Software & Apps & Games… Oh My!

Educational software, apps, and games–much like other technologies applied in classrooms–have great potential to promote student learning.  These tools broaden students’ knowledge in several subject areas.  Generally speaking, software lays the foundation for the apps and games.  Countless categories of educational software–such as Skills-based Learning, Productivity, Visual Thinking and Concept Mapping, and Simulations and Virtual Reality–perform different functions, and stimulate different styles of learning in the classroom.  Depending on the type of software, apps and games are purposefully incorporated into lessons as “enhancers” and, of course, to keep the students engaged without getting bored.  Numerous different types of software, apps, and games are used in conjunction with each other to foster an efficient learning environment for students.

Unlike traditional teaching methods, academic software, apps, and games promote individualized learning by encouraging students to learn at their own pace, without feeling subordinate to their peers.  These technologies also diversify the ways in which students learn the material.  For example, some students may find it beneficial to learn math by playing games online, using sites such as Weebly, or Mr. Nussbaum, while others prefer to use apps on devices that accommodate them, such as Visnos.  These specialized, digital tools are highly accessible, and allow students to master the specified subject areas taught during class-time both inside and outside of the classroom.

As a future elementary educator, I believe incorporating technologies, such as games and apps, is extremely advantageous to young children learning an assortment of different subjects.  Before the students start diving into these new technologies, they must first learn how to properly utilize these tools.  Elementary students, especially in the lower grade levels, are notorious for this behavior.  A recurring theme in my last couple blogs—Digital Citizenship—is highly important for students of this age, and it cannot be stressed enough.  These kids are so young and inexperienced with these new forms of technologies, that the likelihood of their security being breached is very high.  Prior to students adopting these technologies inside the classroom, they must learn both how to correctly use them, without abusing the privilege.

Once students develop a sense of familiarity with these technologies, it’s time to play!  After learning about different kinds of software, apps, and games, I have a better sense of which will be the most constructive to exercise in the classroom.  Presumably, elementary students will not be highly accustomed to these categories of technology, so I plan on keeping them simple to navigate, while enhancing the overall lesson and helping the students to learn.  Take reading fluency and creative writing, for example: Without technology, students will most likely be assessed by reading from an informational prompt assigned by the teacher, or writing a short story using sensory words and colorful language.

Technology allows students to go “above and beyond” on assignments.  ColARmix is one of many examples (and personally, my favorite) on how students can enhance their creative writing skills.  ColARmix turns students’ coloring pages into a 3D image that performs specific tasks, depending on the picture.  Students then present their pictures with its movements in front of the class, creating a story to accompany it.

 To help students with reading fluency, I will have my students use Flocabulary, which is an interactive tool that allows students read about a specific topic–for example, the Industrial Revolution—and the app will transform their words into a Hip-Hop Remix.  This makes students learn the material while they enjoy and learn their songs.

Several forms of software, apps, and games help promote student learning in a number of ways.  Looking forward to my teaching career in the future, it is of utmost importance that the technology being incorporated into my classroom will improve the lessons as well as the students’ knowledge.  Personally, I would prefer if the digital tools I employ in the classroom are entertaining to the class.  I believe that the earlier students engage with these technologies, the sooner they will learn to love learning, and become eager to explore new concepts on their own.

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Digital Citizenship and Responsibility

Technology’s capabilities have made vast advancements since I was in grade school.  The use of technology was rarely considered in the classroom for the purpose of enhancing lesson plans.  Fast forward a few years, and teachers everywhere are making great strides to acquire, learn about, and utilize the latest technologies. They realize that this generation of students has a high degree of familiarity (and comfort) with technology, since the majority of them have “grown up” using some form of technology.

Currently in our culture, it seems that children start using technologies–such as tablets or smartphones—once they learn how to walk and talk.  It almost seems as if these intricate technologies are “hard wired” into children’s brains shortly after they are born. Children may be familiar regarding how to use these technologies; however they remain unaware of the dangers of it, as well as the responsibilities that accompany it.  I believe that if I plan to incorporate technology in my lesson plans, it is imperative to teach my students about Digital Citizenship.

I will be teaching early elementary students and I believe this is a crucial age for learning the responsibilities that come with technology.  When given certain technologies, little kids like to explore them on their own before being instructed on how to handle them.  Technology is a very powerful tool, and as Spiderman says, “With great power, comes great responsibility.”

It is my role as a teacher to instruct my students on the dos and don’ts of the technologies they will use.  Safety of students is the top priority of teachers, staff and administrators.  Technology is one of the most common resources that has the ability to put students’ safety at risk.  By following and teaching my students about the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship, I believe that the students can remain out of harm’s way and that the lessons they learn about Digital Citizenship will resonate and remain with them throughout their lives.

Students are never too old to learn about digital citizenship and responsibility. It is better to learn these nine elements in school, rather than making a careless mistake using technology.  Technology is very powerful and, if not handled correctly, can severely damage one’s life forever.