Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Tech for Primary Schools

I was asked by my principal to put on my parent hat for a moment and consider what the perfect Kindergarten or first grade room would look like for my daughter, technologically speaking.  My daughter is three and a half and is currently enrolled in public school preschool.  The plan is to keep her there through Kindergarten when her speech IEP will be reviewed.  Hopefully, we'll have her in my private school for first grade.  So, my quest for the perfect technology-centered primary class is well-placed.

I fear that my answer will be a bit of a surprise.


Don’t overdo the tech in the lower grades.  I know my research is 10+ years old, but I read an interesting book for my thesis entitled Failure to Connect.  Since I know you’ll never read it, I’ll just give you my big takeaway.  Technology can be damaging to young minds.  They think concretely.  Technology is abstract. The letters I’m typing now don’t really exist, except in pixel form.  I tap a picture and something happens, but not really.  It can be confusing to a kid who thinks in the concrete stage.  (Sounds like Piaget, but I’m not sure of all the stages.)

Ava has a LeapPad and uses my iPad on occasion. I have apps on the iPad for her, and we do them together.  We’re not anti- technology in our house. We use Skype and watch YouTube videos.  However, with the exception of the LeapPad, she does it all with parent supervision.  AND it’s limited.  She gets maybe an hour of screen time in a day (and that’s a stretch), unless she’s getting some at school. 

As a parent, I’d be most happy if the technology for the little tikes was present but peripheral.  I would want the software/apps to be selected carefully with a specific goal in mind.  I would want to know that the screen time is limited.  I’d be more happy to know that she’s being stretched to think deeply using the harder Bloom levels.  I’d be looking at 2nd and 3rd grade to see the technology really start to fly.  I’d want to know that she’s learning how to use the Internet safely and that online security was important.  I’d like to see her blogging and using web tools to create art… but I’d want her to get her hands dirty with graphite and ink and paint and colored markers.

I’m sure that’s not the answer you were looking for, but I really believe that a kid has to learn to use hands to do something physical before she learns to use her fingers to do something digital.
So, I ask you.  What does the perfect technology-centered primary classroom look like?  What software/apps/hardware/practices work best for young minds?  What have you seen or read or done that would make me giddy with excitement?

Thanks for the help!

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