Last night my family met a larger group of extended family at a restaurant. We were seated at a table near a large T.V., and my children were strategic in their choice of where to sit, remaining glued to the television throughout the entire course of our meal. While I cannot blame them for being more interested in the television show than their grandparents, aunts and uncles, it was a missed opportunity for connection.
Technology is integrated into preschool classrooms in intentional, developmentally appropriate ways designed specifically to encourage and enhance connections. In my classroom we introduce technology to children as a “tool”, in the same way that we talk about scissors, crayons and colored pencils. Technology can be a tool for communication, creative expression, documentation, information gathering and many other skills when used in interactive, meaningful ways. If you are interested in the NAEYC position statement for technology use in preschool and kindergarten, it can be accessed here: http://www.naeyc.org/content/technology-and-young-children/preschoolers-and-kindergartners
Our large interactive whiteboard (Activeboard) is used daily in class for whole group games and activities. Since it involves groups of children, the activities are collaborative in nature, encouraging linguistic expression as well as the application of specific skills. Similarly, the iPads are typically used with groups of children working together at a table, engaged with each other as well as with the activity itself.
The iPads are also an important tool for documentation in the classroom, as children are learning to photograph their work. We recently had a nature mandala project in the classroom in which children created designs with natural materials, photographed them with the iPad, and then attempted to duplicate the designs of their classmates. The children also make connections with their parents in the block area by replicating the block structures that were created and photographed by their parents at Back to School Night.
Some of the ways that technology has enhanced connections in my classroom have come as a surprise to me. During our afternoon center time, when the iPads are available for free exploration (as opposed to a specific, guided activity) the children often watch video clips from last year. I simply had not gotten around to deleting some video clips from last year and had not considered the fact that the children would enjoy re-visiting highlights from the previous year until I heard a group of children singing while gathered around an iPad. They were singing songs from last year’s Spring Sing, while watching a video of our last rehearsal in May of last year. Another child discovered a short video from our Thanksgiving celebration last November, which sparked a great conversation between the new and returning students about this special classroom tradition. Witnessing the power of connection that comes through memories captured on film has left me thinking about how I might use video of classroom activities more intentionally as a tool in this way.
Last week we engaged in activities for “Dot Day”, a celebration of creativity based on books by Peter Reynolds, and shared our work with classrooms around the world through posting artwork on Twitter. For the past several years we have used Skype to connect with children’s grandparents and relatives in various corners of the world. While there are many ways to use technology in passive formats (always helpful on long road trips!), the opportunities for using technology as a tool for connection and interaction are plentiful and important to pursue in an educational setting.
In what ways has technology helped you and your child stay connected? In what ways has it interfered? How can we use technology to enhance children’s thinking, reflection, problem solving and creativity?