Technology is something that exists all around us and has infiltrated our lives in many ways, especially in the realm of education. The challenge for many educators today, is how to use technology in a way that enhances learning in their classrooms. Luckily for me, my first grade students are too young to have cell phones, smart watches, or tablets that can distract them during the school-day. They do not have Facebook pages, Instagram accounts, or Snapchat. Many of them use their parents’ devices to access social media platforms and play games. However, since these devices are not their own they do not come to school or take time away from our learning environment.
The fact that my students do not have their own devices in school made me want to use technology in my classroom even more. I saw it as an opportunity to explore technology positively with my students. Going into a seminar on Digital Lives I really wanted to be particular about what I wanted to focus my research on. These days there are online resources for almost every single school subject with many curricular resources for each. This was very exciting and made me think about the seemingly endless possibilities for my classroom. I knew that I needed to narrow down my ideas and pick something I could really dive into and explore that would be in the best interest of my students.
Something that came up a lot during our seminar discussions and readings is that an increase of using digital technology is associated with a decrease in creativity. There is much discussion that creativity is bred out of boredom and that people do not find themselves as bored as they used to be. This is partially due to the fact that people are spending more time online. There is always something to see, or do, or someone to talk to so that people are no longer really alone with their thoughts. There is also the case that when people find that they are bored they fill their time with looking at screens instead of engaging their minds in creative ways. I have seen that my own students are not as creative as you would expect six-year old students to be. Even though the technology is not making its way into my classroom, I still see the repercussions of it. When my students are writing they struggle to express themselves, their words are similar to mine or what we have created together during a mini lesson. A goal of mine has been to help my young students discover their creativity and authentic voices in our writing block. I began to think about using the digital media platforms that they were familiar with and honestly in some way to blame for their lack of creativity to help them become more creative. This felt like a risk, but I was excited about the possibilities that this would bring my students. I wanted my students to discover that there are more facets to technology than just games, Snapchat and YouTube.
After careful consideration of my students’ needs, I decided I wanted to explore digital poetry. Poetry is not something that I normally spend that much time on with my young students. However, I felt that spending more time on poetry would greatly enhance a variety of our literacy lessons such as fluency, expression, and adding details to written work. I felt that looking at digital poems would be a way that I could incorporate poetry and technology into my classroom.
While I was excited to begin my research on digital poetry, I knew that I would need to be cautious about how I incorporated the technology in my classroom. My students are extremely tech-savvy and I sometimes worry that my very young students can be exposed to dangerous situations online. For this reason, I wanted to incorporate a part of my curriculum that would focus on internet safety. We already focus on stranger danger as part of our health curriculum and I felt as though online stranger safety would greatly benefit them. This would bring an “outdated” health curriculum that only focused on strangers in the “real world” into the twenty-first century.
I decided that my students would explore poetry online and discuss the craft moves that the poets used in their works. This is similar to what we already do with books during our literacy block so this would digitize a familiar concept. After studying the virtual texts, my students would get the opportunity to be the poets themselves. My students would create their own digital pieces that we would eventually “post” online. Since I teach young children, we would discuss how we could share these digital poems in a way that is safe. My hope is that this process would teach my students about appropriate ways to post things and that while that the internet can be dangerous there are ways to share ideas safely. Due to my students’ young age their work would only be posted online with a parent waiver and media release signed.