Editor’s Note: After watching Debbie Tannenbaum's webinar on Using Wixie so Littles CAN Create, we asked her to write a blog post to share her fantastic ideas. You can learn more from Debbie at her website or by following her on Twitter.
When I first started working with Kindergarteners as a tech coach, it often felt like playing Whack-a-mole. I would help one student, and another student would pop up, followed by another, and so on. I wanted my students to be creators, but they didn't seem to be able to work independently.
One morning, I was listening to Vicki Davis interview Pana Asavavatana about the ways she used icons to help her PreK students remember the steps to operate their iPads. She asked, "How can we put handles on technology to make it easier for students to grab on?"
This idea empowered me. Could I use icons to help my students hold onto the steps, make them more independent, and provide them agency?
Getting started with icons
I began by going over the icons my students would need to know for a lesson, starting with Google Chrome's icon to go online. My littles quickly took to calling this the Google Circle and I soon noticed that when questions arose, I could simply refer to the morning message. Sometimes, students would even point out the directions on the board to each other!
My use of icons grew and developed into an icon word wall. When my older students started to notice this growing wall, I found myself using icons in my lessons with all my students.
I soon began using icons in all of my learning targets and developed algorithms for classroom activities that used icons to show each of the steps needed for our projects.
Wixie's Stickers library includes folders of all the application icons in both the primary and the standard interface, so it was easy to put together these visual algorithms.
You can find these images by searching "wixie" at the Image dialog or by browsing Stickers>Symbols and Icons>Wixie.
First project: Create a snow globe to learn to use Wixie
When my Kindergarten students have mastered the basics and are ready to create in Wixie, it is usually winter, so we begin by creating a snow globe. Since anything can be in a snow globe, it really encourages my students to use their imagination.
Over the course of several 30-minute sessions, students learn to:
1. Use keywords to find images in the Wixie library and add two to three images to their snow globe.
2. Use the paint can to fill in sections of the snow globe.
3. Add text to describe the snow globe.
Designing activities to promote agency
I began designing more activities, like the snow globe, that asked students to show learning in an open-ended format. This way, even though they were all demonstrating understanding of a specific learning target, they would create unique projects that encompassed their voice.
While all students begin an assignment using the same Wixie template, their end results are very different. Here are a few examples.
Learning target: Shadows
To demonstrate understanding, students select and add at least three stickers from the Image Library to add to their picture. Next, students use the pencil tool with a larger thickness to create shadows for their images. Then, they use the sentence starter to describe shadows.
Learning target: Identify coins
In this activity, students use familiar coins to create a coin caterpillar. I used Wixie's cloning feature, so students can simply drag coins to create a coin caterpillar.
After students count up how many of each coin they have, they can add up the total value of their coin caterpillar for an additional challenge.
Learning target: Push/pull
This activity allows students to demonstrate their understanding of forces. Each student creates a picture using stickers and/or paint tools to show a force acting on an object. Every student chooses a situation unique to their personality.
Learning target: Time
All of our students love to tell stories, so this activity allows them to share stories and demonstrate their understanding of time over the course of multiple pages.
On each page, students use the pencil to show the time and illustrate an event in their story.
Learning target: Identify shapes
Using the cloning feature, students get the opportunity to create a shape collage using known shapes. After they create their collage, students can count the amounts of each shape.
For a challenge, students can use the microphone tool or video button to explain their collage.
Learning target: Composite shapes
Based on the Dayle Ann Dodds’ book, The Shape of Things, students use their creativity to take common shapes and transform them into something new. For example, students could transform a circle into a basketball or baseball.
I loved that one student even made a circle into a Google Chrome sign!
Here are a few last suggestions to support your work as you begin implementing projects that get your littles creating and developing agency as learners.
Using icons was a powerful step to support my learners growing agency, but I also learned to be careful with my language. When they asked a question, did I simply rescue them, or did I convey that the answer was in them?
I projected the icon algorithms on the white board in my classroom, but I soon learned not all students could see them. I added these visual supports around the room and even provided a few for individual students.
With Wixie's ability to add video, I now consider adding video instructions to assignments, so students can easily refer back to directions.
No matter how you start, your littles CAN create. Consider ways you can support their agency and develop projects that are open-ended to build powerful foundations that make them creators with technology.