Over the past few weeks I have been interviewing teachers about the ways they integrate the Internet into their instruction. Luckily two Kindergarten teachers agreed to share their experiences with me. I was a bit skeptical at first – how can students who aren’t reading independently be conducting research online? These two teachers, Jessica and Amanda, wowed me! With guided support, their students are accessing preselected websites, finding information in text, images, and media, and using the information to create projects, such as posters, iMovies, and podcasts.
As a former Kindergarten teacher, I understand what it takes to get 25 young children to understand and be engaged, but these two amazing teachers reminded me of the key role modeling plays in the Kinder classroom. Modeling online reading on the digital white board and mobile devices in a 2:1 ratio gives students a chance to see, hear, and experience inquiry, while receiving the support of the teacher and peers. Lots of thinking aloud can bring young learners along on the Web reading journey.
These teachers are very aware of ways of efficiently having students access preselected websites. Identifying the sites for students seems appropriate, as many of these young ones would struggle with the complexities of choosing a browser and understanding search results. Preselection lets the teacher choose websites that are intended for children and display numerous quality images and media, rather than large chunks of challenging text. A list of websites might be shared with students through Google Classrooms, the teacher’s school website, or a learning management system like Canvas or Blackboard. Ease if access is key to keeping the activity moving forward. And for both teachers, digital citizenship skills are taught to students from the beginning of the school year, in the classroom and in the library.
Internet inquiry projects at Kindergarten are simple, but they are the beginning of learning the lifelong skill of seeking reliable information to answers questions. In one classroom the students are studying the state symbols, each one researching a different symbol, writing a statement about the symbol, finding an image and creating a slide to share their information in a digital form, but also as a printed, spiral-bound book. These teachers are even addressing the topics of copyright and plagiarism with young learners – it’s never too early!
I truly believe children rise to our expectations, and I am so grateful to Amanda and Jessica for helping to create, for me, a vision of what this looks like for Internet inquiry.