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First Graders in the Davis Computer Lab

K-2 students come to the Computer Lab weekly for a 45-minute lesson with the school’s technology coach, Mrs. Imken. Mrs. Imken also consults with classroom teachers for grades 3-5, which have Chromebooks for each child in the classroom. For Pre-K, Mrs. Imken teaches a combined Library and Computer lesson once every two weeks with Ms. Meyer, the school’s Librarian.

The Computer Lab has 30 new iMacs that were provided by the 2017 Bond Package. Three large bulletin boards in the lab display recent student projects. Mrs. Imken is dedicated to helping all students gain confidence and be successful in their use of technology. Because technology changes so fast, her goal is for the students to acquire skills that will be useful in mastering whatever technology challenges they will face in the future.

Davis’ approach to teaching technology is to integrate it into the core curriculum (math, science, language arts, and social studies) rather than to teach it in isolation. This means that the activities in the Computer Lab usually relate to a current unit of study in the classroom. Planning these activities is a joint responsibility for Mrs. Imken and the classroom teachers; the teacher presents the lesson and models the activity in the Computer Lab while Mrs. Imken provides coaching. Although the activities vary somewhat from year to year, Davis is guided by the Technology Applications section of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS). The six strands of the Technology Applications TEKS emphasize that students should be creators of digital products rather than just consumers of digital content, and Mrs. Imken is in complete agreement with this philosophy. Some of the activities from years past are listed below as examples of what work may be done in each grade.

In Kindergarten, we initially focus on basic mouse and keyboard skills. A great program for developing mouse control is KidPix, which the students use to draw and paint pictures about topics being studied in the classroom; examples of their creations are: apple orchards, spider webs, pumpkins, snowmen, plants, fish, ponds, cards for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, & Thanksgiving, and their own self-portrait. We use KidSpiration, a graphic organizer program, to make a pictograph of their favorite farm animal, a Venn diagram comparing fish and whales, as well as “fact webs” to organize their knowledge about seasons, Texas symbols, the ladybug life cycle, and animal classification. Basic web browsing skills and user interface skills are introduced and practiced throughout the year.

First graders build on the basic technology skills learned in Kindergarten to produce digital products with much greater text content. They start with typing lists of simple sentences and move on to creating non-fiction paragraphs, short narratives, and poems. Although they still primarily use KidPix for their writing projects, they learn the basic formatting concepts that they will use later in word processing. They continue to use KidSpiration to produce Venn diagrams and other graphic representations of facts, and also learn the basics of other programs such as ComicLife, Excel and PowerPoint. Their products include a survey table and graph in Excel, a PowerPoint slideshow about landforms, ComicLife pages about extreme weather and Presidents Washington and Lincoln, mini-books about Texas symbols, plant parts, and rocky seashore animals, and a Mother’s Day book.

Additionally, first graders use the ProScope digital microscopes to examine and take pictures of scientific materials, such as rocks, soil, earthworms, and plants. They learn to import these pictures into an application and add their own text as picture captions. During their “One World” unit, they learn to use Google Earth to “visit” their country and its capital. Their final project of the year is a letter to the next year’s first graders which is presented as a slideshow at the beginning of the following year.

By the end of second grade, students should have mastered all of the skills in the K-2 Technology Applications TEKS and be prepared for the technology challenges of the upper grades. The second graders learn to log on to the AISD Portal to access online resources such as Studies Weekly, Discovery Education, myOn, and DreamBox. They are also introduced to touch typing using software such as the TypingTraining website. The students make the transition to using Word for their word processing activities and learn how to use spell check, insert and format pictures, type lists, add page borders, use text attributes, and adjust alignment to type paragraphs, poems, and letters. Research lessons in the Computer Lab build upon what the students learn in the Library and classroom: doing searches for sources, selecting appropriate sources, techniques for note taking, and the importance of citing sources.

Second grade students learn to use the more advanced features of software that were introduced in first grade. They use Excel to produce both bar graphs and line graphs from temperature data, and incorporate animation into the slides of their PowerPoint presentations. Google Earth is used, both to allow the students to “visit” Africa during their international studies and to let the students travel from Davis to their home address. The second grade students use the ProScope digital microscopes during their study of Earth materials, and they enjoy looking at and photographing samples from Davis’s collection of sands from around the world.

Near the end of the spring semester, the second graders learn how to access their Google Drive and upload any of their digital projects that they wish to keep as part of their digital portfolio. Like the first graders, the second grade students end the year by typing a letter to the students who will be in second grade the following year.

For grades 3-5 Mrs. Imken’s role is more coaching than lesson planning, however she is always excited to be invited to their classrooms to help with an activity.

For Mrs. Imken, a highlight of the year is our participation in the Hour of Code sponsored by code.org during Computer Science Education Week. Because her educational and professional background is in computer programming, she is always eager to have an opportunity to share the fun of coding with the students. The classes that come to the Computer Lab will do a lesson involving coding in December; some will do it during the official Computer Science Education Week, and some will have the lesson later in December. Mrs. Imken encourages teachers in grades 3-5 to plan a coding activity in December. Some do programming activities year-round, so there may not be a special Hour of Code lesson.

Mrs. Imken strives to give students an opportunity to use technology as a creative medium and to incorporate individual expression into their products. She hopes that visits to the Computer Lab are an exciting and enjoyable part of the students’ instructional day.