This was a panel discussion with the founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org, Charles Best, and three early elementary teachers who won the DonorsChoose innovation challenge. Best surveyed over 300 early elementary ed teachers and found that 90% of them wanted to be using more tech in their classrooms, and 60% wanted to find ways to use technology more innovatively. So, they launched an early ed challenge and chose several projects as models for innovation.
The teacher panelists all spoke passionately about the ways that technology has impacted their students’ learning process. They all teach in PreK or K classrooms with a huge array of needs. Best asked them how they’d respond to the segment of DonorsChoose donors who specifically filter out technology; their responses were illuminating. They all agreed that technology allows students with the highest needs access to tools that help them communicate and learn. And, when technology is used interactively (rather than just passively), it can help capture and keep the attention of learners with a wide array of needs.
The projects that these teachers implemented with the DonorsChoose grants used two different tools:
Learning Alive https://alivestudiosco.com/
Cubetto is a hands-on coding tool that doesn’t use a screen. It reminded me quite a bit of the BeeBots that I have in my library, but it looked like they have a wider array of functions (for example, you can attach markers to the Cubetto, so students can code and create design and art projects). The PK teacher said that her PK students can successfully use Cubetto in centers without adult supervision.
Learning Alive looked REALLY cool and it’s something I’m definitely going to pursue when I get home. It is an augmented reality program that lets students see concepts in 3D. For example, the K teacher spoke about how all her students, even those with significant special needs, learned their letter sounds with Learning Alive because the kids see and hear a 3D animal (like a bear for the letter “B”). This was instantly engaging for her students and still keeps their attention. You can also make sentences in AR (like “the bear is big, the bear is getting bigger, the bear is eating”) and the kids see all of this happening in 3D. Learning Alive is auditory, visual and kinesthetic, so it meets the learning needs of different types of learners.
While this session was fairly narrowly focused, I think both the resources highlighted have great potential in our PK-2 classrooms. And, it was pretty cool to “meet” the founder of DonorsChoose!