Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Sandbox Time

As I have introduced kids to different applications, websites, manipulatives, books, crayons, rulers, etc the same basic rule applied, you must give them time to play and explore before expecting a child to use it in the way that you have it designed for the lesson. I never dumped out a box of counting cubes during my math lessons expecting my students to have hands off and sit quietly until I had begun to be achieved. Wanting that from the students only leads the teacher down a path of agitated classroom management. Kids are kids and must touch, see, play, and explore before mustering up their self control that we need to have in order for all to hear our words of wisdom and knowledge. If teachers don't know this and appreciate this of children, well, they are in the wrong profession.

The reason I bring this play and explore time up is because it applies to using technology in the classroom. Many web based application developers know this too and have created what is called a sandbox area to let us play, explore, and practice before using the tool in its proper fashion. I have supported many teachers in implementing technology over the past seven years and what I see that frustrates many of them is that the kids play. My advice to any and all teachers is to give students virtual sandbox play time. Allow them to blog silliness, jokes, funny stories about themselves to learn how to write and publish a post. Allow eachother to giggle and leave simple comments to learn how to respond and reflect online. Take them to places like Edmodo, teaching them how to backchannel but create a room (or in this case a group) where they can be goofy. Kids are goofy. That is what makes them kids. If you insist that the only conversations on the teacher directed blog, wiki, or collaborative online work area to be serious 24/7, grammatically correct without any off the topic comments then it won't work for you and your classroom. You will kill the interest that our students need to have towards using technogy and stiffle any secure confident feelings that they have about themselves and their virtual identity.

How quickly time flies for childhood to end, to where they don't get to cut up in silly ways, so give them to time to do it safely, securely, and positively. In doing so, children will develop a confidence and trust in themselves that it is okay to play online while exploring new tools and applications. Teaching them where, when, and how to explore correctly will also give Proxy-Connection: keep-alive
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em the outlet that they need for playing and put an end to any mischeivious actions that may occur if they can only play and test things out in the non sandbox area. You will be cultivating the virtual confidence that students need now to develop before becoming an adult - when then really have to use these tools in a work related fashion!

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