Technology is our children’s world. It allows them to reach a wide audience, communicate with others, create their own work in multiple media, and access information. Our students learn with and through technology.
IT tools which complement the iPads include SMART Boards in all our Learning Studios, Apple TV, a laptop computer lab for older students, cameras, sound and video equipment, printers and scanners.
Recent research has shown that teaching foundational information technology skills, including coding, is a necessity for student learning in a world of rapidly changing technology. Preparing students to be digitally literate and learn basic coding is something that we feel needs to be embedded into the curriculum we teach. Coding increases diversity in computer science by inspiring students to learn at their own level. Students will learn to think critically, solve problems, communicate, design, and create. The skills acquired from learning coding are powerful for all learners and will help prepare them for the future.
Sunnybrook has a 1:1 iPad Program from JK to GR 6. The use of iPads with our youngest students sets the stage for future learning. While our students come to us already demonstrating considerable digital skills, we focus on the use of iPads for learning rather than entertainment. This is exciting for the children because it empowers them to be creators rather than consumers of digital media.
iPads offer many benefits in the elementary Learning Studio. We can offer a much wider range of reading materials on their devices, individualizing spelling programs are much easier, and creating multimedia presentations is accessible for all age levels. This is tremendously exciting with the iPads, as students can use multiple sources of their work in one presentation. In these ways our students’ thinking does become more visible through the use of technology.
Our 1:1 iPads enable our students to willingly extend their learning beyond the walls of their studio and the school. With their iPad they have the tools to do just that, whether they make a video about something they learned, create a book with a unique story, research a topic on the web, or communicate with their peers about homework. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we were to assign students less work, but they would engage in active learning more? Because they are motivated, interested, and curious, students are eager to continue with their inquiries beyond the school day. We encourage our students to take responsibility for their learning both inside and outside of the classroom.
We are very aware that today’s technology and the pace of change bring challenges as well as benefits. In order for our students to learn responsible use of IT from an early age we teach Digital Citizenship beginning in JK. In addition, we strive to maintain a balance between screen time and traditional learning methods. The amount of time spent on the iPad depends on the unit of study and the grade level. The older students will utilize technology more so than the younger students.
When we realized that school would be virtual I was extremely concerned initially because it was so new for everyone – the students, the teachers and the parents. It was a steep learning curve for all but once we started getting into it we found our rhythm and the kids seemed excited to meet virtually. The teachers were very supportive with guides on how to navigate the new classroom. They laid out the daily schedule and homework clearly, they taught us how to use google classroom to its capacity, they created office hours so both children and parents could ask questions as needed. As the weeks progressed I could see that both the children and teachers were becoming more comfortable and making adjustments along the way that improved the learning. The school requested continuous feedback so that they could improve as needed and they did with added classes. Is virtual ideal for all children – realistically probably not but a tremendous kudos to the entire Sunnybrook team for embracing this new normal and stepping up to the plate to ensure that the last term was engaging and memorable. Who knows what the future holds but I feel comfortable if we have to continue on this path the teachers and students are prepared.