Teaching With Technology: Take a Good Look!
- Grades: Early Childhood, PreK–K
It's a sunny Monday morning-in the fall of 2009. Cary Rosetti, the lead teacher at the Harmony School Child Development Center is waiting for her 16 preschoolers to come in from the playground. "Good morning!" she greets the children as they file through the door, at the same time tapping each child's picture on her book-size wireless tablet computer. Her trained eye notices that Nathan is moving a bit slower than usual and that he's breathing with a coarse rasp. Tapping twice on Nathans name, she calls up his health history and notices that he is prone to asthma. She scribbles a note about Nathan's breathing on the touch screen and then taps an icon to deliver an instant message directly to Nathan's parents, inquiring about his allergies.
Minutes later, Maria, a 4-year-old, draws an amazingly detailed picture of a house she plans to build in the block area. Under the picture, she has written, using invented spelling, I will make a big house-her very first complete sentence. Cary taps on her Tablet again and brings up a language checklist, which consists of a series of collapsible menus of "observable writing items" appropriate for Maria's level. Next, she selects a "camera" icon and snaps a digital photo of the picture. Not only does the picture stay in Maria's electronic portfolio, it is also instantly e-mailed to Maria's parents. All this takes place in seconds.
Sound far fetched? Not as far as you think. Every device described here was on display at this year's National Educational Computing Conference. Wireless handheld PDAs (personal digital assistants) can make phone calls and send e-mail, and soon they'll be able to snap pictures and recognize conventional handwriting. Digital assessment database systems for preschoolers are also improving, from the Work Sampling System (www.worksamplingonline.com) to High/Scope's Child Observation Record or COR (www.highscope.org). Before you jump into the future, however, understand that this is a new frontier, and there are plenty of bugs that are currently being worked out. In the meantime, here are some great products, available today.
Kodak EasyShare DX4900: Looking for a great classroom camera? The new Kodak EasyShare DX4900 gives you clear 4 megapixel resolution, along with a special charging cradle that you leave plugged into your computer. The standard camera kit comes with a 16MB (megabyte) card, which holds 24 pictures in the 4 megapixel mode-most standard cameras are 1 or 2 megapixels. This means that the pictures are crisp and clear-you can blow them up to over 20 inches and still have good clarity. This is a very friendly camera that takes beautiful pictures. Eastman Kodak Company, 800-242-2424; www.kodak.com; Win/Mac; $480 (including cradle).
Curious George Downtown Adventure: George's curiosity gets him into trouble, and this time his predicaments play out in a series of Rube Goldberg-like puzzles. For instance, children must drag and drop a trampoline and a ladder into just the right place in order for George to retrieve a stuck kite. Once children think they have the items in the right place, they can press a Go button to see the action carried out. If something's not quite right, George won't reach his goal, and more experimentation is required. We especially liked the open-ended play area where children can build their own puzzles. (You should remind younger children-age 3 to 4 years-to use the easily accessed help button.) Knowledge Adventure, 800-545-7677; www.education.com; Win/Mac; $19.99. Ages 3-6.
Flash Action Colors, Shapes & More
School Zone has done it again, with another affordable, solid activity that supports logic learning and pre-reading. There are four different play areas, and children are free to move from one to another.The exercises are simple, fast paced, and spiced with animated routines, but the best part is how the program lets children apply the concepts in an open-ended activity. For example, following a set of multiple choice questions on colors, children can paint sand using the colors they just identified. School Zone Interactive, 800-253-0564; www.schoolzone.com; Win/Mac; $14.99. Ages 3-6.
LeapPad Phonics Program
Designed for the LeapPad Learning System, this series consists of 10 storybooks (sold separately for $14.99 each) and four activity books focused on phonics. The books are simply placed on the LeapPad, a notebook-- size, battery operated, touch-sensitive book reader that allows children to hear the words and pictures read aloud in a dear voice. As a child reads, she can touch a word with a stylus (called "NearTouch technology") to learn more about illustrations or sound out words. A headphone jack makes this ideal for classroom use. Each book has an assessment page at the end, which tells you if a child is ready to move on to the next book. LeapFrog, 800-701-5327; www.leapfrog.com; $14.99 per book. Ages 4-7.
Child observation Web sites for busy early childhood teachers
This is a great link to recommend in your school Web site or newsletter. It contains concise articles on child development basics and learning styles along with selections of links.
Want to know where NAEYC stands on the issue of standardized testing? Here's where you can find a useful position statement on the topic.
RIE stands for Resources for Infant Educarers, and it's where infant/adult interaction guru Magda Gerber has been putting her energy lately. If you work with infants, babies, or toddlers, this is a useful site to visit.
The High/Scope Educational Research Foundation has been working on developmental assessment methods for years, and publishes one of its instruments-the Child Observation Record-in computer form.
The free ERIC database is a great place to go if you want to find complete articles on child observation and assessment issues. Searching on the terms "assessment" and "preschool" brings up articles by Lilian Katz on the developmental approach to assessing preschoolers and portfolios by Cathy Grace.
This is the home site on the Work Sampling system, an online series of checklists designed at the University of Michigan by Sam Meisels. The Work Sampling approach is also available as a Web-delivered service.