As I move around our district, I’m noticing a trend. We have a 1:1 environment, with every student having his/her own ipad for learning purposes, but our kindergarteners don’t seem to be getting the same utilization out of this environment. At first, I wasn’t certain how much of this difference was about the children and their skill or readiness for the digital medium, and how much was about the teachers of kindergarten and THEIR skill or readiness for the digital medium. As I’ve watched and listened, I’ve begun to think that it is NEITHER of these. Rather it seems to be more about the ability of the Ipad to add value to the kindergarten classroom.
Any digital medium is only of value in an educational setting if it:
- does something that a non-digital medium CANNOT do
- assists the teacher in personalizing instruction to meet individual needs
- saves time
- provides access for students who might not otherwise have access (differently abled students, reluctant students, etc)
Too often, especially in kindergarten, the device is merely doing something that can already be done with paper and pencil (or crayon) with no value added. And while I understand the SAMR model and that substitution is often the entry point for any teacher, without a value added, there is no incentive for the teacher to continue to use the digital medium. There is certainly no incentive for the teacher to expand digital options. And frankly, there is little or no teaching required to utilize the paper/pencil version of a task, while the device often requires some instruction and support. So, there is actually a dis-incentive to the digital medium.
But the digital experience is essential for our current kindergarteners. They are a generation that was BORN in the digital age. In their lifetimes, the digital will become far more powerful and ubiquitous than the analog. We must provide them with appropriate digital experiences, experiences that are developmentally appropriate for young children, educationally sound for the standards they are expected to master, and frankly, fun and motivating for their young minds.
So, I’m paying special attention in my kindergarten classrooms to find ideas that fit my criteria. I’ll let you know what I find.