As regular readers will be aware I am very interested in the use of new technology in early years classrooms. I was pleased to see therefore that the Festival of Education at Wellington College Crowthorne had a number of sessions relating to education and technology. As usual at these events most of the content was aimed at working with older children but I found a number of ideas/materials that could be adapted for use with younger children.
Jan Webb (http://Janwebb21.com) from Microsoft gave an interesting talk outlining many of the free resources available to teachers and the ways in which she had used them in the classroom. Many of the resources were used to link up with schools in other countries to add another dimension to project based learning. This could be used really successfully in an early years classroom, using video chat to talk about and demonstrate concepts such as snow to young children who may not have seen it before.
Jan explained that the Partners in Learning Network provides free downloadable software for use in the classroom. I got up and showed off my singing talents to demonstrate Songsmith – for creating music (ok it was only Happy Birthday).
Shireland Collegiate academy demonstrated their learning gateway . Though this is a secondary school and would be used very differently in an early years setting, I saw merits in the way that staff could share planning and assessments, as a means of getting parents involved in their children’s learning and making learning visible to them.
There was an interesting discussion at the end of the day about what we could teach the Facebook generation. There were some interesting points regarding worries about the ever growing use of technology and social media. On the positive side was the idea that worries about technology are similar to worries about the novel in the eighteenth century and that whatever children are interested in will become the dubious thing. I think that is an interesting view and that we should be using children’s interests to stimulate meaningful learning , rather than threatening to ban things. Another point made was that in this generation the most important skill we can teach children is to take charge of their own destiny. Some felt that this generation were in danger of losing social skills and that technology should be limited to allow children to spend time reading. A straw poll was taken as to the preference between physical books and reading them electronically. Personally for me I would much rather have a kindle with hundreds of books in one place than have to find or carry real books. I suppose there is still some sentimentality about having books on a shelf, but is that because they are precious or because we want to show others what we have read?
I have many links and inspirational practice to look up as a follow up to the festival, these will appear on the blog in due course.