“When do we get our computers?”
This is a question that every G3 teacher gets at the beginning of the THS school year.
Students come into Grade 3 knowing there is a big change upon them - they get a laptop of their very own. Exciting, right? Of course. But it also comes with a lot of responsibility. Usually, the excitement of receiving a computer of their own wears off when students are introduced to rules of computer usage at school and quickly realise that they cannot do whatever they want on their computers.
Most students’ first experiences with computers generally involves playing video games or watching videos. At school, they are being taught to use their computers to enhance their learning… which is much easier said than done. To help with this transition, we follow our school-wide Tools Not Toys policy that teach and enforce the use of their computers as productivity tools, and not play things. We also guide them in the new way they will use their computers.
We take for granted the many skills needed to research information on the internet. These are skills which are new to students. With so much information available, a simple google search can result in millions of links. Step by step, with teacher guidance, we can help develop and hone the necessary skills. In time, they begin to realize the educational power the computer holds beyond Minecraft and Youtube.
Computers are integrated, more and more, into our daily lives. From smartphones to supermarkets, computing power is all-pervasive. Using technology more effectively at school not only means incorporating the use of tablets, laptops and the Internet into the classroom as part of learning, it also means that teachers are using exciting technology such as the SMART whiteboards we have at The Grove to deliver our lessons. Therefore, it is more important than ever to prepare and equip our students with media and digital literacy skills.
So what are we doing in Grade 3 to help our third graders learn productive use of their new shiny computers?
In term 1 literacy, the students practiced using their laptops to type up and ‘publish’ neat draft copies of personal narratives and fairy tales.
In Social Studies and Science, students use their laptops to conduct Internet research on many topics that relate to their various projects.
We showed students that computers can also be used for creativity. Students realise that some apps that they normally associate with one thing, can actually be used in different ways. For example, during our November trip to the Apple Store, students discovered that Keynote could be used for creating an interactive quiz, and not just for creating and giving a presentation.
At the Foundry, G3 students worked on a project that combined their learning from Social Studies of Early Humans with coding to create their own computer game.
These two experiences inspired our G3 students to be creative with their use of computers. This was especially evident on Kids Teaching Kids day when they were paired with Grade 7 students. Our proud third graders were able to teach their older school mates a few tricks such as using hyperlinks to transform a keynote presentation into an interactive quiz.
Now, you may be thinking, “Gosh! That’s a lot of screen time!” But please don’t worry. Although it may sound like our students are spending a lot of time on their computers, in reality, computers are only being used about 20 to 30 percent of a full school day. Students spend most of their time learning through more traditional ways to read and write. Although practicing math concepts through computer math games is fun, students equally enjoy other forms of learning activities and hands on games that do not require the use of technology. We are always mindful of striking a balance.