USN Lower School Technology!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

"That's all she wrote!"

That's what my dear departed daddy used to say when something was over. I can close my eyes, get centered, and hear him saying it. I can almost see the gleam in his eye.

Well, there you go. We're done this week, ya'll.

We've been sifting in and out of "free-time" mode this week. Let's talk about "free time." This one might get me in trouble, but I don't expect it to, because I hope to state my case succinctly so that you know where I'm coming from. Please bear with me. Let's see, how to start...

When I first began "coordinating technology," 'way back in 1999, I created a little start page for my youngest students. I called it "K-1 Go Here" and I put it on the desktops of computers in the lab as an easy way for my littlest kids to get to fun and safe Internet sites. I limited the number of sites to four at any given time and set up the page/portal so that any of the four sites might be changed as new resources were discovered and as curricular needs changed. I think it was a pretty cool notion, though at the time I faced some criticism for "letting children have playtime" during what was designated an instructional period. We've come a long way. Now, "learner-centered instruction" and "academic choice" and "individualized instruction" and all those other buzzwords' application to learning technology skills is better understood. We've developed a Scope and Sequence for technological skills which serves as a guide for who learns what when, and as I say now there is substantial research to corroborate the notion that kids retain a skill best when they enjoy doing the activity that teaches it to them.

Take a look at the bulletin board in the Lower School Technology for Learning lab. It contains student work, a couple of jazzy posters with a computer-themed border design, and scrolling text down the side that reads: "Work is Play is Work is Play is Work is Play is Work is Play is Work is Play is Work is What We Do."

That said, I want to offer up a little video here for your enjoyment. In what is becoming a tradition for Kindergarten, our kids gathered in the Kindergarten atrium the morning of the last half-day of school to "visit" with Boowa, the big blue cartoon dog who is the "star" of's Boowa and Kwala website. The key to understanding what goes on here is that we often visit the website in computer lab, using it to learn specific computer skills: point and click, mouse control, drag and drop, arrow keys, the "back" button on a web browser, and more. It's a sound Internet compilation of age appropriate games that are kind, gentle, and amazingly non-violent. The creator and developer of the site is Jason Barnard, who over the years has become a good friend of mine. We connected via Skype, and he could see our kids by means of the video Skype offers, though his limited bandwidth (he is half-way around the world, really, on an island in the Indian Ocean) sometimes made things a bit "laggy." The exchange of questions (only a few of which are included) culminated in our singing with him, real-time, the Boowa and Kwala theme song. Then we went out to the field so I could take a great big picture of the whole class, all four classes together, to send to him by way of thanks.

Enjoy the video, have a wonderful safe, family-filled summer, and I'll see you in the fall!



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