Now for Something Completely Different: STEAM in EY

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FGK8IC-bGnU

If your reaction was anything like the above video, I won’t be surprised or offended. Raising the bar in the Early Years & unraveling misconception pertaining to what Kindergarten & Preschool kids can and can’t do has been my forte for the better part of the last 5 years.  Kindergarteners often get a bad wrap (or should I say how their ability to learn & take on big ideas is perceived by others gets a bad wrap).  There’s an air of aimless that seems to cloud and misrepresent the abilities of these young learners.

Now, don’t get me wrong no one is disputing the benefits of play-based learning.  I myself have been an advocate of it for years.  One thing I have noticed recently, however,  is that play (without a purpose) in the classroom can sometimes be a slippery slope. The same can be echoed about using technology without a purpose.  While students are playing, if you’re not observing what they’re doing & saying and taking (mental) notes, then using that anecdotal evidence to help gauge their interests to ultimately build better relationships, then you’re doing a disservice to both the students & the concept of “play time”.  It’s vital that we not forget how important our role is in play-based learning. The same can be said about using technology in the classroom.  If you’re using iPads as a pacifier and allowing students to use them to consume more content than they create, then once again you’re doing a disservice to the students & the iPads. (more on that here)


PLAY TO YOUR STRENGTHS… BUT NOT ALWAYS.

 

The title of this posts indicates that I haven’t done too much STEM while looking through the lens of an Early Years’ teacher.  Whether or not that was a conscious choice remains undetermined, but I’d consider it a blind spot and one that I’ve overlooked for too long. Perhaps it was because it’s not one of my strong suits or perhaps it was that I too underestimated their abilities to take on such “higher level” concepts.  Be that as it may, as educators, we often ask our students to venture into the unknown with the goal of shaking them ever so slightly out of their comfort zone (See the Learning Pit), but do we practice what we preach as well?

This year, I’ve made it apparent that I’ll no longer simply play to my strengths in order to broaden my scope as an educator and help enhance teaching in learning in my classroom. What better way of doing that, then diving head first into something I’m a complete novice at? As the great Carl Sandberg once said, ” I’m an idealist, I don’t know where I’m going but I’m on my way.”   < This is my STEM journey in a nutshell.

I’ve enrolled into two new courses the ISTE Computational Thinking Course & Apple Swift Codes Certification with the goal to change the perspective of what “technology looks like” at my school.

This tactile & tactical approach of balancing the digital with the analog will not only help promote big ideas, creativity, and innovation, but it will also help reshape the perspective of both parents and students when it comes to  #edtech  in the #earlyyears#makerEd,  and #designthinking.

by incorporating computational thinking and tech tools such as #MakeyMakey  & #BeeBots into my Kinder class I can also break down the age-old tensions & stereotypes about technology as only being digital devices (or simply something with a screen that you can swipe & watch Netflix.)


Below is just one example of the benefits of teaching STEM in the Early Years, followed by an awesome group of STEM-centered educators to help you get started.

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For further resources, I’d recommend you check out the hashtag #PrimarySTEMChat 


 

Our Kindergarten STEM journey began with a two-pronged approach. First, we introduced the students to Iggy Peck, the Architect (an awesome story written by Andrea Beaty,) as a way to get them thinking like architects and as a way to introduce them to blueprints  & design thinking.

 

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Second, we rolled out the concept of iTime (Feel free to read more about iTime here).  Andrea Beaty’s story taught them about the fun open-ended freedom of designing, while iTime provided us with the tools and parameters.  Furthermore, in the efforts of making iTime as fun and alluring as possible, our first collective task was to see if we could turn six bananas into a working keyboard.  Needless to say, it was very “appeeling” & that STEM in the early years was off and running.

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TO BE CONTINUED…

 


FINAL WONDERINGS

When was the last time you stepped out of your comfort zone for benefit of the greater good of your students  – what was it?

How did you navigate those initial feelings of stepping out of your comfort zone?

What does STEM in the Early Years look like in your classroom?

Thanks,

@NicholasKGarvin

“Learn to teach like Chuck Berry plays guitar.”

The title of this post was quoted by Sonny Magana during his Youtube video explaining the T3 Framework. It stuck with me and instantly made me a fan of Magana’s 3 T’s, Translational, Transformation, and Transcendent. It’s an excellent concept and his framework makes up a great hierarchy which showcases how we can use technology to enhance student learning.  In the past, I’ve only ever used The SAMR Model but, after spending some time looking at both the TPACK and T3 Framework I became enticed and a bit overwhelmed, wondering if one had any specific advantages over the other.  Often in education, one can get easily acronym’ed to death.

So the question now becomes, what do you with all the tools to use to evaluate using technology (which is also a tool), to enhance student learning?

Let’s have a quick look at each one of our top three tech integration models and try to decide.

Here’s Ruben Puentedura, creator of SAMR

Now’s here’s TPACK explained in 2 minutes.

Finally, here’s a video of The T3 Framework for Innovation in Education explained in 5 minutes.

Notice anything?  All three evaluation tools use the sum of their parts to take learner deeper, moving students from consumers to prosumers and from passive participators to creators and disruptive innovators.  All three of these tools represent the same paradigm shift. Take your pick but understand that it’s the mindset that really matters.


Whats in a name?

So, thinking about the overarching idea we want to achieve when using technology in the classroom, I couldn’t help but get hung up on how many different ways we attempt to communicate the same thing. That thought brought me back to my school’s latest technology committee meeting where our focus mainly centered on us currently searching for the right name to coin our iPad program.  Our philosophy is sound as is our purpose and procedures. We believe in SAMR, embrace the ISTE standards, and have aligned our curriculum with Common Sense Media, we just don’t have that one name to sum it all up nicely.  As we all went back to the drawing board after our latest unsuccessful attempt,  I couldn’t help but zoom out and think, “What’s in a name?” Now I didn’t exactly have Shakespear on the mind when reflecting on this, but instead, the abundance of acronyms already floating around in education today.

Upon further reflection, I couldn’t help but notice how many of the tech integration tools have a massive commonality. SAMR & TPACK and even T3, provide teachers with ways enhance learning in with technology. Although they’re different models, they all provide a roadmap for innovation and highlight the same big ideas,

promote student agency,

foster creativity and collaboration

and transform student learning.

Keeping learning at the forefront of the conversation allows us to view technology as a skill much like  Jeff Utech mentions in his blog post.

” If we view technology as a skill, then we can look at the skill students are learning through the use of technology.

Using the three higher order thinking skills, of Bloom’s Digital Taxonomy,  create, evaluate, & analyze, below are some of the things I like to encourage my students to do when using technology:

  • Create connections locally & globally to collaborate & give and receive feedback
  • To become prosumers
  • Produce content for an authentic audience
  • Be media and digitally literate by critically navigating and interacting in the digital realm.
  • Embody the ISTE Standards for Students

Edutopia does a wonderful job summing this up in this video.


“Roll Over Beethoven”

It was way back in September, during course one,  when I was first introduced to Mark Pernsky’s article,  Shaping Tech for the Classroom.  I wrote about what he calls, “enlightened trial and error”, “dabbling”, & “doing old things in new ways.” You can go back and have a look at that post here.

Press Start : Digital Citizenship in Kindergarten

In Pernsky’s article, he lays the groundwork for his views of technology in the classroom in his four-step process

  • Dabbling.
  • Doing old things in old ways.
  • Doing old things in new ways.
  • Doing new things in new ways.

Although I wasn’t around to witness it, this process seems to mirror exactly what Chuck Berry did with his guitar when he turned the music industry upside in the 1950’s. Much of what he did is nicely summarized in this article “What Chuck Berry Can Teach Us about Innovation”  by Jim McCarthy. I think it’s safe to say that Chuck Berry was a disruptive innovator. 

Just to be sure, let’s also cross-check them with those skills/ real life applications I listed above.

  • Seek connections locally, and globally to collaborate, give and receive feedback

 Chuck learned from and borrowed from others, such as T-Bone Walker. He sought out other successful people in his industry for help and advice, specifically Muddy Waters and Leonard Chess of Chess Records. 

  • To become prosumers

He created a hybrid from various influences, mixing blues and country music with an uptempo electrifying guitar sound that couldn’t describe.  He experimented with different products and pivoted into new markets – think of it as modern day “app-smashing.” 

  • To have an authentic audience

He knew his audience — recognizing trends and reflecting the spirit of his times

  • Be media and digitally literate

He creatively used new technology, the electric guitar.  See below.

Sadly, Chuck Berry died a year ago today, on March 18, 2017, but his spirit lives on inside every disruptive innovator.  So when I think about what I want my students to achieve when using technology in the classroom, yeah I think of all the acronyms, but mostly I think about redefinition, transformation, creativity and Chuck Berry.

Perhaps we should all learn to teach like Chuck Berry plays guitar.

 


Final Wonderings?

How do you promote disruptive innovation in your classroom?

What are the challenges raised by teaching using SAMR , TPACK, or T3 as a tool for integrating technology?

What does technology integration look like in your classroom?

 

 

 

Purposeful Pedagogy with Tech as a Tool

It’s true that technology has transformed the way we teach and the way students learn. It has revolutionized the world with the way we receive and delivery information.  Its impact is monumental, there’s no doubt, but understanding how technology can be used effectively and purposefully in the classroom now becomes the focus.  It’s important to think of Technology as a tool to help learning ensue. Having said that, it’s also important to remember that the tools have to work for us, we don’t work for them.

Know your purpose

“Have I started with purpose and pedagogy instead of the tech?” It was this question from Drew Perkins’, 15 Questions To Ask About Tech Integration In Your Classroom that really stuck with me. It’s not about the technology, it should always be about the learning.  We as educators should be mindful of their use of technology within the classroom.  Are we using it as a tool to drive teaching and learning? I found Drew’s article to be a helpful integration barometer, right up there with  TPACK  and the SAMR model.

Last week, while perusing on Twitter, I came across this invaluable ISTE related Google Doc thanks to @techwatts.

This is a wonderful resource for teachers as it’s centered around Content & Learning Targets for students.  Whether it’s SAMR, TPACK  or another supportive and reflective tool for integration,  it’s important to remember a way to identify the purpose behind the inclusion and that purpose should always be what is best for student learning.   Remember the tool should work for us, both teachers and students. The ISTE Standards and Essential Conditions are also key to navigating one’s learning journey into proper tech integration.

Using Technology Doesn’t Automatically Mean You’re Innovating 

Technology in the classroom is not about buying and using the cool new thing. A common misconception amongst both teachers and students is new tech = automatic innovation. Simply using ______ (insert latest app/device here)________  doesn’t necessary mean you’re innovating.  Technology shouldn’t be an end in itself.  Don’t allow yourself to be wooed by the latest tech toys. What might be best for consumers might not always be best for our students.

Also,  Innovation is not about using the latest hardware, software, or following the latest techie trendy.  Innovation is a mindset. As @gcouros pointed out with his new book.  George’s infographic helps provide a brief and clear snippet below.

For me, it’s these eight characters that make up a great teacher and effective tech integrator.  As a kindergarten teacher,  I want technology to inspire my students.  I use technology to create a flexible, responsive and inclusive learning environment. I’m reflective of my use and when a problem arises I include my student’s into the process of solving it. I want them to become creators of their own learning journey and understand the importance of responsible use and their digital footprint.

We are 17 years into the 21st century, sooner or later tech skills,  an innovators mindset and attitudes towards integration will become normalized the same way the digital revolution has lead to the evolution of learning. ISTE, COETAIL, and people like George Couros have already played a large role in this.  It’s up to us now, as educators, to use the tools provided, and technology as a tool, to drive student achievement and prepare them to become lifelong learners in today’s digital world.   

Final Wonderings?

What tool do you use to evaluate yourself when integrating tech into the classroom, SAMR, TPACK or something other? How do you use technology as a tool to work for you? 

@NicholasKGarvin