29 Aug 2022

Ben Cogswell: Instilling a “Kinder” Culture

Teaching young learners to treat themselves and each other with kindness is something that Ben Cogswell, a kindergarten teacher from Salinas, California, focuses intently on. Instilling values of honesty, hard work, and generosity within his students is the ethos behind his teachings. He believes that these qualities not only lead to effective students but more importantly, effective people.

Ben’s cartoon in his iconic Kinder Rockets astronaut suit!
Tech For Young Learners

Ben began his educational journey as a sixth-grade teacher but transitioned into an instructional technology coach when his school was becoming one-to-one. During this time, he was met with a lot of resistance from kindergarten teachers who believed technology would hinder the student’s development. “I got tired of hearing that because I could see the transformative power that technology could have on young kids because I saw it first hand with my own kids who were that age. So I decided to go back into the classroom to teach kindergarten.”

Ben and his fellow teachers in his classroom!

Ben teaches at a school where many of his students are learning English for the first time in the classroom, which poses a lot of unique challenges. “I am tasked with helping them build language. So how do I use technology in an engaging and effective way to achieve this?” One of Ben’s favorite tools is Seesaw because of the transformative effect it can have on these young learners both individually and interpersonally. “I could have kids turn to a partner and share, but that means only 50% are sharing…Or I could send them to their computer to record a video and now all 100% of kids are sharing and building language.”

Accessing Language with EdTech:

For many ESL learners, fear of making language mistakes hinders them from fully engaging with their peers. Recording videos removes a lot of the social anxiety that plagues new language learners. It allows them the space and opportunity to re-film and share organically. “The most powerful and magical tool is right on your computer…your camera and microphone and it allows students to share their world in so many different ways. We then get to watch each student’s perspective through their video. I love seeing it play out!”

Ben is showing off his Kinder Rockets classroom.

For kindergarten students, this is usually their first time in a real classroom, so it’s not only important to build knowledge but connections as well. Community building is something that Ben believes to be essential in a child’s development and experience in the classroom. “While it’s important for all students to feel acclimated and a part of the classroom, it’s especially important to build language for ESL students so that they have access to their peers and are fully integrated.”

Building Connections:

During his transition into kindergarten, Ben had a deep desire to create a culture within his classroom that emphasized kindness and trying your best! “It’s always good to shoot for the moon, and I thought what better way to show that than having an astronaut-themed classroom!” Ben named his classroom the Kinder Rockets where each day they start class with a pledge: to be a Kinder Rocket is to be kind, to be safe, and to do your best! “When we are doing work, I just want them to be their best. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and it’s okay to make mistakes.”

Ben is teaching some of his fellow teachers about EdTech!

Ben was taken by surprise at the way that these young learners really internalize this pledge. “One of the kids at the end of the year came to me and asked if it was okay to make mistakes in first grade…when a student feels comfortable saying that to you it really validates the importance of creating a safe environment for the student!” These conversations with students have a profound impact on the way that they treat each other. Ben is always focusing on starting what it means to be kind, and his hope is that these conversations resonate with students and translate into a kinder classroom culture.

Kinder Rockets: A Global Community:

While teaching over the last five years, Ben has been growing the Kinder Rockets community to a whole new level. He wears an astronaut suit to class daily to make his classes more fun and engaging. Ben also has a website, Kinder Rockets World, where he shares lesson plans, videos, and a host of other teaching materials for teachers, students, and families to use in their classrooms. Over the pandemic, he started to share more and more, which has led to some of his activities being used over 2.5 million times! His website is all about building communities of kind students through both effective technology and traditional teaching methods! “There’s always this notion of one or the other. I use technology to share, but we are also going to use a pen and paper to share. All aspects of education are vital to a student’s success.”

All Things OKIOCAM:

Ben discovered the OKIOCAM and knew that he had to add it to his classroom repertoire. He created a stop motion with his daughter when he first received it and was surprised at how user-friendly and accessible it was. “It was so simple to make the video and I really appreciate that. It is a perfect app for getting more creativity out of your students.”

Ben wearing his astronaut suit in his Kinder Rockets classroom!

He was also really impressed with the quality of the resolution! Although the OKIOCAM may be small, the video quality really packs a punch. “The portability is one of its best features. You can truly teach from anywhere at any time which makes it such an amazing addition to any classroom. In my ideal classroom, a group of students would have their own OKIOCAM so that they can share and create together!” The OKIOCAM  really helps take your lessons and classroom experience to the next level.

Ben seamlessly integrates excitement into valuable life-long lessons for his students to take with them in both education and the real world. His various career shifts have led him to enrich the lives of so many young learners, and I have no doubt that he will continue to help students be more kind and strive to always do their best.

Ben Cogswell is currently based in Salinas, California where he serves as a kindergarten teacher at Bardin Elementary School. He is a Common Sense Media Ambassador, Google Certified Innovator,  and Seesaw Certified Educator and Ambassador. Ben is a former sixth-grade teacher, and district technology coach. Check out Ben’s website, Kinder Rockets World, which has copious amounts of material for students and teachers alike! Be sure to follow Ben on Twitter so you can stay up to date with everything that he has going on.