Thursday, 8 May 2014

Nice to Know - Infant Digital Literacy

"If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow." - John Dewey

We no longer question whether or not the use of digital technology improves learning; there is a large body of research that clearly shows that it does.

The vast majority of our students arrive at UWCSEA with a solid understanding of how to use technology for entertainment. Our challenge is to help show them how to leverage digital tools to enhance their learning.

We believe the use of technology at UWCSEA should be purposeful and directly connected to learning outcomes. In our Nice to Know parent session, we highlighted examples of some learning experiences our students are engaging with, so parents would have a chance to try them out first hand.

UWCSEA Profile connections: Creative, Self-Manager

Documenting a child's view of the world is a very powerful thing. The ability to capture great photos is fast-becoming an essential skill. Anyone can turn a phone on and take a photo, but there are a number of skills inherent in taking wonderful photos (ones that are in focus, for starters!) that we think are important to teach our students.

Digital Literacy coach David Caleb (a published photographer himself), worked with K1 students to show them the basics of how to hold the iPod Touch, how to focus, and some tips around perspective. Click through the presentation below to see his examples.

Once students know how to take good photos, then this learning can be put to great use. By way of example, students can:

  • Become shape detectives, photographing examples of 2D and 3D shapes in the real world.
  • Show their understanding of letters or sounds by taking photographs of things that start with M or L etc.
  • Photograph places in the school that have forte sounds or piano sounds in Music.

Publishing & Researching
UWCSEA Profile connections: Communicator, Critical Thinker, Collaborative

Encouraging student reading and writing is something we are very passionate about, and we have explored using the app Book Creator to support literacy. 

Grade 1 students created anthologies of their poems, by taking a picture of their handwritten poem, which they then read aloud. This allowed them to gain experience not only in publishing poetry, but also reading it aloud with a storyteller voice. 

Grade 1BRo piloted the publishing of their class poetry collection to - a site dedicated to publishing student-created digital books. We hope to have more books on the site as the year progresses.

Book Creator is a very versatile app, and can be used for many different educational purposes. In their Non-Fiction reading unit, Grade 1s read in book clubs; reading a number of books around a specific topic. Taking notes can be a challenge for young readers, post-its can fall off and students can forget which book a specific fact came from.

We used Book Creator as an oral note-taking platform. Students worked with their book club buddy to take a photo of a book's cover, the page their fact was on, the page number, and recorded their facts. Here is an example of what they came up with:

Documenting Learning
UWCSEA Profile links: Communication, Critical Thinker

Technology provides us with a unique opportunity to collect evidence of student learning. This can be used as formative assessment in order to make instructional decisions, or simply as a tool students can use to reflect.

In K2, students have used Sago Mini Doodlecast to explain their thinking as they looked at the pile of rubbish the class generated over a period of time, and to share and explain a counting strategy.

Primarily, we look for opportunities for authentic experiences with technology that get children to actively create and be engaged. We want to have students be content producers more than content consumers. We don't use iPads as digital baby sitters.

There is still a place for reinforcement of skills taught, and there are times when small groups will use apps for consolidation purposes as part of a maths rotation for example. This type of technology use is purposeful and deliberate. Students are directed to a specific set of apps to explore during such occasions.

Digital Citizenship

The UWCSEA goal is to educate individuals to embrace challenge and take responsibility for shaping a better world. This applies in all aspects of their lives - especially when using technology.

We include Digital Citizenship lessons as a part of our Personal and Social Education (PSE) curriculum. We used the Common Sense Media curriculum as a base for our lessons. We introduce these lessons where they best fit over the scope and sequence for the year. For example, it makes sense to do a lesson on keywords when students are searching for images for their endangered animals research.

Balancing Technology Use at Home

We often get questions from parents around the issue of technology use at home. How much is too much? What's an appropriate amount of screen time for my child? What happens when they have a tantrum when it's time to turn the device off?

There are no hard and fast rules for these sorts of questions. Like bedtimes, they are often different for each family, and that is okay. Journalist Lisa Guernsey, author of the book Screen Time, advocates 3 Cs - Content, Context and the individual Child, when thinking about screen time, which we believe is a very common sense approach:

Think first of the Content - is it age appropriate for your child?
Next, consider the Context - does this screen time form a relatively small part of your child's interactions with you and the wider world?
Finally, think about the individual Child. As a parent of two very different children, my approach to screen time needs to take into consideration the sorts personalities and needs of each child. My daughter isn't that phased by having to turn devices off, however my son responds best to predetermined, clearly defined time limits.

We DO recommend parents take some time to interact with their child using technology. Have a go at Minecraft and see what all the fuss is about! Show them you are quite a dab hand at Angry Birds, Dance Dance Revolution or whichever game is capturing their imaginations right now. Children respond very well to spending time with you, and playing together in this way can be very rewarding.

Further Reading

You may be interested in the following articles around technology use, gaming and screen time limits:

The Touch Screen Generation
How to be a Fun Dad But Still Be in Control
Video Game Addiction: Does it Occur? If so, Why?

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