“Technology is just a tool. In terms of getting the kids working together and motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” —Bill Gates
This year you may have set a goal to use technology with your young learners, but you aren’t sure where to begin. Integrating technology with young learners can be tricky. Many digital tools and apps require learners to be 13 and above or have questionable material. Additionally, you have to get the children’s parents to be okay with you publishing their voices, images, and digital creations. This may seem overwhelming, but no need to worry. The checklist below will help you successfully integrate technology in your young learner classes.
Partner with Parents
Getting parents on board with your technology integration is essential. We need parent permission to record students and publish their creations. Many schools have parents and students sign Responsible Use Policies or Acceptable Use Policies (AUPs). These documents outline which technologies students will use, how students will use these technologies, student behavior expectations and consequences, and the measures in place to protect students. Find examples here.
Ongoing communication with parents is tough, especially if the parents speak very little English. Create emails, fliers, and other documents in Google Docs, which allows you translate the document into many different languages quickly. I also host parent workshops and let the parents play with the tools we will use so they are more comfortable with their children using the technology. Find more helpful tips in this post: Tips for Engaging Parents This School Year.
Focus on the Learning
You have experienced several technology developments and adjusted your routines, learning, communication, and rituals accordingly. Focus on the learning and pedagogy, because that doesn’t change. We regularly provide ideas and digital resources to get your young learners to draw and color, practice speaking, learn adjectives, read digital stories, practice phonics, and much more! Add a digital component to activities your students love in order to save trees and provide parents and children a digital copy of the work for future reference and reflection.
Choose Kid-Friendly Tools and Apps
Many wonderful tools are not suitable for children, because uploaded content isn’t monitored. Additionally, some tools require students to be 13 years old and above. Discover kid-friendly tools and apps each month by following the Sprout English blog. You can also try Graphite.org, which is a free search engine for teachers to find age- and subject-appropriate games, tools, and apps.
Millions of teachers worldwide connect through social media and offer support, resources, and ideas. Check out the community of teachers we connect with by liking our Sprout English Facebook page or following us on Twitter, @SproutEnglish. You may also want to connect with our recommended Young Learner bloggers. Check out this post for more ideas on how to connect with other language teachers. Find many English language teachers to connect with by checking out the Twitter hashtags #ELTChat and #ELLChat.
Protect the identities of your young learners by having them create avatars, or digital representations of themselves. Students can create cartoon-like characters with free tools like DoppleMe, Lego Creator, and Build Your Wild Self. Their avatar images can be posted on the web to protect their identities. Additionally, students can name their avatars and create profiles for them.
Teach Digital Citizenship
An avatar is one of the first steps to making students aware of their rights and responsibilities as digital citizens. As members of a digital community they need to act responsibly during the journey, because every act impacts the values, customs, norms, language, learning, and communication of this world. When they like, comment, publish, post, share, and spread a message they are impacting an audience and human beings. My post, Survival Tips for Teaching Citizenship, is filled with many resources, activities, posters, games, and tools that help young learners reflect on their digital actions.
Set Up a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)
Motivate students to practice what they’ve learned beyond your class by setting up an online learning space. You could get students to blog using safe platforms like Kidblog and Edublogs. For more information on blogging with students check out the post Inspiring Students to Write by Blogging.
Create a secure learning community where you can assign, collect, and grade student work with Edmodo, Educlipper, Google Classroom, Schoology and Nearpod. These free web tools are accessible on any device and are the most versatile. Design an interactive website with PBWorks, Wikispaces, Wix, or Weebly. My first VLE for kids was the English Story Time wiki I set up four years ago for my 4-to-10-year-old language learners.
What are your tips for integrating technology with young learners?
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