Saturday, August 26, 2006

Kids and Mini Beasts and Computers

What is it about kids and minibeasts? They absolutely love collecting them and observing them and probably squashing them. But I suspect over the last few weeks I think they have developed a more healthy respect for the little creatures.
What is it about kids and computers? It's not the same thing I know but what is amazing and exciting is the way the kids become so engaged whenever we bring laptops into the classroom. We have been using the laptops over the last couple of weeks on Tuesdays to allow the kids to create one of the tasks that was planned in the unit of work- creating a ppt to represent their understanding of a minibeast. These children haven't been exposed to MS Powerpoint and only in this second half of the year, virtually when we began the Minibeast unit, have they been given access to their own server and internet account at school. But in this short time they have learnt to log on, to save and name their work, to create a new PPT file, to add images and to copy and paste text into their presentations. Some have even learnt to narrate and record their writing onto the slides.
What amazes me I guess is the ease with which they pick up the skills and seem to be able to cope with this new learning with such ease and enthusiasm.
One of the most exciting things though is how willing the students are to help and be patient with each other to support their learning.
The challenge for me though is to ensure that the learning is really happening and that it's not 'busy' time. To that end Tanya employed some short cut strategies to ensure that the keyboarding challenge wouldn't hold the students back.
The students had researched their frog and discovered many aspects of their habitat and development. They then wrote these facts and ideas in the traditional manner by writing and editing in their storywriting books. Tanya, their teacher, then spend a short time after school one day and word processed each of their reports into a word document.
The day that they were to work on their PPT's the children then simply went to a shared folder and copied and pasted their particular piece of text onto the slides of their PPT thus saving that awful waste of very slow typing that very young children can only achieve.
It was just a matter of teaching them how to locate and paste some images from MS clip art and/or some of the free online images libraries such as Pics4Learning or Freefoto and then they had created a pretty effective PPT presentation. For these kids the bells and whistles of PPT are a big deal and as far as I'm concerned that's fine for a little while. They are having a ball discovering how things move and make sounds. But soon we'll also teach them about the less distracting ways of making an impact when you are sharing your learning.