Technology for Tots

CASE STUDY

Technology for Tots

Over this past summer, I had the pleasant and enriching opportunity of working as a kindergarten teacher at the Lily Pond Country Day School in River Vale, NJ, where integrating computers daily for 5-year-olds took place through the Internet and Kid Pix software. I would like to share what I observed.

In June, I stepped away from the third-grade arena and entered the world of kindergarten, not knowing exactly what to expect. I had seen how beneficial adding technology to the course curriculum for those in second and third grades was, and I wondered if kindergartners would benefit as well.

Here are some questions I asked myself before I embarked on my venture this summer: Can I integrate technology into the kindergarten class? Can the students learn computers at such a young age, and will they retain what they learn? The answer was a big YES to all the questions that went swirling around my head. Computers are cognitive tools that are just waiting to be employed. We learn with the computer, not from the computer, and that is the idea that all educators, parents, and students must first understand.

Each morning, when my group of kindergartners would enter the room as the school day began, they would have the option of working on a computer, playing a game, or doing a puzzle. I was sure that I would lose some students to the thought of playing Legos or coloring; I was wrong. I had decided that since these children had been born into the digital world, and that they were “hard wired” to learning with a computer, I would integrate technology into my daily lesson plans over the summer—and it worked.

I began by sitting them in front of computers with access to the Disney.com website. I did this on purpose to see how familiar the kids were with computers and their use. I helped the children click, scroll, and navigate through the site. We did this for several days, and then I loaded Kid Pix software onto some of the computers. In my opinion, Kid Pix is one of the best programs for a child to learn how to use the computer properly. It is both teacher- and student-friendly. Its ease of operation for those little hands is amazing. It stimulates creativity by having children draw their own pictures on a computer. The students are learning graphic arts at this point and don’t even know it yet. They are also learning how to control the mouse. What they are really doing is honing their fine motor skills and coordination.

From teaching them Earth science to fairy tales, I found a myriad of sites to visit on the internet. I shared with them interactive audio and video. As a class, we would interact with authors of class-read books via e-mail and have “mail bag” discussions of what we liked about each story.

I was able to tap into each of the studies and not only connect material across the curriculum through the use of the computer, but was also able to teach more and have the children retain more information. As it all connected together, they saw in their minds a concept map of each area studied. They could not only answer questions for the lesson of the day, but extend their reach, and brainstorm more questions.

I have discovered successful teaching through computational integration by following these three steps:

  • Read the story.
  • Speak about different versions of the same story.
  • Finally, speak about lessons the story teaches, and then not only show students the interactive story on a computer, but connect the story across the curricula in science, social studies, and math.

I have discovered that teaching in this three-step manner in all content areas to be successful for both teacher and student. I have personally seen the children go to the computer and want to learn. This is what they know—this is what they have seen their entire lives. I have had parents tell me that their 5-year-olds are showing them what they have done on the computer that day in school.

“Computer integration in school is the future of education” is a comment I often heard. Many people realize this, and many people agree with this statement. However, these same people may not realize that the future is now. It may be a minority that is growing into the majority who actually realize the importance of computers and their integration into the course curriculum. But it is those of us who see our students as living in a “virtual digital world,” and are willing to work with that, will succeed!

Denise Averill is a teacher at Roberge Elementary School in River Vale, NJ.

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