Integrating technology in the kindergarten curriculum is an exciting and rewarding experience. The children are drawn to technology in a way that sparks higher level thinking skills and leads students to effective problem solving. There are challenges that present themselves, however I feel like they are manageable. The content areas as well as student scores are improved with technology, making the need for effective integration even more necessary.
One issue that presents itself in the kindergarten content areas is screen time. If students are in front of a computer screen, Smartboard, and iPad for much of the school day, will technology have an adverse effect? The answer is simply, yes. If students are put in front of these tools all day they will have issues with activity levels, motor development, social skills, as well as cognitive development. That is why students should only use these tools when it is truly beneficial throughout the day. If my students utilize iPads for 15 minutes during reading, I will limit the time they are “plugged in” for the remainder of the day. I will also be sure to balance other best practices; time with manipulatives, peers, and hands on learning. The secret to this obstacle, as with many in life, is balance.
Students in the kindergarten classroom are just beginning to read. Often, children are not able to read the text presented to them on the Internet. This obstacle can be troublesome. How can children utilize the tools online if they cannot read directions for navigation or the facts presented? Just as the question is derived with technology, so is the answer: technology will allow students who cannot read the ability to navigate the Internet. Bobby Hobgood, Ed.D. and Lauren Ormsby with the University of North Carolina shared a very important reminder about online tools:
Many of the obstacles to implementing differentiated instruction can be overcome with the effective use of technology. Teachers who feel ill-prepared to address the diverse needs of their students, for example, have ready access to more options than ever before as a result of the wide range of software and hardware tools available.
With the added benefit of differentiation, teachers will have more time to assist students in their online research. I am able to lead a small group in their adventures online, unlike an entire class. The added tools provide me with time and resources needed to assist the younger students. If needed, I can also call upon the assistance of our sixth grade pals who aid our class in multiple ways.
The maturity level of my students is always in my thoughts while utilizing web-based tools. Five year olds should not be exposed to the same content as a senior in high school, yet they often use the same computer lab. How do we keep our young children safe while allowing older students to have the freedom to explore online? The answer is actually much easier to answer now than it was five years ago. Schools have filter capabilities that keep most of the inappropriate content away from our young children. If this is not enough for a teacher, there are a number of child-safe browsers available. I have found that the applications for the iPad in the area of child-safe browsers are easy to use and very safe. There is also the ability to create Diigo, Delicious, or Glogs with pre-selected materials to help keep children safe. There are too many resources to ignore and they are secure enough that we shouldn’t deny our children the chance to explore all that Web 2.0 has to offer.
The final technology obstacle that I have encountered in the kindergarten content areas is the digital divide. Many of the students who begin kindergarten in or rural town have not utilized a computer. The children often do not click the mouse, they try to touch and manipulate the screen. How do I provide a developmentally appropriate education to all students regardless of their experience with technology? First, I must provide opportunities for the students who have not utilized these tools at a very basic level. While some children can jump right into utilizing web-based tools in reading and math, I will need to first give some students a crash course in the parts of a computer/iPad. While we are at it, why not involve the families? Swain and Pearson wrote a journal article for ISTE in 2001 that addressed solutions to the digital divide:
Involving parents in the learning experience is also important. Many parents want to assist their children but do not have the resources or experience to guide them. Schools can work to meet this need by offering afternoon and evening lab hours and classes or help sessions for parents and students, encouraging them to work as a team to accomplish various tasks.
Teachers can also be involved in the sessions so students see that all adults must work toward the goal of being lifelong learners. If we can start this promotion of technology with our families in early childhood, the digital divide in kindergarten will be less of an issue.
There are obstacles to integrating technology in the content areas. From screen time, to maturity, to the digital divide, the issues may be overwhelming to many educators. However, we have seen the research time and time again illustrating one simple fact; technology, when integrated correctly, can lead to increased enthusiasm, test scores, and passion for life-long learning. Deriving solutions is no longer an option. It is something we must do as professionals in an ever-changing field.
- Swain, C., & Pearson, T. (2001). Bridging the Digital Divide: A Building Block for Teachers. International Society for Technology in Education, 28(8). Retrieved from http://bit.ly/IXHEmS