Wednesday, 2 September 2015

EdTech BootCamp for Year 3 Students

Year 3 is a unique year group at our school. It is the time when students transition from the early years programme to the junior years programme in the PYP. But to our students, it also means the transition from using iMacs and iPads to laptops.

The introduction to MacBooks can be challenging at any age group but there is no lack of enthusiasm amongst this group of 7 and 8 year olds.  Students in Year 3 share a laptop cart amongst the three classes, thus, it is simply a teaching tool like any other resource in the classroom.

After sitting down with the year group teaching team, it was clear we needed a plan in place to help our students transform this teaching tool into a functional part of the classroom.

We've created Year 3 EdTech Boot Camp for the entire year where students will develop technical skills to be applied in class and instruction on a regular basis. The lessons will be linked to the units of inquiry throughout the year wherever possible with the goal of moving towards a full one-to-one laptop programme in Year 4. It is exciting to have a regularly scheduled lesson with each of the year three classes every week and to be able to see their progress.

We started by reviewing the Acceptable Use Policy as a class and how we could demonstrate role model behaviour through our interactions with the laptops. This is something that is to be also reviewed by parents with the child before signing and returning. It was no surprise that the forms were back in quickly as they forms had to be returned before the laptops came out of the cart.

And then today happened...the students finally got their laptops. Beaming with excitement, they eagerly found their way over to the laptop cart and retrieved their numbered laptop hugging it with two hands and showing it love all the way back to their desks. As they patiently waited, there was chatter amongst the students until I finally gave the magic word to open the laptop and turn on the laptop.

It's been a few years since teaching the younger year groups and it was evident that quick thinking to have hands behind the back, or on the head as an instruction was key. The students first learnt how to '1/2 way down and turn them around' with their laptops (and yes, there is a new dance move that goes with that). The eagerness was oozing from the students.  As a class, we established a secret word that would replace 'go' and instantly students were more patient about waiting for the instructions.

First thing we did was find the spotlight search and then have a little fun finding PhotoBooth to take a picture or two. It was important to start off with something that not only the students would have success doing but also would be fun. By allowing them the chance, we were able to also talk about some necessary skills such as searching for apps and how to close apps when we were finished. We then wanted the students to be able to become familiar with some of the terminology such as launchpad, dashboard, and home screen. The students also had fun figuring out how to move between application screens on their MacBooks.

I also wanted to them to be able to have tools they could use immediately in their classrooms so I targeted two applications: the dictionary for language and the calculator for mathematics. It may seem simple but if students are able to locate and use these functions regularly, we will be able to easily build off these. First we looked up the word role model using the dictionary. We had a great question with one student unsure of what one of the words meant in the definition and we had a discussion and trial of how we could further expand our vocabulary by double clicking on the word and defining it as well.

Then we moved over to calculator. I asked my students to use the calculator to find the solution of 25x25 (a mathematical equation not easily solved by the average Year 3 student). Students began figuring out some of the symbols on the calculator and patiently waited to whisper the answer.

The session passed in a split second and it was time to head home. I asked the students in small groups to return the laptops to the cart. I was impressed to see they hadn't yet forgotten about hugging their laptop with two hands as they carefully placed their laptop on the shelf and charger plugged in. One thing I did realize doing this lesson was that it takes time to put the laptops away. Again, it seems silly to think about but it takes a long time to get the students to go from shutting down to closure and finally to their laptop cart.

I walked out with a smile and riding the high of their excitement. I may not have covered everything I had wanted to but what I did do was feel confident in the students' introduction to MacBooks and laptops.

I can't wait to see them next week to see how much information was retained as well as how we can continue our learning as we log into our emails for the first time.

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