Tag Archives: #EarlyEd

What Does the Future Hold?

Innovative & Developmentally Appropriate Tech Integration Ideas

After four days at the annual National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) conference, where the theme was Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) in the 21st Century, I have a number of questions bouncing around in my head.

Most of the sessions I attended centered around technology and young children. There were discussions about how to integrate tech into the classroom in developmentally appropriate ways; people sharing apps and tools teachers are using; presenters giving ideas for how pre-service teachers can use tech effectively; and a number of questions from attendees about whether tech was worth integrating at all. I have seen the level of tech integration that is being discussed change and grow significantly over the past few years. Just visiting the exhibit hall makes it clear how pervasive technology has become, with booths for new apps, SMART Board programs, and ways to assess children or update parents via technology.

And yet, I worry about our pacing. Technology is ever changing and transforming as new codes are written and new technologies created. Education is changing too but it seems education is simply reacting, instead of proactively working to shift and adapt in ways that allow technology to be integrated in new and meaningful ways. The field of early childhood education is conflicted as to when, how, where, and why to use technology, with some educators filling their classrooms with every tech tool available (e.g., SMART boards and pens, augmented reality cameras, and multi-touch devices) while others are fighting to keep all technology out in the name of play or tradition.

In one of my sessions this week, the presenters discussed the idea of the tortoise and the hare and the fact that each person moves at her or his own pace along their educational technology journey … and that’s okay! But I wonder if that works as well for the field of early childhood as a whole as it does for individual educators and the children we teach? I agree wholeheartedly that pushing technology into the hands of young children and forcing teachers to use it in their classrooms before they are ready is not the best approach. We need to meet teachers (and children) where they are at to allow them to truly explore and experiment with technology at a pace that allows for discovery, wonder and learning.

Yet, if our children are being bombarded by tech devices at home or expected to walk into older grades competent in using multi-touch devices for research, curation, and creation, it seems like we cannot let tech integration in the field of early childhood education progress at the pace of the tortoise. By integration, I mean everything relating to it, such as training, funding, and classroom resources. If we wait to provide  professional development on technology and only slowly develop rubrics and tools to assess whether technologies are developmentally appropriate, then the technology will continue to be used without an educational lens and integration in DAP. There are teachers who want to move faster and students who have already moved ahead, frustrated by the lack of learning they’re experiencing in school.

One of the repeated messages at the conference was that technology is not going away and we can’t play “keep away” from children (or teachers!) with technology without doing an injustice to education. Instead, we need to be scaffolding students’ understanding of digital media literacy and ways to use technology for creation, communication, and collaboration.

As we enter into the Maker age (such as the use of bananas for piano keys, as seen above) where 3D printers can print out a child’s invention, programing systems are developed for early childhood, and multi-touch devices may be obliterating the need for a mouse, we need to consider what tools and practices will soon be considered “out-of-date” and how we will be prepared for all of the tools and technologies that come next.

So I come back to the question of where our responsibility lies regarding tech integration, as educators, policymakers, developers and administrators, in the field of Early Childhood Education.

  • How can we share resources, develop professional development communities and trainings, and invite others to watch our practices so that we can all grow together?

Our children are waiting for us to be ready. They are more often moving at the pace of the hare instead of the tortoise and I think it’s time for departments, agencies, ministries, organizations, and individuals to come together and make the developmentally appropriate use of technology by educators and with children a priority. As Warren Buckleitner said at the end of the featured NAEYC session on technology, “we all need to figure this out together” because many hands make light work.

Everyone Working Together:
A Collection of Images from Tech on Deck by Giovanni Arroyo

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Preparing for the School Year

I’ve been on a blogging hiatus for the past two weeks as I prepared for and started a new position and a new school year. I am now a Lower School Technology Coordinator at an independent school, working specifically with PreK-2nd grade teachers and students. Given my experiences focusing on the developmentally appropriate use of technology for these ages, I was excited to begin and start talking with teachers to learn more about which tech tools might be a good fit to integrate into their curriculum and classroom projects.

In addition to talking with teachers, I have been working on setting up a number of different pieces to be ready for the year. These include:

Classroom Setup:

computer lab

Pre-Classroom Setup

My “home” in the school is a computer lab with 21 PC desktops, nine bulletin boards, a large whiteboard, two flat screen TVs and one document camera. I took some time to plan out how I wanted to set up the various bulletin boards and how I could add some color to the white walls. Ultimately, I decided I wanted to start the year with a board for digital citizenship, one for global collaboration, one for lab rules, and one for a “tool of the month.” The rest of the boards I am reserving for a hands-on, experiential learning project with my first graders, who will help me build a 3D keyboard.

The Digital Citizenship & Global Collaboration Boards

To add more color to the walls, I also created a technology alphabet which I posted around the room (e.g., A for Audacity, B for Browser). Then I checked all of my equipment and tested out the TVs to make sure everything was set up for the first class. Finally, I created the content for my bulletin boards, making sure to add more color and lots of visuals for my younger learners who cannot read yet.

Tech Coordinator Setup:

Another important setup piece was figuring out all of the organizational systems and tools I would need for my position and all of the foundational knowledge I would need to work with the teachers and students. I received my weekly schedule to meet with each grade (my school is working towards a philosophy of tech integration vs. pulling out for tech work) and integrated that with a calendar of other duties and meetings. Then I put all those dates into my Outlook calendar which syncs with iCal where I have RSS calendar subscriptions for school events and then I synced that to my mobile devices. Next, I explored the capabilities in Outlook to create rules since I was used to using Gmail and color-coded filters. Finally, I set up a folder system in my school’s Google Drive and on my computer, so my files would be organized as well.

Once those organizational pieces were set, I moved on to finding ways to learn more about each teachers’ current knowledge and tech learning goals. This was accomplished through a mix of face-to-face meetings and a Google Form I created. Then I built another form for teachers to submit tech questions, resource requests, suggestions/ideas, and learning goals so they had a quick and easy way to communicate with me (and Google kindly organizes them all into a spreadsheet so I can keep track of it all!).

With this foundation, I began to plan specific projects with each grade to fit their goals and needs. It looks like we will be exploring Voicethread, ebooks, edublogs, typing and digital photography as part of different classroom projects to start the year!

Community Setup:

In addition to setting up my physical space and preparing systems and plans for the school year, I realized that I needed to learn more information about the school community. I would like my classroom community to mirror the larger practices of each grade and the school as a whole so that when students do come to the lab (versus me working with them in their classrooms), they feel that there is consistency in the expectations and rules.

Lab Rules

My rules for the computer lab

I visited different classrooms to get a sense of what their systems were and I read more about how Responsive Classroom practices (a school-wide initiative) are used in non-homeroom classes. I decided I would adopt at least one Responsive Classroom technique as part of my classroom rules (i.e., having children use a red cup to individually indicate they need help). I also appreciated the practice of having a morning message and hope to do that with children in the lab.

Mental Setup:

Finally, in preparing for the new school year, I discovered that it was important to also think about my “mental setup”. What goals, hopes, and dreams did I want to set for the year? What routines and systems did I want to create to help myself feel prepared and ready to engage in teaching and learning? I took some time to pause and reflect on my specific goals and record them in my professional development plan and I also identified people who could be mentors and allies to help me during my first year. With all of these setup pieces complete, I felt both calm and excited, a bit nervous to start, yet itching to begin and overall, optimistic about the beginning of a new school year and a new job. I’m looking forward to seeing what the year brings and sharing my teaching and learning journey here online.

Apps in Early Education – The Big Questions

With the start of the school year right around the corner, I wanted to take some time to explore the use of apps in PreK through 2nd grade. I realized that a number of my thoughts about apps for this age level focused on questions. Such as:

  • How are educators currently using apps?
  • How are young learners using apps (at home and/or school)?
  • What are the best review sites for educational apps?
  • What rubrics exist for evaluating apps for this age group?
  • How can app devices (e.g., tablets & smartphones) be used to connect with other tech tools (e.g., interactive whiteboards)?
  • What type of teacher PD resources exist for new app users?
  • What resources exist for young children learning how to use apps?
  • How can apps best be used when you only have one device?

Clearly, there is a lot to consider when examining how and why to use apps with young learners. I decided to start with some of the key questions above and did some web searching. Here’s what I found:

How are educators currently using apps?

out a bout app

Out-A-Bout App by Fred Rogers Center

To start, I reviewed the initial survey results from the Early Childhood Technology Collaborative, which show that only 35% of surveyed teachers of young children are even using tablets. So I realized I needed to narrow my focus to my #ECETech PLN to get information about how teachers who are actually using these tools in their practice work with apps. From there, I discovered a great post by @mattgomez detailing the apps he uses with his kindergarteners and links to how he uses many of them. I also checked out the Fred Rogers apps, which provide suggestions for how to use them and reviewed some other app collections, such as these two pinboards, iPad Apps for Early Childhood and Early Childhood/Preschool Apps, with suggestions for how to use each app. I also found a helpful post of how apps are being used in a 1st grade class and overall,  teacher blog posts seemed to be the most informative to learn not just what, but how teachers are using apps with this age range.  How are you using apps for education? 

How are young learners using apps (at home and/or school)?

Aside from teacher blog posts about how they are using apps with their students, this question was hard to answer through general online research. I did find a very cute video of kindergarten children talking about how they used iPads in a butterfly study in their classrooms. I would love to see more of these types of active examples of technology used as a tool to support or enhance a project/learning from the child’s perspective. How are your young learners using apps? 

What are the best review sites for educational apps?

My go-to sites (in no particular order) are:

kindertown logo

Where do you go for trusted reviews of apps to use in school with early learners?

What rubrics exist for evaluating apps for this age group?

Some rubrics that I’ve found recently (and I hope more and more will be created to meet different needs!):

Do you have other ways of assessing educational apps? What criteria do you use?

How can app devices (e.g., tablets & smartphones) be used to connect with other tech tools (e.g., smartboards)

Apple VGA Adapter

Apple VGA Adapter

It can be helpful to display apps on a larger screen, such as a SMART Board, so large groups can share ideas and see content at the same time. To display your iPad/iPhone screen on a SMART Board or other large screen, you need either a VGA adapter or an HDMI /Digital AV Adapter if you want to connect to an Apple TV/HD TV.

If you want to actually control what’s displayed on your screen from your iPad instead of just mirroring the image on your mobile device, then you’ll need an additional application, such as Doceri or Splashtop. These are helpful if you want to access your computer programs on your iPad.

I want to continue investigating these options because it seems like one of the best uses of the an interactive whiteboard (IWB) and a mobile device  - using the IWB to control your device (e.g., interact with an iPad app on a SMART Board) – isn’t currently possible. This combo could be especially helpful for early learner’s fine motor skills and large group collaboration so hopefully it will be available in the future.

What tips do you have for connecting app devices to other tech tools?

What type of teacher PD resources exist for new app users?

This is one area where the Internet provides a rich treasure trove of resources! In addition to Twitter and a PLN full of other educators who are experimenting and playing with various apps and sharing their tips and tricks, there are numerous articles written on this topic. For example, this site is full of professional development resources  for teaching using iPads in the Classroom. Apple provides a page of resources, as well as ongoing webinars for educators using their mobile products and Android4Schools is a good resource for those with Android devices. 

Successfully finding professional development resources is connected to creativity. Be creative in selecting platforms to search. When looking for resources, include wikis, Pinterest boards, LiveBinders, Twitter, and other networks, as well as news sites, video-tutorials, and of course, colleagues!

What resources exist for young children learning how to use apps?

Although I feel like any technology should be used as a tool to enhance learning and simply another language kids can use to express their creativity, there are still some basics that can be helpful to review before handing a mobile device to a child. For example, how to: turn it on, control the sound, understand when it needs to be plugged in, swipe, click, and so forth.

It was tough to find resources to help with this but I do like the suggestions in the book Teaching in the Digital Age, by Brian Puerling, about how to introduce an iPad to young learners.

I also found these colorful posters about acceptable use, which could be helpful reminders for older children who can read and serve as a good reminder about building in time to discuss digital citizenship and acceptable use with even very young learners.

How do you introduce apps to early learners? What resources have you found?

How can apps best be used when you only have one device?

Finally, working in an environment where children may have access to app-filled devices at home and teachers often have them for personal use but there are no classrooms full of mobile devices, I wanted to consider this question. Luckily, this  has been a popular topic lately and there are many resources online for working in a “one tablet/iPad classroom.” Some only include app suggestions, others take the form of podcasts, blog posts, articles or collections of project ideas and links to explore in more depth.

Do you have suggestions for using only one mobile device in the classroom? 

My head is filled with many additional questions, such as how to use mobile devices to facilitate global collaboration, creative expression, and documentation but those might have to wait for later in the year. I’m excited to keep exploring and to hear from others about their experiences and ideas!

My Insider Tips for Getting #ECETech Updates

 

This week during #ecetechchat, we’re planning to discuss and share where we get the inside scoop on the latest trends, tools, and reports on technology in early childhood education. In preparation for the chat, I thought I would take some time to record some of my “go-to” places I get news and learn about #ecetech resources online. To hear my favorite offline resources, join our chat on Wednesday night at 9pm EDT!

Social Media:

My top source of insider news almost always comes from one of my social networks. Every time I check Twitter, I learn something new and since I’m passionate about early childhood education and educational technology, many of the people in my PLN are also interested and tweeting about those topics. Not only do I learn more about resources I have heard of or tried before but I am constantly introduced to new websites, tools, and ways of integrating technology into the classroom by following current early childhood teachers, administrators, professors, and organizations using technology.

I think there are two key pieces to getting insider news from social media: broad networks and meaningful relationships.

Whether you’re “liking” Facebook pages, selecting Pinterest boards to follow, or joining new LinkedIn Groups, make sure you’re choosing networks that cover the entire range of your field of interest. Instead of just listening to one voice or perspective, try to find ways to hear what people in all areas of a field are discussing (e.g., developers, publishers, teachers, administrators, academics). This way you can both double-check your facts and hear new ways of thinking about or interpreting new tools, apps, and teaching approaches. But the work isn’t done after you’ve joined a bunch of groups. Next, you need to move to the relationship stage and begin really connecting with people in each group. Start responding to specific tweets that interest you or LinkedIn posts that make you think. By engaging in dialogue and sharing your own news and resources, you can create meaningful relationships through these networks that will not only help you to stay up-to-date about that latest #ecetech developments but will also help you to grow professionally as an educator and colleague.

Blogs:

Sometimes I’m looking for more in-depth information about a new tech tools, ways to use it in the classroom, or thoughts about whether specific technologies are appropriate for young children. That’s when I turn to my blogs. Sometimes I still use social media to learn about new posts but many times I just check my Google Reader to find out what bloggers are saying about technology in early childhood. Once again, I try to follow a mix of current teachers, developers (e.g., Kindertown’s Education Blog), and organizations. For example, I love learning from the #kinderchat teachers, many of whom blog frequently about their work with technology and global collaboration. I would recommend checking out their posts on #SkypePlay, iPad integration, Using ToonTastic, and Evernote e-portfolios to get an idea of what I mean. I also follow the Early Education Initiative, the Hatch Early Childhood Blog, and of course the Early Childhood Education Technology Network! To get the inside scoop, I look for blogs that are updated frequently with fresh content and thoughtful posts.

Websites:

I also check specific websites to learn about #ecetech news and events. A key one is the National Association for the Education of Young Children website, including their new website for families, since they recently released a new position statement on technology and set standards for the field. I also check the Erikson TEC Center and am excited for the ongoing development of that site as a technology resource for early educators. Similarly, I will look to Ele, created by the Fred Rogers Center, for new ideas about using technology. I have found a number of review sites are also a great resource to learn about new technologies: Mom’s with Apps, Free Tech for Teachers, CommonSense Media, and ICT Magic.

Where do you go to get the inside scoop on early childhood technology?