The Elementary Tech Times

A parent newsletter about technology in our schools

April-May 2017

Spring weather can help you break the tech tether

Did the dreary winter days lead to your children using their tech devices more than usual? Does your child have trouble giving up the new gadget they received over the holidays to participate come to the supper table? Does a dead iPad battery throw your little one into a tantrum? Do you have trouble not checking your emails or social media during family time? We talk in school about balance and we adults can have trouble with that, as well.

Spring is a great time to set new routines and limits. Encourage your child to get outside for some fresh air, sunshine, and movement instead of glueing their eyes to the screen when they get home from school. Take a walk before or after supper as a family.

Work with your child to set up new routines such as:

  • spend half an hour actively playing outside to earn half an hour of tech time; or
  • take a walk with the family (no complaints) to earn time on the iPad.

Rainy days or mud throw a wrench into the plan? The new routines can be tied to other activities at home, as well.
  • Help out in the kitchen to earn time.
  • Fold laundry.
  • Play a board game together.
  • Help a younger sibling read a book.

Balance is important. Adults and teenagers in the home can also help younger children (and themselves) make balanced choices by putting away the phone during dinner or family time.

Eat your veggies to earn your brownie. :)

If you'd like more tips or info, check out the links below.

Tech Savvy Kids Require Important Conversations About Safe Choices Online

As we all know, children are curious. As they become more and more tech-savvy, they are also exploring on the internet, especially YouTube. Be sure to regularly discuss with your child the websites and YouTube channels you approve of and how they should handle finding a site or video that isn't meant for kids their age.

We're finding that children as young as first grade are already exploring YouTube. If YouTube is something your child is exploring, consider setting up an account for your child with approved channels and lay the ground rules for clicking on other videos and ads. YouTube does have a Kids app with additional options for parental controls that may be worth considering for your family.

Additionally, regular monitoring and conversation with your child about what they are experiencing in their tech lives is key to keeping communication on this topic open and honest in the future. See below for a few more resources.

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Kindergarten, Grade 1, and Grade 2

Our youngest students have been focusing in two main areas recently: the earliest fundamentals of computer coding and using technology to record and share their learning.

Through games and "unplugged" activities, students are learning to give step-by-step directions, be specific, and look at where directions need fixed to complete their algorithm (a list of steps to follow to complete a task). Most of the "plugged" activities have been done on the iPads. However, some classes have also had the opportunity to use Netbooks (tiny laptops) to practices typing and trackpad skills.

Many of our classes in these grades are also using Seesaw - an app that allows students to easily record and share their learning. Students can take pictures and screenshots, record videos or voice recordings, draw, and even type within the app. The finished "post" is sent to the teacher for approval before being published to the class feed. Each class uses Seesaw differently. Students can edit past work, reflect on work to make improvements, and even post "quality comments" on each others' posts. Teachers can also post questions, activities, videos, and links to the class feed for students to easily access resources within the Seesaw app.

Grade 3 & 4

In grades 3 & 4, students have been learning more about using the internet to research topics for reading and writing projects. Students have discussed and practiced keyword skills, choosing useful sites, and giving credit to their sources. We've also begun a discussion on Media Literacy - how to READ a website like we do informational texts. Up next in this topic thread is distinguishing between real info and ads, as well as how to check if something is fake news.

Additionally, students work in Google Drive to build their skills and earn their Google Driver's License. The practice and test include skills such as text manipulation (size, color, style, orientation) as well as inserting and manipulating images and video into a presentation.

Grades 5 & 6

Fifth and Sixth graders have also worked on internet research skills, giving credit to sources, and also towards their Google Driver Licenses (see Grades 3&4 for description).

Our BIG topic of discussion in these grades lately has been "Fake News". How do you question what you are seeing, reading, hearing? How do you check it? Students (and adults) are encouraged to be SKEPTICAL and to NEVER share something online without being sure it is true.

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Sarah Miller

Educational Technology Specialist