By Erin Watson, Teacher at Saint Catherine of Siena Parish School
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If you walk into any teacher credential program you will hear that instruction must be student-centered and not teacher-centered. That’s great! But, after four years of college, I wasn’t sure what that really meant. I tried STEM lessons, creative based learning, and centers instead of whole group instruction. But, something didn’t feel right—I felt as though I was still not really creating a student-centered classroom.
When I accepted my first full-time teaching position in a Catholic school, it was for a Transitional Kindergarten position. Not only was I the teacher, I was given the task of creating the program and curriculum from scratch. I was so excited at the prospect of creating a program from the ground up. I was sent to an early childhood conference to learn about starting a TK program. Prior to this conference, I researched how to integrate technology into an Early Childhood classroom. At this conference, all of the ideas I had were immediately dismissed. The moral of the conference: TECHNOLOGY IS BAD. Is it, though?
Good vs. Bad Technology
Don’t misunderstand. Technology for the sake of having technology is absolutely a detriment to any classroom. Utilizing technology in a classroom does not mean having an Ipad or Chromebook cart in the corner for free choice time. That is called babysitting. Let’s face it. Technology is part of the students’ lives and that’s not going to change. In TK, students used the technology we had to engage in differentiated learning. That’s right! Differentiated learning in Transitional Kindergarten. Now that I teach in a second grade classroom, technology is still used for the same purpose! To better address the needs of all of my students!
Benefit Not Burden
Pioneering technology in an Early Childhood classroom was contagious. Other teachers at my school wanted to try to incorporate technology, too! But, many worried that adding technology would be more of a burden than a benefit. Technology is absolutely not a burden, when done right. There are three easy measures that you can take to make your classroom 21st Century approved.
1. Choose the Right Apps/Websites
Make sure the apps/websites you use work for you. Choosing apps that work with your reading or math program or require little additional work from the teacher, means more time to instruct and focus on each student.
2. Believe in Your Students
If you can’t let go of being in charge and trust your students, technology will never work. Understand that your students are probably better at using technology than you. Let them show you how responsible and independent they are by trusting them with technology. Not only will it make your job easier, your students may just surprise you and fix that pesky projector or broken Ipad.
3. Flexible Seating
Have you ever wondered what makes people do work in coffee shops? Perhaps it’s the coffee or baristas, but more likely, it’s just more comfortable than their office desk. So, why do we make students sit in desks? By allowing students to choose their own spaces to work, they are more comfortable and thus better able to focus on learning. There is tons of research to support this idea, and many more teachers giving up desks for yoga balls and core disks; however, you don’t have to go that far to make flexible seating fit into your class. In my class, students rotate through Ipads as part of their centers. Students can sit anywhere they want in the classroom. I have yoga mats, stuffed animals, pillows, squares of fake grass, and extra desks. I see positive collaboration on a daily basis and LOVE that my students solve problems together.
I don’t want you to think that every moment of technology in my classroom works all of the time. There have been plenty of moments where I have wanted to throw it all away. But, seeing my students grow (based on standardized testing and formal assessments) makes it all worthwhile. My students are active participants in their education. My classroom may be loud, but it is engaging and student-centered!
For more PD about instructional strategies and other innovative ideas for your classroom, join us and fellow educators at an upcoming event both online and in person!