As teachers of young children, one of the first steps on our road to designing creative learning experiences is to consider the logistics of developing independence within any given task. Sometimes helping them develop independence is clearcut and natural for teachers. It means breaking tasks down to the smallest steps, modeling, scaffolding, practicing, and allowing children to develop independence. We do this from the moment they walk in the first day and teach them how to unpack and begin morning routines.
When considering the use of technology in the classroom, the first thing that often panics teachers is the logistics of making tools work. How do I store devices? How do I hand them out? What if something goes wrong? What if they break? How do I help everyone at once? These are all valid fears - but they should not lead to the conclusion that we avoid technology. Is it easier to avoid? Yes. Is it serving our children if we do? No.
There are many amazing ideas out there about how to set up successful situations for children when working with devices. We have iPads and Chromebooks in our classroom, and I love them both for different reasons. Just as we have different kinds of art materials or writing tools, different devices allow for completion of tasks in different ways. Exposing children to different technology tools is just as important as exposing them to different types of building materials in the block center. They each allow for unique ways of creation and expression.
I have found that iPads are particularly easy for young children, and this is why they are often a "go-to" device. However, Chromebooks hold an important place as well. One particular advantage is that exposing young children to Chromebooks sets them up for success in later grades. I find that this is similar to the use of pattern blocks which scaffold later learning about fractions and geometry. In the younger grades, we let them play, manipulate, and develop a deep understanding of how they work. As children advance in grade levels, they are ready to start applying their knowledge, deconstructing their understanding, and building from the foundation that we have provided.
During a recent #gafe4littles Twitter Chat on digital organization in the classroom, I shared an idea for a login template for Chromebook keyboards in the classroom. The idea came from the amazing login scaffolding process created by Christine Pinto. She shares fantastic tips on how to help children develop independence with the login process so that they can work independently on various activities through their Google accounts.
After creating the login cards with Christine's template, I wanted to come up with a way to help children understand the color coding both in and out of the classroom. I wanted to make sure children who needed the support had it, but I also wanted to scaffold in a way that allowed me to remove the support when they were ready to work on their own. In addition to that, I wanted to make sure that kids could practice on a keyboard at home (or anywhere really), and that the login process made sense to parents. Although there is probably a fancier process to creating this, for me it was really a hands-on project complete with pencil, ruler, paper, card stock, markers, and colored smiley face stickers.
The first thing I did was measure the keyboard to determine the dimensions of what I would need to create to fit around the edge of the keys. It was a relatively simple L shape that was needed. I then cut it out, placed it on the keyboard, and matched up colored stickers to the keyboard rows. I added a purple sticker next to the shift key with a little number 1. I also added a purple @ sign above the number 2 on the top row with a small 2 written next to it. This would show the children how to press down the shift key and the number 2 in order to type in the @ symbol. Next to the @ symbol on the template, I used colored marker to write the letters they would need for the rest of the user login. The colored letters on the template match the color rows as well. (**Note: When I shared this on Twitter, several people responded by noting that the top part is unnecessary if your domain address is pre-filled. Our district is not currently set up that way, but I can see how that would be a big time saver! It also depends on what you are trying to teach the children. There is something to be said for learning how to enter a domain name as well. Either way, let me assure you that the kids can do it!)
I only made one template. In order to duplicate it, I simply made colored copies onto card stock, cut them out, and laminated them. Once the work was done, I had sets of the templates that would last year after year. The only new ones needed would be those sent home with children each year.
I introduced the template in small groups so that I could model and support as needed. As these were introduced toward the beginning of the year, the process of identifying and finding letters on the keyboard was a perfect opportunity to create meaningful learning experiences for children. It was super motivating for them to practice their alphabet knowledge to achieve the login process. From a literacy and learning perspective, it was a task with built in skills practice and the reward of achieving access to their account! This small group task became guided reading for alphabet work at the beginning of the year. It was not something extra to get past, it was the learning experience. In addition to academic application, from an early childhood perspective, this was a task that mirrored the self-help skills and executive functioning that we might see in learning other skills such as tying a shoe or zipping a coat. It fostered independence that would generate feelings of success which transferred to other tasks.
One of the key things to remember in setting up clear support systems for independence, is that the task itself provides the lesson (or multiple lessons). It should not be rushed so that you can get to an activity. It is the activity. Learning to login to any account is a real life task that deserves a place in our classrooms with young children. If we are to mirror the world that surrounds them so that they may explore and develop their schema, the inclusion of the login process provides a challenging and meaningful learning opportunity.
Heart & Soul,