Voices in Tech: How to use devices in the early grades

Q&A with Rachel Bodoin, blended learning specialist from Springfield Public Schools in Missouri
By: | July 11, 2019

Educators may hesitate to use technology with the youngest students due to concerns about screen time.

Used with instruction in mind and in the right doses, however, devices and apps can build young students’ abilities to communicate and collaborate with others, and hone their creativity and critical thinking chops, says Rachel Bodoin, blended learning specialist for Springfield Public Schools in Missouri.

When Springfield Public Schools transitioned to a 1-to-1 model for grades 3 through 12, creating a culture of technology-rich classrooms in the early grades required a shift, so monthly professional development is now provided.

Building technology into instruction so there isn’t “technology time”and “learning time” is important, says Bodoin.

Bodoin was a 2019 featured speaker for DA’s Future of Education Technology Conference®; the next conference will be held January 14-17, 2020, at the Miami Beach Convention Center.


Read: Voices in Tech: Why social media is your friend


Why do early childhood educators shy away from using edtech in the classroom?

What we frequently hear from that group of teachers and audience of parents is about technology overload. Kids are growing up swiping screens more than anything else. Odds are they have a tablet at home. There is a concern about the overuse of screen time.

There’s also this misconception that students are digital natives and don’t need to be taught how to use technology. To me, that’s a dangerous assumption. If we want our kids to be 21st-century students, then we need to teach them using these tools. We also need to start early teaching kids the fundamentals of technology and how to use it appropriately. They might know how to access technology, but they don’t know how to access it well or with purpose.

Once you get past teachers’ reluctance, how do you encourage educators to move in this direction?

We first focus on the standards and desired student outcomes. We follow Bold School by Weston Kieschnick, which provides a framework for blending technology and instruction. We’ve trained all of our lead educators on it, and it’s the model that we use ourselves as trainers. We want to make sure we’re looking at the outcomes first, the strategy, and then the tool. We’re not teaching with the tool in mind, but rather looking at the result that we’re trying to achieve and figuring out the correct tool to use.

Did the K-2 tech adoption influence school culture?

We have district lingo that we use, and it’s called “tech lingo.” When a teacher says, “iPad check,” that means each student must immediately hold their iPad in the air with the screen facing the teacher so that the teacher can check the screen and give a quick thumbs up. Or, if the teacher says, “Screens down,” then the student knows to quickly flip their screen over because the teacher needs their attention.

In some schools, this common language is used to convey proper technology use. It helps build the foundation and teaches students how we do business—how we keep each other accountable and help one another stay on task.

 

 


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