One of the things the Dublin Literacy Conference has been thinking about this year is how to make student learning visible. A component of our conference has always been the display of student work. These have changed over the years. When the conference began 21 years ago, an entire area was designated to students displays. They took up walls and walls of space and celebrated our students' learning. But recently, we have had to rethink these "displays" based on the kinds of work our kids are creating. Jason Blair, one of our elementary art teachers, was the committee member who volunteered to rethink displays. He set up a great area of student digital displays that conference participants were able to see. But, Jason also wanted a place where teachers could try things out, where they could get their hands on some of the new tools. So he came up with the idea of a "Tech Playground".
At this year's conference, thanks to Jason's brilliant idea, we hosted our first Tech Playground. One room was designated as a place where participants could play with some of the new tools available to our students. The room had a portable SMARTBoard, Kindles, iPods, Cameras, Flip Videos, Laptops and more. Students and staff were available in the room to help out if needed. The room was a great hit. I went in a few times over the lunch break and the room was packed with participants trying out new tools. It was a fun room with lots of energy--a bit like any Apple Store.
I loved the idea of this Tech Playground and have decided to host one for our families in our school library. We've received so many great new tools through various funds for our students at Riverside that I think it would be great for them to be able to share the tools with their families. A Tech Playground seems the perfect idea for families.
After talking to some colleagues about the idea, we've decided to host the Tech Playground for Families during our Spring Book Fair in a few weeks. We always host our book fair during parent-teacher conference nights because so many families are in the building. It makes sense to tie the Tech Playground to this time since so many of our parents and families visit the library for the Book Fair. This will give parents another reason to come to the library and it will give everyone a chance to buy books and learn a bit about the new tech tools. Families buying books and playing with new tech tools--it sounds like the perfect combination to me!