Friday, January 4, 2013

Technology as a Tool

Hi Everyone!

Forewarning- a bit of a lengthy post ahead and filled with technology passion... 

One of the areas I am MOST passionate about as an educator is integrating technology into everyday learning. By integration I truly mean INTEGRATION. I decided to take te time to write a post about my philosophy hoping you, my reader's will better understand the heart from where my technology posts are coming from.  

I believe technology should be used as a tool in  learning just as pencils and books are, it's a seamless integration we don't even think about.  It just is... it's natural and expected.  We don't have "pencil time," nor should we have "computer time." While I know many of us have scheduling issues, sharing labs, etc and it just has to be "computer time," I want to challenge you (if you are not already doing so) to think of this time rather than "computer time" as Language Arts, Science, Social Studies, etc taking place in the computer lab or with your iPads, etc.  

I made this shift in my thinking and teaching over the last few years and it has been such an amazing and rejuvenating transformation.  This shift in thinking has created an amazing environment for research and hands-on learning. An environment where children truly love learning. I am looking forward to sharing many of the ways my students are using technology as a tool to enhance their learning.  

My students are utilizing technology throughout the day, everyday.  However,  only a small portion of our time is ever spent using skill building games.  Skill building games and apps are fantastic when used to reinforce and build specific skills. Technology has so much more potential and so many great uses beyond skill practice and that's where the shift in thinking comes in.  

 I try to look at the real world and how technology is used and carrry that right into my classroom.  Technology is all around us in our world, it's hard to escape it. There are few jobs now days that function without technology, future jobs for our students will only requrie more technology skills.  I want you to take a moment and consider how bankers, cashiers, CEO's, accountants, rockstars, secretaries, mechanics, doctors all use technology.  How can you take that and apply it to your classroom? How can you empower your students with the skills they need for our digital world?
This iPad commercial does a fantastic job at showcasing the true potential of an iPad. However this could be applied to so many pieces of technology. 

 I challenge you to begin implementing the use of technology as a tool to complete classroom projects, to create and innovate. Think outside the box, think real world application. 

At this point in the school year, my students are creating iMovies, digital plays, books and being rockstars using Garage Band... we start small and grow. Just as when children are learning to read, they are first taught the basics- alphabet, sounds, phoemic awereness, word by word, using pictures as clues- we don't just dive into chapter books and expect great things. 
 Start with the basics and they will lead you to the fun big projects! 

Since it is mid- school year I am going to jump right in and start sharing some of our recent activities, beginning with iPads and the basics.

I do want to share that a brief intro to my deployment of iPads at the beginning of the year. (My school has 30 iPads for checkout). My first week or so of school is without technology with  the exception of the SMARTBoard, we are focusing on routines, community, etc. After a week or so, I begin introducing technology beyond the SMARTBoard- my goals are simply to build awareness, expectation and management skills.  With the iPads, I introduce my students to usually two great educational skill building games- provide time to play (maybe 15-20 min) and then about 10 minutes of free choice (using any app on the iPad- they are all educational apps).  I repeat this everyday for an entire week... why?  The children learn the majority of the iPad awareness skills they now need to complete most tasks on the iPad and my expectations- they know how to care for their iPad, help each other, adjust volume, silence, the right "touch" to use, how to move in and out of apps, they get all, well many of their curiosities and explorations out of the way. 
Building iPad awareness skills.

We are now ready to use iPads as tools to be learners, creators and thinkers! 

So now that I have put my philosophy out there, I'll share with you a quick activity/ center you can use as you head back to school and have your students create January calendars.  
The week before break, we were studying various ways to tell time- including calendars. One of the centers I set up for students was to use the iCal app (standard app on all iDevices) to create either a calendar for the month of December or for their birthday month.  I gave them a brief intro to the app, where to check for the correct year and how to move from month to month.  They could then decorate their calendar and label any holidays, birthdays, or special days accordingly.

The kids loved this center (it was a favorite) and it was everything a great center should be- fun, meaningful, learning, using technology as a tool, common core aligned, etc.

Real life application- absolutely! We all rely on calendars daily. As a teacher, when I go to set up my pocket chart classroom  calendar for the month, guess what I use- my iPhone calendar as a tool to confirm the number of days in the month and that the calendar dates were placed correctly.  In the past I would just have my kiddos create their calendars using my pocket chart calendar- however , I realized I was wasn't providing them with the opportunity to find information outside of our classroom walls.  

I have created a very basic calendar template that can be used for any month. 
You can download in 
Microsoft PowerPoint {here}- feel free to tweak or in 
PDF {here

Don't have iPads? has a calendar maker (good for Primary), you could also do a Google Search as a class or students on their own for a January calendar.  Be creative- I know there's a ton of other great great ideas out there and I would LOVE to here them!! How are you using technology to teach calendars? Where are you at in implementing technology into your classroom? 

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  1. Hi,
    I am your newest follower. I wrote a 10 Days of Technology piece for my blog. I use a lot of technology in my class.
    I would love for you to check out my blog
    I Dream of First Grade
    I just added a new unit on Teachers Pay Teachers about friendship, MLK and anti-bullying. I also have a math freebie for The Mitten.
    Your newest follower!

  2. Hey! I love your blog! Super cute! I love integrating technology, too! :)
    I've nominated you for the Liebster Award.
    Check it out here:
    I look forward to learning from you.

  3. This is a fantastic post, Karla! It was both inspiring and a kick in the pants! I have a long way to go with technology integration, but am getting closer to where I'd like to be. Thanks for the challenge! I think more people need to read this... I'm going to send my followers your way!

    EduKate and Inspire

  4. I LOVE this post! You are so right…we need to start small and work our way up!
    The Techie Teacher

  5. Hey Karla,

    Great post! I think that we may be technology integration soul mates. I think that it's so important not to lose sight of the fact that technology is a TOOL- it's not the end- it's simply the means. Great post and I am happy that I found you through Technology Tailgate.

    Your newest follower,

    ❁ Kate
    Purely Paperless

  6. Really enjoying your blog! You have a new follower!

    Would love for you to check out my blog!

  7. Karla,

    Just found your blog and I'm your newest follower. I must say, I really enjoyed reading this piece. The biggest thing I try to tell teachers and students is that technology is ONLY a tool. It's not replacing learning, only enhancing it, just like all the other great tools that teachers use.

    Tech is a tool and engagement is the key.

    Digital: Divide & Conquer

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