There is a lot of data that suggests too much tech usage for children and teenagers is not beneficial for their health. It is also widely known that tech giants like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Tim Cook strictly enforce tech usage for their own family. So it’s no surprise that each year, I have a parent who comes in bellyaching about my (and the school’s) desire to use tech in the classroom. So this is what we teachers are trying to get parents to understand: We do not hand your child a tablet and an app and just, say, “Learn.” Teachers are very mindful of the how and why they use technology. And for those of us who teach in the early years, we merge our beliefs about technology with our students’ skill levels and best practice in play-based learning.

With all of these perspectives in mind, I’ve decided to tweak an upcoming PYP Unit with a focus on improving it as tech rich (not tech heavy!). My plan is to include a variety of independent inquiry, hands-on, and integrated activities to support all learners. My first graders and I will be the guinea pigs for this unit and I’ll share progress throughout.

Thanks to some coaching from Kim Cofino and inspiration from David Lee’s Design Thinking Project, I created a meaningful summative assessment task:

Students will design their ideal community. Where would it be? Who would be there? What similarities and differences would people have? How would they solve problems? Students may chose to create a book, skit, presentation, visual representation, or physical model of their community.

And even more thanks to another one of my tech gurus, A.J. Juliani, and his blog post: The Beginner’s Guide to Design Thinking in the Classroom, I came across this modified and age-appropriate design framework:

This simplified design framework assisted me in planning out the tech-rich learning for students.

Empathize: Through the tuning in/finding out stages of the inquiry process, students will learn about different groups. From interviews, classroom sharing time, and the KidsWorldApp, students will keep records about what they’ve learned.

Define: In this stage, students will list the requirements of an international community. In doing this they will (likely) find insights about what their ideal community will need. At this stage, we will generate a class problem sentence (i.e. We will create the ideal community that can work cooperatively because people are open to diversity).

Ideate: Students will list visual solutions for the problem sentence.

Prototype: Using a variety of mediums (playdough, Legos, paper, blocks), students can begin prototyping their community.

Test: Once their prototype has been created, they will record their oral justification for their ideal community. They will do this using Book Creator or Explain Everything. At the end of the test stage, we will bring in a guest City Developer (Principal) to offer feedback.  Students can make necessary adjustments to their community.

I can’t guarantee that this is going to work. And I certainly cannot assume that this will be a resounding success. But what I can tell you is… it’s worth a try. I can also tell you that the learning experiences the students will have (both social studies and tech related) will be meaningful and deliberate.

… wish me luck!