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.