By: Matthew Cardona
Technology integration is the new school. Although the idea is far from new it is just now becoming a reality in our public schools. Being a second-year teacher, I often look back at my own education and think about how far schools have come with technology use in the classroom. In the short amount of time I have been removed from a classroom environment as a student, the amount of access students now have to the internet is seemingly endless. Which gives students answers to all the world’s questions and challenges they may face or simply ponder. But despite how far schooling has come in our country, we still face many obstacles and inequities throughout the public school system. One of those obstacles is access to this technology, whether that be access to devices and/or connectivity to the internet at home.
As a 6th grade teacher, I saw this first-hand working in East Side San Jose with little access to technology at school and many students not having access at home. So, when our school decided to begin on a road of technology integration, it seemed like it would take years before we would get any meaningful student use. But when I heard of our school adding Sokikom to the list of educational websites we would try to engage our students in, I was excited. I had played with Sokikom a little and used it during my 4th grade student teaching experience in early 2014. I had seen the amount of engagement the program could bring to a classroom, especially for students whose least favorite subject was Math. So, I couldn’t wait to integrate it into my own classroom. But there still remained one problem, student access. Having a Chromebook cart that rotated 5 classrooms in 5 days did not seem to give students enough time to work on their Sokikom assignments or give them a chance to experience that “play” aspect of Sokikom.
This was something that needed to change and after watching my students pull out their devices (phones, tablets, iPods, etc.) after the final bell rang, I began thinking about what I could do to give my students more Sokikom time. I came back to something my Master Teacher had told me about Puffin Academy, an application that allowed students to access educational websites that otherwise would not run on some devices or operating systems. Then it dawned upon me that I could assign my students a homework task of downloading Puffin Academy on their device and installing the Sokikom plugin. This made students excited about homework and once I had every student on some type of device, I started assigning standards and/or a time requirement that students would have to be online. At first parents were calling the school and asking if their student indeed had homework on their phones or tablets, some even came in to speak with me. Once the air was clear, we had a great amount of student use at home. Our class would even hold device parties, where students would bring in their device from home and connect to the school wifi and work on their Sokikom assignments, shop the store, or play some multiplayer with their classmates. The student engagement has been great with Sokikom and this year we have iPad access and plan to continue to log into Sokikom and have fun while learning! There will always be roadblocks in public education, but sometimes we find ways around them and make learning fun for all of our students.