Tag Archives: LinkedIn

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? 

 

Digital Spaces Are Like Virtual Silly Putty

By slworking2

Digital spaces seem to me a bit like virtual silly putty. You can mold and shape them in almost any way you want, you can copy and recreate them in the same way I used to imprint newspaper clips on the putty, and you can take the same space and use it over and over in different ways. All of this flexibility make digital spaces exciting, fluid, and responsive. It can also make it challenging to decide which digital space is the right one for your project or goal.

I have been doing work with a variety of digital spaces recently and I wanted to write about the pros and cons I see in each and solicit feedback from others about ways they have used these spaces so that I can envision new ways to shape my silly putty. Given the vastness of the Internet and the digital spaces it houses, I’ll only discuss three main types of spaces in this post: wikis, blogs, and social media.

Wikis

It seems only fitting to use Wikipedia’s definition of a wiki, which is “a website whose users can add, modify, or delete its content via a web browser using a simplified markup language or a rich-text editor.” I feel like there was a big push to use wikis a few years ago which has faded a bit as other digital spaces have come onto the scene, such as social media platforms. Yet, I think wikis are an underutilized space because of their collaborative functionality. Although tools like Google Apps can allow for real-time collaboration, having an entire web space with widget functionality and custom formatting that you can find in platforms like wikispaces or PBworks, provides a richer space for group work. As an educator, there are additional advantages, since you can create a free, “plus” account on sites like wikispaces so that you can keep your site private to protect student data and work. Wikis also allow multiple parties, across multiple time zones and continents, to be able to contribute to site. They can create pages, add resources, and share projects in a way that can be challenging in other digital spaces due to the various permissions needed to have multiple editors or authors. The ability to review and compare  your history on a wiki and revert back to an older version is also something that is not available in other digital spaces such as social media platforms.

The downside of a wiki is that it takes a lot of maintenance to keep it updated and relevant, which can get confusing when you have multiple authors/editors and it can be time-consuming to construct the initial frame and organization of the space. The lack of real-time collaboration functionality can also be a challenge if you are using the space for a conference or specific class session(s). Finally, there are limited social commenting options with a wiki. To provide feedback or comment on a page, most wikis require you to first join and that extra step does not foster the same type of social sharing and dialogue that is facilitated by social media spaces or blogs.

Blogs

Blogging platforms are a great digital space for publicizing your ideas, sharing your work, and documenting your (class) activities. Blogs also facilitate discussion through the comments functionality, where frequent and first-time visitors can review a post and add their own perspectives or ask follow-up questions. Platforms like WordPress add more flexibility to blogging spaces, allowing them to be used as entire websites with static pages in addition to revolving blog posts. This option can allow you to share resources and present information that does not need to be updated as frequently as a blog while still having the commenting functionality to interact with visitors. The ability to add widgets or plugins to blogs make them interactive and engaging, allowing you to do things like interweave your social media spaces into your blogging space.

Although you can have multiple editors of a blog or guest posts, blogging spaces are usually less collaborative and more one-way in terms of creation and distribution. Similar to wikis, blogs require a lot of maintenance and as I discussed previously, “fresh” content if you are looking to increase your SEO. Blog spaces seem more ideal for single or small groups of people as compared to large groups who are coming together to work on a project or share resources. Blogging platforms also do not allow for real-time updates or collaboration.

Social Media

Social media spaces are growing quickly. They include spaces like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and more recently, Pinterest. These digital spaces allow for a variety of publication options, including sharing personal stories and updates, new articles, professional opportunities, and work-related news. There is an interesting intermixing of professional and personal stories within and across these spaces that I have not typically seen within one wiki or blog. Social media spaces allow for real-time updates, networking, and professional development twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. There is constant change occurring in these spaces as new people join, posts are updated, and people share new content. The focus is often tied to specific chats, topical discussions, current events, and at times, marketing and promotion. Within the education community, these spaces are an amazing demonstration of the collaboration and exchange that can occur among educators around the world. Social media accounts also are usually singular, meaning that they are owned and managed by one person, unless they are for a business, in which case there might be multiple administrators of one account. This decreases the collaboration within an account but does not affect the sharing that can occur within the larger social media space (e.g., on Twitter).

Unfortunately, the speed of change within social media spaces can at times be a challenge, as it can be difficult to keep up with the barrage of new stories and updates. Additionally, most of these spaces are shared in some way with various audiences, and some, like Twitter, are often completely private or public, without much of an in-between. This can raise more privacy concerns that other digital spaces where you might be able to make some pages pubic and others private. The rate of change also makes it difficult to create and publish static content, either alone or in a group, that you want to remain in one space on the Internet.

I’m sure there are many more details about the functionality of these sites that I haven’t covered but this at least serves as a general outline of how the silly putty often works when it is shaped as a wiki, blog, or social media space. I would love to hear when other people have used these spaces and why they chose them for their specific projects or goals. How do you decide which shape you want your silly putty to take? Is there a right and wrong way, depending on the goals you want to achieve?

Looking to be a Change Agent? Find Your Community.

A "Collective Picture of Progress" created by people who drew a picture of themselves creating social change.

Creating change is hard.

Convincing people, especially those in power, that the change you are making is meaningful and beneficial, can be even harder.

On a daily basis, I work to bridge three different disciplines: early childhood education, global education, and educational technology. While I see clear intersections and connections between these three fields, I have come to understand that not everyone feels similarly. In fact, at points I have encountered strong opposition to merging any two of those fields together (e.g., early childhood and educational technology or global education and educational technology), let alone all three. I have heard comments that educational technologies, even when used in developmentally appropriate ways, do not belong in the classroom because young children cannot understand them and should be focused on basic skills instead. I have been told that digital formats are not as valid for presenting academic and professional resources and that young children do not need to be socializing or engaging with world citizens (through technology) because that can come later in life.

Given my Reggio-inspired, global lens to (early childhood) education, many of these comments concern me. I believe even very young children are capable of meaningful and deep reflection that can then be expressed in various mediums, including technology. I also feel that our world is becomingly increasingly connected across the globe and therefore it is advisable that as educators we expose young children to different cultures and ways of thinking about the world and provide opportunities for them to connect with other world citizens. And clearly, given the recent launch of my new website for early childhood educators, I believe that digital mediums can be a meaningful and practical way to present resources and ideas in an open and collaborative format.

These beliefs motivate me to continue to push the existing boundaries of the three fields I am passionate about and to work to join them together. Yet, in the face of opposition, I can at times become discouraged or overwhelmed. This is why I feel privileged to be part of such a supportive and amazing community, the education community. These people, whether we interact face-to-face or online, support my interests in #globalearlyedtech (and yes, I believe that’s the trifecta of hashtags!) and they provide encouragement when others discourage or question my work. They were the people who responded via LinkedIn, Twitter, email, and word-of-mouth when I reached out asking for people to take and share a survey for my master’s Capstone research. They were the people who reviewed my website, providing comments, suggestions, edits, and ideas. They are the people I know I can turn to when I want to brainstorm or make meaning of an educational concept and they push me to think more deeply, questioning existing practices so I can create innovative products.

This is a community that will provide encouragement and celebrate with me when I engage in educational projects:

@hechternacht tweeted: @donnaroman @SherriWyllie @iEARNUSA Definitely an incredible #ece resource!! Congratulations to @mpowers3 #kinderchat

It’s a community that will remind me to persevere when it seems impossible to create the change I’m hoping for by integrating #globalearlyedtech into the philosophies that educator’s and academic’s believe and teach:

@Matt_Gomez  tweeted: @mpowers3 reach others slowly, by never giving up and sharing the value. You never know what will be the tool/idea that works #ecetechchat

It’s a community that helps me to build new connections and reach out to new organizations so that I can share and learn with them:

@iEARNUSA tweeted: @ConnectStateGov #FF to @mpowers3 for new #ECE #GlobalEd resource site: bit.ly/H4I9xp #Exchange20

As @VickiEhlers tweeted “Share, share, share. And acknowledge the value of the what has been shared in a public way. Nurture relationships first! #ecetechchat

The relationships I have formed with the education community, a group I define as collaborative, inspiring, supportive, thought-provoking, and dedicated, provide the mental and emotional energy I need to create change. I have been inspired and honored by how many people have reached out to me through my new website and I cannot wait to collaborate and share with them, to learn from their ideas, and to build new meaningful relationships as I continue to expand my connections to the education community. I hope you’ll join me there!

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.