By CARY OWENS / Chief Technology Officer

You never know what you might encounter when walking into one of Long Early Learning Center’s classrooms, but you will always find learning with multiple modalities. You might even find a dolphin doing back flips, a lion roaring, an alligator turning colors, or a seal shaking its head “no,”…all through the world of Augmented Reality (AR).

Given a task, the hands-on approach to learning at Long allows students to explore outcomes, make conclusions and share their results with others, at ages 3 and 4 years old. In Mrs. Miller’s class, Noa says he programs Busy Bees to “push the buttons and it goes where I want it to go.” He then shares his programming knowledge with other students in the class. Isaac and friends enjoy adventures on the iPad while learning letter sounds and cause/effect relationships. Across the room, Lauren and Adrian are debriefing with each other why a magnet won’t stick to a plastic seat of the chair, but it will stick to the metal legs, while Aiden tells Isaac that only balloons with helium will float because his breath weighs more than helium.

Thanks to the 2013 bond and multiple grants, each classroom has a Promethean panel on an adjustable wall mount and multiple technology devices to use for learning. Think you have a good memory? Try challenging a preschooler on a memory activity facilitated through the Promethean panel. You might find you need to start working on some memory activities yourself!

The words “Augmented Reality” may not mean anything to a preschooler, but the technology immerses them in learning. There is nothing like creating and reading basic sentences and having an animal immediately respond to the sentence made. You might see a seal shaking its head “no” because the sentence says, “The seal can fly” or turning green when the sentence says, “The seal is green.”

When using AR in her classroom, Mrs. Muñoz says, “While the kids are experiencing intense emotions as the animals come alive, there are multiples layers of learning going on. The level of engagement is unparalleled. They are thinking critically about why the frog cannot fly. They are contrasting the animal in the video to the one in animation. Some children are already making connections about letters and words, the symbols of our language.  The effects are long lasting as well. Kids are having conversations about the animals on the playground and at the art center. I am excited to show them how they can create similar animations using our iPads. That is what is so empowering about technology—it erases the limitations of age. We at Long are very grateful for the abundance of technology tools given to us.”

At Long, the Promethean panels are way more than glorified projection boards. Jayma Savage loves to see students write their names on the digital panel using multiple colors. She says this activity “is fun and developmentally appropriate for this age to write on a large vertical plane which is one of the early stages of motor growth needed for developing the skill to write.” Kristal Stevens’ classroom uses the panels to interact with nature’s “giants” and she says, “It was nice being able to allow my students to interact with things that they may have never seen before.” Jeremy Bartley says, “I like the Promethean panel in my classroom as it allows for my students to engage with technology on an academic level.”

Kaci St. John and Julie Wilson sum up how technology is used at Long.

“Technology and children can be tricky,” says Ms. St. John. “Students have more access than ever to technology, and it’s not always a positive thing. But the technology our teachers get to use with children challenges them to learn new things in new ways and shows them how to utilize fun technology for education. The Promethean panels and iPads are so useful in engaging children’s imaginations and interest as they learn and grow.”

“We are engaging learners at Long differently than we ever have before with the new Promethean panels in every classroom,” added Ms. Wilson. “We have noticed students are more willing to participate in large group settings and take risks that they were not comfortable with in the past. The smiles on kids’ faces light up the room when they have had the opportunity to work on the panel. With the increase of iPads in the classroom, teachers have been able to meet the individual needs of learners. We are continually learning new ways to seamlessly increase our digital literacy here at Long!”

I urge you to watch a couple of videos from a classroom at Long. Preschool and early education is much more complicated, fun and engaging than you might think. Ask a Preschooler what they learned today, and you might be surprised what they say and how they learned it.