Sharon Davison (@kkidsinvt) is a kindergarten teacher in Vermont with a ton of experience. She’s been teaching for 28 years (kindergarten for five of those years) and has seen a lot technological change. Sharon proudly integrates tech in her classroom – including Kidblog! We consider her a cutting-edge leader among fellow 21st-century teachers. It was an honor to interview her this week, and we’re excited to share her insightful responses here with you now. Read on for some awesome classroom inspiration!
Kidblog: Hi Sharon! Thank you for your time today. Let’s start simple. Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Sharon Davison: I use a variety of technologies that help to engage, enhance, and inspire children to want to pursue their ideas. I have found that once you are inspired to learn, you learn how to learn through your ideas about what you understand. Blogging, wikis, voicethreads, podcasting, Twitter, ePals and Skype are just a few of the technologies that I use to promote the love of learning in kindergarten.
I value collaboration and innovation. The world is changing so fast and the tools that are available to support, enhance and engage from a teaching view are endless. I look forward to making connections with others who are also interested in making a difference in how children learn.
I believe in innovation and collaboration. I feel that as a teacher of young children, I have a unique opportunity to help promote the idea of becoming a safe and responsible digital citizen in the world. I have created many blogs and wikis for this very purpose.
Kidblog: That’s really inspirational! Promoting the love of learning through various technologies is excellent and something that is exponentially increasing in classrooms these days. Could you tell us a little bit more about your students?
SD: I have 18 energetic and enthusiastic 5 and 6-year-old children who care about each other and the world. My kindergarten students share, collaborate, and interact with what they experience and understand. We use Twitter and ePals to make connections with others who make connections with what we discover and experience during our busy days together.
Kidblog: That is very neat! How did you hear about Kidblog, and how long have you been using it in your classrooms?
SD: I heard about Kidblog from our Technology Integration Specialist, Bonnie Birdsall. She shared this with our school. I started using it with my kindergarten students in my 2nd year of teaching kindergarten. I am beginning my 3rd year of using Kidblog. I have only used Kidblog with kindergarten.
Kidblog: Awesome, way to go, Bonnie! Would you share with us a few examples of lessons or topics you have the students’ blog about?
1. Developing Relationships/Making Connections. I have used Kidblog prior to kindergarten even starting! I set up an account each year and email directions on “How To” blog with a rationale about why, etc. My new students and their families begin in the summer before they begin kindergarten! They post photographs of things they are doing. Then others who are new also to kindergarten begin to post comments on their posts and introduce themselves! A lot of blogging has happened BEFORE we even begin kindergarten and BEFORE we meet face to face! One year one of my kindergarten students wrote, “Only 2 more sleeps until kindergarten.” This is so great! It reflects a beginning of an understanding about how blogging is used to communicate and meet new friends in a safe way.
2. Science Exploration With A Focus On Inquiry. Science is also one of those wonderful opportunities for young children where everything that we, kindergarten teachers, need to teach, we need to do through inquiry. The inquiry becomes important as it allows for young children to explore and discover in a way where they can ask questions and begin to “talk out” what they observe. The scientific ideas I blog about with my students can be incorporated in any grade levels and have really made a difference for me teaching science.
I explored a unit on living things last spring. My students grew grass, sprouted seeds, planted flowers, and discovered the important things that all living things needed to grow. My students created a scientific drawing of their seed on an iPad and also on paper. My students understood “how to” label and why it is important when sharing. Then my students wrote a couple of their observations about their drawing. The next week we took photographs of their grass and my students blogged about what happened to their grass as well as what it needed to grow. We took photos of their scientific drawings and their plants, which I downloaded to their posts. The children then had to post a comment on another student’s blog post. They choose to post about their drawing or their plant.
Now another opportunity presents itself! I am now able to show my students “how to” post a comment. This was exciting for my students because now they were beginning to understand that others would be writing/posting comments that told them kind things about their posts and their learning. In the spirit of collaboration and sharing… Blogging about science is great as it allows and encourages others a place to communicate and interact. After creating a science blog, it evolved into something more, a place where I post all science-related content that I am covering in kindergarten. I have had many children sick, traveling etc., and the blog has been great to keep parents and their child involved with experiences they may have missed. Kidblog is and can be used in a way to represent, enhance, and highlight all learning, a nice way to have a digital scrapbook that shows growth and understanding over time.
3. Writing/Reading Connections. My students have endless opportunities to practice using their newly learned literacy skills through blogging. My students have made connections like: “Mrs. D., blogging is like what we do when we read and write, we re-read to see if what we wrote makes sense.” This is another opportunity as a teacher to enhance this dialogue and help my students make the connection. This is possible because they are blogging/writing about what they understand and discover. My students came up with the following blogging tips:
- Make sure you have a title.
- Write at least 2-3 thoughts about your idea.
- Take a picture of what you want to share and ask Mrs. D. to help you put your picture on your blog.
- Leave spaces between your words. (Use the spacebar to help you.)
Kidblog: These are so excellent! Now, in what ways have you seen Kidblog change the way your students interact?
SD: My students are very excited and interested in learning. They love and look forward to sharing what they discover with others. By using Kidblog, my students are experiencing firsthand what it means to be a safe, kind, and responsible digital citizen. Kidblog is a platform I use for my students to reflect, interact, and collaborate with others about what they are learning. Kidblog is a wonderful way to introduce parents and children about the digital world in a safe and responsible way. The focus is ALWAYS on learning. I talk with my students about how blogging helps them with their learning. Here are some of the things they have to say; “It helps me spell, I am a better writer, I use my inventive spelling, I share, I see what I know, it helps me understand how you help me learn how to learn (my favorite from a student of mine last year), I am proud of my blog.”
Kidblog: Making sure students understand how to be responsible digital citizens is so important these days. It is great to see how students feel about Kidblog as well. We love that they truly care and are proud of their blogs. How has Kidblog been received by parents or administrators?
SD: Wow! My students, administrators, families, and my students’ extended families have received Kidblog VERY well. The comments I hear most are how Kidblog has helped them be connected and in touch with what their child is learning and doing in kindergarten. Also, parents and other professionals have really been surprised and impressed with how independent my students are and articulate about what they blog about.
Kidblog: Great to hear. It is wonderful that parents and extended family members can see what the students are writing about. Has Kidblog changed the way you approach the writing process?
SD: Kidblog hasn’t changed how I approach the writing process, but rather it has helped me to showcase and enhance the writing that my students are doing. Through blogging, my students experience the same things they experience when writing on paper. They use inventive print, leave spaces in between their words, use periods to end their thoughts, and of course they check their sentences for meaning. This is HUGE. Young children are beginning to re- read and reflect about what they understand and THEN they are able to make changes/edit.
Kidblog: Very neat! How has Kidblog impacted students’ motivation and engagement?
SD: Through blogging my students have lots of opportunities to share what they are doing inside and outside of kindergarten. This is important because it is through our discoveries and explorations that we are able to share, connect and collaborate with others. Through these connections my students are motivated to blog and share what they are blogging about. Just by sharing their blog independently on our SMARTboard my students make connections about what they see and hear. They all want to share their blog posts! It is very empowering to read your ideas and share your work when you have a safe and kind environment to do so. The children support each other and their ideas. Kidblog has been wonderful for supporting and creating a positive classroom culture. I have never had a student not want to share their blog. How great is this? It helps build self-esteem too!
Kidblog: Students willing to share their writing and thoughtfully comment on peer’s posts at their age is really impressive. Do you have advice for other teachers as their students start creating digital content online?
SD: Each child’s kidblog represents what they feel is important and what they wish to share with others. I have found my students to be very excited about what they want to post and their reasons for why they choose what they did. When children have choices about what they want to share, they’re able to be very explicit about what they understand and experience. Through these choices I am able to help my students elaborate and ask questions that may either further their understanding or inspire them in another direction. Kidblog has opened many learning opportunities for my students, their families, others and me. What a wonderful way to share what a child discovers and understands. Try Kidblog! The results have only been positive for me and the students that I expose this to. Blogging is a great platform for children of all ages and grades to begin to understand the “how to’s” of becoming a safe, kind and responsible digital citizen. Keep it simple… Start with one content area….. Blog about a book you are reading, a science topic, personal experiences, etc. Being transparent about what you understand is refreshing and inspiring! Have fun!
Kidblog: Thanks so much, Sharon, for interviewing with us today! Kidblog appreciates your time, and your passion. It was a true pleasure.