A kindergarten teacher shares her view of the real trendsetters in education.
GUEST COLUMN | by Stephanie Pullen
Are they superintendents of the largest, most innovative districts? How about the movers and shakers on social media? Or the policy makers in Washington, D.C.?
For me, it’s another group entirely: The five- and six-year-old students who grace my kindergarten classroom every morning.
I’m sure that may sound strange to some of you, so let me explain. When I think about trendsetters, I think of people who are inquisitive, eager to try new things and able to share their discoveries with others.
My students embody those qualities better than anybody else I know, especially when they’re introduced to new technology. I’ll tell you the story of how we implemented one technology in particular so you can see what I mean.
When I think about trendsetters, I think of people who are inquisitive, eager to try new things and able to share their discoveries with others.
Anyone who’s spent more than five minutes around a kindergartner knows this one should be fairly self-explanatory! They have an endless fountain of questions, and I love watching their minds work as they explore new technology in the classroom.
Last spring, we started using the Flexcat, a classroom audio system from Lightspeed Technologies. Basically, I wear a small microphone around my neck, and my voice carries through audio pods I place anywhere in the classroom. Since the system arrived so late in the school year, I was a little hesitant to see how my students would react to the change. So I set the pods out on the four small group tables in my classroom and waited.
As soon as my students entered the room, they were immediately captivated by the new technology, and I was hit with a barrage of questions.
What’s that thing around your neck? What does this blue light mean? What does this button do? Where is your voice coming from? Can you really hear us from all the way across the room?
I was so impressed with their ability to assess this new technology immediately and determine the most important questions about how it would affect them.
2) Eager to try new things
You may have already guessed this from all the questions my students asked, but they embraced the technology right away, even its more advanced features!
For instance, by using the system’s “Call” button on their audio pod, my students can signal to me that they need my attention, and I’ll hear it in my headset. I wasn’t sure if they would understand that they really didn’t have to raise their hands or yell across the room for me any more.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. They instantly deemed it “super cool” that they wouldn’t have to raise their hands, and one little boy even reported to his parents, “It sounds like Mrs. Pullen is on a stage! We can hear her everywhere!”
If there’s ever a morning where I forget to turn on the system, my students are quick to remind me. In fact, any technology that I’ve introduced in the classroom, no matter how advanced, they have really taken to and used correctly.
3) Able to share their discoveries with others
In addition to being a kindergarten teacher, I’m also a district instructional technologist, so I help anybody in the district who needs help setting up new technology or learning to use it. But I’m starting to think about hiring one of the elementary school students as my assistant – sometimes they’re even better at explaining new technology than I am!
After we began using the that system last year, other teachers were understandably curious to see how it worked. One of my colleagues stopped by my classroom after the school day ended to check out the system, and a student took it upon himself to show her how it worked! He even designed his own “experiment” to test how far the audio signal would reach, bringing one of the pods farther and farther down the hallway.
Of course, my colleague was very impressed with the technology, but I was even more impressed with the student’s desire to explore and explain it to her.
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Veteran teachers and administrators often resist new technology because they’ve always done things another way, or they’re afraid trying something new will be too messy.
It’s always a little funny to me because my kindergartners have no such hang-ups. They surprise me every day with how quick they are to adapt and learn new things.
So if you really want to meet the trendsetters in education, I invite you to stop by my classroom – you just might learn something.
Stephanie Pullen is a kindergarten teacher at Commerce Elementary School and a district instructional technologist for Commerce ISD in Commerce, Texas.