One of the things that I enjoy most about my job is that I get to do some small part in helping to provide kids with an outstanding public education, which is the goal of everything that we do here at ADM. Many parts of my regular day, however – technology maintenance, budget meetings, processing paperwork, etc. – can make that goal seem a bit abstract; while these are all necessary to keep the district operating smoothly, it can be tough to see the impact on kids’ educational opportunities. As such, I’m always excited to get into the classroom, even while I’m not able to do so as frequently as I’d like.
Yesterday, I had the opportunity to visit four classrooms at Adel Elementary School, and I observed classes ranging from PreKindergarten to Second Grade. While most of my visits to Adel Elementary have been timed to coincide with technology-based lesson delivery (you can check out some of my recent visits here, here, and here), today’s visit was planned to coincide with centers work. Rather than a teacher-focused lesson, students in each classroom were working in various centers, some of which were technology-focused (iPad research centers, for instance), and others of which were not (such as science projects and reading centers). I will provide some of my observations from the classes below, but first I want to thank Sarah Herrick, Karyn Pettit, Bailey Luellen, Christal Tilley, and JoLynn Blair, along with their students, for welcoming me into their classrooms.
In each classroom, some students were focused on work with technology in centers, while other students were engaged in non-technology focused activities. Many of the tech activities focused on iPads; all of our classrooms in the K-5 grade levels are equipped with at least three iPads, so this provides an opportunity for small groups of students to work with the devices. In several of the classes, students used iPads to play educational games. These games are teacher-selected, but students largely had the choice to choose which games to play, and were self-directed in terms of the amount of time that they would spend on each game, and on how they set goals for their interaction with the app. For instance, two students in the prekindergarten classroom were focused on helping each other master a single app for the bulk of their time at the iPad center, while two students in a second grade classroom were racing each other to complete tasks in an iPad game focusing on the animals of Africa. In other classes, students were using the iPads to do research, with research topics including such things as the life cycle of hammerhead sharks and the dietary needs of lion cubs.
One thing that struck me – albeit didn’t surprise me – was the ease with which students at all grade levels are able to make use of the iPads. Students have no problem navigating between applications, executing the games and activities presented within the apps, and – at the higher grade levels – searching the internet with the iPads. In fact, the understanding of devices resulted in some of my favorite moments of the day:
- At the beginning of the PreK class, a student – despite the fact that the topic was not on technology at all – told the teacher that he had learned how to view all open apps on an iPad, had learned how to close apps, and explained that having too many apps open at a time drains the battery more quickly
- One student in a first grade class asked me what kind of Android I was using to take notes and pictures (it was a Google Nexus 7). He then told me that he has a Kindle, but hasn’t had a chance to use a Nexus 7.
- A student in a second grade class asked me what kind of tablet I was using. He then told me that he knows a family where all of the family members have Kindles; perhaps he was talking about the first grader’s family. 🙂
Other notes from the day include:
Projectors that project directly onto a board can result in the loss of board space that teachers might like to use for other things. Using magnets allows you to quickly put up and remove other things on the same surface that you use to project, as in image to the right with items all over the board that has a mounted projector above it. This would concern me a bit as a tech coordinator (does the teacher use the projector?) if I didn’t already know that the teacher in this classroom does really cool things with the document camera and projector, as I’ve written about in a previous class observation writeup. I’m always excited to see that our elementary classrooms are such vibrant places!
Teachers at Adel Elementary are having students use a kid-friendly search engine called www.kidrex.org, which I imaging many parents would be happy to know about as well. Students in the second grade classrooms that I was in were using KidRex to search for images for a writing project that they were working on. While we filter all internet traffic within the district, sites designed specifically for kids are the best resource for teachers and parents who want kids to be able to do research and find resources online, but who want to make sure that the children are being exposed to appropriate content while doing so.
While not a technology item, I enjoyed watching students participate in bus safety drills. Seeing these in progress reminds me that there are literally hundreds of staff members in the district who work hard to make sure that we are setting and meeting the highest standards for students’ learning and safety, and creating a great learning environment here at ADM.