This semester, I have had the opportunity to complete my observation hours in a second grade classroom at Millridge Elementary School in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. During my time in the classroom, I interact with the students, help the teacher and students as needed, complete various assessments on a focal student, and teach a math lesson.
I work as a Camp Supervisor during the Spring, Winter, and Summer seasons when the kids are off from school. During the school year, I babysit three children and complete observation hours in various settings. Throughout my three years of experience, I have noted how much kids use technology in their daily lives nowadays. Coming into my observations this semester, I was interested to see how technology would be used in a suburban elementary school setting.
Prior to the start of my observation hours, I had a sit-down conversation with my cooperating teacher. She explained to me that technology is heavily used in the classroom. The most prominently-used websites used are Lexia, Epic!, and Reflex. Lexia provides explicit, systematic, personalized learning in the six areas of reading instruction and targeting skill gaps as they emerge. My teacher likes Lexia because it provides her with data and student-specific resources she needs for individual or small-group instruction. Lexia also tells my teacher what reading level her students are at. My teacher was proud to note that all of her students are at or above the second grade reading level, which came from data collected by Lexia.
Epic! is also used frequently in the classroom. Epic! is an online children’s book service that offers on-demand access to over 25,000 high-quality illustrated books and chapter books for children ages 12 and under. The students use this website during independent reading time, and for research during group work. I asked a student for their thoughts on Epic!, and they responded that they love the site because there are so many books that they could read.
Reflex is a website that builds math fact fluency, which helps for success in this subject. Kids gain fluency by learning “fact families,” in which they focus on a set of facts for a group of numbers. Subtraction and addition are paired and taught together. My teacher told me that it took her a while to figure out this program, but once she got it down she fell in love with it! She told me that her students’ math scores have never been higher, and Reflex allows her students to practice various types of math problems.
In the afternoon, the class has “snack and a movie” time. The teacher projects a digital story on the board, and the students watch it as they eat their snack. Each story is roughly 10-12 minutes, and my teacher told me that it is a good down time activity. The students have a hard time working on anything else as they eat, so playing a digital story is the perfect solution.
Each classroom at Millridge Elementary School has a class set of laptops. The laptops have a number, and the student with the corresponding number will use that laptop throughout the year. There are also three computers that the students may choose to work on, as long as they take turns.
Bridget Dalton’s Multimodal Composition and the Common Core State Standards depicts how one can take advantage of flexible digital texts, tools, and media to scaffold the learning needs and interests of students. The article states, “the flexibility of digital tools and media offers new options for scaffolding students’ composing and production. When introducing a new composing skill or technical tool, think about how to constrain the larger composing tease so that students are able to focus attention on the new thing to play with and learn” (pg. 336). Scaffolding is a teaching method that enables a student to achieve a goal through a gradual shedding of outside assistance. All of the websites depicted above use scaffolding to allow the students to achieve a learning goal in the subjects of math and reading. The use of technology in the classroom can be very helpful due to its engaging and interactive factors through scaffolding.
I also asked my students about their uses of digital and social media outside of school. Many of the students have access to tablets and their parents’ smart phones, in which they play various games via apps. The most popular games I noted were MineCraft and Roblox. Since the students are seven and eight-years old, they do not have social media accounts such as Facebook or Twitter, but use different apps, such as MineCraft and Roblox, to socialize with their friends. Many of these students also use Epic! at home to read before bed or during free time.
I believe that social media could be a way of digital storytelling. Students can share their interests and stories with their peers through technology. However, this would be a non-educational way of using digital storytelling. When digital storytelling is used in the classroom, the teacher can observe progress and note of any scaffolding that is occurring. I believe that digital storytelling is an impactful way for students to gain knowledge, and my classroom at Millridge Elementary Schools has the resources to do so. The use of technology in the classroom allows for impactful learning, growth, and creativity.