I’m beginning a new endeavor as a part-time preschool teacher this fall, and I’m taking my iPad with me.
Technology integration has long been one of my strengths in the classroom, and I have used labs and software and websites as a tool to enhance our learning and illustrate our application of skills and knowledge. My previous teaching experiences, with students in grades K-5, have always had access to a computer lab along with classroom desktops and had scheduled computer lab time and measurable expectations. My preschool classroom meets two mornings/week and has one classroom machine.
As a mother of two children (ages 3 and 6), I believe whole-heartedly in the importance of limiting screen time. Netflix and iPods and online games are used sparingly, and most often in times when there is little opportunity for free play or meaningful adult interaction; car rides, long waits, Mommy’s treadmill time, etc. But, as a teacher and a heavy-technology user, I see a large discrepancy in children who are familiar and comfortable with technology devices and those who have less experience, and I see the level of their technology skills impacting their education and career paths as early as their elementary days.
So, along with finger paints and dried pasta, blunt scissors and stubby crayons, I’m bringing my iPad. I want to use the iPad as a tool to intensify our learning themes or add another opportunity for skill-building.
Knowing students and the novelty of iPads and similar devices, I have been tossing around several ways to promote equal opportunities for use. In past classrooms, I have used ticket punching systems, name charts with clothespins, popsicle sticks and pocket charts. There is no doubt that some students will gravitate toward the technology center and try to trade trinkets for extra turns, while other students will still display that behavior for a favorite baby doll or tractor as well! Most often, the technology center will be a “can-do” center as opposed to a “have-to” center; students can choose to visit the iPad table or may skip it to have extra time for other centers.
Our preschool programs utilize Creative Curriculum and develop lessons, activities and centers to support two- or three- week themes. Within the themes, we provide activities in: art, writing, math, science, sensory, fine and gross motor and reading. Planning often looks like this:
Where will an iPad fit in? I am trying to find an app or activity that fits with all of our themes so that the iPad (and maybe a couple iPod touches) can be offered as another learning center. (for animal homes, I like the My First App/Eric Carle matching games and several easy readers) I also foresee several opportunities for adult use of the iPad as a on-demand tool for learning and record-keeping. Computers and iPads are expensive additions to a classroom, and my limited teaching time with students is even more valuable. Every activity we present weaves together with stories and songs and experiences to encourage growth and development, and the iPad must be no exception.