Reflection

Photo Credit: Wendelin Jacober via Compfight cc Any technology is a big jump for an old-schooler like me.
Photo Credit: Wendelin Jacober via Compfight cc
Any technology is a big jump for an old-schooler like me.

Some old-school thoughts

I have always been technology-averse. It’s not that I hate technology, although I do sometimes feel that technology hates me, it’s just that I like to do most things the old-fashioned way. Display boards? Why print them off a computer when I could write and draw them and practice my lettering skills. Why read an e-book when you can touch, feel and smell a real book! Why do an online calendar, when you can get so much satisfaction from ticking off boxes on a daily planner. You get what I mean…right? I am aware of how much technology helps us in our daily lives, but I still hold on to some things that I want to stay old school for a while.

Technology in Kindergarten

To be honest, taking this course about technology in education felt (and still feels!) daunting. Because I know that I’m not a techie, I felt like I won’t be able to contribute much to the course. Add to the fact that technology in Kindergarten sounds like an oxymoron to me. Compared to much older grade levels where technology plays a big role in the students’ lives, in Kinder, we try to get our kids less screen time. It’s not like we pry the iPads off the kids’ hands, but we do our best to make sure that our students are first exposed to other learning experiences before we bring out the tech stuff. Due to our students’ age, I do feel that most of them are not developmentally ready to use technology in the most productive manner, plus the lack of self-control could mean that they could just spend a lot of time in front of the screen without any let-up (if adults have trouble with control, imagine how it would be with 5 and 6-year olds!)

Photo Credit: MikaelWiman via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: MikaelWiman via Compfight cc

 

Another thing about technology in Kinder is that teachers want to scaffold its use so that kids would have a better idea of how to use technology in their lives. We’ve used technology more this second semester than the first one and we’ve noticed how the kids are becoming more effective in using the different apps. Blogging is developing to be almost semi-automatic for some kids, and they reach for their designated iPads whenever they make something that they’re proud of and want their parents to see at home. Now that we’re on a research-heavy unit about the human body, a lot of our students have been opting to use the Internet to find out answers to their questions and to help present their projects (one kid mentioned that he wants to do a slide show and I almost said, “Oh like Machu Picchu, oops Pecha Kucha!”) I just realized that this situation with technology does not have to be black and white. As it is with all things, there should be a balance between the presence and use of technology in the classroom, and well, when there isn’t technology in the classroom. The course has definitely opened me to new ways that I can use technology to help students with their learning.

Goals

At the beginning of EDT  601, I set out two pretty open goals of learning Minecraft and to not get left behind in technology. The Minecraft goal is still a work in progress. I’ve played the game a couple of times and I’ve been slowly getting used to the controls. I’m imagining how to introduce this to kids, especially those who are reluctant learners. I thought about how this would work well with the Grade 1 unit on Structures. Kids can build their shelters on the Creative Mode in Minecraft and they can choose to replicate their digital structures using wooden blocks, Legos, or whatever materials they find in the classroom.

I still don’t think I am as tech-savvy as I hope I would be, but I feel that I am definitely more open to technology after taking this course. After years of thinking that technology just isn’t for me, I am now beginning to believe that technology and I might just get along. And I think that’s what matters most.

Lovin’ some Bloglovin’

I don’t even remember my life before Bloglovin’. That’s how much it has changed my online experience and I’m not even exaggerating.

Despite its cheesy name, Bloglovin’ is really just that – a platform that caters to blog lovers. Bloglovin’ allows users to read and organize the blogs that they like to follow – in one nifty place!

Why do I like Bloglovin’?

Easy to sign up and accessible

You can use your e-mail or Facebook account to sign up. You could download the app to your smartphone and you can also log in to your account from your desktop computer.

This is what it looks like if you use your desktop computer to sign up for a Bloglovin' account.
This is what it looks like if you use your desktop computer to sign up for a Bloglovin’ account.

It is very visual.

What I appreciate most about Bloglovin’ is that it is very visual. It shows the title of the blog post with the corresponding picture and article summary, you know, just the very basic gist of stuff.

Easy to see which articles you want to read and which ones you want to ignore.
My Bloglovin’ Feed – Makes it easy to see which articles I want to read and which ones I’d opt to ignore.

It’s very easy to use

You can easily search for blogs, even if you don’t know their complete URLs.

I was looking to follow the Humans of New York blog and it showed me different options: the legit blog I was looking for, a parody called 'Jerks of New York' and articles online that mentioned the HONY blog.
I was looking to follow the Humans of New York blog and it showed me different options: the legit blog I was looking for, a parody called ‘Jerks of New York’ and articles online that mentioned the HONY blog.

Just hit the follow button

Easy peasy, right?

Just hit follow and you're done!
Just hit follow and you’re done!
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If you’re looking at blogs and you see this Bloglovin’ like button, just click it to add the blog to your feed.

Easy to organize

You can divide your blogs into categories (if you’re the obsessive-compulsive type) and can save interesting blog articles that you don’t have time to look at right now to read for later (a procrastinator’s dream!)

So far, I have Fashion, Food and Education, and some uncategorized blogs. The numbers indicate new posts from my blogs/categories.
So far, I have Fashion, Food and Education, and some uncategorized blogs. The numbers indicate new posts from my blogs/categories.

You can discover new blogs

Occasionally, the blogs you follow will show you what blogs they follow. This could be a good thing and a bad thing. Pro? You get to discover new blogs that you wouldn’t know about otherwise. Con? This could be a vicious, never-ending cycle.

It is obviously a black hole for blog enthusiasts. Uh-oh.
It is obviously a black hole for blog enthusiasts. Uh-oh.

 

Best part though? Saying goodbye to newsletter subscriptions! Because really, nobody has time for those…

Much Ado About Minecraft

 

Photo Credit: Pinder Productions via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Pinder Productions via Compfight cc

If you ever find yourself around kids, there’s probably a 110% chance that you’ve heard of Minecraft. Steve called it a sandbox video game, and for all it’s popularity, I think it has more than eclipsed the ubiquitousness of the sandbox as the most fun thing to have in schools nowadays.

Move over sand box, there's a new toy in town. Photo Credit: markow76 via Compfight cc
Move over sand box, there’s a new toy in town.
Photo Credit: markow76 via Compfight cc

So a lot has been said about whether Minecraft should be played in schools or not. Both sides present good arguments for and against it. A lot of parents are concerned that Minecraft is an addicting video game that hooks kids to screens when they should be out there reading books, making discoveries, and interacting with peers. However, there are a lot that of schools around the world that have started using Minecraft as a learning tool for students. 

Watch on YouTube: BBC News: Should Teachers Use Minecraft in Our Classrooms?


They do make a good case for Minecraft don’t you think? But of course, it’s not as simple as black and white. There are many factors to consider before schools and parents decide to promote Minecraft in schools and with their own kids. A few of questions to ask are: What age is appropriate for kids to get introduced to Minecraft? Which version of Minecraft should be encouraged? Should there be any guidelines or rules established when playing Minecraft? If yes, then what are these guidelines? How much time should be spent playing Minecraft?

Anyway, for this blog post, I decided on immerse myself into the world of Minecraft to see what the fuss is all about. I’ve seen some of our Kindergartners play Minecraft but I never gave it more than a cursory glance. Besides, it’s hard to get a good view because other kids not on the iPad are all ogling for a spot near the players. So, without further ado, this is me, a complete neophyte, trying to master the world of Minecraft…

Book Creator: The New Digital Storyteller

Our Kindy kids have a lot of ideas for stories and they (even with some developmental limitations) always try to put their creative ideas on paper. These limitations may be a lack of fine motor skills that would enable them to write and draw legibly, a shorter attention span that might mean a book may be “done” without being finished at all, or being able to sound out a phoneme in a word, but not all phonemes. So writing in Kindergarten, depending on the kid, and on the time of the year, can look like this…

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This story is a play on the book, Children Make Terrible Pets. Instead of kids being terrible pets, the students turned it the other way around where Lucy the Bear makes a terrible pet. It is usual for this age to have a lack of spacing between words and to spell words based on the first and last phoneme.

Now Kindy teachers have developed a superpower that can decipher this seemingly child-developed Morse code into what the student actually means. But what about parents who want to read their kids’ works? What about proud grandparents in their home countries who want updates on their how their grandkids are doing in school? If they do get access to the kid’s work, it might be difficult to understand that “TRABUL” really means terrible.

This is where the app Book Creator comes in. Kindergarteners already have strong oral skills and they can verbally tell their stories without much guidance. With Book Creator, kids can take pictures of their written and illustrated books and turn them into e-books. The app is a very simple digital book-making tool that encourages kids to tell their stories by using their own pictures, drawings, audio and video. The great thing about this is they can be saved and opened as an iBook on the iPad or could be uploaded as a video on the kids’ blogs. The app ties well with how students are using their blogs to reflect on and show their learning. It’s a great tool since not all kids are up to taking videos of themselves telling their stories, but majority of them are more than willing to read aloud their stories and they love seeing their books come alive on their blogs.

This is a short YouTube tutorial that shows the basics of Book Creator:

And this shows how the finished books would look on our kids’ blogs…


Amazing, right? Granny halfway across the world would surely be showing this to her family and friends.

Handwriting Without Tears

Photo Credit: Photos by Dash via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: Photos by Dash via Compfight cc

Yup, you heard it right, it’s called Handwriting Without Tears. The first time I heard of it, I thought of the shampoo commercial, you know, the one that promises washing your kids’ hair without tears. So far, there hasn’t been any tears in Kindergarten when kids are tasked with practicing their handwriting. In fact, far from it, our kids actually enjoy handwriting! A lot of the kids’ success in handwriting can be attributed to multiple approaches, four of which I would focus on my post.

First approach: Good ol’ fashion pen and paper

Kids copying the letters on the handbook and around this time, we’ve already practiced writing them in several ways. One of the fun ways to practice writing letters in Kindergarten is to sing about it. A sample would look like this…

Uppercase L: Big line down, little line across

Uppercase F: Big line down, jump to the top, little line across, little line on the middle

How do you make an uppercase B? Big line down, jump back to the top, little curve, little curve.
How do you make an uppercase B?
Big line down, jump back to the top, little curve, little curve.

You can check the blog Raising a Self Reliant Child for a collection of songs that can be used for Handwriting Without Tears (HWT). It’s got a couple of really good ones like Frog Jump Letters and Mat Man Rock.

Second Approach: the Chalkboard

Another way for our kids to practice their letters is by using a chalkboard. They are given some chalk and a sponge…and I daresay, it could be the novelty of the chalkboard, but our kids absolutely LOVE using this to write and re-write their letters.

Chalkboard fun!
Chalkboard fun!

Third Approach: Manipulatives

The HWT Program also uses wooden manipulatives that kids could piece together to make all the letters of the alphabet.

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Let's build letters!
Let’s build letters!

Fourth Approach: Wet Dry Try App

This is the digital version of the chalkboard and is a great way to incorporate technology as another means to learn letters and practice handwriting. This app ties together the multi-sensory approach of the Handwriting Without Tears Program and students can choose to go through the letters by chronological order or the HWT order (letters with the same strokes go together like E-F and D-P-B).

Choose your own order (A-Z or HWT order) and unlock every letter before you move on to the next one.
Choose your own order (A-Z or HWT order) and unlock every letter before you move on to the next one.

If you’re interested to look at the app first before buying it, take a look at this excellent tutorial and review by Marianne Racioppi.

Watch on YouTube: Wet Dry & Try Tutorial

What Technology Looks Like in Kindergarten

As much as we try to integrate technology into the Kinder classrooms, I have to say that compared to older kids, our Kindegarteners have less screen time due to their young age. We do a lot of play-based learning, so as much as possible, we want them out running, discovering, exploring and experimenting. This however does not mean that technology is never used with our 5- and 6-year olds. So for those of you out there who are curious about how we “do” technology in the early years, read on…

1. We use the iPad for some fun learning apps.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Run this App

Kids can add their names and be a co-author of the book!
Kids can add their names and be a co-author of the book!

Mo Willems is hilarious and kids LOVE his books! Even as an adult, I appreciate Willems’s smart humor and brilliant illustrations. In this app, users can listen to or make their own “Don’t Let the Pigeon…” stories. Kids can also record their voices so that their names are included as co-authors and characters in the story. Other cool features? The shake and play technology allows users to shake the iPad to make the Pigeon tell a story. Also, there’s an added tutorial where Mo Willems guides the kids in drawing Pigeon. These drawings can then be saved as pictures on the iPad gallery and kids can print them off and color them if they want.

Users get to have a one-on-one drawing lesson with Mo Willems.
Users get to have a one-on-one drawing lesson with Mo Willems.

One quick advice though: This app is loud. Kids can get carried away with their stories and there had been many instances of students excitedly shouting and vigorously shaking the iPad. We usually ask the kids to use headphones when we put this as one of the center choices to make the noise level more manageable.

2. We go old school.

I don’t think kids call them CPUs nowadays, but our Kindergarteners sure had fun with these oldies. IT brought down some broken computers during our Materials unit and with some mini hammers and screw drivers, our kids took the machines apart and pretended to be engineers, scientists and tinkerers.

Another person's trash is a Kindergartner's treasure!
Another person’s trash is a Kindergartner’s treasure!

3. We become bloggers.

We want our kids to reflect on their learning and a good way to document this would be through their online blogs. Kids have a designated iPad with the Blogger app installed. There are usually 4 students per iPad so kids learn to share and take turns with their classmates. We introduced their blogs by asking them to take pictures of the structures that they build during choice time and to add an audio recording to tell the audience something about the picture. A couple of months into blogging, I’m proud to say that most kids have veered away from saying the same things over and over again (It used to always be…”I like this because it’s nice.”) Now, our kids have grown in terms of using more descriptive words in their blogs, branching out to posting about their art and unit work or their favorite places in school (one boy even took his iPad for a Kindergarten tour, showing his audience the fun things that he gets to when he’s in school!)

Options for a blog post - video, type (text) or photo
Options for a blog post – video, type (text) or photo

4. Google it!

I often get requests from kids to “Google” things, especially when we’re doing drawing during free choice. One class is obsessed with drawing, and I would often help them draw their favorite characters from Monster High or Paw Patrol or Octonauts. One time, I got a request from a student to draw a Nyan Cat. My blank expression must’ve clued her in because I asked her if a Nyan cat is a kind of cat like a Siamese cat. So I googled it and found out that (for those uninitiated like me…) a Nyan cat is a character on Youtube whose body is made up of pop tart and flies through space leaving behind a trail of rainbow swoosh. Ah…the things I learn when I’m in Kindergarten!

Photo Credit: MuppetyHead via Compfight cc
Photo Credit: MuppetyHead via Compfight cc
Becoming better artists through technology
Becoming better artists through technology

Tell me, how do you use technology in your Early Years classroom? Or if you’re teaching older kids, can your technology integration work for our little kiddos as well? Let me know what you think!

Puppet Pals

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I was playing around with the iPad when I came across the Puppet Pals app. I have heard about this app before and how it was a big hit especially during Kindergarten’s unit on Stories. Our Stories unit won’t start until just before Spring Break, but since Kinder kids have been writing stories since last semester, I figured that it’s worth a shot to give this app a try these coming weeks.

 

I road tested this app to see which kids might benefit most from it. I am still supporting some kids who are emerging writers. Most of them can illustrate their stories and have a good grasp of their stories when asked by a teacher. However, their writing is still in the early stages of development. And while majority of them can write the beginning sounds of words, I would often find myself scribing for them on sticky notes so that we have an idea that “O A A TYM” means “once upon a time” when we read them later on.

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Goal: From a real puppet show to a digital puppet show

 

I think that this app would benefit students who are emergent writers, those who find writing a challenge (iffy pencil grip, gets tired easily, lacks focus, etc.) and those with strong oral storytelling skills. The app is easy to use and allows great flexibility for storytellers to tell their stories. In my case, I think it complements well with the dramatic play in Kindy classrooms as well as the make-your-own-puppet-show being promoted in our Kindergarten hallway.

Why choose Puppet Pals? The app lets kids choose their own characters from pre-set collections, as well as use photos from the iPad if they want to make themselves and their friends the characters in their stories. The same goes for the backdrops, where kids can select from the available backdrops or use their own personalized settings. After choosing the characters and the backdrop, kids can now record their voices to tell their stories.

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Choose your own characters
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Choose your own backdrops

The app is pretty straightforward and I think the kids would be able to get a hang of it with minimal guidance from me. I will update you on how our learning experience goes, but if you’re interested to check it out, you can download the app from the App Store. The only disadvantage I could think of would be that you have to purchase a Director’s All Access Pass to unlock all content (the free one just includes characters from Fairytales). Other than that, this is a nifty app to use with your kids to give them another avenue to tell their stories.

Policy: No Non-Techie Left Behind

I have always been a technologically averse person (I once spent a year with a broken phone where people could only text, not call me). However, I find that with every passing year the kids that I teach are becoming so technologically advanced that I would often scratch my head in frustration because I feel like I cannot catch up with them! They are fearless and push the boundaries all the time, and there are a lot of moments when I wish I was as bold as them too.

Technology isn’t the future anymore, it is the present. We see it every day and it has become an indispensable part of our lives. As an educator, I have seen how technology makes students more engaged in the classroom and empowers them take ownership of their learning. Technology is continuously evolving, and I do not want to get left behind. The next time a 5-year old kid talks about the latest cheat code in Minecraft, you can bet I’m going to be an active participant in that conversation.

 

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*Me = Dial up phone

 

Photo credit: (2016). Retrieved from http://jokideo.com/mobile-phones-visit-grandma/

 

 

 

 

 

About Me

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My (not so real) name is Jo and I am absolutely crazy about food, Russian novels, yoga and the little human beings that I have the pleasure of hanging out with everyday. I think Harry Potter changed my life and I always find traveling as a necessary means to escape reality. Come and explore with me.

xx