Today, I stopped by both Kindergarten rooms, led by MCDS teachers Maheen Ott and Annemieke Savert. The Kindergarten students were highly engaged during their Language Arts block due to both interactive uses of technology and interactive time with their teachers—facilitated by our low student-to-teacher ratio of 16 students per Kindergarten classroom.
The two Kindergarten teachers are planning together—a significant advantage in terms of offering their students a variety of learning opportunities. During this class, the two teachers had decided to have students engage in electronic story-telling/reading in Ms. Savert’s room, while Ms. Ott’s classroom was organized in various learning centers, each designed to have students work on letter recognition and formation.
Ms. Savert’s room featured each student assigned to a Chromebook complete with headsets. Chromebooks are among the fastest devices to power up (usually it takes eight to nine seconds) and subsequently connect to the Internet. In this class, all Chromebooks were set up by the teachers to access a site by the name of Tumblebooks (find it at http://www.tumblebooklibrary.com/). Students accessed a book of their own choosing that the teacher had pre-selected based on reading levels such as an Accelerated Reader (AR) score or a Lexile ranking (a ranking that also is included in the MAP testing program at MCDS). As the students listen to the illustrated stories, students are able to follow the text as it is being transmitted through the headsets. I observed students listening, watching the highlighted text in addition to the illustrations, and several kids also followed along with their finger on the screen as the text was being read. Senses such as seeing, listening, and touching were simultaneously being engaged.
Ms. Ott’s room featured five separate learning stations, one of which was at her desk, where she practiced letter formation and recognition by focusing on lowercase letters that could fit inside one block such as “n” and “m” or letters requiring two blocks such as “t” or “d.” In isolation, students quickly grasped the difference between “short” and “long” letters. All other learning stations featured other opportunities to form and recognize letters including dice made up of letters (students had to roll the dice and subsequently record the letters) or identify letters within words displayed throughout the classroom. Students worked in pairs or trios, and it was more than evident that students had been instructed as how best to work cooperatively and productively.
Eventually, the rooms switched, allowing all Kindergarten students to work on Tumblebooks and go through the various learning stages. In talking with the teachers, it was evident that that they not only enjoy the team-teaching approach (a great way to model cooperative learning), but also the blending of high-tech and personal attention being given to each child. Ms. Savert remarked that numerous parents have commented how happy they are to see technology being put to use to enhance the learning for Kindergarten students. To me, the aspects of cooperative learning and leveraging technology are important ingredients of a 21st Century education.
The teachers reported that they plan to introduce technology applications in our new Prairie Hawk Library Media Center. Specifically, they are advocating another reading application called NEWSELA (access it at https://newsela.com/), a site that allows teachers to choose the appropriate reading level for recent news events. Students can consume recent news events according to their reading level.
Newsela is one of many recommended reading applications you can find on the MCDS Technology Resource website our new Academic Technology Integration Specialist Ms. Rita Gipp has built for our faculty.
Having been here at MCDS just since the beginning of the school year, Ms. Gipp has built an impressive teacher resource that more and more MCDS teachers can access and discuss with her. In her short time here, Ms. Gipp has taken to heart our school technology vision statement that succinctly states that “we at MCDS use technology to enhance and deepen academic learning.” As MCDS continues to leverage technology, we will remain committed to follow the complete Technology Vision statement.