Tech in the ClassroomArticles

Striking a Balance with Classroom Technology: A Discussion with Priscilla Kim

Jillian Mendoza
February 25, 2022

Jillian Mendoza: How did you end up working in education?

Priscilla Kim:
I grew up in a family of educators, my mom was a principal in Los Angeles Unified. I’ve always been influenced by my mom, we’re best friends!

I first was inspired to teach through mission trips, I went to Cambodia, Turkey, and rural areas of South Korea, and France. I was teaching English on each of these trips, and it was eye-opening to see how women could be trafficked and sold because their parents needed to put food on the table. By simply learning the alphabet, it put enough value on the girls that their families would not traffic them. That really opened my eyes to the value of education and how it affects people's whole livelihoods.

From then on, I knew I wanted to go all in on teaching. There are so many ways you can contribute within education, you know, and I wanted to serve a purpose while doing something that brings me delight, which is math! I really enjoy the thinking process when I learn and do math, so that’s why I majored in mathematics. I got my Bachelor of Science in mathematics with an emphasis in secondary instruction, and shortly after, completed my credential.

Priscilla Kim is a math educator at Southlands Christian School. She went through the teacher credential program at Biola University and is currently pursuing her administrative credential at Hope International University.

Jillian Mendoza: Thinking back to your first few years teaching, how did you use technology in the classroom?

Priscilla Kim:
Part of the Common Core State Math Practice Standards (MPs) are about using tools strategically. As a private school with 1:1 Chromebooks and iPads, we always had tools available, but it wasn’t a necessity to use technology in the math classroom at the time.

Then while in 2020, our learning format changed drastically when schools closed due to COVID. Overnight we became dependent on technology, and we were all kind of forced to acclimate and be innovative in the midst of a pandemic. I think looking back, it’s been so much more sustainable to teach with technology. Before, we would have to print a lot of things but now we can replace that with Google forms, Microsoft forms, and other tools. It’s so sustainable and it’s here to stay!

Priscilla and some of her scholars at Southlands Christian School


Jillian Mendoza: Now that schools are open again, what structures have you kept in place that you developed during distance learning?

Priscilla Kim:
There are so many systems that I developed during distance learning that I kept after we returned. When I use technology now, I am very intentional about explaining to students the ‘why- why I’m using a tool, why it’s part of my teaching. I explain when it is more or less advantageous to use technology. I do this so that later on, students can think for themselves and discover what works for them. I want my students to take ownership of their learning- instead of me just saying what you need to use and blindly pairing tech tools with my lessons, I want them to think for themselves and show them what technology can enable. I share with students what tools they have available, and I ask them which ones they’d like to use on different projects. They really appreciate the freedom and option to choose for themselves. They are able to take ownership over everything they do in my classroom.

Mendoza: So many math platforms are multiple-choice only. How do your students show their thinking in math using technology?

Kim:
I think something I learned during the pandemic is that each child is so, so complex. I didn’t really realize that until we were all faced with ourselves in this challenging time. So, I think before I started thinking about what tools I should use for teaching, I had to first consider the whole child. Ultimately my goal is to provide personalized learning experiences for every student. There is no one-sized, fits-all answer, so I first had to learn more about my student’s personalities and learning preferences. I checked in with my students and discovered what brings them delight, what makes their eyes spark, what causes them anxiety, and what motivates them.

Every student has their own comfort zone, and sometimes I think it is good to challenge them to use different modalities of thinking or organizing their work. Primarily I do personalize their learning experiences as much as I can, like if they enjoy doodling then I encourage them to be expressive in their notetaking. Especially for some of my students with ADHD, they really appreciate that they can doodle on their notes, and I encourage them to write things in their own way. It doesn’t always need to look a specific way in order to show evidence of learning. 

Priscilla encourages student choice and autonomy in the classroom, which gives her students a sense of ownership over their learning.

Mendoza: What positives came out of your pandemic teaching?

Kim:
I really loved how easy technology makes it to share work in math. During class, I could say, “Hey, look what Alexa turned in! Look what Jacob turned in!” and students were so proud of showcasing their work on an online platform. I’m a huge proponent of alternate assessments, and some students chose the TikTok project where they get to make a short Tik Tok video about a math topic they learned during the semester as one of their personal projects. It was a pleasure to watch them express themselves creatively on their platform, dancing and singing. When students submit work digitally, they can show off their learning and cultivate their digital learning community. This was such a joy to see how technology enables us to better utilize students' own ideas and solutions during class.

Mendoza: Were there any downsides to technology that you noticed?

Kim:
Technology is just a tool and because it’s so powerful, it is a double-edged sword. After we returned in person, I saw how students had become overly reliant on technology. I had to rethink and reframe when we used technology during class- I’d ask myself, is this really the learning outcome for a 21st-century learner? Then I‘d have to decide if the technology actually enhanced or served the lesson or not. 

Mendoza: Do you think that technology erases part of the problem-solving process in math?

Kim:
I have some thoughts on that- For my students, I want their mind to be their playground, not the computer or the keyboard. That’s been really hard because there are certain things I think shouldn’t be replaced by technology, but we are already doing that as a society. One of the things I think society should not replace in the classroom is social communications and dialogue, you know. I think technology can enhance communication in terms of efficiency, like how I don’t have to drive somewhere to meet someone, we can just hop in Zoom. I don’t have to carry a calendar around either, I can just check my Google Calendar to see what I have booked.

But the downside to this is that when we returned to the classroom, students had lost their natural ability to get up and communicate. They didn’t know how to just get up and go around the room to meet their classmates, they were just staring at me like I was on a Zoom screen! I will never forget that, I was thinking maybe they saw me as a person they could just mute or minimize like they were used to on-screen.

I am really grateful for certain enhancements made by technology, but I don’t want that sense of community and communication to be replaced by technology.

I also don’t think we should replace penmanship, especially in math. Some things are best done with that brain-body connection, especially for kinesthetic learners. If you are disconnected from writing things down, your learning and retention deteriorates.

In Miss. Kim’s class, no one is left behind!

Mendoza: You mentioned technology helping classroom sustainability, can you elaborate on that?

Kim:
Initially I thought of sustainability as an added benefit of technology, it saves paper and energy spent using the copy machine. It also saves a lot of time for planning and grading. One of the things I’ve done since distance learning is I made all of my worksheets and tests into online forms. Other teachers were like “I need that!” it does the grading for you and gives instant feedback. And now I don’t need to save paper; I just store data and files in my drive, so it really saves me time and physical space too.

Mendoza: And how does technology make education more challenging?

Kim:
I think that some of the problems we face with tech can be mitigated with non-technological solutions. Teaching students how to self-reflect and creating space for honest dialogues can all be done offline. At the end of the day, I want my students to think deeply, and as a teacher, I would feel like a failure if I didn’t get my students to contemplate really hard about something that day. I’m not going to rely on my subject matter alone or technology to make my students think deeply. I think it really takes intentionality on the teacher and students’ part; you have to hold them accountable. It’s like a dynamic of ‘I’m going to partner with you so that you can take ownership and control of your learning’. 

For instance, in my algebra 1 class when I teach order of operations, I plan for ways students can think deeply about the concept. We know they could just type an expression in the calculator and have it evaluated, but I want them to think deeply about the concept. So for this lesson, my essential question isn’t anything about math, I ask “What is order?” “What is the significance of order?” and allow for students to share their thoughts. When I ask this question, I see students beginning to think conceptually, employing language skills, and considering real-life contexts. They get to incorporate their own personal values and experiences when I begin class with a question like this. That way, when we get to the mathematical part of the lesson, they bring themselves to the table and feel so much more welcomed in the learning experience. It doesn't take much but it takes a different approach to learning.

Today I taught students about exponential growth and decay, and we began with a discussion on life choices and how the effects of their decisions compound over a lifetime. They got to see how some of my own financial investments grew over time and it was tangible to them. We had an honest, open dialogue about how you can either become someone who pays interest or earns interest. These kinds of conversations help students to think deeply, make personal connections to the math concept, and add value to their lives. 

Mendoza: Any other thoughts on how technology plays into education?

Kim:
I think technology can enhance student thinking and learning. All I care about is my student’s growth, sometimes technology plays a part in that and sometimes it does not. I let my students choose their tech tools, like when we wrote proofs- one student used a method and the whole class decided it was a “classier method” than the one we had learned about, so I was like “ooook I love this!!” I love when students bring their authentic selves into the lesson and exude confidence in what they are learning. 

This generation of students has always had technology at their disposal, so as educators it’s important we teach them not to let it have control over their lives. Technology, when used for good, can truly enhance our lives.

To learn more about how to use technology in meaningful ways, check out Priscilla’s website, The School Hive.

To learn more about how to promote mathematical reasoning through EdTech, schedule a demo of Magma Math.

Tech in the ClassroomArticles

Striking a Balance with Classroom Technology: A Discussion with Priscilla Kim

Jillian Mendoza
Feb 25

Jillian Mendoza: How did you end up working in education?

Priscilla Kim:
I grew up in a family of educators, my mom was a principal in Los Angeles Unified. I’ve always been influenced by my mom, we’re best friends!

I first was inspired to teach through mission trips, I went to Cambodia, Turkey, and rural areas of South Korea, and France. I was teaching English on each of these trips, and it was eye-opening to see how women could be trafficked and sold because their parents needed to put food on the table. By simply learning the alphabet, it put enough value on the girls that their families would not traffic them. That really opened my eyes to the value of education and how it affects people's whole livelihoods.

From then on, I knew I wanted to go all in on teaching. There are so many ways you can contribute within education, you know, and I wanted to serve a purpose while doing something that brings me delight, which is math! I really enjoy the thinking process when I learn and do math, so that’s why I majored in mathematics. I got my Bachelor of Science in mathematics with an emphasis in secondary instruction, and shortly after, completed my credential.

Priscilla Kim is a math educator at Southlands Christian School. She went through the teacher credential program at Biola University and is currently pursuing her administrative credential at Hope International University.

Jillian Mendoza: Thinking back to your first few years teaching, how did you use technology in the classroom?

Priscilla Kim:
Part of the Common Core State Math Practice Standards (MPs) are about using tools strategically. As a private school with 1:1 Chromebooks and iPads, we always had tools available, but it wasn’t a necessity to use technology in the math classroom at the time.

Then while in 2020, our learning format changed drastically when schools closed due to COVID. Overnight we became dependent on technology, and we were all kind of forced to acclimate and be innovative in the midst of a pandemic. I think looking back, it’s been so much more sustainable to teach with technology. Before, we would have to print a lot of things but now we can replace that with Google forms, Microsoft forms, and other tools. It’s so sustainable and it’s here to stay!

Priscilla and some of her scholars at Southlands Christian School


Jillian Mendoza: Now that schools are open again, what structures have you kept in place that you developed during distance learning?

Priscilla Kim:
There are so many systems that I developed during distance learning that I kept after we returned. When I use technology now, I am very intentional about explaining to students the ‘why- why I’m using a tool, why it’s part of my teaching. I explain when it is more or less advantageous to use technology. I do this so that later on, students can think for themselves and discover what works for them. I want my students to take ownership of their learning- instead of me just saying what you need to use and blindly pairing tech tools with my lessons, I want them to think for themselves and show them what technology can enable. I share with students what tools they have available, and I ask them which ones they’d like to use on different projects. They really appreciate the freedom and option to choose for themselves. They are able to take ownership over everything they do in my classroom.

Mendoza: So many math platforms are multiple-choice only. How do your students show their thinking in math using technology?

Kim:
I think something I learned during the pandemic is that each child is so, so complex. I didn’t really realize that until we were all faced with ourselves in this challenging time. So, I think before I started thinking about what tools I should use for teaching, I had to first consider the whole child. Ultimately my goal is to provide personalized learning experiences for every student. There is no one-sized, fits-all answer, so I first had to learn more about my student’s personalities and learning preferences. I checked in with my students and discovered what brings them delight, what makes their eyes spark, what causes them anxiety, and what motivates them.

Every student has their own comfort zone, and sometimes I think it is good to challenge them to use different modalities of thinking or organizing their work. Primarily I do personalize their learning experiences as much as I can, like if they enjoy doodling then I encourage them to be expressive in their notetaking. Especially for some of my students with ADHD, they really appreciate that they can doodle on their notes, and I encourage them to write things in their own way. It doesn’t always need to look a specific way in order to show evidence of learning. 

Priscilla encourages student choice and autonomy in the classroom, which gives her students a sense of ownership over their learning.

Mendoza: What positives came out of your pandemic teaching?

Kim:
I really loved how easy technology makes it to share work in math. During class, I could say, “Hey, look what Alexa turned in! Look what Jacob turned in!” and students were so proud of showcasing their work on an online platform. I’m a huge proponent of alternate assessments, and some students chose the TikTok project where they get to make a short Tik Tok video about a math topic they learned during the semester as one of their personal projects. It was a pleasure to watch them express themselves creatively on their platform, dancing and singing. When students submit work digitally, they can show off their learning and cultivate their digital learning community. This was such a joy to see how technology enables us to better utilize students' own ideas and solutions during class.

Mendoza: Were there any downsides to technology that you noticed?

Kim:
Technology is just a tool and because it’s so powerful, it is a double-edged sword. After we returned in person, I saw how students had become overly reliant on technology. I had to rethink and reframe when we used technology during class- I’d ask myself, is this really the learning outcome for a 21st-century learner? Then I‘d have to decide if the technology actually enhanced or served the lesson or not. 

Mendoza: Do you think that technology erases part of the problem-solving process in math?

Kim:
I have some thoughts on that- For my students, I want their mind to be their playground, not the computer or the keyboard. That’s been really hard because there are certain things I think shouldn’t be replaced by technology, but we are already doing that as a society. One of the things I think society should not replace in the classroom is social communications and dialogue, you know. I think technology can enhance communication in terms of efficiency, like how I don’t have to drive somewhere to meet someone, we can just hop in Zoom. I don’t have to carry a calendar around either, I can just check my Google Calendar to see what I have booked.

But the downside to this is that when we returned to the classroom, students had lost their natural ability to get up and communicate. They didn’t know how to just get up and go around the room to meet their classmates, they were just staring at me like I was on a Zoom screen! I will never forget that, I was thinking maybe they saw me as a person they could just mute or minimize like they were used to on-screen.

I am really grateful for certain enhancements made by technology, but I don’t want that sense of community and communication to be replaced by technology.

I also don’t think we should replace penmanship, especially in math. Some things are best done with that brain-body connection, especially for kinesthetic learners. If you are disconnected from writing things down, your learning and retention deteriorates.

In Miss. Kim’s class, no one is left behind!

Mendoza: You mentioned technology helping classroom sustainability, can you elaborate on that?

Kim:
Initially I thought of sustainability as an added benefit of technology, it saves paper and energy spent using the copy machine. It also saves a lot of time for planning and grading. One of the things I’ve done since distance learning is I made all of my worksheets and tests into online forms. Other teachers were like “I need that!” it does the grading for you and gives instant feedback. And now I don’t need to save paper; I just store data and files in my drive, so it really saves me time and physical space too.

Mendoza: And how does technology make education more challenging?

Kim:
I think that some of the problems we face with tech can be mitigated with non-technological solutions. Teaching students how to self-reflect and creating space for honest dialogues can all be done offline. At the end of the day, I want my students to think deeply, and as a teacher, I would feel like a failure if I didn’t get my students to contemplate really hard about something that day. I’m not going to rely on my subject matter alone or technology to make my students think deeply. I think it really takes intentionality on the teacher and students’ part; you have to hold them accountable. It’s like a dynamic of ‘I’m going to partner with you so that you can take ownership and control of your learning’. 

For instance, in my algebra 1 class when I teach order of operations, I plan for ways students can think deeply about the concept. We know they could just type an expression in the calculator and have it evaluated, but I want them to think deeply about the concept. So for this lesson, my essential question isn’t anything about math, I ask “What is order?” “What is the significance of order?” and allow for students to share their thoughts. When I ask this question, I see students beginning to think conceptually, employing language skills, and considering real-life contexts. They get to incorporate their own personal values and experiences when I begin class with a question like this. That way, when we get to the mathematical part of the lesson, they bring themselves to the table and feel so much more welcomed in the learning experience. It doesn't take much but it takes a different approach to learning.

Today I taught students about exponential growth and decay, and we began with a discussion on life choices and how the effects of their decisions compound over a lifetime. They got to see how some of my own financial investments grew over time and it was tangible to them. We had an honest, open dialogue about how you can either become someone who pays interest or earns interest. These kinds of conversations help students to think deeply, make personal connections to the math concept, and add value to their lives. 

Mendoza: Any other thoughts on how technology plays into education?

Kim:
I think technology can enhance student thinking and learning. All I care about is my student’s growth, sometimes technology plays a part in that and sometimes it does not. I let my students choose their tech tools, like when we wrote proofs- one student used a method and the whole class decided it was a “classier method” than the one we had learned about, so I was like “ooook I love this!!” I love when students bring their authentic selves into the lesson and exude confidence in what they are learning. 

This generation of students has always had technology at their disposal, so as educators it’s important we teach them not to let it have control over their lives. Technology, when used for good, can truly enhance our lives.

To learn more about how to use technology in meaningful ways, check out Priscilla’s website, The School Hive.

To learn more about how to promote mathematical reasoning through EdTech, schedule a demo of Magma Math.

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