Sunday, July 31, 2011

"We don't use Google"

I returned from the Google Teacher Academy (GTA) yesterday. Today, I went to the baptism of my cousin's daughter. My mother told my aunt (who is a first grade teacher) where I had been. I'm not sure how my mother explained it, because I'm not sure she understands most of what I do with technology, but my aunt responded, "Oh, I don't use Google." She then continued to say, "Well, maybe sometimes to do a search, but my kids are only first graders....they don't use computers."
As I'm reflecting on my experiences at GTA and trying to make sense of my next steps, this revelation from my aunt angered me a bit. I teach at a K-8 school and sometimes hear elementary teachers say, "We won't use this or my kids can't do that." But, I've seen it. My 5 year old niece regularly plugs away at my brothers old laptop. I don't pay attention to what she is doing, but she is certainly doing it with purpose. While directing my school's musical, a parent that was helping me would regularly bring her 3 year old to rehearsals. That 3 year old would take her iphone out of her mom's purse and knew enough to open a video app, choose, and play the video she wanted to watch.
How do these kids learn to do these things? Their parents give them access and the freedom to use and learn. Unfortunately, some parents do not. And thus, it is important for teachers to give kids that access.
A kindergarten teacher I talked to recently was getting an IWB the same brand as mine (Interwrite). She was asking me what tablet she should get to control her board remotely. Rather than use the tablet provided by Interwrite, I told her I use an iPad2 with VNC to control mine. No sense in getting an Interwrite tablet that only does one function when I can get an iPad and use it for multiple applications. Her response was, "Well, my kids couldn't use an iPad. They couldn't hold it and use it right." I told her I was sure there was a case that you could get that makes the iPad kid proof. And, low and behold, there is. She still went with the Interwrite pad.
We even had a 3rd grader this year get a Facebook page (with his parents' permission) and began messaging all the older kids.
That is the problem I foresee by assuming elementary kids can't or don't use computers: if they aren't taught appropriate and productive uses for them, they will find the inappropriate and unproductive uses.
Elementary teachers out there who aren't using computers with their kids, get on it. They are using computers, tablets, and devices. And push them. Don't just play typing games. Let them collaborate, let them produce original content. It is possible. And, it will make my job easier when they get to 7th grade and I don't have to spend so much time breaking bad habits.
People like Rich Colosi, who was at the GTA with me, and Diane Main, another GCT, have done a lot of amazing technology projects with elementary kids, among many others.
If you are concerned my aunt will recognize herself in this post, don't worry, if she "doesn't use Google", she will never find it. And, if she does, well then hopefully it will convince her to connect her students with technology.


  1. Well said/done/posted! As an elementary educator myself it has always driven me crazy when fellow teachers would tell me that kids couldn't do this or that because of their age. You make a great point with the example of the third grader on FaceBook, if we don't teach these kids they will learn on their own and we will probably have to re- teach them later on.

  2. Hey Troy! Look, you mentioned me! As for first graders, my son just finished first grade and let me tell you some things he can do.

    BEFORE he entered first grade, he already knew his way around Google Earth and could type in Word. My students, beginning in first grade, get their own network login usernames and passwords and start using Word, Excel, Powerpoint, Publisher, and Paint right away. They keep at it in first and second grade, and then they get their e-mail accounts (Gaggle) and Google Apps accounts in third grade.

    Near the end of my son's first grade year, he lucked out because both hubby and I upgraded our iPhone 3G phones to iPhone 4. My husband's old iPhone is now my son's iTouch. His current favorite pastime is to look up YouTube videos about the Japanese tsunami. I think he might also be teaching himself Japanese.

    So I refuse to accept when teachers of young students say, "My kids don't..." or "My kids can't..." -- what they're really saying is "I won't..."

  3. You make such a great point. I think we should come up for translations to these kinds of comments we hear as tech trainers....I dont use Google might mean, I dont know how to use Google. Time to end the fear of technology for teachers since their students have not known life without it!

  4. P.S. Oh my gosh, Sean, you have GOT to change that picture. It's hideous.

  5. Troy
    Well said! I just did an email pen pal assignment using Gmail with 1st graders and they LOVED it!

    Here is a presentation that I use to show people how we use "Edina Apps" (really Google Apps) in Elementary. Use what you would like


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  7. Troy,
    I've been there so many times with parents and administrators that want to "protect" the little ones from exploring their world that I can completely relate to your post. I'm afraid that too often it's the adults in a child's life that fear the implications of change.

    Sean, your avatar is spectacular.