A new school year means learning about new teachers, new classmates, and of course new opportunities. Each year, whether students are returning or new, we all come together to brainstorm our responsibilities when using technology. The discussion looks a little different from grade to grade, and I do my best to tailor it to not just the age group, but to routines that they may already be familiar with in the classroom.
Look, Think, Turn-and-Talk
At TAS, we run Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. Within this there are a variety of routines that aid thinking and discussion. When I ask students to brainstorm ideas during technology, I try to carry over routines that they are familiar with in class to reinforce them. In this particular situation, I make use of the famous ‘Turn-and-Talk’, which is a routine that teachers begin as early as Pre-K.
Like any classroom, I start my year by discussing the rules about using technology. For returning students, this is simply a reminder of our responsibilities. Here’s what the routine usually looks like:
Look: “Without any voices, LOOK around the room, what do you see?”
I try to make sure I don’t limit this to just technology in the room because we also need to talk about things like how we sit on the mat or at our computers. I want students to know where things are kept, like the markers and pencils I have in the lab. We also try to ensure that the people in the room, both teachers and students, are included so we can discuss how we can respect each other.
Think: “Choose one of those things, and THINK about one rule that we should have to be responsible in the lab. When you have your rule, put a quiet thumb on your knee”
Again, this is still a silent so those students who might need a bit more time can have it without interruption. The number of children with a ‘thumbs up’ on their knee gives me an indicator about where I should place myself during Turn-and-Talk, and facilitate the discussion.
Turn-and-Talk: “Now turn to someone next to you and sit knee-to-knee. Share your rule with your partner. When you are done quietly turn back to face the front”
I am a bit more lenient with younger students, for obvious reasons, as to what they come up with. Many need to stick to simple things like “Don’t hit or kick the iPad.” However, for those who are more capable as well as older students, we make sure that the statement is a positive one, beginning with something like “We should always…”
Many people know Padlet to be an awesomely simple collaboration tool, and now they’ve launched their app! I use Padlet from K-2 in order to collect the ideas for our rules. At each level, the way I do this is slightly different.
In Kindergarten, I would ideally use Padlet on the iPad to have students type their names, take a photo of themselves, and use dictation to say their rule. However, since the app is quite new, it crashes when there are too many people on the same wall. So, as a work around, I had students type their names and take their photo using our iMacs. Then called them to the carpet to use the iPad’s dictation feature to say their rule into Notes. It was a great way to practice articulation, as students were asked to speak clearly, loudly, and slowly so the iPad could understand them. Class teachers noted that it was also an interesting informal assessment on speaking skills. We then helped to copy and paste their rules into Padlet for them. Here is one example from Kindergarten:
In first grade, the students are asked to do the same task as the kindergarten students, except we get them to do the entire thing on our iMacs and students type their rule. We emphasize that they should try their best to spell the way they would in writing workshop and sound out any words they are unsure of. We also push for capitalization at the beginning of their name. At this stage of the school year we are a little more lenient about remembering to use ‘Shift’ to capitalize when forming sentences. The keyboard is still a rather new experience for most students, and just finding the letters can be quite a task!
In second grade I tell them they have a very special job. Instead of coming up with rules for technology use in general, I ask them to create rules just for iPad use. This is because they are now considered our experts on iPad use (at least in my division) and it is now their job to come up with rules for the younger students who may not be as familiar with the iPad. In this grade we try our best to remind students about capitalization in the appropriate places and punctuation at the end of sentences. I am also particular about students coming up with positive statements which highlight behavior that we want to see, rather than behavior we don’t want to see.