One day, I decided that my first grade students were ready for me to set aside the picture books, and were finally ready to encounter chapter books. This would offer them the opportunity to develop their imaginations, build their vocabulary, practice retention, and strengthen comprehension. I chose the Ramona Quimby series, and for convenience's sake, downloaded the book onto my classroom iPad. However, when I gathered the class on the carpet for story time, I could not hold their attention. They did not seem interested, and could not focus on my reading. I was heartbroken -- maybe they were not ready for chapter books after all. But then, an idea struck me. Perhaps they were ready, but needed a different format. They needed the presence of the physical book. The next day I put my idea to the test. Arriving, armed with a paperback copy of Beezus and Ramona, I sat them down and started again. The change was like that of night and day. This time they were engaged, focused, intrigued, and even excited! They watched intently as my eyes scanned across the lines, through the pages, and over the pictures. They waited intrepidly while I turned the pages, and they protested when I closed the book and set it down. They were hooked! But what had caused this change? The difference was my use of a page rather than a screen.
Let me make a disclaimer by saying that technology is great. I have found so many ways this tool can be implemented in my classroom. However, the key word is tool. Technology is a tool, and a tool must be used with a plan. A tool that is employed aimlessly is reckless. Thus, technology, as a tool, must be used with a set plan that is aimed at a certain purpose. It cannot fall into the trap of being a toy.
There are, however, many things that this tool, technology, cannot and should not replace. Many things can be put on this list, but I would like to focus on one very important thing. Technology cannot and should not replace books.
“Children are sponges.” We encounter this phrase any time we talk about our children and their growth or development. As a First Grade teacher, I see this almost every day. Being sponges, children absorb the ways that we implement and interact with technology. I encountered this very situation exemplified when I was with a friend's child who was under a year old, just starting to crawl, and not even close to talking. The little girl picked up her mom's iPhone and swiped her finger across the screen. Did she know that this was how she could get into the phone? No. Did she realize that this was the way to power this device up? No. But she was imitating the behavior that she had absorbed from what she saw all around her. She was a being a sponge.