Feb 18 2019

How Primary Students Can Use Technology Effectively

Elementary teachers can — and should — incorporate technology thoughtfully, just as their secondary counterparts do.

One question I hear a lot in my travels is, “Can primary students use tech effectively?”

My answer, always, is, “Of course!” Like any classroom tool, the youngest learners need good guidance and examples when it comes to engaging with technology in the classroom. It’s simply naive to think that our littlest learners can’t or shouldn’t have access to classroom technology. And it simply isn’t wise to incorporate technology with bad instructional habits: A screen should never take the place of a teacher or be used to babysit students. 

MORE FROM EDTECH: Find more strategies for connecting students and teachers for productive learning.

 If Not Now, When?

It’s well-established that educational technology has a place in the lowest grades. For several years now, the U.S. Department of Education has provided official guidance on the use of technology with young children. 

The department sets out four guiding principles for using technology with early learners:

  1. Technology — when used appropriately — can be a tool for learning.
  2. Technology should be used to increase access to learning opportunities for all children.
  3. Technology may be used to strengthen relationships among parents, families, early educators and young children.
  4. Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children.

Meaningful Use Mitigates the Dangers of Excessive Screen Time

Just as educational experts acknowledge technology’s role in early education, physicians and psychologists also recognize that spending too much time immersed in computers, smartphones or social media can have a negative impact on child development. Again, it’s important for teachers and technologists to strike the appropriate balance and plan age-appropriate lessons when incorporating technology in the primary classroom setting. 

The Arizona Department of Education is one of many state education departments that set attainment standards for early learners, from pre-K through grade six. Students are expected to use technology to generate knowledge and new ideas starting in first grade.

Pre-K students can explore and identify models and simulations to examine real-world connections and explore other cultures. All grade levels are expected to use technology to create original works in innovative ways. Pre-K and kindergarten students are also expected to recognize and discuss why there are rules for using technology at home and at school. That’s smart.

And with those questions out of the way, I’d like to share a few of the more interesting examples and tools that you may find effective in the primary setting. I always tell my followers and colleagues that a good app should follow the “inspect, redirect, make correct” rule, allowing teachers to inspect student work at any moment during a lesson, not after the fact. That gives teachers time to redirect students to the correct path and students enough time to make the corrections. That’s especially important with young learners.

MORE FROM EDTECH: See how K–12 teachers are using creative ways to incorporate computer science into their lesson plans.

K–12 Schools Get Started with Personalized Learning Tools

There are so many ways G-Suite can be incorporated in lessons for young learners. We like its potential for use in writing lessons, in helping students with letter recognition and even in demonstrating their understanding in other subject areas such as social studies or science. Google Drawings is particularly useful in all of those cases, providing a blank canvas for just about any lesson you want to teach. 

Teachers can insert shapes in G-Suite, allowing them to easily set up base 10 blocks or images representing coins for counting and math, and tables can be added for lessons that require data charting.

At the Kent School District in the state of Washington, a one-to-one device program is in place from kindergarten through sixth grade. There, kindergarten students use Surface Pro 3 devices and Surface Pens to practice writing the alphabet, and fourth graders use the Scratch Space app in Microsoft OneNote to draw out math problems and shapes for geometry lessons.

Let’s keep talking about the apps and technology you’re using with young learners.

This article is part of the "Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology" series. Please join the discussion on Twitter by using the #ConnectIT hashtag.



[title]Connect IT: Bridging the Gap Between Education and Technology
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