I have been working at my current school since 2008 and it is amazing how much change has happened during this period of time. When I just started teaching Year 1 students, I still had a white board and markers in my classroom, I had to make phonics posters out of thick paper to display the weekly targets to drill and review and change those on weekly basis. There was a paper calendar next to the white board which I had to change on monthly basis. Once in a while my students grabbed a permanent marker (by accident) and drew on the board. My knowledge of technology included my old Blackberry phone. That was it. If I had a chance to step out of my classroom in 2008 and stepped back in 2015, I would think that I got into another dimension populated with cute little creatures whose civilisation was a way ahead of ours.
The first change came in 2009 when I got a smart board and a projector installed in my classroom. That was a game changer! The Starfall website was our first thing to do in the morning. There was no need for paper calendars any more – we used the one on Starfall every morning – the students were looking forward to our morning routine to take their turn to read the calendar. We started using the phonics exercises and reading books on the Starfall. Later, there came other websites that we could incorporate into our learning but the Starfall remained our favourite. We started using the smart board in a new creative way – students had their names typed in boxes (different colors, different styles) and every morning when every student came to class they had to move their names from the left side of the board (Home) to the right (School) – that was a perfect way to take self-attendance. Then, we began playing smart board games incorporated into our English, Maths and Topic classes. I also created my own games to use in the classroom with the help of my students. One of the simple games was a Maths racing game – it had many versions: one game was counting by 2’s, 5’s or 10’s, another version involved adding or subtracting, one more version was about finding pairs of numbers that made 10, etc. Using the library resources in the smart board gallery, I used the animated numbers in these games and my students chose the animated characters they wanted to be in the games – I displayed a number of animated images on one website and students could choose which they would like to use in the game. I had to modify the game in real time – grabbing the animated characters liked by my students and inserting them into the game and the students were all happy and ready to play. This was a huge motivator – to let students choose what they wanted to be. Even those students, not very interested in Math, wanted to be someone and try the game. We created the same kind of games for phonics and topic. We had three huge smart board notebook files named English, Maths and Topic and each file had a number of pages (one page – one game version). Basically, I found it very convenient as I had all my resources needed within the same file and just had to find the right page with the needed version of the game. When we had a group work activities, students could choose to use those games on their own. The most advanced students even were involved in modifying the games to adjust their levels to other students’ needs.
A couple of years later we began using our Mac computers, in limited numbers, in class. Students could use those to complete their Mathletics or RazKidz activities – it could be used as a group project or students could just complete their online homework if they did not have a chance to do it at home. We also came up with a creative way of adding to the students learning portfolios – usually every year we have students-led conferences and students usually choose one academic goal and one personal goal to work during the year. Before students had to write down those goals and present them to their parents.
That was not an easy task for year one – lots of time was spent on writing goals. Instead, the students used the Photo booth application to video record themselves talk about their goals and they presented these videos to their parents during the students-led conferences.
In 2012 we finally got our first iPads, a limited number of iPads per year level but it was enough to bring another great change into the classroom. The students used them to practice their handwriting. We used the Handwriting Without Tear system and there is a great app that goes with it.
Our favourite was the LetterSchool app – it has amazing video and sound effects and the students literally could not go of it.
We created many stories using Toontastic story creating app in our English class, Green Up app to grow seed in our Topic class, we just used iPads to take photos of our group work and added captions to create a few books using the Book Creator app.
We increased the number of iPads each year and now we have about 10 iPads per class which allows for more powerful technology integration. Although, we have only two computers in class, which can be used by both teachers and students, we mainly use our computer labs – we have one computer lab equipped with iMacs and another one equipped with laptops. Students can book and come to use any lab any time.
My job has changed since that time. Now I work as ICT teacher/integrator. We are in the process of smooth transition to the technology integration model. At the moment I work with Y3-4 teachers to integrate ICT into their curriculum.
Here are some of the projects we have done:
Students learn about the weather and go on online research to find out about the week weather changes in their hometown. Then they use MS Excell to create a chart to show the highest and lowest temperature with one week range;
Students learn about Ancient Egypt in the classroom and create a MS PowerPoint presentation on the topic of their research. The research is conducted using the iPads in the classroom and the computers in the ICT lab. On the day they learn about hieroglyphics, they use the online ancient Egyptian translator to transcribe their names using hieroglyphics, take a screenshot of the name and imbed it into their PowerPoint title page.
Students learn about electric circuits in class and create an animated electric circuit using Scratch programming. I mentioned this project in my Tech Integration blog post here.