Using technology with elementary school homework

Last week, I talked about technology in the schools including bringing your own device (BYOD) to class. But the use of technology for kids goes beyond the school room. Kids are expected to use computers and tablet for homework too.

Computer/ipads for homework

Often our homework assignments list websites to visit. Even last year Lexie’s kinder homework sometimes had them going to a site to play a game or watch a video.

The kids have a desktop computer to share in our computer room. This is an older computer that use to be mine at one point until I needed a faster, better one to keep up with my writing, video making and financial software. They also have iPod touches for playing games and music but not really for doing homework.

Now in the area we live in, I would expect most of the students to have access to a computer in their homes. If they don’t, the teachers have told the students they can come in before school to use the classroom computers. I guess there is also the public library as an option.

However, I am not sure they should expect everyone to have a smart phone or tablet….

QR codes in homework

QR codes are everywhere – including in my son’s homework. Quick Response (QR) codes are pixilated bar codes that when scanned by a reader on a smart phone or tablet provide information or link to a website.

Typically, in Jase’s homework, the code links them to a quick video with a short assignment following it.

qrcode.25636385

Sample QR Code – If you scan it, you will “Like” my Facebook Page.

Now there are plenty of free readers for these codes, but I was surprised when I first saw it on the homework. This means the teachers assumed that everyone had a smart phone or a tablet to do the homework. And not everyone does…

On the next week’s homework, there was a note to contact the teachers if you had questions or problems with using the QR codes. But I guess not enough complaints were logged as his homework this week has one video QR code attached.

There is no way to avoid technology, whether it is in the classroom or in their homework. Heck for that matter, there really is no way to avoid technology in our everyday lives either. I think using the tablets and computers can enhance what they are learning as long as they don’t become too dependent on that technology. It is like being able to do math without a calculator….Everyone should know how to do basic adding and subtracting – without resorting to a calculator on their smart phone.

 

Using technology in elementary school

Today’s students face an ever-changing world of technology that it is no wonder that this technology makes it into the class room. Jase and Lexie’s school is by no means cutting edge, but they aren’t falling behind either.

In Jase’s shared classroom, there are four computers and nine iPads to be shared by the 45 students. I believe Lexie’s class has two computers and maybe two iPads for the 22 students in her class. Of course, the students also have access to two different computer labs.

Now another newer school in our district has an iPad for every student. (They don’t take them home. The devices are for class work only.) The district seems in no hurry to move all the other elementary schools to that same level.

Our school strives to update our technology, but the finances aren’t always there. I know many schools are dealing with the same issues. Technology isn’t cheap, and you have to keep it up-to-date and be able to maintain the infrastructure. To help out our school, last year our PTA gave 14 iPads to the school.

But even if every kid had a computer or iPad at the school, it really wouldn’t necessarily make everything “better.” Technology is just a tool. It isn’t the technology that is going to make a difference in their learning. It is still the teachers and how they use this tool.

I do, however, like that the kids are instructed on computers and tablets as I think it helps prepare them for the future. And it gives children who may not have access to these devices valuable exposure. I also see that using these tools allows kids to unleash creativity in new ways.

Bringing devices to school

ipadNow to combat the cost of providing all students with a laptop or tablet, many schools are allowing students to bring their own device to school. I know that our principal brought it up as an option for fifth graders last year. In middle school and high school that is already an option. In fact, from what I heard (I don’t have a child at those schools) it is almost expected that kids have a smart phone or tablet in class.

At first, I was hesitant about this idea. I mean you don’t want kids texting each other in class or anything like that. But these schools have students’ sign agreements about when and where they can use their devices, and these agreements are strictly enforced. The kids realize the importance of abiding by the agreement, or they lose this privilege.

As part of our kids’ Christmas gift this year, my husband and I are planning on getting the kids their own tablets. With Jase only being two years away from fifth grade, we are keeping in mind that he will probably be bringing this tablet to school at some point.

We are looking to get them the best device we can afford. We don’t want the oldest model out there as it will become obsolete too quickly. We need to ensure we get a device that will run the apps required for school – not just for today but for a few years at least.

And it just isn’t in school that the kids will be using technology…it also shows up in their homework assignments which is my topic for next week.

It’s a different age…kids growing up with computers

computerAlmost from the time he could walk, Jase has been using a computer. We started him out with toddler games where you click on things to hear a noise or see something happen. He graduated up to preschool games that taught numbers and colors.

In kindergarten, they began going to the computer lab weekly. By this time, Jase was playing video games on the Nick Jr site on the computer (not to mention games on the Wii or Xbox). At 8, he knows how to search on Google and Amazon. In school, they are doing PowerPoint presentations and typing up research in Word. Often their homework involves going to a website to practice math or spelling or to do research.

Yep, there is no separating kids from computers nowadays. They are well adept at using a mouse almost before they can even hold a pencil. And don’t get me started on their ability to use an iPad better than I can.

Now, my husband and I have discussed our kids usage of computers, but we haven’t installed monitoring software or anything. The kids’  computer (yes, they have their own) is in our office. They are usually only on it when we are in the room, so we can monitor what they are doing.

Because they are still young (5 and 8), we have not had to worry about them entering personal information beyond their name and age. They don’t go to sites that ask for their address or birth dates. They can’t install any programs on the computer themselves – which means they can’t download anything either. They do not belong to any chat groups. They don’t instant message or have any personal pages, though they do have an email account. It is a shared account between the two of them. The only ones who know the address are family and my husband automatically gets a copy of incoming messages. They don’t know how to post pictures.

While I know they don’t or can’t do any of the items that most parents need to worry about, I do know that we need to plan for these things. We know we will need to change things as they get older and become more computer-literate. Because really the Internet can be a dangerous thing for kids. And of course, it can be a great learning tool too which is why I don’t mind them using the computer even if it is only to play a game.