Building Social Skills and Problem Solving in a World of Technology

Today’s Contributor: Meredith Davis

Meredith Davis is a bilingual kindergarten teacher and the CIC at Guerrero Thompson Elementary. She loves to learn about new technology and makerspace activities that she can bring into the classroom to try with her students. 

When I entered the kindergarten classroom five years ago, I was thrilled about using all the different technologies available to me and my students. I had heard about multiple apps to increase learning and different programs to help literacy, and I was thrilled that my campus was going to be implementing several of these to help the students. I was lucky to have used technology at my school growing up, and I couldn’t wait to help my students develop skills that would be useful throughout their lifetime. And then came the problems: repeatedly hearing my students saying, “Maestra, maestra,” arguing with their friends over whose turn it was, or just sitting and staring at the computer if they didn’t know what to do. And in this age of iPads, iPhones and tablets, their computer skills were non-existent, so that was frequent.

I came to realize that some things are seriously lacking in this age of technology, one of which is problem-solving skills. My students are used to someone doing things for them and instant gratification. When things got hard, they wouldn’t bother trying. They would get frustrated, they would give up, or they would wait for me to come fix it. And in a classroom of 20 students, fixing it myself was the easy answer. But then I realized that I was contributing to the problem, instead of solving it!  So I took deep breaths, and made them type their student numbers, and showed them how to use a mouse, and how to open a browser window over, and over, and over, and over. And while that part was often frustrating for all of us, they eventually realized that they could do it. There was less hand-raising, less yelling out “maestra,” and less exasperation. There was more problem solving since they knew the steps, more independence, and more of students helping other students which helped with the next area of concern.

Social skills can make or break your classroom. If students know how to communicate effectively and solve their own problems, then there is less tattling and fewer issues. If students can help each other and take on the role of teacher, it builds confidence. Unfortunately, a lot of my kinder students are used to staring at screens and not to talking to other children, which caused a lot of bickering, arguing, and hurt feelings once they got into a classroom. Therefore we spend a lot of time focusing on how to communicate with peers, and on SEL and how to manage emotions. I found that when we focus on SEL, it then reflects in their problem-solving ability. There is no screaming or crying when they can’t figure out a problem on their literacy or math program. Instead they just try again. Taking away their roadblocks is helping them build a love of technology, and I hope leading them to be successful in something that will help them for years to come.

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