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Kaitlyn Rickman - Guest Author

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11 Ways to Incorporate Blended Learning into Kindergarten

Posted by Kaitlyn Rickman - Guest Author

Jul 22, 2015 8:41:00 AM

 

Kindergarten: it looks different, sounds different, and even smells different. And in an age where technology is increasingly found in elementary classrooms, many teachers are left asking when and how technology should be introduced to youngsters.

There are a number of learning opportunities when technology is integrated effectively into the classroom: learning can be individualized, students can collaborate, and teachers become facilitators. Recognizing this, I opted to give blended learning a try in my own kindergarten classroom. And indeed, by the end of the year, my five and six year olds were able to operate computers independently, created projects together, and were developing some basic coding skills.

These results were achieved through careful and purposeful scaffolding with technology throughout the school year. The use of technology in October was vastly different from how it was used in May. October was filled with lessons about logging in, shutting down, winding up cords on headphones, and how to wait patiently for help. Some of these lessons involved me using prep time to set-up computers and then running back and forth across the room to help panicked kinders who lost their tab or accidentally logged out.


However, by December, we participated in the Hour of Code, made our own light design on one of the White House Christmas trees, and had started using Khan Academy. By March, I was using Khan Academy and ThinkCentral (a curriculum resource) while also working with small groups to differentiate instruction. And by the end of the year, my students further developed their coding skills, created a digital story with a partner utilizing the Little Bird Tales software, and had explored Google Street View to learn about different landscapes (as a way to integrate science and social studies).


Here are my 11 strategies for blending technology into the kindergarten classroom:

  1. Use software that is age-appropriate. Look for programs that don’t require a lot of reading, that are interactive and visual, and will be fun and engaging for this age group. I would suggest creating a test account for yourself so you have full access to the student experience.


    Tip:
    One way to track down resources like this is to use hashtags on Twitter to ask other educators what they’re using; also, consider checking out EdTech indexes like the one EdSurge has created to help you track down the right edtech for you.

  2. Use tech as a tool instead of a supplement. Avoid the traditional “computer time,” by integrating technology in meaningful ways. Using your learning objectives as a guide, ask, Hhow can I use technology to help my students achieve their goals?

  3. Start small and allow for exploration. Before doing any academic work with technology, let your kindergartners play with it. Some may not have any background knowledge in how to operate a computer or iPad; give them the opportunity to figure it out. Even starting with fun websites like abcya.com that have fun educational games (and don’t require a login) can help youngsters get acclimated to using technology.

  4. Have extra adult support for troubleshooting. If you have a teacher’s aide or parent volunteer, they can be a great resource to help students when they run into a problem they cannot solve (like clicking on the wrong tab or accidentally logging off). This will prevent many meltdowns if extra help is available!


  5. Use screencasts to give visual instructions to new software. Screencasts are a great way to give instructions for using software that don’t require the teacher to do a live demonstration. Instructions can be viewed multiple times, the teacher can pause the video to answer questions, and students are able to preview the software before using it. Screencast-o-matic is a great free resource to create your own screencast.


  6. Keep logins simple and accessible to students.
     UseUsing memorable combinations can help students log onto their own accounts independently. Using combinations of first names, number of letters in name, special classroom codes, etc. will keep things personal and easy to remember. You may also want to add this information to the front a work folder, index card, or something else they regularly access if they need help remembering. This adds responsibility for students and keeps you from running around and logging everyone in.  


  7. Scaffold instructions for independence with software. 
    Remember to start small. Don’t expect students to be able to operate software completely the first time you introduce it. Scaffold the same way you would with the rest of your instruction. For example, practice only logging in and getting into an activity the first few times you use new software. This may require more prep for you in the beginning, but will effectively build independence overtime.

  8. Let them struggle (and problem-solve). The hardest thing as a teacher can often be letting your students struggle or giving appropriate wait-time before jumping in to help. In the beginning, you may want to jump in a bit faster, but as students become more independent, step-back and see if you students can guide themselves. Ask guiding questions such as, “Hhow do you think you could solve that?” This will make technology less intimidating for them, and for you!

  9. Individualize instruction to build independence in thinking/learning. Once students are able to use technology independently, use this newly learned skill to differentiate instruction. There are a number of programs that allow students to progress individually through lessons (LearnBop, Khan Academy, MobyMax, Razz Kids, etc.). You could even use programs like Edmodo and Schoology to assign your own lessons to individual groups.


  10. Allow for creativity and collaboration. 
    While kindergartners are just learning to use technology, this doesn’t mean they are too young to collaborate on creative technology projects together. Digital storytelling is a great way to allow creative youngsters to express what they learned.

  11. Integrate technology regularly and in a variety of ways. Practice makes perfect, right? The best way for young learners to get comfortable with technology is for them to use it regularly and in a variety of ways. With regular integration in my classroom, my students were willing to take risks with technology and their learning I didn’t think they would.

I hope these tips were helpful to you, and help you get started with blending technology into your classroom. I’d love to hear about how you use edtechplease let me know in the comments below!


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Topics: Differentiating Instruction, Resources, Teaching & Learning, Connected Educators, Educational Technologies

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