Photo Caption: Courtland Public School students Abigail, 5, and Callie, 4, take advantage of the blank screens on the SMART Board and tablet to doodle their names on Thursday, January 15, 2015.
A blank canvas is an invitation for imagination and creativity.
In Kindergarten, those canvases have evolved from the traditional easel and white chart paper making room for new change and new learning.
In today’s classrooms, students are turning to the interactive white boards, tablets and computer screens, which are inviting them to write, count and play with the touch of a finger or pen.
Callie, 4, can’t walk past the SMART Board in her Kindergarten classroom without spelling out her name. The screen is left on during play-based learning time, enticing students to share their ideas as they come to them. Abigail, 5, is also apt to doodle her name, surrounded by hearts in all different colours, on the tablet at one of the activity stations.
These devices and forms of technology are becoming staples for learning in all classrooms across the Grand Erie District School Board. As the board celebrated the completion of the Full-Day Kindergarten implementation in all 60 elementary schools in the Fall of 2014, the start of last year's school year also marked the final phase of the Educational Technology Initiative.
“More technology and programming means improved student engagement and achievement,” said Dave Abbey, Superintendent responsible for the Educational Technology Initiative.
“Last year, we wrapped up the final phase of the initiative to fully embed new technology in classrooms and to enable our students to have an educational experience that is relevant, collaborative and interactive.”
In Courtland Public School’s Kindergarten classrooms, the readily available technology has naturally allowed for further engagement and achievement that the students are quick to pick up on and that the instructors are excited to use.
“I am still amazed at how quickly these students can pick it up,” said Designated Early Childhood Educator (DECE) Lena Wildman. “Today’s devices are also very forgiving, allowing for easy learning and more opportunities.”
Wildman and Teacher Ellen Devlin have embraced this new style of “provoked learning and teaching,” reaching for the camera, tablet or cell phone to document, search or show a video when an enquiring thought comes up among the classmates. The pair can appreciate the immediacy of accessing information in real time, and at their fingertips rather than tracking down a library book and flipping through pages for answers.
“We’re living in a world surrounded by technology,” said Courtland Principal Deborah Opersko. “Today’s young learners aren’t intimidated by it, they’re learning not to be afraid. And eventually they’ll see it as a helpful tool, beneficial to learning later on.”
Beyond the lessons, the introduction of tablets and updated software have provided the Kindergarten team with an easier method for documenting and assessing students in the moment, while the learning is happening. Wildman will capture exciting moments by taking photos on her tablet, add it the specific student’s portfolio, and jot down notes of the lessons and what was said, to later share with parents.
“A picture speaks a thousand words,” said Wildman. “Without it, the memory or lesson is lost.”
Courtland Teacher Mary-Lynne Fick enjoys sharing the happenings within her Kindergarten classroom through her blog, mlfickcourtlandkindergarten.com. She’s been using it for the past year as a means to communicate with the parents she doesn’t often get to see before or after the school day.
“We have to have a system where the parents feel a part of the program,” said Fick. “The parent/teacher interaction is an essential part where we all contribute to the best interests of the child.”
“With our Kindergarten students in school all day, every day they have greater opportunities to take advantage of the learning tools available to them,” said Brenda Blancher, Superintendent responsible for Early Learning.
“Access to these devices will be beneficial to their learning as they grow.”
Photo Caption: One enquiry about airplanes had Onondaga-Brant Public School Kindergarten students Ethan Black and Reese Barton watching a video of an airplane getting de-iced on a school tablet Thursday, January 22, 2015.
In Onondaga-Brant’s Kindergarten classrooms, teacher Crystal Mann has embraced the incorporation of technology into her classroom, changing the way she plans lessons, documents and assesses. She’s now reaching for her tablet or cell phone to quickly snap a photo of students or search a pondering topic online.
“Kids today learn so much more by watching,” said Kindergarten Teacher Crystal Mann. “When they see something of interest, it sparks more questions and naturally encourages further learning. Having access to these tools doesn’t limit the questions or answers.”
The recent additions of new technology have Mann phasing in the various tools and spacing out their usage. She eased her way in five years back starting with her SMART Board. The year following, students used the SMART Board through play-based learning. She later started to communicate with parents via an electronic newsletter. From there, students had access to tablets and other hand-held devices. But Mann is keen on the students understanding the educational aspect and not just view them as a means to play.
“I want them to understand that the tablet can help them answer their ‘I wonder’ questions, and how to be resourceful,” she said. “But I’ll show them both perspectives, a mix of old and new, by referencing a library book as well.”
Beyond that, Mann enjoys sharing the happenings within her Kindergarten classroom through her blog. She’ll update it a couple of times a month as an effective means to communicate with parents.