight words, vowels, or just to sing about the alphabet. (We do a lot of dancing to these songs as well!) I also think of videos as a way to reinforce a concept and make sure my students are exposed to multiple approaches to understanding it.
Sometimes we just use videos as brain breaks. Our students have one recess, so brain breaks allow us to get some energy out during the day and maintain effective instructional time.
We also use videos for Skype Virtual Field Trips, which are a great way to bring the outside world in. We’re about two-and-a-half hours south of Atlanta, and I have kids who have not been able to visit. Virtual field trips to California or the Statue of Liberty are a fun way to expand the walls of our classroom.
2. Discover new tools in teacher communities and on social media.
Online communities are such a valuable channel. I found Boclips, for example, through the Georgia Science Teachers Association Facebook page.
I rely on various teacher communities on Instagram for ideas and best practices. There are so many new things coming out for classroom use all the time, and I’m not always sure how I can incorporate them into my kindergarten class—or if I even should. But teachers are incredibly active in those Instagram communities, and there’s usually someone who has tried it out and is ready to give opinions and suggestions. Seeing how other teachers use a tool challenges me to think of different ways to incorporate technology.