Sorry to disappoint, but this is not a post about the pros and cons of technology in the preschool classroom.
While we do not have tablets and smartboards and computers in the classroom for the children to use, the teachers make heavy use of technology as a professional tool. I bought an iPad® for us last year and have loved using it. We have a home for it on the shelf, but more often than not it’s in the hands of one of the teachers.
One concern I had before introducing it into the room was how the children would react. I typically don’t like to bring something into the class that the students are not allowed to work with. I have been pleasantly surprised by how nonchalant they have been. I think it’s important for the children to be allowed to touch it. I have shown them how to handle it carefully and will often ask a child to go and get it for me from across the room. Once in a while they take photos of each other and their work. Perhaps it’s just the group of children we had last year, but they were all perfectly fine with the boundary that the iPad® was not available as a work choice. Let’s see how things play out this year.
I think I’ve just scratched the surface of how a tablet can be used to make my life easier as a teacher. I expect many more uses will evolve over the coming years, but here are my five favorite ways from last year:
1. Record Keeping
For the past year we have been using an electronic record keeping system called Montessori Workspace. It took a little while to set up the presentations and list of materials into the system just the way I wanted them. However, once I got that sorted out, my montessori record keeping workflow became super simple. I tossed out almost all the paper based records I had and now I can access everything I need with just a few taps.
2. Curriculum Planning
A couple of weeks ago I wrote about how I keep my curriculum plans in an app called Evernote. I can easily access my plans from the iPad® during circle or when it’s time to change out the materials on the shelves.
Last summer I spent two months gathering children’s music from various sources to FINALLY create a library for the classroom. I put everything into iTunes® and am slowly sorting and organizing playlists to go with all of our thematic units. This library is synced with the iPad® and now we can play any song on demand. We use a bluetooth speaker in order to enjoy our music at a reasonable volume.
We take a ton of photos of the children working throughout the day using the built-in camera. These photos get synced to iPhoto® on the computer where it’s very easy to create albums for each child. We use the face recognition feature to tag all the faces. This allows us to quickly pull up photos on the iPad® during parent conferences. Sometimes we’ll email photos to parents directly or post them to Facebook.
5. Language Enrichment
Using the iPad® as an additional language enrichment resource has been something that has evolved over the course of the year. We use a lot of cards and photos in the Montessori classroom as jumping off points for vocabulary development and exploration of various topics. But there are just so many cards a classroom can have! We spontaneously began to use the iPad® to look up additional photos and videos of things the children were interested in. I have really enjoyed being able to extend our discussions in this way. Some of my favorite memories from the year:
When we were learning about Antarctica, a group of children lined up all the 3-part cards of the Animals from Antarctica and then asked for more. I pulled out the iPad® and we spent a very enjoyable half hour looking at and talking about additional pictures of the animals depicted on the cards. Their favorites were baby seals!
When we were learning about whales, we pulled up some YouTube videos and listened to a variety of whale songs. The children were in awe.
When we were learning about bugs, we watched a few videos of the life cycle of a cicada. The children were fascinated by the whole process and particularly intrigued by the very loud sound they make.