Since beginning my career, I’ve taught at the high school and college levels, worked as a district administrator, and have worked out of an office in a middle school building. Beyond the work environment, I volunteer time as a youth group advisor, and have spent a number of years instructing high school drumlines and middle school percussion ensembles. While those experiences have been well-rounded in some ways, there is a noticeable gap when it comes to elementary education, and other than my own childhood, I’ve spent very little time in Pre-K through 2nd grade classrooms, in particular.
With that in mind, one of the things that excited me most about beginning technology observations was the chance to see how technology can be put to use in these lower grade level classrooms. I want to thank Bailey Luellen for inviting me into her Kindergarten classroom to observe a lesson recently. The equipment present in Ms. Luellen’s room included a MimioTeach interactive whiteboard device, a MimioView document camera, a mounted ultra short-throw projector and speakers, a set of iPads (3), and a MacBook Air laptop.
This afternoon’s lesson was focused on reading a book, and brainstorming ideas about words that could express what was happening on each page. This was a particularly interesting lesson to me; essentially, Ms. Luellen took a book about barnyard animals and covered over all of the written words with plain, white pieces of paper, including the title. She then used her document camera to project the book for the class to see, and began by going through the book page-by-page, with students seeing all the pictures. After doing so, she returned to the title page, and asked the students what they thought the title of the book should be, eliciting a wide range of creative ideas. After settling on a title, she went through the book with the students to come up with the text that should appear on each page, based upon the pictures.
I love the emphasis on creativity in this lesson, intermingled with development of vocabulary. Further, students got the chance to come up to write the text in themselves, under the document camera, so they were able to develop their writing skills as well. In all, it was clear that students were enthusiastic about the lesson, and excited about getting an opportunity to take center stage in terms of writing in the text.
The document camera allowed for the display of real-time, full-color images that the whole class could see clearly. Further, it allowed Ms. Luellen to switch to other resources temporarily as needed, putting up an alphabet map, for instance, to help a student with a particular letter.
Partway through the lesson, it struck me that this fairly simple and elegant approach to using technology was actually nearly irreplaceable. While document cameras are never the catchiest piece of technology in the room, it occurred to me that this lesson would be nearly impossible without a document camera. The labels on the book and the written text would be difficult for a class to see if they were just gathered around the teacher. A digital book downloaded to an iPad or a computer (from the iBook store, for instance), would not allow the user to remove text as Ms. Luellen was able to do. Further, a standard overhead projector – to which document cameras are often compared – would have required specially-made transparencies, and would have lacked the color and depth of the original book, and the clarity of the document camera.
I was excited to spend time in this Kindergarten class, and happy to see an elegant yet inspired use of one of our standard classroom technologies.