Time in the Sandbox is needed

October 24, 2009 at 9:53 am | Posted in Learning is Messy, Literacy, Primary, Shift, Tech Integration | 3 Comments
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I first heard the term “sandbox” mode from Vicki Davis on one of her podcasts or read on her blog. The idea is to allow students the time to explore and discover for themselves how to accomplish tasks on a new software program or technology tool. This can be easily framed within a curricular task but the idea (as I understand it) is to allow free exploration or propose a task for students to attempt individually without any assistance. This allows students time to explore a program and develop their ability to find answers on their own. I highly value collaboration, but if one is to contribute you need to bring something to the table and not always rely on others.

I worked with grade four students this week on a project where they were asked to assume a group task involving exploring and planning a dream trip to a particular country. Some students and groups seized the opportunity and needed no guidance and others were frozen, plus there were students in between. I found myself asking those who wanted help, guiding questions that they should be asking themselves. Some searched in Google and then asked which one they should click, missing the idea that they would need to read and make choices.

My immediate thought was that we needed to integrate sandbox sessions for students. When using Math Their Way as a first grade teacher, we spent time at the start of the year allowing students guided play time with the math manipulatives.  If that step was not experienced, the students would need to play with the manipulatives all year rather than use them as tools. Many students still need to learn to explore and “think on their feet.” Sandbox time is needed to allow the independent-thinkers time to flourish and those who need to flex those muscles time to discover they can rely on themselves more often.



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  1. Sandboxing is ESSENTIAL. It is low threat, high exploration, high experimentation mode with whatever tool is at hand, and is part of my upcoming book ClickSmart as it relates to software. But as you’ve so eloquently put here, sandboxing is important to do with just about anything! Excellent thoughts!

    • Thank you for your comment! We have just sent out 4 netbook mobile carts with OpenOffice software- yet another great Sandbox application to gather teachers and/or students to explore OpenOffice and share our discoveries. I always enjoy your work and look forward to ClickSmart.

  2. […] was thinking about this because of another blog post I was reading earlier about letting students play in the sandbox.  This is a concept that was […]

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