Monthly Archives: February 2012

The Hundred is There and Now is The Time to Listen

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.
a hundred, always a hundred …
(See below for entire poem)

From The Wonder of Learning Website

No Way. The Hundred is There” has been one of my favorite poems for many years now. Hearing it was one of the things that inspired me to study abroad in Reggio Emilia, Italy, where the author, Loris Malaguzzi, worked with teachers to design a unique approach to early care and education. I truly believe that young children have a hundred languages and “(and a hundred, hundred, hundred more)” to express their ideas and emotions and to interact with the world.

It was really my experiences with educators in Italy and coming to understand the vast capabilities of very young children, including the depth of reflection they can engage in, that pushed me to get a master’s in International Training and Education. This passion for early childhood education, as well as my focus on technology, is what has driven my capstone work, which is the culminating project for my master’s program. I have been designing a website for early childhood educators to use as a resource to learn more about the reasons and ways to create global learning experiences in their classrooms using technology. The site provides information about the fields of  global education, educational technology, and early childhood, as well as specific technology tools that can be used in the classroom.

My hope is that the website will be accessible and easy for teachers to use, providing them with relevant and readable information. To make the site valuable for teachers, I have been conducting an online survey asking early childhood teachers for information about their current practices with technology and about what resources they would like to have to better understand and create global learning experiences. I plan to use their responses when selecting what content to add to the site. For example, one teacher has requested a sample lesson plan so she can get a better sense of what a lesson would look like that incorporates technology to create a global learning experience.

What has been frustrating, is that while I have found some great resources about global education and technology tools for collaboration, there are limited sources available that combine these ideas together. And there are almost none, that discuss creating global learning experiences with students before they enter Kindergarten. I have been lucky to have access to some amazing examples of global collaboration and exchange by being part of the #kinderchat community on Twitter. These teachers have provided me with some great stories and are fabulous models for global learning in early childhood.

But I’m still left deeply disappointed. If we believe young children can speak hundreds of languages, why do they have to enter formal schooling before they can have opportunities to express all of those languages and to learn others from children around the world? Preschoolers in Reggio Emilia have been valued and respected enough to be entrusted with designing the city’s theater curtain or creating an amusement park for birds in one of the city parks. Yet in most schools in the U.S., we restrict these young children from using technologies like SkypeVoicethread or Twitter to connect, share, learn, and collaborate with other young children around the world. Why?

I’m left with the mantra Malaguzzi used to end his poem “The child says: No Way. The Hundred is there.” The child perseveres, even after teachers, parents, and society try to separate ideas and opportunities for discovery from the child and to dissuade the child from believing. So that it what I too will do, by creating this website and hoping that more early childhood teachers can begin introducing opportunities to children before they reach kindergarten for global collaboration and exchange. If we can support the inclusion of global learning experiences at this early stage in a child’s life, I believe we will open up exciting and inspiring opportunities to learn about multiculturalism, multilingualism, and diversity both with and from these young children.

The child is made of one hundred.
The child has
a hundred languages
a hundred hands
a hundred thoughts
a hundred ways of thinking
of playing, of speaking.

A hundred.

Always a hundred
ways of listening
of marveling, of loving
a hundred joys
for singing and understanding
a hundred worlds
to discover
a hundred worlds
to invent
a hundred worlds
to dream.

The child has
a hundred languages
(and a hundred hundred hundred more)
but they steal ninety-nine.
The school and the culture
separate the head from the body.
They tell the child:
to think without hands
to do without head
to listen and not to speak
to understand without joy
to love and to marvel
only at Easter and at Christmas.

They tell the child:
to discover the world already there
and of the hundred
they steal ninety-nine.

They tell the child:
that work and play
reality and fantasy
science and imagination
sky and earth
reason and dream
are things
that do not belong together.

And thus they tell the child
that the hundred is not there.
The child says:
No way. The hundred is there.

-Loris Malaguzzi
Founder of the Reggio Emilia Approach
Translated by Lella Gandini 

Global Tech Courses Are Not Built in a Day

Everyone has heard how “Rome wasn’t built in a day” and I can now confirm that graduate courses on Technology as a Global Learning Tool are certainly not either!

I have devoted an inordinate amount of my time recently to creating and preparing for this grad course that I will be teaching on March 3-4th. I knew that designing my own course would be time-consuming but I underestimated the amount of time I would want to put into building the course wiki, where I have compiled related articles and resources for at least forty different tech tools.

The longer that I work on the wiki, the more I realize that there is just so much content that I could cover! There is a seemingly endless number of technology tools on the web that teachers, trainers, international development and exchange workers and others in the field of global education could use for global collaboration. I want to share them all! But I know that’s not possible. So I have worked to streamline the content to include tools that I feel will be most valuable for the participants, based on a needs assessment I conducted about their learning goals, and based on the ease and usability of the tools.

I want to prepare and empower my students to begin using any of the new tools we will discuss (e.g., Voicethread, Google Docs, Lino boards) as soon as the course is complete and yet I also do not want to overwhelm them with too many new technologies and websites. I have struggled to balance the more boring “how-to” type aspects of learning new tools with opportunities for student participation and involvement, and active discussions of the practical applications for these tools. Additionally, I have scheduled time for us to discuss sustainability and ways for course participants to continue using their new skills and tools after the course has ended.

I think one of the things that I am most excited about is the course community I hope to establish with students and then keep alive via our newly formed digital networks. The course is built around a private wikispace that will house all of the resources and assignments but it will also be a space for collaborative exploration and learning. The hope is that the wiki itself will be a new tech tool which participants can learn and practice with and then use with future global learning projects. By using a wiki, which everyone can add to and edit, students will have an opportunity to truly take an active role in shaping our course space and contributing to the content and discussions. Additionally, I will be introducing the class to Twitter and using a hashtag (#T4GL12) throughout the course so that students can begin to explore the vast, global network that a platform like Twitter provides. Through class activities and tweets, students can begin learning more about the sharing of resources, support, and ideas that can occur on Twitter. Since both Twitter and our wikispace are virtual platforms, even after the course is finished and students are no longer together, my hope is that we can continue sharing and exchanging resources and building on our new relationships with one another through these mediums.

To me, those relationships are what help shift a standard exchange of knowledge and resources from a single “sage on a stage” to the students below to more reciprocal exchanges of teaching and learning. I am eager to see what the participants of my course can teach me about different technologies they use or new ways of seeing and using the tools that I teach them. By forming a community of learners who want to find ways to use technology as a global learning tool in diverse setting around the world, we can ideally create a group motivated by curiosity; united by our goals of global exchange and education; and inspired by one another.

Now, back to making the final touches on the course schedule and wiki!

BYOD – A Blessing or a Curse?

English: A Nintendo DS Lite, shown with stylus.

I have been hearing more and more about BYOD or “bring your own device” on Twitter and in the blogs and educational news sources I read. It seems to be a growing trend in the business world too. Yet, the controversy around this idea seems almost as large as the hype. BYO is not a novel concept for restaurants or even schools when it comes to basic supplies (everyone can remember being asked to bring that box of crayons or later your composition notebook) but apparently devices are a different story.

What really made me stop to think more deeply about this topic was reading a recent post by first grade teacher @kathycassidy on using Nintendo DS as an assessment tool during a BYOD day she held. Maybe it’s because I’m not into gaming much but when I had previously though of BYOD, I always envisioned tablets, smartphones, and laptops. The idea of using gaming systems seemed at once novel and practical, especially after I read her post. She was able to use a device that many of her students have and a device that she already has six classroom-owned units of available to share with students who did not have a device. Students used the Nintendo DS to practice writing and using the long a sound (ai), which allowed their teacher to immediately view their submissions via the devices, allowing for faster assessment of their skills. @kathycassidy also discussed how students were able to self-assess and help one another by being able to see each other’s work on screen, making suggestions for improvement to their peers.

To me, this is an example of why BYOD can be so powerful and worthwhile for teachers to explore with their students. After viewing the #edchat archive for this week’s discussion of “Do the positives outweigh the negatives of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device)?” I was reminded of the controversy around implementing this practice. There are a number of concerns about educational equity and students’ access to technology and their ability to bring a device to school. Some have argued that for these reasons, BYOD “enshrines inequity,” puts limitations on how we define student learning, and promotes an acceptance of limited funding for school technology. As @stumpteacher commented in #edchat, “BYOD sounds great, but with poverty such a powerful variable, we can’t ignore access/equality.” Additional concerns include schools and districts that forbid the use of student devices in school and a lack of professional development for teachers who are unsure how to adapt their lesson plans to include these new devices.

Yet, even with all of these concerns, I am in the camp that the positives do outweigh the negatives for a number of exciting reasons. First, as this first grade classroom found, devices allow for a new immediacy and individuality because every student who is using a device has the power to contribute their ideas and receive teacher support or feedback in a more immediate way. This classroom in New Jersey found similar results when students were allowed to use their cell phones in a math class. Another benefit to BYOD and allowing students to use their own devices seems to be increased engagement and participation. At the first grade level, this was exemplified through their increased oral language use, and for older grades, through their note-taking and responses in class discussion.

I also see value in the opportunity for students to bring devices that they already know how to operate, might easily be more advanced or updated than school technology, and can be a launchpad for students to share their knowledge and expertise with teachers. I feel that we should be conceiving of student devices more like the box of tissues students are asked to bring to class throughout the year. Those tissues become part of the class community and they are shared among various students. If a few students in the classroom have devices that they would like to contribute to the class community when they walk in the door (of course taking them with them when they leave) why should we forbid that? As @jonbergmann said during the #edchat, “The key is to not have all kids doing the same thing at the same time. Rethink Ed.” BYOD can be a unique opportunity for an influx of new technology resources that allow teachers to rethink their pedagogical practices and allow for students’ individuality and a diversity of classrooms activities.

Of course, I agree that BYOD needs to be thoughtfully implemented. A number of great resources for creating a BYOD Policy and User Agreement for your classroom or school were shared during #edchat, along with valuable lessons and questions to consider before you jump onto the BYOD bandwagon. It should be a decision that is well-planned and includes opportunities for ongoing check-ins and adjustments, as well as student and teacher learning about the reasons for and possibilities of BYOD. All of the concerns I mentioned above should be thoroughly discussed and the students, teachers, parents, and administrators involved should make sure it is a feasible, fair decision for their class or school community.

At the end of the day though, it seems to come back to one key idea. As one journalist said recently, BYOD is “a chance to connect our children to the world that has moved most assuredly into the digital age.” Instead of holding students back and making our own judgements about how responsible students can be with bringing their own devices to class, using them for educational purposes, and sharing them with device-less peers, let’s educate them about ways they could do all of these things. Let’s let students demonstrate to us how valuable these devices can be in the classroom.

What are your thoughts? Do the positives outweigh the negatives of BYOD?

Tech Tools for Parent Engagement

This week during #ecetechchat we discussed different tech tools that can be used to help create and sustain parent engagement in your early childhood program. I think there are a number of great tech tools (many listed below) that are available today to help teachers easily connect and engage with their parents on a regular basis. And as we discussed during the chat, engaging with parents and building those relationships is vital to creating a strong, connected class community because it allows for a whole new level of home-school collaboration.

One of the key points I took away from the chat was the power of tech tools to help teachers engage parents in starting a cycle of engagement that facilitates learning at home and can then replenish the classroom community with new energy. Basically, by engaging parents, you are providing them with new ideas and activities for discussion with their children at home. Parents are then able to engage with their children about what they are learning at school and talk about new topics and ideas, which children can then bring back into the classroom, completing the cycle.

To get that cycle started, it’s important to check in and survey the parents in your classroom to learn about their existing tech knowledge and comfort. Something emphasized in the chat was to provide multiple venues for engagement (e.g., phone, email, social media) and to meet parents where they already engage. So if all of your parents are on Facebook and that site is allowed at your school, look into creating a private group for your class that you can update with pictures and notes about your classroom activities throughout the day. @Matt_Gomez shared a great piece about using Facebook with his Kindergarten class.

For parent engagement to be sustainable, especially through technology, we agreed that there needs to be support from the administration so they can model appropriate engagement and endorse the use of specific tools or websites. Unfortunately, many schools have blocked social media sites and other online spaces that make sharing easy. One way to work with that issue is to talk to your administration about creating an Acceptable Use Policy as @cybraryman1 suggested and think about what type of specific Social Media Policy you want or need for your classroom. With young children, you cannot be too protective of their privacy, so think carefully about what permissions you set on any social media sites you use and before you create a social community for your class, build a social (personal) learning network for yourself so you become comfortable with the tools and online spaces.

That said, social media and other tech tools will likely be foreign to some/many administrators, colleagues, and parents so you may experience some push-back from trying to introduce something new. Take calculated risks and if you believe the tool will help foster meaningful engagement, ask your administrator if you can at least have a trial run. Some parents might just be afraid of the technology, which is why teacher-parent tech nights can be a great way to build strong relationships with your parents while also helping them learn some new skills. During #ecetechchat we also discussed this idea as a way to help bridge the digital divide and help parents learn and use technology that they may not have access to at home. Another idea is to invite volunteers from a local college or organization to come teach the children, parents, and/or other teachers about new tech tools they can use to engage with one another.

Ultimately, the teacher-parent relationships are the most important piece and technology remains just one tool to facilitate the development and support of those relationships. So, make your engagement proactive instead of reactive and contact parents in as many ways as possible, as often as possible, to share child photographs (worth 10,000 words when it’s your child), videos, notes, work, and more with parents!

Here are some of the tech tools we discussed to engage with parents. If you have more ideas, please add them to our shared #ecetechchat Google Doc!

Tech Tools for Parent Engagement

  • School Website – post updates about your class
  • Class Blog – post about classroom activities and pictures/videos
  • Social Media
  • YouTube – upload videos of children in the classroom
  • Voicethread – digital slide show tool, allows parents to comment
  • Podcasts – of children working, classroom activities, etc
  • Music Playlists – send playlists home of songs you listen to in class
  • Digital Photographs – posted on a blog, Facebook, Twitter, child portfolio, etc
  • PhotosCaps & Skitch –  let you caption your photos and quickly share and save them
  • Evernote – create individual child portfolios to share with parents
  • Skype – video chat with parents
  • Symbaloo – share mixes with sites for children to play/practice skills
  • Tungle.me – schedule meetings with parents
  • Digital storytelling tools (e.g., Storybird) parents can view or make at home
  • Email 
  • Text Message
  • Phone Calls