I am easily overwhelmed by the amount of knowledge I learn in my Teach-NOW modules, but a reoccurring difficulty is seeing the application for preschoolers.
Preschoolers should play and get dirty, in my opinion. How on earth can they take charge of their own learning for research and discovery in the way it’s being described? They don’t know how to do research online at all! They can barely operate games on iPads. They need my constant supervision if they play games. There is absolutely no way on earth any sound parent would allow a 4 year old to take possession of a cell phone or iPad outside of parent vicinity. There is also no way a school would want to become liable for accidents that would inevitably happen because of 4 year old possession of a mobile device.
On top of that, one-to-one teaching for a mobile activity for preschoolers is ideal but by no means feasible in a classroom.
Alas, I limited myself as a teacher by not thinking creatively. A peer’s inspiring video of her mobile learning activity prompted me to think outside of the box for preschoolers. (You can watch her great activity here.)
Preschoolers absolutely need exposure to learning and discovery processes. That approach is what I decided to use in designing my mobile activity – Investigating Chinese Spiders.
My students <cough> my kids <cough, cough> are fascinated by spiders!
They have spent hours walking along a sidewalk, stopping to look at every single spider and web. Please understand that equates to hours of terror while I make sure they don’t get too close.
But, neither they nor I knew what these spiders were called, nor if they were venomous. (That ignorance perpetuated my needless fear since they are actually harmless spiders.)
So, in the better interests of my students’ learning, I bravely chose an activity that greatly tested me.
Although my students are limited in what they can do independently, it is of great value for them to even just see how I am using my mobile devices for more than talking, playing games or watching cartoons.
I personally reaped benefits by taking part in this activity. Through this activity, I learned about these spiders. Now I’m not going to be extremely paranoid every time we walk down this sidewalk near our home. (By the way, follow the link to the document, and then follow the link under evidence to see footage of the spider collecting!)
Now, I know you’re saying, “Yeah, but this isn’t applicable in a classroom of preschoolers.” Maybe you’re right, but I have some ideas of how mobile learning could be.
One activity could be that students and teacher go outside on school grounds to search for bugs or plants to take pictures. Students will be able to observe how the teacher uses the mobile device to collect data. Depending upon the maturity level of the students, the teacher might allow students to also take part in taking pictures. Teachers can then focus on teaching and researching about the plant or insect that captivated students most!
Another activity is one I am planning to use for my next unit. Parent involvement is high at my school, so I think this activity will turn out well.
I’m not afraid of using mobile learning in my teaching anymore, although I do need to accommodate for the needs of early learners. I cannot forget that exposure at this age is just as important as application in their later educational careers.
In fact, if I don’t expose my students to mobile learning, they won’t be as prepared for the future educational experience they will encounter as older children!
When you are planning your own mobile learning activity, here are some best practices:
1. Do not require that preschool students bring their own mobile device to school. In teaching preschoolers, it isn’t actually developmentally appropriate to ask them to take responsibility for mobile devices.
2. Exposure to mobile learning is important at this stage. Focus on that.
3. Involve parents in mobile learning at home so students can experience hands on activities with mobile learning. This should take achieving the learning objective to the next level.
4. Focus on what interests students the very most, regardless of your own personal interest level.
5. Learn along with your students. I did!
6. If possible, record the activity. Watch the activity with your students and talk about what happened. This is a special way to utilize mobile learning that can also be shared with parents.
7. Don’t stress over failure. You can change the lesson and adapt. I forgot to measure the spiders and I should have taken a checklist, but I was able to take the learning to the next level by looking up YouTube videos of spiders after the activity. The students enjoyed that and recognized the spiders.
Do you see an application of mobile learning you could use in your preschool or kindergarten classroom?