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I love the power of Twitter! I put up a post on October about 10 EdTech Apps That Could Change How You Teach in the Classroom and recently had a follower on Twitter ask if there was a similar list for Kindergarten/Foundation classes – so here it is: Using Digital Tools in Kindergarten / Foundation Classes!

I should definitely own up to not teaching foundation stage (or anywhere close!). So many all of these recommendations come from straightforward web research (there are 1 or 2 exceptions), very few are from experience, but some are interesting me enough to introduce to some of the little people in my family circle!

 

Tablets Are Best

This isn’t the post to discuss the virtues of operating systems, but the technical elements do come into it. We want to teach our classes good habits and behaviours – starting this at the early stages of school is important, and in the same way we teach healthy eating and exercise as good behaviours, the same must be true for ICT, at all levels of school. I’m also aware of putting another item on the workload of teachers at the junior end of school – there are so many lessons and behaviours to establish already!

Tablets can be controlled to quite a high level. Parent/Child settings can really limt what pupils can access and so this element will certainly help ease any parental concerns. Many parents don’t let their children have technology (and for valid reasons) and so this also needs to be negotiated. Limiting internet access and access to free apps that may contain advertisement content that you have no control over is part of the setup that is needed to ensure safe usage.

The larger screen for tablets will be another positive for tech skill development. For children who have yet to develop motor skills equivalent for their age, this can also be a teachable moment in their development – get them to unlock the tablet and navigate to the appropriate app. They’ll enjoy the responsibility while developing their motor skills and working memory skills.

Limit Use

This one goes without saying in many respects as there is so much in the kindergarten/foundation curriculum! But it is also important for the development of the child. The Mayo Clinic quote the American Association of Pediatrics recommendation that “for children ages 2 to 5, limit screen time to one hour a day.” So we need balance – like with so many things in life. It’s good to use technology, but as I have said in numreous posts, the important thing is to think critically about why we are using technology. What are we intending for the pupil to learn, and how is the technology enhancing their learning?

The Benefits of Using Teachnology in the Kindergarten/Foundation Classroom

When it comes to learning letters & numbers and developing letter sound recognition, tablets can be the ideal tools to have on hand. They have both visual and auditory features that can assist children in making important connections. But make sure to use an app that shows how the mouth is formed to make the sound – for pupils that need this extra assistance in their development, this can be crucial to thieir learning. Best of all, there are a number of games that make the learning process more exciting. Individual learner profiles can be set up so that pupils can track their own development – particularly where scoring is involved!

Another benefit of using these tools is how they make it possible for schools with limited finances to be able to increase their library catalogues. Pupils can access a range of books at all learning levels. Furthermore, for some of these stories that are interactive, can help to increase student engagement and enjoyment.

Once kindergartners/foundation pupils start taking trips to the school library, tablets can be used to learn how to search the existing catalogues and identify research materials or future reading content. In this way, they can be useful in both in the classroom and in the library setting. This will help kids to become more effective in their search for subject-specific materials.

The ultimate goal of using these tools however is to increase a child’s technical literacy. It is really important to remember that these could be resources that many impoverished children do not have access to at home. In an increasingly technological world, having basic technological literacy at an early age has become essential but also that digital inequality is limited and reduced as much as possible in the classroom.

Ten Top Digital Tools to Use in the Classroom with Your Kindergarten / Foundation Pupils

1. Buncee

Buncee understands how much more kids learn if they’re engaged, so their platform makes it easy to engage students from anywhere. Teachers have the flexibility to create activities that their class will enjoy with over 1000 templates, and students earn badges as they complete their work. Buncee also makes it easy for students to collaborate with sharing and discussion functionality.

digital tools for kindergarten-buncee
digital tools in kindergarten-peardeck

2. Pear Deck

Pear Deck allows teachers to make lessons interactive so every student can actively participate, whether instruction is synchronous or asynchronous. It utilizes formative assessment, active learning, retrieval practice, and more to close the achievement gap, even for students who are learning from afar.  Bonus: PearDeck has the stamp of approval from many Ozobot Certified Educators.

3. SeeSaw

Rather than limit students to one method for demonstrating their knowledge, SeeSaw allows students to show what they know with tools like draw+record, collage, video, and more. Educators report that SeeSaw is intuitive for students to use, so minimal support is required to use this tool!

digital tools for kinidergarten-seesaw
digital tools for kindergarten-tinytap

4. TinyTap

TinyTap is home to more than 100,000 learning activities for students and teachers to use. You can search for games for your kids to play to better help them understand concepts, or ask them to create games of their own. TinyTap Market encourages students to learn by teaching, and provides the tools to help people develop their own games. Creators can even sell their games to gain recognition for their work.

5. Project Noah

Launched in 2010, Project Noah was created to encourage citizen scientists to document the world around them. People can photograph organisms and share them online, helping scientists document the location and rarity of various species. Teachers can make this part of the classroom experience by turning students into citizen scientists sharing their discoveries.

digital tools for kindergarten-project noah
digital tools for kindergarten-starfall

6. Starfall

Starfall is an online service that was initially designed to teach children to read. Its phonics-based learning model supports online games and print series, which can be downloaded for use at home and in the classroom. Now, it also features animated songs, movies, and mathematics activities for Pre-K, Kindergarten, and Grades 1 to 3.

7. Shidonni

Shidonni is a site where students can draw their favorite animal with a world to live in it and see the animal spring to life. Kids take care of their animals by feeding, petting or sending them to sleep. The animal eats the food that kids have drawn for it. They can choose if they want their pet to walk or fly, and they can name it. Kids can draw a background and change it whenever they want. They can play games with their virtual animals or send them to their friends to play with their animals. You can watch this introduction video. This site is great for kindergarten students but I’m sure primary kids will love and enjoy this site too!! This can be a great tool for digital storytelling or describing animals or daily routines.

digital tools for kindergarten-spellquiz
digital tools for kindergarten-national geographic

8. National Geographic Kids

This website is filled with different games, quizzes, and personality tests. Their aim is to educate children about various topics, from language and geography to Greek mythology and history. And the best part is, it’s totally free. The brand background makes it a safe resource for use with children and with the correct restrictions in place, this site could be used as a free time site for children to use unsupervised.

9. Tinybop

TinyBop is an award-winning educational series offers many apps that teach kids about science. It lets kids, ages 4+, explore the different and awesome aspects of the world. There are currently 12 apps in this series, including apps about the human body, plants, simple machines, homes, and many others. Designed for kids using research and collaboration with experts, TinyBop is putting the child at the heart of their operations.

There are also 7 “Digital Toys” apps that develop kids’ creative thinking and problem-solving skills. Educators and parents can purchase each app on its own for $2.99, or buy the whole bundle for a discounted price. This is one I wish I had known about when my own children were younger!

digital tools for kindergarten-tinybop
digital tools for kindergarten-flipgrid

10. Flipgrid

Social learning is becoming one of the best ways to educate our younger generations, and this is exactly what Flipgrid is all about. It provides a free video discussion app that enables students of all ages and backgrounds to engage in meaningful conversations and connect with others.

Teachers can simply start a discussion by creating a group and a topic, then sharing it with their students. The students can then participate by recording their responses, editing the video with a lot of fun editing tools, then submitting it. Parental supervision will be needed here, but young children will love the social aspect of recording themselves and then listening to the contributions of their classmates!

And There We Have it!

As I’ve probably said quite a few times in other posts, I teach in the post-primary sector in a Grammar school in Northern Ireland (I beleive this is equivalent to Middle & High School in America?), but I wish we still kept some of the fun I see in these apps with our older students! I would love use Project Noah and be able to take a class of students out on a walk around our town and document what we see! (I still might do this with my children though!). TinBop is another app that I really like the look of and think it would be really useful because of what it offers and the skills it develops in children.

As always though, the most important point is that these tools are used with your Kindergarten / Foundation class in a way that is meaningful and makes effective use of the technology to enahnce learning, not just a throw-in or time-filler for your class.

Are there any I’ve missed though? Let me know in the comments below!

 

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