Last week there were posts in response to a well-known and respected educator, Nanci Atwell, about the question of using technology in the lower grades. I have long admired Nanci Atwell as the author of In the Middle. Her theories and ideas have guided my teaching for many years. The comment that garnered so much attention was this:
I do think classrooms in grades four or five and up should have computers, so kids can experience and experiment with word processing, but I have concerns about them in the younger grades. In fact, I think the trend of iPads in the primary classroom is a mistake. –Nancie Atwell
I understand her thinking. When children are young, their brains are still growing and developing. I tell my students often that video games are OK in moderation, but hours can harm their brains. I offer them choices in the classroom for writing and composing. Personally, I do not want to take time from actual writing to teach handwriting, so I would rather their final drafts be typed. I think this is real world application. My students have balance. The right balance is important in many aspects of life, eating, exercise, and technology use.
This week, my mother-in-law visited my classes to teach about Vietnam. She recently went on a trip there and brought back many pictures and ideas for teaching my young students. She was worried about what they would and would not understand. I put together an Emaze presentation with some of her pictures. She did not think it included enough. I told her the Emaze was background to her presence. The kids would pay more attention to her. And I was right about that! She brought in fruits and vegetables from the Asian market. She bought them all bamboo hats. They each had a taste of peanut candy. And they touched an actual silk worm cocoon. There is nothing better than the real thing.
Technology, however, allowed some of my students to process her visit even further as they wrote a Slice of Life story. You can read Tyler’s, Vannisa’s , and Kielan’s. As she wrote, I watched Kielan refer back to the Emaze presentation. It helped her remember everything that she saw.
I believe this process is the best for teaching. I will continually advocate for hands on experience through guest speakers and field trips. The technology serves as a means for processing and communicating that is here to stay and is a necessary part of the balance in education.
**Note: Due to NCTE and Thanksgiving holiday, there will be a two week break from DigiLit Sunday posts.
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