Train your Brain

I got a new app on my phone called Lumosity. It’s supposed to train my brain. It challenges me with a daily workout that claims to improve my powers of attention, memory and problem solving. I need that. I’m getting older. At this point my BPI (Brain Performance Index) is 554, whatever that means. After I do enough workouts (or buy the upgrade) I’ll be able to compare my BPI with others’. This is an intentional brain training program that is designed to affect my brain power, and it’s pretty cool how this app can measure how I think.

How kids think is my business. I’m a former JI teacher, but now I run a home daycare and teach preschoolers, JK and SK. I’m planning to eventually get back into the formal classroom so I’m taking some education courses at Redeemer University College. One of the courses I’m taking is Digital Technology for Learning, and this is why I’m blogging about technology in education. My goal here is to reflect on what I’ve observed in the kids in my life, share a bit about where I might be going in education, and hopefully get some feedback so I can learn some more.

In my home daycare, I don’t use technology a whole lot. And I’m not convinced yet that I need to make more room for it. I’m passionate about helping the children develop a good solid foundation and a love for literacy and numeracy in their tender young years, so we spend lots of time playing with numbers and patterns, puzzling, singing rhymes, and reading great books. Perhaps about once a week, the preschoolers might choose to play on a website like Starfall as one of their morning centres. The activities on the site are a good complement to the letter and number practice that we do every week. But I don’t make the tech activities an integral part of my program.

Some of ‘my kids’ are reading before Kindergarten, but that’s not really my goal. So if the switch happens to click on in their little noggins, I don’t make a big deal out of it – as long as they’re having fun it’s all good, and a few tech games make it all the more fun. But I do make it my goal to teach kindergarten survival. Those make-or-break skills like learning how to put on their coats, hold a pencil, wash their hands (a lot), say please pass the ketchup, and put on their snowpants before their boots. No amount of technology will help a kid learn to do these basic skills. You just can’t get an app that teaches a kid how to climb up into his chair by himself.

Perhaps my biggest passion is to help children train their little brains to become creative. Or I guess I should say I facilitate this training. Kids do pretty well at being creative and resourceful; in fact, I’d say they rock at it. Just give them a big cardboard box and see what they can do. Oh the places they go and the worlds they create! That’s resourcefulness! And that’s a 21st Century skill that we’re aiming to teach, right? But if I can do it with a simple box, do we need technology to teach this timeless skill? Doesn’t creativity and resourcefulness happen when we can do a lot with just a little? But we need to facilitate this creativity, and if given a choice between a cardboard box or flashy iPad, I think kids will choose flashy. In this case, sadly, we’ve robbed them of a great opportunity to train their little brains to be resourceful. So at this point, I’m not convinced that technology plays a big role in educating young children. But I’ll speak more about creativity and technology in a future post, because I have a lot more to say (and learn) about it.

This is not to say that I don’t appreciate technology. I do! I love the convenience of my phone and my apps. And there’s one game I know that does a great job at developing creativity in older children (and adults). A recent tweet from Edutopia that resonates with me is a link to a You Tube video promoting Minecraft in the classroom. As a parent of a 9 year old, I stand in awe of her resourcefulness and ability to create worlds on her own with very little instructions. I’m also impressed with the social interaction and collaborative problem solving that goes on as she plays and creates with friends. This video features a teacher who embraces Minecraft as an effective learning activity. And as I look ahead to teaching older students again, I look forward to learning more about game-based learning.

Another recent post that resonated with me about technology was written by Peter DeWitt who writes the Finding Common Ground blog for Education Week. In his post “Is Your School Leadership Style…Outdated?” DeWitt discusses the issue that educators’ dislike of technology is preventing our students from having a richer experience at school. He cites Eric Sheninger, a progressive high school principal in NJ (who I’ve also begun to follow) and lists a few of the changing trends in education that teachers need to embrace including Smartboards, tablets, document cameras, Chromebooks, web 2.0 applications, cloud computing, and gaming. And these are 7 reasons why I’m psyched to take my digital tech course because I get to play with a lot of these tools!

One final blog post to note regarding professional development: “Isolation is now a choice educators make,” by George Couros. It’s about the importance of blogging and sharing our learning journeys as educators. I can say that as a student who has written only two posts, I have already learned more about myself as an educator than any past university paper has ever taught me! In fact in the past week since I began my Digital Tech and Education course, I’ve devoured the rich online resources that are available to me through twitter and educational blogs. I’m so excited about learning from others who share their reflections! I’m not alone. I’m part of a learning community. I can train my brain with an app like Lumosity, but when it comes to learning about education, you just can’t get an app that can teach us how to teach. My learning needs to be communal, and social media resources like twitter and blogging has brought that community to me. I just hope that I don’t become overwhelmed by it all or that the novelty will wear off, because now I can’t imagine being an educator without technology!


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