Congratulations to the winners of CDW Canada's 2009 Teaching with Technology Contest
Grand Prize Winner #6: Julie Millan
John Wanless Junior Public School, Toronto, ON
Starting Young
by Julie Millan

It's been tradition in our school for students in grades three to six to have regular access to computers and technology, but our primary students have often been left behind. There was such a fear that the students in kindergarten and grade one were "too young" to use the computers, that they would break the digital cameras, or that using computers in school were the equivalent to "throwing on a cartoon". But, in the role of Teacher-Librarian, I knew it was important to break these myths and start to model for our teachers and parents that our young students were more than capable of not only using technology, but of using it in sophisticated ways. It was imperative to show that technology could help enhance the curriculum while engaging our students in learning traditional literacy and numeracy skills in exciting and alternative ways.

At first, some of the teachers were apprehensive around the use of technology in those early years but it didn't take long for them to change their minds. Students who were quiet in class were blossoming on the computers. Students who couldn't write the alphabet yet were typing their names, students who were unfocussed in class were engaged and working independently on the computers. One kindergarten teacher even decided to have students use the Interactive Whiteboard as part of her traditional "show and tell" routine. We couldn't have been more surprised by the results - from YouTube videos, to computer drawings and photographs, to the sharing of fantastic websites.

In addition, some of the unexpected benefits came when those kindergarten students moved to grade one! We no longer had to start with the basics - the students already knew the vocabulary associated with computers, felt comfortable with different technologies and programs. Now, those students were ready to refine their computer skills and start to become really critical and creative users of technology. We started to teach them how to select appropriate software for a particular purpose, students were comparing and contrasting traditional picture books with eBooks, and digital photography became a part of the grade two visual arts program.

While at first this may appear to be a story about convincing teachers to allow kindergarten students to start using computers, in reality this small shift in perception around children's technological capabilities fundamentally changed how technology is used and addressed in our entire school. Once our young students showed us what they were capable of, it challenged the teachers of the older grades to not just use the computers, but to develop interesting and challenging technology projects. Our students have come to expect projects that access the best information and software out there, and crave the opportunity to be creative risk takers in their use of technology. Who could have predicted how a group of four and five year olds could influence the programming of an entire school!

Julie Millan, class and JD Hupp
John Wanless Junior Public School
Julie Millan, students and JD Hupp
John Wanless Junior Public School
Julie Millan, students and JD Hupp
Teaching With Technology prize ceremony
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