Education students pass mobile learning torch
Kindergartners are no strangers to playing with Dad's iPhone. And using mobile technology in the classroom has become second nature to ACU students since the university first began distributing iPhones to freshmen in 2008.
So it was a natural partnership for teacher candidates at ACU to help a local kindergarten teacher integrate mobile learning into her classroom.
Most of these children are savvy, to say the least, with these devices, and we can only hope to give them the opportunity to apply their 'street' knowledge toward an educational goal. - Jenn Rogers, ACU instructor in early childhood education
Three students in ACU's Teacher Education Department teamed up with Taylor Elementary teacher Jody Reese to help her young learners develop digital stories using mobile devices. Research gleaned from the project will be presented at an international educational technology conference this spring.
From the familiar to the unfamiliar
"We started by interviewing each child individually to determine their experience with the device and their knowledge of vocabulary related to the device," says ACU senior Tiffany Siegel. "We talked about words such as 'icons,' 'apps' and 'upload.' "
She and the other teacher candidates – seniors Kendra Kleine and Paul Sims - then worked with small groups of kindergartners to create a digital story about the Desert Indians.
"We had the kids record themselves, record each other, and practice uploading and transferring data from the iPod touch to the Macbook," says Siegel. The students used the program iMovie to create a short film.
After the project was finished, the ACU students had several other opportunities to take mobile devices to the school and observe the youngsters use them, Siegel says. "These observations allowed us to determine the device's ability to create higher-level thinking and processing when linked with instruction," she says.
Real world experience
ACU's Jenn Rogers, instructor in early childhood education, says the experience has been invaluable to her students.
"We want our ACU students to see that they can take technology they are familiar with into the classroom," Rogers says.
"We want to give them the opportunity to apply this process in a real classroom setting. We can give them ideas all semester long in our instruction, but until they have the moment to watch technology used effectively in a real-life setting, it is not relevant to them."
The project has been a boon for the young learners as well, says kindergarten teacher Reese.
I am so thankful that the education department at ACU continues to be innovative and challenging - not just to their students but also to teachers like me that have been in the classroom for many years and yet want to try new things and stay current. - Jody Reese, kindergarten teacher
"It was an exciting time, and we all learned a lot about how quickly young children learn and become comfortable navigating with technology," Reese says. "We quickly realized that most, if not all, of the children viewed the iPod touch as just a way to play games. As they worked with their ACU students, they began to realize there is technology available beyond just these games."
The transition from play to learning was easy, says Rogers. "These 5- and 6-year-olds don't play with projectors and Promethean Boards at home; they play with their Dad's iPhone. Most of these children are savvy, to say the least, with these devices, and we can only hope to give them the opportunity to apply their 'street' knowledge towards an educational goal."
Dr. Dana Hood, Teacher Education Department chair, agrees. "It was pretty amazing to watch how easily the kindergarten children learned to navigate the touch technology of mobile devices. Our candidates learned that while there are kinks to be worked out, technology integration with young children is not something to shy away from," she says. "We want our graduates to be willing to try new things and to trust that children can rise to their expectations. This includes technology."
Plunging into research
The project was a great opportunity for the ACU students to participate in research as undergraduates as they prepare for their future careers.
"This experience has already taught me so much," Siegel says. "My ideas of how my future classroom should operate have changed due to the data we have collected. I have seen firsthand the impact that integrating technology can have on a young learner. It allows each student to explore, create, question, and so many other higher-level thinking skills.
"This experience has also given me confidence and a greater passion for my field of study," she adds. "As I research and collect data, I am realizing how important it is that we, as educators, stay in tune to what our students need. We must constantly be striving to make our classrooms a place where every student, with individual needs, is challenged, encouraged and inspired to explore.”
Kleine says she, too, gained a new respect for research. "I have learned that by collecting and gathering data, I am not only discovering how technology can be integrated into the classroom, but also how I will be using it in my future classroom," she says.
The research also has opened a door for the ACU students and their faculty mentors to present their work at an international conference. The group will travel to Nashville, Tenn., in March where they will be on the program at the 22nd annual international conference of the Society for Information Technology and Teacher Education.
Just the beginning
The Taylor Elementary project is only the beginning of a technology partnership between ACU and local elementary schools, says Hood. Every semester, teacher candidates will spend time in kindergarten classrooms to facilitate technology integration projects. ACU will provide this "kindergarten team" with a cart of iPads next year, says Hood. And the team will participate in the first K-12 Digital Learning Institute this summer.
Other elementary schools will benefit, as well. For example, Mitzi Adams, coordinator of field experiences and professional development for ACU’s Education Department, has developed an app for math and will be doing research at Reagan Elementary this semester using iPads.
“It is our hope that our students will become leaders for innovative practice on their future campuses,” Hood says.
Taylor Elementary's Reese would say that leadership has already begun.
"I am so thankful that the education department at ACU continues to be innovative and challenging - not just to their students but also to teachers like me that have been in the classroom for many years and yet want to try new things and stay current," Reese says. "It's one more way ACU is changing the world."
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