Immediately upon reading Grant Wiggins’ article “Great Teaching Means Letting Go,” my thoughts went to my own students, who are 1st graders. 1st graders require lots of help, from tying their shoes, to managing their emotions, to opening their snacks, and that’s not even mentioning academics.
Looking through the lens of instructional technology, my thoughts went to this past school year and all the time they spent on computers. I have had in-person students since last September and a full in-person of 23 class since January. One thing that didn’t change when they came back to school, however, was their reliance on their school-issued Chromebooks. Unable to share materials and gather in centers as they usually do, students worked independently at their desk on Chromebooks often.
Anyone who has worked with little ones on computers before knows that the biggest consumption of time goes to simply logging them in to the computers and getting them to the correct website. At the beginning of the school year this process was made efficient by putting login info on post-its on their computers and creating bookmarks for every website we use at the tops of their browsers. Then, over winter break, the computers were updated and 14 new students were added to my class. The bookmarks were lost, and so were they.
The first day I told them to go to Mathseeds, every hand went up. The little acorn on their bookmark bar was gone and they didn’t know what to do. I wrote the word “mathseeds” on the board and told them to type it. They didn’t know where. Once I showed them where the taskbar was, they found themselves on Google search results for the term “Mathseeds” and didn’t know where to go from there, even though mathseeds.com was the first result that popped up. I realized that by making the bookmarks in the first place, I was only helping them to move faster… 5 months later, they still has no idea how their computer worked, though they’d spent every day on them. By helping, I was holding them back.
I had to back up then, breaking down their browser and its parts. Showing them where you search for something. Teaching them that if you put www. in front and .com at the end, you go to a website, not Google. Teaching them that in a web address, a space doesn’t go after the period, or anywhere else for that matter. Showing them that on search results, the blue words are links; you can click them and they take you to websites.
Moving forward, I realize that these are now tools that need to be in their pockets from the get-go. No different from learning how to enter the classroom and put their folders in their cubbies and their bookbags on the hook, students need to be explicitly taught how to use the technology they have available to them. Only then can they learn to be self-sufficient with that technology.
3 thoughts on “Letting Go”
Your post helps me to realize that first and fifth grades are very similar in the learned helplessness category. I think Grant Wiggins was on to something! I need to do a better job at fostering true independence in the classroom, and am doing my students a disservice if I don’t.
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Logging in the computer, even with the older students, seems to be time consuming. They “forget” and its as if these tech savvy beings who easily get to a restricted site are lost when it comes to using their Chromebook for school. I love how you likened learning to navigate the internet to learning other class routines at the beginning of the school year. That way it becomes second nature. We can’t assume that growing up with technology means they know how to truly access it.
I absolutely can relate to your thoughts. I spent the past school year working as a sort of teacher’s helper/nanny for a virtual learning group of third graders and many of them had absolutely no idea what to do when it came to computers. I ran into the same problem you did- I had them all create bookmarks of their sites that they needed, and over winter break, some of them had updated computers and the bookmarks were gone. Thankfully, I was able to use extra time that they had during the school days to go over how to navigate their school sites and use word documents properly, but it probably would have been easier for both me and them to have shown them these skills when the school year started.