The following is a guest post by kindergarten teacher & Buncee Ambassador Bonnie McClelland. Check out her bio below, and follow her on Twitter!
A mindset that I always stand behind as a kindergarten teacher is, “Yes they’re little, but they CAN do it too!” I set the bar high for my kinders and they never cease to amaze me. Of course, in comparison to the older and more experienced students, everything we do in kindergarten is implemented at a much slower rate, and with a heaping scoop of patience. Keeping that at the forefront of my mind, a goal I had this year was to introduce, and then have my students become proficient in, the use of Google Chromebooks.
Last year, I had my students dabble a bit on the Google devices during our reading workshop. I used the bookmarking tool, Symbaloo, to curate reading games and extension activities and had the students access them on Chrome. However, being a bit cautious, each day I would log myself into each device and load Symbaloo, so there was minimal work for the students. As I followed this routine each day, I knew in my heart that my students were capable of much more, if I only allowed them. This was the year I followed my own instincts. What resulted was just as I had imagined!
After being introduced to Buncee at the annual ISTE conference last summer, I was anxious to begin the school year with this fun and engaging creation tool for my students. I further knew that Buncee was going to be one of the reasons I needed to have my kindergarteners become Chromebook power users!
The Buncee I created to introduce myself at the start of the school year.
Step one was getting the littles to log on to their Chromebooks. Creating a pocket chart of colorful cards with each child’s user name and password really got them excited. The idea of knowing that you have your VERY OWN secret code to access and work on a laptop just like the big kids is pretty awesome in the kindergarten world. After examining the keyboard to see where numbers and letters are located, and watching how I enter my own secret code, the students were ready to give it a try. Did it happen on the first attempt? No. The second attempt? No. Maybe a few were able to get it...those were my student helpers! I also enlisted the aid of a few fourth-grade lunchtime experts to sit side-by-side and work them through the process. After tons of patience, backspacing, and starting all over, everyone logged on! What’s great about kindergarten is that they don’t give up! If it doesn’t work the first time, they do it again. And again. And again. Today, I can brag that almost half of my class has their user and password memorized and nonchalantly wave me away when I approach them with a log-in card.
With my students over that hurdle, I felt like my Google Chrome options were now limitless! Buncee, here we come! I added our Buncee for Schools and Districts to our Google Classroom page and modeled how to access. Hey, after logging on, everything else was a piece of cake! One of the great things about Buncee is the automatic log in with Google. As soon as my students clicked the Buncee page, it automatically directs them to click their Google account, and BOOM! They’re ready to go. It’s. That. Simple.
At this point, we had made a few class Buncees and our friends Bryan and Annie came to visit us and give us some tips. The students were ready! With so many colorful and easy to recognize icons, creating a Buncee is very self-directed. My class can easily navigate the tracking pad and know how to point and click. For those that struggle a bit with this option, I have the mouse available to use. Another option is the touch screen Chromebook. Our school has a number of these to borrow as needed. Some of my students love using this feature too, as it makes choosing and creating even more simple for their little hands.
The kids loved having Bryan and Annie visit us!
Of course in kindergarten, spelling can be a challenge when searching for particular items and themes. Time to present the speech-to-text option! When I introduced this little gem on the Chromebooks, I had one little boy run to me for a hug as he exclaimed, “Thank you, Ms. McClelland! You’re the best!” This particular student's love for creating on Buncee is no secret! When he discovered that he could tell his Chromebook what he was looking for, and a collection of stickers would pop up, he was amazed...and relieved! As a teacher, I cannot describe the feeling I have when I’m able to offer a student a tool that would help him succeed. I cannot wait to see what he creates!
My students love using the camera on the Chromebooks to create videos of themselves. In fact, we collaborated with an 8th-grade class where we created Buncees for them and added a video asking them getting-to-know-you questions. The children easily accessed the camera app and chatted away! When their video timed out, they were ready to create another. I believe that easy access to communication and sharing with others is creating a confidence level in my otherwise shy students. It’s giving them choice and voice, two very important developmental skills.
The Chromebook keyboard is another option that affords so many valuable opportunities for my students. Once I told them that a keyboard looks exactly the same no matter where you see it, it was inspiring to see how quickly they wanted to find out where the letters and numbers were. The quicker learners were eager to help and show their classmates! This knowledge not only empowers the students, but makes my job much easier! Students tend to learn better, and grasp the concepts longer, if it’s from their peers. The excitement over using Buncee certainly allows this for my students!
So here we are almost three-quarters of the way completed with another school year. My goal to create proficient Chromebook users has certainly progressed the way I had hoped! And with a tool like Buncee, teaching those Chromebook skills has become fun, engaging, and a complete classroom gamechanger!
After graduating college with a degree in Communication Arts, Bonnie began working for a teen magazine editing, writing articles, and interviewing the popular celebs of the time. After realizing that teaching and inspiring youth was her passion, she returned to college to pursue her Masters in Elementary Education. In the last 15 years, she has taught second grade, third grade, and now kindergarten. Bonnie exclaims, “It’s been a wild and fulfilling ride, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!” She is currently working on her administration degree so she can lead and inspire an even greater group of children and peers.