Sunday, March 16, 2014

DigiLit Sunday: The Need for Continuous Access

As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learning, Margaret Simon has started a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog:  DigiLit Sunday.  I'm joining the event for the first time today.  Stop by Reflections on the Teche to read and link.

Beyond Event Technology
When I think back to how I used technology years ago, I realize how much my thinking has changed.  It used to be technology seemed very separated from the real work students were doing in the classroom.  I always felt like I was planning for technology.  It was unnatural and out of place in our daily routine.  The lessons never quite fit into what students were learning.  We'd wheel the carts to our classroom to have, what I now call, event technology.  In this case, everyone used the same device, the same software, and completed basically the same task.

This was a response in Pixie to sharing new
learning in nonfiction.
In my days of event technology students didn't really own this learning.  I planned most of what we would do, when we would do it, and how the final product would look.  In the last five years, I have changed the way I personally use technology which has changed the way I think of using it with my students.  As I discovered Twitter, Shelfari, and Pinterest, I began to see ways we could use these applications to collect, curate, and collaborate with our families, community, and the world (class Twitter, Shelfari, Pinterest).   As I began to blog, I realized the power in developing a learning community that blogs as well.  As I started playing with applications I began to find those best suited for the learning taking place in our classroom.  I began to realize that students needed opportunities to use technology in ways that worked for them, in times that worked for them, to create artifacts that mattered to them.

Curating, Creating, and Collaborating
When available, students now use technology to share, create and collaborate.  When available students pick up devices to create artifacts to show their understanding of topics of study.  They write about their reading.  They create new pieces for writer's workshop.  They show new math discoveries or ways to solve problems.  They write for, and respond to, their friends.  They interact with communities beyond our classroom as well.

A math partnership shares their problem solving strategies.
As students create and share their thinking I am able to reflect on their understandings, strategies, and challenges.

However, when technology isn't available this all comes to a stop and the rhythms of learning are temporarily slowed.  This happened Friday as students started to settle into our Reader's Workshop, I noticed a buzz beginning in our classroom.  It quickly grew louder as students looked around to see if we had any technology available.  Often we are able to share a few iPads and a laptop or two between our first grade classrooms, but today there wasn't any technology available.  I explained to the students that everything was checked out for the day, but they could still use one of the three desktops available in our classroom.

Desktops work well for writing a blog post or commenting on a friend's blog.  We can also use them for creating in Pixie, but desktops can't always do the same thing an iPad can do.  First graders can easily use an iPad to create.  They can snap pictures, record audio, capture video, and create digital artifacts to show their thinking.  My students like to use Educreations, Pixie, and Kidblog to create, collaborate and share.  They can carry a laptop over to an area where they have books spread out or math tools are being used to learn.

This impromptu "how to" video was created after Skyping with Mrs. Moran's class in Maine about indoor recess possibilities.  It has made a perfect springboard for conversations about "how to" writing, but wouldn't have happened without immediate access. 

The Need for Consistent Access
We're truly fortunate to have desktops consistently in our classroom, and access to iPads and laptops as they are available.  I know many educators wish for this type of access.  I'm fortunate to teach in a district that has been very strategic about its plan for technology by keeping technology, not only available, but up-to-date.   When technology is available for our workshops students use them to share their thinking.  Sometimes they write responses.  Sometimes they publish stories they have written.  Sometimes they create digital pictures, screencasts, or videos to share their thinking digitally.  However, when they are not available the work comes to a screeching halt and momentum is lost.

The internet is abuzz with talk of one-to-one devices.  Surely, this will be common in the future, but for now we could do so much with just a few different devices consistently available in our classroom.  With a couple of iPads, a few laptops, and the desktops students have a wide variety of choice for tools.  More consistent access would also help us work toward improving the quality of artifacts created by being able to revisit them in a timely fashion.  Consistent access to a variety of tools allows students to choose the tool to match their purpose.  Want to write a blog post?  Go to the desktop.  Want to create something on Educreations?  Grab an iPad.  Want to write about a book you are reading and need to be at your seat?  Choose a laptop.  Want to turn a written story into a digital book?  Grab an iPad.

In a time when we value personal learning and innovation, it makes sense to have the tools available to support student choice.  It makes sense to have a variety of devices available for students to use in learning all of the time.  It makes sense to have continuous access for learners.


  1. You've described the dream classroom in these lines: "Consistent access to a variety of tools allows students to choose the tool to match their purpose. Want to write a blog post? Go to the desktop. Want to create something on Educreations? Grab an iPad. Want to write about a book you are reading and need to be at your seat? Choose a laptop. Want to turn a written story into a digital book? Grab an iPad." How fun will that be some day?! Our district is lucky to have Chromebooks and Google. So exciting! Great post - thank you!

  2. This is a great post about the different ways technology supports learning. This rang so true to me, "I began to realize that students needed opportunities to use technology in ways that worked for them, in times that worked for them, to create artifacts that mattered to them."
    Our district has not moved into the iPad generation. We are still only using desktop computers. The computer lab is still used for games that reinforce learning and for testing. The move is slow. In my classroom I am able to use the computer to actually create learning due to my small numbers. My students blog and make PowerPoints. They are always on the computer. I am looking forward to the day when this is true for every kid in every classroom.

  3. This is wonderful, Cathy. I'll share with other teachers. Thanks for the 'fine' detail too, helps me to see the integration.

  4. You have really been able to articulate what technology learning looks like for us and to show the frustrations we feel when it is not available. I know we may seemed spoiled to others, but this is what teaching and learning in the 21st century is all about.