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With apps designed for children as young as six months old, students no longer have to be taught how to navigate their way around a mobile device or how to use a mouse. Instead, they have to learn to be digital citizens and share their learning digitally.

And with the help of an impressive array of mobile devices, Press Elementary teachers are doing it the old-fashioned way — through hands-on teaching, one-on-one attention and engaging projects.

“Our students and teachers here at Press Elementary really embrace the technology that McKinney ISD has provided,” said Tracy Bulot, media resource specialist at the school. “Our focus on use of technology is critical thinking, communication, creativity, collaboration and citizenship.”

Two programs employed at Press to help students become thoughtful digital citizens and prepare for middle school are Power Up with Google and App University.

The Power Up program uses a Google suite of services that allows students to work on projects and save their work to a Google education account, which can be accessed from any computer. With G Suite for Education accounts, teachers and students can easily share projects and review progress.      

Students can work on their projects on classroom computers or on laptops in the school’s Learning Commons. Second grade classes have a technology cart with 40 MacBook Airs and grades third, fourth and fifth each have a cart of 45 laptops for student use.

“I often start Power Up projects in the Learning Commons, where teachers can see how the project is presented and support teaching the lesson in their classrooms,” Bulot said.

One recent project supported what fourth graders were learning in history by encouraging students to build a mind map of early European explorers.

“Students were deepening their critical thinking and digital skills simultaneously, all while meeting fourth grade learning objectives in an engaging and memorable way,” Bulot said. “It’s an amazing use of technology within our school.”

While the older students attend Power Up with Google sessions, the younger students start off in Press Elementary’s App University where they are introduced to age-appropriate apps that encourage creativity and problem-solving. Some of the most popular are Telegami, which lets students create short videos with an animated character, and Puppet Pals, which allows students to create digital puppet shows, which were part of kindergarten’s fairy tale unit, Bulot said. Older grade levels also attend App University to learn of new iPad apps.

“We are very selective on which apps we teach the students,” Bulot said. “Many kids are used to playing games at home, so at school, we want them to use the apps to create and share their learning.”

Students attend App University in the Learning Commons and use iPads to access the programs. The school has about 50 iPad minis for student use. Kindergarten and first grade have nine iPads per class and second grade has five iPads for each classroom.

Bulot, who has been with the district for five years, said she has seen students become progressively more sophisticated in how they use technology, but the program can’t stand still.

“We must continue to evolve,” she said. “We are preparing our students to be future-ready for careers that may not even exist yet.”

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