The Lower School takes a balanced approach to technology integration. We believe that using technology instruction to support the academic curriculum not only provides students with increasingly necessary life skills but also broadens and deepens student learning. Computers and other mobile technologies are used to foster skills that are critical to success in the classroom: creativity, communication, critical thinking, and collaboration. Used the right way, technology can engage and educate young learners in each of these essential areas. The teachers in each multi-age classroom determine how best to incorporate technology to meet the developmental needs of their students.
Lower School teachers also introduce technologies and programs that can help support, challenge, and engage students with differing learning styles and abilities. New technologies and programs enable us to:
- increase differentiation and student-centered learning,
- incorporate open-ended and project-based learning activities,
- provide more fluid and flexible access to learning tools,
- allow for authentic documentation of student progress, and
- tailor organizational tools to the individual.
At Waynflete, technology serves the curriculum; it is not the focus of the curriculum. There are no computer classes per se; instead, students are introduced to new technology skills in order to extend learning in core subjects. All classrooms are equipped with digital projectors and Apple TVs to display, share, and explore learning experiences. In the multiage Early Childhood, Kindergarten-Grade 1, and Grades 2-3 classrooms, there is a 1:2 ratio of iPads to students outfitted with age-appropriate software and apps.
Carefully chosen technologies and apps help young learners develop coherent and compelling stories and share them through drawings, paintings, dictation, recordings, and songwriting. Our youngest learners have also used mobile technologies to investigate bird calls, practice phonemic skills and number sense, and record original music compositions. Second and third graders take on more advanced work: using math-programming software to develop logical thinking skills, pursuing teacher-guided online research for Independent Projects, and beginning to use iPads to document as well as create their own work. In addition, teachers make extensive use of digital cameras and iPads to document and publish student work.
In the multi-age Grades 4-5 classroom, each student has individual access to an iPad. This 1:1 environment allows students to access additional resources when needed and facilitates student collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, communication, and problem-solving. iPads are not used in every class or every day, but easy access to the technology creates a more flexible learning environment for both students and teachers. Students use this device to log on to the Internet; take notes, photos, and videos; and broaden their access to information through a variety of apps. All 4-5 students have Google Drive accounts that they can use at school and (periodically) at home for creating, documenting, organizing, and sharing work. Fourth and fifth graders can also access mobile laptop carts to practice and improve keyboarding skills, facilitate writing across the curriculum, and pursue sources more readily available online.
In our work with technology, we frequently confer with students about when technology is – or is not – the best tool for learning. Making technology part of the classroom provides the opportunity for teachers and students to have these conversations and, more importantly, to reflect on how to use emerging technologies in a responsible, ethical, and kind way.