On Thursday morning, students in Beth Tomlinson’s kindergarten class at The Learning Community sat cross-legged on the carpet around a campfire made of crepe paper and paper towel tubes. Broadalbin-Perth technology teacher Allison Renda then brought the campfire to life by pressing a button that turned on a small fan and LED lights, making the fake flames dance and glow and prompting the children to ooh and ahh.
Renda used the campfire as a prop to introduce the kindergartners’ first unit on digital literacy, as well as the camping theme Renda is employing throughout the unit. During the 30-minute introductory lesson, Renda introduced the students to the concept of technology as a tool, and she defined a tool as anything that makes our lives easier.
Students also began learning basic vocabulary, including defining a computer mouse and what the mouse does – “click,” “drag and drop” and “scroll” – as well as “keyboard” and “internet.”
Near the end of the lesson, Renda initiated a conversation about basic internet safety, asking the students if they talk to other people when they play games online.
“But you only talk to people you know in real life, right? Who you’ve met face-to-face?” Renda prompted.
The kindergartners talked about the kinds of technology in their homes that they have regular access to, including game consoles, computers, tablets and smartphones, and also shared the names of the games the like to play on those devices.
“Kindergarten students already have access to electronic devices at home, so we need to teach them now how to be safe, respectful and responsible,” Renda said.
Technology as a tool for learning is becoming increasingly prevalent in schools, and is being used with students of all ages. The use of technology is even becoming mandatory in some circumstances: All school districts in New York state will be required to use computer-based testing for state exams starting in 2020.
The kindergarten unit is part of a broader district effort to incorporate digital literacy at every grade level. Renda says that digital literacy “not only teaches computer skills, but also teaches critical thinking and collaboration.”
Last year, under Renda’s leadership, Broadalbin-Perth became one of the first school districts in the area to be recognized as a Common Sense Certified District: Digital Citizenship.