Skokie preschool Googlers gain learning opportunities
Meyer School pre-schoolers use Google Apps. Seen here (from left) are District 73.5 Technology Director Earl Austria, student Paul Baba, Meyer Technology Coach Ruthie Rosenberg and students James Schmitz and Corina Venieris. | Buzz Orr~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 28, 2013 6:19AM
Ms. Carter’s pre-kindergarten class at Meyer School went around the world last week without ever leaving the classroom.
Gathered in three small groups, students already acquainted with Google Earth used a group tablet to zero in on venues from “where the Bears play” to their own homes, from China to the nearby Baha’i Temple, from Disneyworld to the home of their teacher.
If pre-school seems a bit young to be so proficient at using Google Apps, these small children are taking to their new technology with natural instinct and a sense of wonder. Educators believe this is a beginning and not an end, an opportunity to learn multiple disciplines and to offer unprecedented parent engagement – even when the parent is not in the classroom.
Perhaps the most important Google application Meyer pre-kindergartners are learning is Google Docs, which allows kids and parents to collaborate on projects and to see each other’s work in one document.
“The potential for parents to become involved in their children’s work is amazing,” said Meyer Principal Alison Gordon. “For everyone to be working on one document and to be collaborating even if they’re not together, the learning possibilities are so huge.”
Many children today learn on computers and tablets, soaking in new technology that couldn’t be more different than the way our parents learned.
Not many kids this young learn Google Apps, working with Google Docs and becoming familiar with cloud technology.
The head start these students received comes courtesy of the father of a Meyer pre-kindergartner who works at Google in the city. The students recently took a field trip there, an eye-opening adventure where they were introduced to the wonders of Google amid a kid-friendly, vibrant milieu.
If you weren’t aware that Google even had such a space in Chicago, there’s good reason. Google doesn’t advertise it all that much, Gordon said, and there was plenty of security there. But the day certainly was a learning treat for the 18 students and additional adults who visited.
Pre-school teacher Paula Carter has always believed in using technology to teach young children. She was joined in her classroom last week following the recent Google visit by Meyer School Technology Coach Ruthie Rosenberg and District 73.5 Technology Director Earl Austria.
Students faced their teacher to review the special day they had at Google. They remembered they made “Apple sandwiches” and used Google Earth and Google Docs.
“Where did you go?” Carter asked her class referring to Google Earth.
“Disneyworld!” yelled a delighted girl named Lucy.
Asked about Google Docs, the students – some even as young as 3 – seemed to get it.
“We typed stuff and it came up on that other screen,” said a boy.
This class may as well have been located from a Google Mars “app” for an older generation who learned in an earlier era. But it’s quite likely the wave of the future, educators believe.
“My son is two-and-a-half and he picks up my phone every morning, he unlocks it, he take photos,” Austria said. “No one ever showed him how to do it.”
Gordon said that students, by using Google Apps at such an early age, are learning technology, literacy, geography and other subjects
“Our biggest challenge is to look at our current kindergartners who will (graduate from school) in 2025 and figure out what will they need to know by then,” Gordon said.
The new term to describe what Google learning can offer, Austria said, is “flipping the classroom” – the use of technology so teachers spend more time interacting with students instead of lecturing.
Meyer educators will collaborate to decide where the Google project should go from here – what kind of “flipping the classroom” they can do next. Gordon believes the possibilities are limitless.
“Think of the power that Google has for learning here,” she said. “Google is now a noun, it’s a verb and it’s an adjective. That’s pretty powerful.” ~.