As a class we have decided it is time to update our system of iPad access in class. Up until now the teacher has had control over when the students have access to their iPad’s. Increasingly students request their iPad’s for a range of tools (spelling, translation, research etc.) and I realised it is time for me to let go of the control. I asked myself ‘Am I hindering my students’ learning?’
Previously, I have been concerned about device distraction, lack of social interaction and an overload of screen time. Common sense media recommends one hour per day for primary aged children. We have six hours of class time per day. Does this same amount apply to supervised educational use? There appears to be limited research that applies to our specific situation: a small class of motivated Grade 5 students who are encouraged to independently make the right choices about their learning.
Are we hindering student learning by restricting tech use?
I proposed to the class my idea for allowing them to use their iPads at any time in the classroom. Surprisingly a quick vote showed me that students wanted a list of rules that they could follow. They explained that having some guidance made it clearer to understand what was acceptable.
When deciding on these rules the following points came out in a class discussion:
Encouraging self-management skills.
We conducted a ‘think, pair, share’ thinking routine to analyse these results. We narrowed these ideas into four workable class rules that addressed our concerns. A student also suggested we review these rules every month. Another student suggested that they monitor their own daily screen time – if we use the iPad’s a lot at school – play outside at home.
Image from Creative Commons: https://pixabay.com/p-447576/?no_redirect
As I continue on my digital inquiry I can appreciate that Heraclitus was right ‘Change is the only Constant’. Assessing the effectiveness of new technologies available in education, and the impact they are having, is an ongoing task.
As I find authentic ways to successfully embed technology in my classroom, many questions have been raised about a shift in skills, especially in literacy. Some concerns are raised by parents, queries by colleagues and observations by students. Recently, whilst reviewing our twitter feed (a highlight as we heard from Moby of Brainpop fame) a student noticed that I hadn’t followed one of my own rules (always an exciting discovery).
Why don’t you need to use finger spaces Miss? Image is authors own.
“Why don’t youneed to use finger spaces Miss?” was the query. The response from another student was even better, “You don’t need too if you put a hashtag in front of it”. Then of course a wonderful discussion followed about what hashtags are and how they are used- and why can’t we #justputtheminfrontofeverything.
This discussion led me to thinking about other major changes that have occurred in ‘The Literacy Rule Book’ of lower primary education. Handwriting, spellings, letter formation, formal letter writing, were all essential literacy skills when I began teaching. Now that we have less emphasis on these tasks in our everyday lives, I am beginning to question just how relevant these are in everyday lessons. My main queries are:
Is handwriting still important?
Do we need to teach children how to spell?
Should touch typing be in the curriculum?
How much screen time is okay for young children?
Do devices detract from oral language development?
When should students have personal cloud-based log ins?
For the skills of handwriting and spelling I feel that I am midway on a continuum stretching from essential to not needed. They are not as vital as they once were, but I’m not ready to let them go yet (to the relief of many parents). Interestingly the BBC reported today that Finland have announced that as from August 2016 typing lessons will replace handwriting lessons.
Finnish students will no longer be taught handwriting at school, with typing lessons taking its place.
My main defence for handwriting is that IBDP exams still require more than 2 hours of handwriting. Spelling is still a useful skill to speed up the process of writing, but with spell checks at everybody’s fingertips, endless spelling tests are not as important. My students still need to learn how to write and spell, but these are just components of communication.
Balancing screen time is a new concern for educators as devices are becoming more readily available and affordable. Common Sense Media points out that:
“Studies have shown a link between heavy media use and issues such as obesity, lack of sleep, academic challenges, aggression, and other behavior difficulties.
If they’re using high-quality, age-appropriate media; their behavior is positive; and their screen-time activities are balanced with plenty of healthy screen-free ones, there’s no need to worry.
As I have mentioned in previous posts ‘not all screen time is created equally’. Our screen time is very interactive. It is always planned and purposeful, and always in a class or group setting. Students share, compare, discuss, analyse and create together. Students are often so engaged in their creations this is an excellent chance to encourage oral language skills to develop.
My final query was about the age appropriateness of personalized cloud-based log ins. This year I have begun using Google Classroom. I manage students security settings and we only access the accounts together.
Google Classroom in Year 3/Grade 2 Image is authors own.
The wonders of Google Apps for Education are just beginning to transform our actual classroom. The benefits of the classroom app are just becoming apparent and I am now able to efficiently organise all of our digital learning with instant google drive access.
So it may be that the literacy rules are shifting, but they are increasing our capacity to communicate, which can only be a good thing.