By Lisa Smith
I remember the days of busy signals, encyclopedia salesmen, and rushing to cash your check before the bank closed. So, I am just elated every day as the K-6th technology teacher! I possess a wonder and gratitude for all that we have, including our brand new MacBook Pros!
I start each class with a live feed of some sort: The International Space Station, Honey Bees in their hive, a Tokyo crosswalk. I mean to inspire fearless curiosity about our world, and to remind the students of the luxuries we enjoy as we watch gorillas in the wild without being bitten by jungle bugs and snakes [and to see the animals at peace, not on display behind a cage].
I take the students from Kindergarteners, who are beginning keyboarding [where is the W?], to 6th Graders, who are creating websites to share with prospective secondary schools. When students begin in third grade, they receive Google accounts. I start with the Google Drawings app, as it has the same toolbar as all of the other apps. This year, the students created their own emojis, all while learning how to change line weight, fill color, and arrange elements. Over the years, these students will learn Docs, Slides, Sheets, Charts, Forms and Sites all while integrating history, science, and current events.
There’s also a programming component that is implemented into the K-6 curriculum. Starting in Kindergarten, students learn how to code with blocks. Continuing in third grade, they use the Python coding language. They will have an understanding of sequencing, looping, and they will build problem solving and logic skills. We cover internet safety and digital citizenship. I also facilitate spelling, reading and math review across all grades.
Of course, the hidden learning is the development of coping skills. When things get frustrating, I encourage students to take a deep breath, start again, check work more often. Some students are natural coders, and some artists, while others are writers and researchers. Their neural pathways and synapses are growing–they’re teaching themselves how their brains learn best. They are building concentration. They are finding their strengths, powering through their weaknesses. They are having fun.
In the end, technology is best used in service to our ideas, questions, findings and solutions. These are best offered up impeccably and artistically. The students’ work will be taken seriously if presented professionally. Of course, I insist on correct grammar and spelling, but coming from art training, I insist on proper layout and design. This effort will be implemented with the fourth grade, who will be learning Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator this year.
I talk to my photography students about intention. In this era when everyone has a camera, I ask them to put careful thought and consideration behind their images. I teach them what I learned in college; the exposure triangle, controlling light, shutter speed, aperture, composition, perspective, and the rule-of-thirds [which is now more about the golden ratio and the Fibonacci code]. They get it. Their photos improve immediately. They edit in Adobe Lightroom. They look at the world more closely now.
The intention behind my own photographs is to help people feel good. For me, it’s all about elevating vibration. My intention is easily served: photographing children who are having fun, playing, learning, being helpful, wondering.
Consider this: a single photograph can change the world. Until December 24, 1968 – the “EarthRise” photograph from the crew of Apollo 8, we hadn’t known we were on a blue planet, we hadn’t known we were so tiny and fragile. This single image started Earth Day, the Ecology movement and the Whole Earth Catalog. We stopped throwing litter from our cars, and much more.
It is my privilege to guide these students in this wonderous age, but I cannot prepare them for careers. Although there are some parts of our outside world that constantly change, some of which are beyond things I can conceive, I can prepare the students to know themselves, how to adapt, and present themselves with the best of intentions, and in a creative and thorough way: artistically proud and academically strong!