Using technology in the classroom with our littlest learners can be a daunting task for teachers. Thinking of teaching our little ones basic skills like letters and numbers is hard enough, so to incorporate technology skills can be a scary thought! It doesn’t have to be though.
These little learners are digital natives and are now growing up with a variety of devices and a basic knowledge of how to use them. Sometimes they even teach us a few things. Many young students go home and go straight to their smart devices. They seem to instinctively know how to use these and are easily engaged. Why should we take away that engagement when they come to school? Studies, such as Project CHILD (Computers Helping Instruction and Learning Development), proves that our youngest students are more engaged when technology is incorporated into lessons. The growth of technology is inevitable, so as educators we have the opportunity to enhance our students' learning experience by embracing technology and taking the time to teach them safe technology skills.
Canvas in Preschool
This is where Canvas comes in. Canvas with our Preschoolers?! Absolutely! Just like from K-12 to HigherEd, Canvas looks different across all institutions and grade levels; this is the same when it comes to Pre-K. While some of the more advanced features may be a better fit for older students, it can be an excellent tool in Pre-K for communicating with parents and housing resources that are used every day in the classroom.
In Pre-K, students are learning the basics: the alphabet, numbers, letter sounds, etc. A lot of these skills can be practiced through games and activities that can be embedded, linked, or added through an external tool within Canvas. These external resources are engaging for students! For example:
- Websites like Starfall can be added right into the course’s navigation using the simple Redirect Tool.
- External tools like FunBrain and Nearpod can be easily added to course content for young learners.
- Activities can be created by educators on external programs, just like in SMART Learning Suite can be linked in Canvas.
Here is a resource with some ideas on Best Practices in Canvas with Pre-K students.
I was able to work with a Pre-K teacher recently who created amazing learning games for her students in the SMART Learning Suite. Her challenge after she created these games was getting the links to her students without having to have them type in a long and complex URL. I was able to show her how to add all of the games she created as external tool links in her new “Games ” module. She also LOVED the fact she could add emojis (check out Emojipedia) to titles! Emojis are great for those little ones who are still learning how to read.
After showing her the steps to add the links into her course, she told me it was a game-changer! The students and parents are easily able to access these activities.
Why use Canvas in Preschool
But why Canvas? If they are able to get to these engaging academic games on the internet - why even bother with Canvas? Great questions and they are questions I get a lot when I am giving workshops with these lower grade-levels. These are the reasons I typically give to teachers:
- It is a one-stop-shop: Students don’t need to be wandering around the vast internet searching for the resources we want them to access.
- It is a safe place for students: To go along with the first reason, students can access all resources from the teacher without accidentally getting to an inappropriate site or search.
- Teaching 21st century skills: These students are digital-natives; Canvas can help teach them the skills they need to be able to be successful academically in the 21st century.
- Parents have resources for their students at home: As a former teacher, it was so easy to keep all these awesome resources in one place so the parents can have their little ones play these fun learning games and activities at home without having to search and research all of the games and apps out there. As well as a great place to communicate with parents and guardians.
- It is a place that teachers can build and keep building for years to come: Teachers will not have to reinvent the wheel each year they have a new group of little ones. They can continue to build on the courses they have made in previous years.
I would love to hear from anyone out there who has experience with Canvas and Pre-K or any of the primary grade levels. What are your favorite ways to use Canvas with your students? What are your favorite apps to add in Canvas? Can’t wait to hear from you!
Attached you will find a resource that will help you with additional ideas and best practices to using Canvas with our littlest learners.
Sarah M. Butzin (2001) Using Instructional Technology in Transformed Learning Environments, Journal of Research on Computing in Education, 33:4, 367-373, DOI: 10.1080/08886504.2001.10782321