If you think these things were said by critics of elementary students using digital resources in the classroom, you’d be right. But every one of these quotes was also said by ME. I was hesitant to incorporate a lot of digital resources into my classroom because I was worried I was going to be a part of the problem, and not the solution.
Yet, I knew my students were growing up in a generation that would need as much of an advantage as they could get, so I strived to answer the question: “How can I utilize technology effectively to create 21st Century Learners, while ensuring that my students still use critical thinking with traditional resources?”
So What’s The Answer?
Start by finding the right digital resources and platforms. Digital platforms are any programs or apps that provide a service for you and your students. Seesaw is my favorite, and you can read about my favorite tips here. There are many more platforms with different uses to help you in your classroom, or during distance learning. I’ve written a series of blog posts highlighting digital platforms. Head over to the technology content of Teaching Firsties for information on each of these platforms.
But today, we’re talking about digital resources. Let’s use the SAMR model for their digital resources. Let’s put on our lab coats, shall we? The SAMR model was developed by Dr. Ruben Puentedura to see how computers and technology can impact student learning. Each level is a part of a continuum, and is measured by the amount of student engagement.
Let’s look at different digital resources at each SAMR level.
Let’s say you have a worksheet on blends. The function of this worksheet is to fill in the missing blends for a picture. Substitution with the SAMR model would mean taking a picture of the worksheet and uploading it onto a platform for your students to type in the missing blends.
Now, let’s take the same blends activity. Instead of uploading the worksheet, let’s use Seesaw or Google slides to make a new blend activity. Maybe you would put a bunch of pictures on your slides and have your students match the pictures with a word, or have them type the blend under each picture to label each picture.
Here’s where the fun begins! You still want to teach your students the phonics skills, but you want to make it more engaging and interactive. You can modify a traditional cut and paste type of activity, but instead do something like this example. I made emoji symbols, and my students drag the pictures to the correct spelling of the word! There’s a distinct redesign and it is more interactive than your standard phonics worksheet.
Here’s the toughest one for early elementary teachers. You would need to redefine or change your phonics activity so it is only possible with technology. Imagine a virtual field trip, or a digital escape room. Totally redefining your lessons to meet this level takes time and a lot of effort. It’s super fun, but my best advice? Save this for the super-duper, extra-special lessons. You don’t have to redefine every lesson.
Wait a minute. Didn’t you say digital resources didn’t have to be intimidating?
I sure did, so thanks for sticking with me through the nerdy stuff! Look at the SAMR model as your comfort zone. No judgment here – Where do you fall? Are you just starting out and want to know how to put a worksheet onto Google Slides? That’s substitution. Are you offering virtual experiences with screencasting? That’s redefinition. Full disclosure, I am pretty techy… and only recently do I feel like I’m ready to move past the augmentation level.
Technology is intimidating, but since Teaching Firsties is a no judgement zone, pick where you feel you are in your digital classroom journey. Now you’ll be able to move forward to collecting digital resources for your students.
Make, Collaborate, or Buy?
There are three ways to get digital resources. Make them, share them with your colleagues, or buy them.
Which Digital Resources Should I Make?
Before you start making your own digital resources, decide how you want to KEEP your lessons. Are you going to use Google Drive? Are you going to keep everything on your hard drive? We can’t exactly use our cute binders or filing cabinets. And you’re going to want to keep your lessons in a place where you can re-use them. More on that in a sec.
Once you do that, consider your platform. Do you know how to make digital resources for that platform? Where can you go to find out? There’s always Youtube, but I’d like you to join the waitlist for my Digital Literacy Stations Membership. There will be tutorials on how to add your activities to the popular learning platforms.
Identify what subject you are the most comfortable, and start there. Why? Because you know what you’re doing. It’s going to come a lot easier for you to make a digital resource for something you know well, than try to make one for something that you tend to struggle with. Eventually, you’ll move onto the next subject. Remember I said you’ll want to keep those activities somewhere safe? You’ll have those, and down the line, you can add to them.
Collaborating With Your Team
Am I the only one that gets Vanilla Ice stuck in her head when you hear “collaborate”? Anyone else singing “Stop, Collaborate, and Listen…” right now? Where are my class of 1993 peeps?
Okay, focus, Rachael… Anyway… collaboration is important. I know that I am a stronger teacher with my grade level team working together to problem solve and share the load. I played A LOTTTT of Euchre in college, and you always count on your partner for at least one trick. Same goes with your workload here.
Work with your colleagues. Split up resources. Divvy up the subjects. If you’re a kick-a** math teacher, pick the math resources, and rely on your team for the rest.
Which Digital Resources Should I Buy?
Yes, buy. There are teacher communities out there that are adamantly against buying resources online or on Teachers Pay Teachers. I get where they’re coming from, but at the end of the day, you have a life outside of school. You have families, children, pets and responsibilities outside of the classroom. And you forgot to take the chicken out of the freezer this morning. So I say, “Ain’t nobody got time for that.”
Start by identifying the biggest timesavers. Research quality products that give you the most bang for your buck. And buy them. I’d suggest sticking with one or two of your favorite teacher-authors and sticking with them for continuity. I’d also suggest looking for money saving bundles or year-long products so you don’t have to feel like you have to shop every week.
Here are some time and money saving products that I offer:
Digital Literacy Stations Membership: Continue to offer your students the chance to go to literacy stations, even if they’re socially distancing. Use these digital resources and essential tutorials to allow you to keep a sense of normalcy, while differentiating your students as you would with traditional centers. Included are resources for: Reading Comprehension Stations, Phonics Stations, Listening Stations, Poetry Stations, and Writing Stations.
This membership is only available twice a year, so make sure to join the waitlist! You’ll be notified when the cart opens before anyone else!
I hope that this gave you one place to begin. In the next few weeks, I’m going to be writing more articles on digital literacy stations. We’re facing a tough road ahead, so stay tuned to Teaching Firsties. I’m going to be here to help you along the way.