I will often have ideas in mind for the use of a new or different app. It's always exciting to see what students can do with something new because even more ideas for its use can pop up. What can be a struggle though is trying to explicitly teach 20+ children how to use an app at the same time. It's a nightmare, as some students naturally take their time, some rush ahead and then don't know what to do, others just would rather explore it on their own. When this happens, students get stressed and confused and the teacher does too. This is why I like to have Digital Sandbox time when introducing something new.
Digital Sandbox time is one of my favourite things to do with my students when they are trying out a new app. Essentially, this time is for the students to open the app and simply explore, be curious and learn on their own. It caters for every student as it is self-paced and without restriction. Normally, I would begin the session with a quick introduction to the app and explain to them that they have ten minutes to go and play with it to find out what can be done. I have only one rule in Digital Sandbox time; you can not ask the teacher for help. It's the only time I put that rule on my students because this is their time to find something new out.
So, I wanted to share my top ten reasons that Digital Sandbox time is a must for any teacher:
- Students have freedom to explore, be curious and play
- Students can work at their own pace - no more wasting time with teacher lead instruction on how to work an app
- Drives student engagement
- Gives your students a greater source of resources to use and gives them greater choice in how to present their work
- Obviously, some students will learn a lot more than others. These students are a gem to have around because they become the experts. They will want to teach others the amazing things they learnt themselves. Again, a big driver of student engagement as well as relieving the pressure off you to know everything. I call these my 'Techsperts'
- For teachers that don't feel confident using technology, this is a good chance to be vulnerable. Tell your students you're not comfortable with technology or a particular app and have some students teach you. Students love to teach the teacher
- Develops multi-modal learning strategies. People learn best when they use multi-sensory options and apps usually include different elements such as picture, animation or audio
- Further develop your students Digital Literacy skills. The technical aspects of learning new apps are transferable skills that they will use time and time again throughout their lives
- It's a good chance for the teacher to observe their students. Who is working alone? Who is helping others? Who is excited by this? Who is struggling? I find Digital Sandbox time a great chance to see differences in my students, especially those that are often disengaged with learning. This time is also perfect to just stop and check in with students that you might not otherwise have time to do
- It's surprisingly collaborative. I absolutely love seeing my students exploring something new for the first time. I love to hear the excited chatter and hearing students showing off what they've discovered and hearing things like, "Oh My gosh, look at this" or, "Wow! How did you do that, can you show me?". I have never had a quiet Digital Sandbox time.
I'd love to hear your stories about trialling some Digital Sandbox time in your classrooms. What has worked well for you or what could you do differently. What have been your successes with it?