Monthly Archives: January 2012

Technology + Early Childhood Education = Dilemma?

Image: 'Ferreñafe' by hostmaster. Some Rights Reserved

I have been thinking about the combination of technology and early childhood education (ECE) quite a bit the last few days. Of course, this is not particularly surprising given that I’m passionate about exploring ways to incorporate technology in ECE  and the possibilities for sharing and global collaboration that technology can create. Still, my most recent thoughts have been somewhat troubling and I want to reflect more on the dilemma I have been encountering in trying to combine technology and ECE.

As I delve more into the fields of educational technology and ECE, both personally and professionally, I’m frequently reminded of the pro-technology bubble I sometimes live inside. On a daily basis, I am in communication with my PLN, a group of people on Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as face-to-face colleagues, who are already utilizing technology extensively. They are testing out new and exciting ways to use tech tools in their teaching practice and with their students and so I begin to forget how many others are not only not using technology but are completely skeptical or even opposed to it!

Living in a pro-tech-savy bubble has major benefits. It allows me to have 24/7 access to a community of people who push my thinking in regards to how technology can and should be used in the classroom and helps me to test out new technologies. I have the opportunity to ask questions, learn from these great tech users, and share my own tech knowledge. In the bubble, I feel like my goal of using technology to connect early childhood educators around the globe to share pedagogical practices and connect their students, is absolutely achievable and supported.

Then, there are days when I step outside the bubble and try to introduce my ideas about technology and ECE to others. On these occasions, I encounter confusion, skepticism, disregard, and/or disbelief about technology in ECE. I hear a different mantra than the idea, as NAEYC stated in their latest Technology Position Statement, than yes, technology can involve “the application of tools and materials to enhance children’s learning and development, interactions, communication, and collaboration.” Instead, the mantra is:

  • No, early childhood educators are not ready for these types of technologies and tools.
  • No, young children are not capable of using these tools.
  • No, technology is not developmentally appropriate for these young children.
  • No, technology is too difficult to for these teachers to handle.

Not only is there resistance to tech, as we discussed last week in #ecetechchat but there can be a complete rejection of technology, in large part it seems, due to a concern about teacher capacity to learn and use these technologies.

This is a mantra I find very disheartening. I believe that, when used appropriately and meaningfully, technology truly can enhance a young child’s educational experience, her or his growth and development. I believe that technology can expand a child’s world to encompass the entire globe and can provide an amazing resource for professional growth to early childhood educators. Yet, I am troubled by the fact that the value and meaning of these technologies may never be seen, if opportunities are not presented for early childhood educators to learn about them. How can early childhood educators begin to see, and classrooms grow to include, technology as a pedagogically valuable enhancement if the response is always “no” and there are no opportunities for teachers to learn more?

While this dilemma deeply concerns me, I take hope in the new initiatives that are beginning to sprout up to educate early childhood teachers about technology and ways it can be used with young children to enhance learning. For example, the new Erikson Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center, Technology Workshops by the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership, free technology webinars by Hatch and Early Childhood Investigations and continued updates to the NAEYC Technology Position Statement, demonstrate that technology is beginning to be infused in early childhood professional development. Hopefully, in time, technology education can become as accessible and supported in ECE and for early educators as it is in other areas of education.

The Power of a Comment

Kristina B., Creative Commons Attribution.

It wasn’t until I joined the blogosphere that I realized the power of a simple comment. Before I started blogging myself, I would read other people’s blogs and sometimes peruse the comments that other readers had left behind, but I would never stop to comment myself. On one hand, I felt like I didn’t have anything specific or meaningfully to contribute and on the other hand, I just didn’t understand the importance of comments.

Comments are more than words on a page, particularly if it’s a page you have written yourself. Comments are symbolic, they represent the fact that a post you have written affected someone and meant something to the point that the person felt compelled to respond to you. The comment could be a challenge, a compliment, or even a question but whatever form it takes, it holds meaning. As a blogger, a comment helps to remind you that the blogosphere is a “connected community” and you are not alone with your ideas and opinions. That instead, you are part of a larger culture of sharing. This sharing is so exciting! To feel that you can start an idea, publish it, and send it out into the world wide web for others to build on, improve on, and respond to you with new perspectives or contradictions that you can learn from, is amazing.

This is why, more and more, I find myself stopping to not only read other bloggers but to comment on their posts. I hope to convey, with the power of a comment, how much I appreciated their sharing and how valuable I found their ideas. I want to let the blogger know that their post made me think and many times, that I learned something new. I’ve grown bolder in asking questions in posts and even leaving behind a suggestion or two if I have a relevant idea or resource to offer. And in this way, I feel like I can call myself a true part of the blogosphere community, because I have become a participant not just in the publication side but in the dialogical, sharing aspect that truly binds a community and builds a strong foundation of collaboration and caring.

What do others in the blogosphere community think? Is a comment powerful to you?

Some Tech Goals for 2012

Last week, I wrote some reflections on 2011 and after looking back on the past year, I decided it would be good to also think about 2012 and some of the tech goals I hope to accomplish.

The first one is to keep up with this blog and to start adding more pictures to my posts! I think I got a good start with this goal in my last post. :)

I want to learn more about coding this year. I was excited to discover the free Javascript coding lessons at Codeacademy. I recently finished their “Getting Started with Programming” course and until they release new lessons, I plan to start exploring Ruby.

Another tool I’ve been exploring and want to begin using more frequently is Google Reader. Now that I’m posting here and reading so many new blogs, I realized I needed a way to easily organize them and stay up-to-date on new posts. I’m still trying to decide how I want to arrange my folders and I also hope to look into creating “bundles” and see how they might be valuable for sharing blog resources.

After recently receiving an invite, I just started to poke around on Pinterest and I would like to explore the site more. I want to think more deeply about how I can use the site in a meaningful and productive way to organize and share resources with other educators. I currently only have 18 pins on 6 boards but as I search around the site, I’m beginning to find some really great resources from other users. I think there are some really exciting possibilities for sharing with the site, especially since you can allow other users to add pins to your boards. I could see this turning a board like “Great #ECE Blogs” into a goldmine.

Wikis are also on my list of goals for 2012 because I plan to create at least one wiki for my master’s program this year for a weekend course I’m teaching in the spring on Technology as a Global Learning Tool. I have only used wikis intermittently over the past few years and I want to grow more comfortable with using and designing them so that the participants of the course can co-create one with me. I hope it will serve as an ongoing resource and community space for us to think about #globaled, #ICT4D, #development, #edtech and ways to use technology in meaningful ways in the U.S. and abroad.

One other fairly new tool/site that is on my list is Google+. I have played around on the site, creating my own page and a page for my master’s program but I haven’t seen a lot of interaction there and honestly have struggled to find time to be active there as well as all of the other networks I participate in and sites I run. I hope to continue exploring Google+ in 2012 and testing out some more of the resources the site offers, like Hangouts, as well as finding ways to use Pages for inbound marketing.

Finally, an ongoing goal of mine is to stay active in my existing social media networks and in close communication with my PLN so that together, we can continue learning and teaching about issues in (early childhood) education, resources for teachers, ideas for using social media and new technologies, and ways to connect people around the globe!

Another Year Gone By

Wow, another year has gone by and we’re already three days into 2012! With the start of a new year, I wanted to take some time to reflect back on 2011 and things that I learned, accomplished, and hope to carry with me into the new year.

I think one of the most memorable things of 2011 will always be my first trip to Africa. As part of one of my master’s courses at American University, I traveled to Nigeria for two weeks in May to conduct research on the early childhood education available in the small town of Yola. I was amazed at the range of education practices and facilities I saw, ranging from mud buildings with a few tables and crayons to a fully-resourced, air-conditioned facility connected to the American University of Nigeria. The trip was a great reminder that no matter how many books you read or perspectives you hear on a country, there is nothing like walking into a new culture, hearing new languages and quickly trying to adapt to the local customs, food, weather, and everything else that goes with international travel! Some parts will always be easier than others, such as getting down on the dirt floors and playing with the children at the various schools I visited. Whereas trying to stay silent and honor the accepted cultural practice of corporal punishment (i.e., watching a four-year-old be repeatedly hit with a large, thick stick) is much, much harder. Overall, the trip was extremely educative. I learned a great deal about life in Nigeria, the education system there, and the importance of traveling with a flexible, supportive group (and protein bars … for when you can’t take one more day of rice and chicken!).

Aside from my international travels, I had some great developments in my professional life in 2011. I had the opportunity to spend the summer working as a teacher at the Penn Children’s Center and loved getting to work closely with one preschool class. Our adventures included “traveling” from Japan to England, learning about the royal family, creating castles of all shapes and sizes, growing flowers and vegetables in our garden, and enjoying many days of water play!

Earlier this fall, I was able to start working as an Education and Technology Consultant, which has allowed me to learn a lot about webinar management, utilize more of my tech skills, and be more active in the field of early childhood. Consulting has allowed me to work with some great new colleagues, including @FSSimon and @KarenNemethEdM, which has been a real privilege. I’ve also really enjoyed helping to facilitate the Early Childhood Investigations webinars and if you haven’t checked them out, I’d highly recommend them, they’re free

I also grew a lot as a learner and educator in 2011 through my master’s courses. I especially enjoyed Models/Methods in Early Childhood Curriculum; Global & Multicultural Education & Training; Training Design; and Critical Educational Psychology. These courses helped deepen my knowledge of approaches to literacy education in early childhood, critical theory and ways it applies to education and psychology, and how to design a meaningful training. I was able to take a fresh look at the works of Freiere, Vygotsky, Piaget as well as many new theorists and I had the chance to read a number of great texts. I would particularly recommend: Making Literacy RealCritical Multiculturalism: Theory & Praxis, Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach.

Of course a big part of my past year has involved a continued exploration of tech tools. As I wrote about in my first post, I discovered Storify not long ago and I have also been testing out Symbaloo, a great way to compile your favorite sites, as well as exploring new uses for the virtual cork board Lino. I also began using Picnik so I could add a watermark to the photos in my new Etsy shop. After following and reading many other papers, I finally decided to create my own #Tech, #GlobalEd & #EarlyEd  paper.li and after being fairly inactive for a bit, I jumped back into LinkedIn in 2011, creating two new networking groups for my master’s program and finding other professional groups where I could join some great dialogues. Twitter was also a major part of 2011 for me, as I traveled to New Orleans to present on Twitter in liberal arts classrooms at the annual meeting of AERA, connected with more educators around the globe, began participating in more great chats like #kinderchat, and started tweeting for my program @ITEP_AU.

All in all, it was a pretty great year! I’ve loved the discoveries I’ve made, whether they’ve been in the field of international education, early childhood, or technology and the connections I have built will definitely be a big part of this new year. I’m excited to see what 2012 will bring and to start charting new waters, either here or abroad, so that I can continue to learn and grow and to connect educators around the globe.