Your first-grader may use technology to complete activities in a range of subject areas, including language arts, science, social studies, math, and art. Integrating technology into the classroom with any of these subjects is a great way to tackle the first step in technological literacy: Using tools to solve problems.
Technology resources range from computers, software programs, and the Internet to digital cameras, camcorders, and voice recorders. Technology isn’t a teaching substitute, but a valuable aid that introduces children to new ways of thinking and working. Plus, it’s a great introduction to resources that your child’s likely to use in the future.
Gayle Berthiaume, our award-winning education consultant notes that some projects integrate more than one subject and technology: “Students may write poems and stories, illustrate them with Kid Pix or digital photos, and use GarageBand to record their poems, add music or a beat, and publish it as a podcast to allow parents and others to listen to it.”
Technology use varies from school to school
Many states base their technology standards on the National Educational Technology Standards for Students. But because children aren’t tested on their use of technology, teachers are typically not held accountable to teach them. That means technology use varies widely from classroom to classroom. Your first-grader may have one or more computer workstations in the classroom, go to a computer lab once a week, or not use technology regularly at all.
To get the maximum benefit from technology, the best classrooms implement technology into regular lessons that develop students’ higher order thinking skills, promote creativity, and facilitate academic learning. Your child’s teacher may use technology to evaluate students’ progress.
“Parents can use technology at home to reinforce the skills taught in school,” Berthiaume says. “There are several software programs available that help children practice reading and math skills. Or you can use AppleWorks to create stories on the computer. Children learn to read better by writing.”
First-graders work in word-processing programs to practice writing, editing, design, and keyboarding skills. Your child may type words that rhyme; write a thank-you letter and add an image; or type words, changing the font, color, and size of the text. After reading stories by an author, a class may visit the author’s website, and send an email to ask a question about the book. Your child may also learn to use an online dictionary. He may also keep a dictionary of words that he can read and spell in a word document.
First-graders may learn the proper terminology to communicate about technology, such as the parts of a computer system and software terms such as menu, file, save, and quit. Your child may make labels for the different parts of the computer, such as the monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer, and speakers. If these lessons are integrated with the traditional subjects of reading, writing, math, social studies, science, and art, your child will learn how technology can help him find out what he wants to know and communicate his thoughts.
With draw and paint software programs your first-grader may model addition and subtraction word problems with number sentences and pictures. (A number sentence is a sentence that includes numbers, operation symbols, and an equal sign, such as 2+3=5.) The class may make graphs on paper and then work together with the teacher using graphing software or a spreadsheet program to create a graph.
With email and programs like ePals teachers and students are able to communicate with people from around the world. Virtual field trips may be taken to visit places around the world or to step back in time to visit the colonial times. Teachers can gather primary source materials, such as letters and journal entries from a CD or the Internet, and show 3-D maps to students.
In first grade your child may visit websites the teacher has bookmarked. If the students are learning about sea animals they may visit a website about whales to learn more about the subject. They may go online to look at pictures of the solar system. Classrooms can take part in science investigations with students from around the world through programs like the Jason Project. The class may also visit online science simulations such as a simulation of a hurricane. The teacher can help students ask questions of scientists on the Internet.
Using draw and paint software programs your child may illustrate a scene from a story. To learn about different artists, the teacher may show artwork online. Your child’s teacher may publish student’s artwork by scanning pictures students have created and make an online art gallery. A digital camera may be used to take class pictures. Berthiaume notes: “After going on a field trip, the students may make a class presentation to share with parents or other classes. Each student makes a page for the keynote presentation using a digital photo and recording an audio clip about what they learned from their trip.”
What you might see in a well-equipped classroom
- Educational software that reinforces reading and math skills
- Multimedia encyclopedias and dictionaries
- A digital camera – digital photos can then be displayed in a slide show
- Interactive story books on a computer
- One computer or more in the classroom with access to the Internet and a printer
- Large-screen display connected to a computer used by the teacher to demonstrate a technology lesson to the whole class. If there is not one available, the teacher may have smaller groups come around the computer to introduce a lesson or technology skill.
- An interactive whiteboard – an electronic writing surface which can capture writing electronically