Balancing age appropriateness with innovation??


I need to start by mentioning that my entire classroom teaching experience was at the high school level. When I left the classroom, I became a technology integration specialist in the same district in which I had taught for 22 years; I was a known commodity! At first I was working primarily with the high school and junior high, but now I work with all levels EC-12.

Ok…let me get to the point! I have worked really hard to gain an understanding of what it is like to teach at the lower grade levels. I follow just as many elementary teachers as upper level teachers on Twitter, read more books about that age level, and spend just as much time in elementary classrooms as high school and junior high. There is no question that to have a true understanding of the elementary classroom one needs to have taught at that level, but I am trying to understand. Side note…one thing that I have learned is that I think I would have been a good 4th/5th grade teacher…I love those kids! I think/hope that I am gaining the respect of teachers from all grade levels and they see me as someone who is willing to help them plan and implement innovative ideas into their classroom. When teachers and/or principals have a “beef” with me, I tend to hear concerns about whether what I am suggesting or pushing for is “age appropriate.” Self reflection is one of my strengths so this concern does keep me up at night! Obviously I understand the term (I have two grown children), but when does that concept get in the way of innovation? That keeps me up at night more than the fact that someone might disagree with me! If we think that it is age appropriate for young children to read a “real” book because they have to feel the pages, does that not negate some of the innovation that might come from introducing e-books? If we say that children must handwrite on paper because it is age appropriate, does that not limit what a teacher is willing to introduce into his or her classroom? I could provide other examples, but I truly think about this idea a lot! If we always say something isn’t age appropriate will things ever change? Am I the only one who struggles with this idea? Seriously, how do you balance the two?? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Don Sturm

3 thoughts on “Balancing age appropriateness with innovation??

  1. My philosophy is if students can learn from and can successfully manage the task, it is age appropriate. What is age appropriate for one may not be for another. I look at it almost like differentiation. Students learn at all levels. I think we can get too caught up on the idea of “age” appropriate. Students can often be successful at things “beyond their age” and we, as teachers, encourage this. Examples would be students reading above their age/grade level and students completing challenging work because they have already mastered what is “age appropriate” for them. Students will thrive if we encourage and support their learning right where they are. Technology innovation is no different. How many students, after a task is modeled, can continue to build on and expand the task? Limiting learning because it does not seem “age appropriate” makes no sense to me.

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  2. I agree with Teresa. The whole point of technology integration should be for students to learn to collaborate and learn new ways to create with, extend, and demonstrate their learning. There are a lot of awesome tools out there that I love to use with my first graders but some things are a little bit beyond their level. Many of my team mates are resistant to integrating technology into their classrooms and might say it is not necessary or appropriate but teaching kids to use tech tools (in my opinion) is essential. Not only does it make learning more engaging, but these are skills that will be necessary when they enter the work force. It is just about finding the right fit for them to accomplish the desired outcome.

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  3. I appreciate that you are thinking about age appropriateness. I think though that you may be going with the assumption that the technological changes that need to happen for young kids are the same ones that need to happen for older students. Hands on is very engaging for young students and research shows that physically writing does different things neurologically than typing. I believe they NEED to do the old school things to develop literacy and fluency. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t merge technology with old school. I think Seesaw is a great example. Whether kids take a picture of their “old school” product or create right on the app, it adds a significant layer to have them explain their thinking. My advice, look for the merge. 🙂


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