“Ding.” Hear that? It’s a notification. A notification to change the way you think about smart phones in preschool.
Smart phones. Let go of everything you think you know about them. Blank slate. Empty cup. Now, allow me to input some fresh knowledge. Here are some ways that a preschool teacher can use a smartphone in the classroom…
You use your phone to keep time, especially when you’re out on the playground. Your phone can also be used as a stop watch, timer and alarm.
Set stop watches for a lot of things. Time how long a child stays working at a puzzle. Challenge children to run around the playground and beat their previous time.
Set timers when your students need help turn taking. Like, when I was outside, kiddos wanted to ride the tricycle. 16 kids. 2 trikes. I used the timer on my phone. The kids saw this and, when they wanted a turn, they came to me and said “Teacher Gilbert, use your phone.”
Alarms are just like timers, but you can set them throughout the day. They can be reminders about when to go inside from the playground. You can set alarms to remind you about parent-teacher conferences. Alarms have more potential than just waking your tired eyes from bed.
Teachers have a hard time writing down observations of children’s language development. If you have a co-teacher that can write down your conversations, it probably means that half the class is unsupervised. Your smart phone can help out. Almost all smart phones can record audio, and they do a pretty good job.
When you have time – and I know you don’t – go back and listen to those audio clips. Don’t transcribe the whole thing, but there is such great information you’ll get out this technique.
Take pictures of projects. Pictures of children playing outside. Snapshots of field trips. There are things that you can’t write or describe in the moment, but you can snap a picture.
With that image, you can do a lot of things. Look at the pictures and you relive the experience, and you can jot down some observations you remember.
You can show pictures to children and get their thoughts or memories on the experience. While they’re talking, write down notes. Later, print the picture, write their dictation under the image, then post in the classroom.
You can take pictures of the entire alphabet – one by one – then use the images for assessment. Simply swipe through each letter and ask the child “What’s this letter?” The images are like digital flash cards.
You may ask, “These ideas are fine, because I’m the one holding the phone. I wouldn’t give the children the phone.” Well, the thing is, you can. In some situations, you should. It’ll enhance their learning. But the first step, like anything that happens in the classroom, is that the teacher models how something should be done; how something should be taken care of; how something should be handled.
You’re the role model. In a world where smart phones are used to sap away children’s attention and displace conversations, you can show children some ways to use the device as a tool.