With all of the technology available to us as educators, it can be hard to know what is most useful, engaging, and will help students build skills in digital citizenship. I find it is especially difficult to find and choose the most appropriate programs or applications for elementary students. Even in elementary grades, there is a vast difference between what a kindergartener can be expected to understand and do compared to a fifth grader.
When reviewing technology programs and apps, I try to utilize the ‘constructivist’ mindset. I look for programs that will eventually allow my students to ‘create’ something and easily evidence learning.
In the book Invent to Learn, authors Martinez and Stager (2013) highlight four roles of a teacher in a constructivist classroom (p. 76):
Ethnographer- Find out what children already know
Documentarian- Collect evidence of learning that makes the invisible thinking of children visible
Studio Manager- Make appropriate tools, materials, and resources available so children can make their ideas come to life
Wise Leader- Guide children’s inquiry towards big ideas without coercion
Through the use of the technology programs I’ve recommended in this post, I believe that teachers can work towards developing a highly engaging school experience for young students using technology as a tool to empower students in addition to boosting the crucial 21st-century skills.
I’ll share my top five apps in just a moment. First, let’s take a look at the standards for technology use in education. Below I’ve listed the technology standards that most closely match the specific skills my students would be developing through the use of the suggested programs.
International Society for Technology in Education
1. Students leverage technology to take an active role in choosing, achieving and demonstrating competency in their learning goals, informed by the learning sciences.
3. Students critically curate a variety of resources using digital tools to construct knowledge, produce creative artifacts and make meaningful learning experiences for themselves and others.
4. Students use a variety of technologies within a design process to identify and solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.
6. Students communicate clearly and express themselves creatively for a variety of purposes using the platforms, tools, styles, formats and digital media appropriate to their goals.
7. Students use digital tools to broaden their perspectives and enrich their learning by collaborating with others and working effectively in teams locally and globally.
There are a few apps that I have found to be the most useful with elementary students. I want my students to go beyond using technology for the practice of basic skills such as computation or phonics skills. I hope to develop skills my students can apply to a variety of content areas and technological platforms.
Think inquiry, project-based learning, problem-based learning, Reggio Emilia, etc.—- Being able to utilize technology as a resource to investigate, problem solve, collaborate, think critically, and create is my end goal. However, young students must be shown how to use these resources in a scaffolded approach so that they can build capacity and independence. This means starting slow and breaking the tasks into manageable parts.
Northwest Nazarene University’s Doceo Center has developed a model of innovative instruction called the “H.A.C.K.” model. Essentiallly, they have broken down the skills required for students to go from learning a new technology program to utilizing that program in dynamic ways. This model provides both the actions of the teacher in each phase as well as the expectations of the students. It helps teachers see how to ‘chunk’ the skills in the beginning and slowly release responsibility to students over the course of the school year. By the end of the year, students will be applying self-chosen platforms to develop or create artifacts evidencing their learning.
(Northwest Nazarene University, 2014).
MY TOP 5 APPS
Example 1: CVC Word Book
Even Kindergarteners can learn to use the features in Shadow Puppet and grow confidence using technology for the creation of a project. Shadow Puppet allows students to marry text with images as well as a voice over feature to share some form of student work. This could be a book the child wrote, a reading of a published book, a report, math problem, investigation, etc.
After trying a simple project like this CVC word book, Kindergarteners would be ready to use Shadow Puppet for a more authentic experience.
Check out this video tutorial for more information on Shadow Puppet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UeamNgWQMAc&list=PLc2Q8RPlzXjyRmIbsEa2GgBsPX3J07xso&index=2&t=6s
Example 2: How To Book
Shadow puppet provides a scaffold for students who may not be able to write all of the details of their book out, but can easily verbalize through the audio/video component. This is especially helpful for students who have dysgraphia and dyslexia.
“Access to video recording equipment in the classroom allows teacher and students to document skill development, to track progress, acquire feedback, and practice and perfect repetitive procedures” (Pollock, 2018, p. 7).
Example: Vocabulary Extension
Popplet is a program that allows students to make connections to concepts through text, images, or video. Students have the ability to be contributing collaborators on a project. Any activity that you might want to utilize a graphic organizer for would pair well with Popplet.
Check out other ways to use Popplet: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8N6lbC_VCk&list=PLc2Q8RPlzXjyRmIbsEa2GgBsPX3J07xso&index=24&t=169s
“Digital devices can “enrich the way students receive content and create the environment for developing better thinking” (Pollock, 2018, p. 6).
Example: Reading Fluency Practice
GoInk Green Screen allows you to record video of your student(s) performing, reading, or presenting information with a background image or video of their choosing. The options are endless! Kids get so excited about this process. They can edit their video and share with parents. The only materials you need are a green background and an ios device.
Another tutorial for more information: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycXMdPqZcJQ
Example: Student progress and goal setting
Seesaw is a program that allows you and your students to document their work and communicate progress to families. Students can record themselves in video or audio format.
Student Parent Conference
Martinez, S. & Stager, G. (2013). Invent to Learn: Making, Tinkering, and Engineering in the Classroom. Torrence, CA: Constructing Modern Knowledge Press.
Pollock, J. (2018). The i5 Approach: Lesson Planning That Teaches Thinking and Fosters Innovation. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). (2019). Retreived from: https://www.iste.org/standards/for-students
Northwest Nazarene University (2014). Retrieved from: https://doceo.nnu.edu/professional-development-and-workshops/hack-mod