As a part of a comprehensive plan to foster meaningful technology skills in their students, the staff at Saint John the Baptist School in Howard purchased tablets for each student to use in their K-3 Classrooms. The strategy is simple: teach students to use technological devices (tablets, Chromebooks, personal computers) as a part of their day-to-day learning to allow them to develop problem-solving, organizational, research and other skills using the technology that will be leveraged later in their academic, and maybe even professional careers.
This strategy starts as soon as Kindergarten. Many students have access to tablets or smartphones at home, and incorporating them as a part of their school day reinforces that these devices can be used, not just for play, but also to learn new skills, for research and to solve problems. Students use tablets at the K-3 level with apps that reinforce their classroom learning and allow them to practice their skills in a visual and interactive way. The addition of Bluetooth keyboards for third-grade students ease in the transition from tablets to the Chromebooks that each student receives in fourth grade and will use throughout the remainder of their time at Saint John’s.
The school has also introduced a number of unique tools to help the students develop critical STEM skills early on. Bee-Bots are a student favorite. These small robots are easy to use and help teach sequencing, estimation and problem-solving. The students can program these robots to move through a number of obstacles in different directions by pressing buttons to program commands on the robot. Students are also able to create mockups of models and statues and watch their creations take shape on the school’s 3-D printer.
The success of this program is apparent in the 4-8th-grade students who are able to easily transition to using the Google Classroom Suite on their Chromebooks as an integral part of their day-to-day learning. The early focus of incorporating technology as a meaningful part of the student’s education has taught these students that their devices are useful for far more practical purposes than gaming alone.