Tonight I spent an hour of my evening, as I often do, engaged in the Kinderchat conversation. Tonight we were discussing Google in the Classroom. It was a quieter chat for me. I didn’t engage as much as usual, and the evening chat left me with that itchy, prickly feeling like Leonard’s sweater from a Big Bang Theory episode. (The Itchy Brain Simulation) It took a bit of DMing a couple of friends to work out that prickly feeling.
There was a great deal of conversation at first about teachers using Google to collaborate with other teachers, parents and admin. I don’t have any problem with that. I love using Google with my tiegrad classmates and friends to communicate, share and do projects together, If I had parents who were willing to share their email address with the school, I would gladly start up a gmail account and Google calendar for the class.Some of the things that people were discussing were fabulous and noteworthy. My itchy sweater feeling wasn’t coming from there.
Then the discussion started to veer into how we as educators use Google and the Google Apps with the Kindergarten kids. Again, I think there are some great features within Google to use with the littles. We look for the provinces, states and towns where our twitter friends are on Google Maps. We search out places we want to travel to and places we are from on the map app. It is a great adventure for my kids to see the world spinning and to see how the other side of our planet is dark while we are sunny. So cool when you are 5 (or 41). We use Google images A LOT. Whenever we are not sure about some information or what something may look like, the cry is roused by small voices, “We should Google that!” and we often do. Google images has some amazing visuals for kids and I don’t want to stifle anyone’s passion for using Google in the kindergarten classroom. But, when I hear of quizzes being made for and marked on Kinders in Google Sheets and the workbooks being made in Google Slides, it does makes me cringe. But again, the itchy sweater isn’t coming from there either.
Kinderchat talks a lot about issues close to our hearts. Two of my issues, play and the natural world, are topics we cover in the 8 week cycle of chat topics. My friends, Mardelle and Amy, really helped me to identify the itchy sweater tonight. When we talk about PLAY in the kindergarten classroom, there are many people who express why they aren’t able to play in the classroom: School regulations, testing, Common Core, and more. We try to provide advice, research and help for those who are advocating for play in their classes. During the NATURE chats, there are people expressing why they can’t take kids outside for play: there are no green spaces, school regulations, outdoor play is seen as unimportant and more. Again, support is provided and advice is given to those who need it. But when the topic of technology comes up, there seems to be very little “I can’t” in the chat. Tonight, a debate started over typing vs printing. Is typing important? Probably. Is it important to the fine motor muscles of a 4 or 5 year old? I would say no. Kinderchat co-creator Amy happened to have the research to show supporting her “teach printing” belief, and I am thankful for that. Somehow my “because my gut says so” defence seemed to lack something in the debate. But when I watch the finger muscle development of my students as they work with clay and plasticene, as they try to manipulate chopsticks this week, I know in my heart of heart, that they are not ready for typing in Kindergarten. Mardelle asked me a question that really defined my itchy sweater: “Why is tech such an easy sell when play, and being outside, is such a tough one?” The more research I read about anxiety and stress in young children, the more I wonder why we aren’t outside every single day. I am absolutely not against tech with the littles. It has it’s place in the school classroom and the natural classroom. But if it is simply becoming another workbook, worksheet, or flashcard tool, then we are not considering what is developmentally appropriate for the age. If we are willing to jump into technology with 2 feet, shouldn’t we be jumping into play and nature with our everything? I think you know where I stand. What do you think?