Tag Archives: naeyc

The Best Laid Plans …

Some rights reserved by Luke Andrew Scowen 2009

When my winter break began I told myself I would sit down, reflect, and write a thoughtful post to close out the year. I had the best of intentions to write a nice long post, maybe even two … and then, my winter break came to an end. At first, I felt guilty about relaxing so much and not making the time to post but I slowly began to reconsider those feelings.

I started to reflect again on how nice it can be to take a break from the pressures to write, reflect, and post and how it’s even nicer to allow yourself to take that break. As my winter break progressed and I let myself enjoy the simple pleasures of reading, visiting with family, and walking around the city, I began to feel refreshed and I could feel my energy and excitement around work and learning naturally rejuvenating. I decided that while it would have been nice to post during my break, I could be happy with posting after it as well. So now that my break is over, here’s my attempt at looking back at 2012.

iPad_blog_photo2

The past year has been a year of change, full of endings and new beginnings. To start, after a winter and fall jam-packed with coursework, I finished my masters program in International Training and Education in the spring of 2012. I also had the opportunity to expand my consulting work and in addition to managing websites and facilitating Twitter chats and webinars, I led an online summer book club and traveled to Senegal. During my second trip to Africa, I saw less of the countryside but met many more people (over 300 in fact!), as I managed the social media and online spaces for an international conference. I learned a great deal about child protection systems and had the opportunity to connect with some great new colleagues.

After my African adventures, I moved from D.C. back to Philadelphia and into one of my new favorite spots in the city. I had a chance to explore some more of the local parks and restaurants before heading out to my first NAEYC Professional Development Institute (PDI) as a Lasting Legacy Scholar. It was an educative experience and I appreciated the opportunity to connect with so many other professionals in the field of early childhood education. I was also able to help facilitate the first Tech Play Date and share in technology explorations with other early childhood professionals. The PDI was followed closely by my first ISTE conference, which set the stage for our new Early Learning and Technology Special Interest Group (SIGELT) that just recently launched.

ISTE and the Tech Play Date were the perfect prelude to my new position as a Technology Coordinator at a private school, working with Pre-K through 2nd grade, which I began in late August. Since then, I have been engaged in technology explorations, troubleshooting, and collaborations with the students and teachers at my school. I have introduced a range of new tools and apps and together we have explored their applications in the classroom. For example, to start the school year, some students used Skitch on the iPad to annotate photos showing what they like to do in first grade. I have also worked to facilitate some cross-class collaborations, such as a Voicethread exchange among the kindergarten classes, where each student added an audio recording as an introduction to her or his photo and then left a comment on a photo of a new peer in a different kindergarten class.

Not long after our initial projects were finished, I traveled to Atlanta for my 5th NAEYC annual conference. I had a wonderful time talking technology and networking with new friends and colleagues at Tech on Deck and enjoyed attending sessions with people who I had only “met” before on Twitter! I returned to my school with new inspiration for Reggio-inspired, maker-based technology explorations and since then, I have continued to integrate new tools for student expression and creation into the classroom.

DNLE

As the year came to an end, I looked back on all of the posts I had written, here on this blog as well as the tech tips on my school blog, and I felt renewed excitement about all of the things I have learned and experiences I have had. I tried my first MOOC (Standford DNLE) this year, working with partners in Singapore, South Korean, and Iran for our final project and I had the chance to moderate some #Globalclassroom chats to make even more global connections. I continue to learn constantly from my PLN on Twitter, Google+ Communities, and other social media networks, as well as from new friends and colleagues who I get to see in-person.

After giving one small workshop and with another under-review, I have made efforts to begin sharing more of my knowledge and experience with technology as a tool for global learning.  Meanwhile, the small collaborations and global connections that are just beginning to blossom at our school via Skype and Twitter feel like they are a great foundation for future collaborations and the tech projects that are underway are beginning to feel truly integrated with classroom work and curricula. All in all, I think it has been a year of successful change, a year of growth and transition that I hope will lead to even more learning and discovery. Up next, I want to do some forward thinking about the future and what I want to achieve in 2013!

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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What I Learned at the NAEYC PDI 2012

Taken by Giovanni Arroyo

Last week, I had the chance to attend my first National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Professional Development Institute (PDI). I have attended the larger, annual conference many times but this year, after being selected as a Lasting Legacy Scholar, I was able to make it to the much smaller (around 2,000 people) PDI, which focused on: Leadership throughout the Early Childhood Profession: Research, Policy and Practice.

I was excited for the institute theme because leadership is a key ingredient in creating change and can be a scarce commodity in this field since so many educators are busy fighting to be considered professionals and overcome stereotypes about early childhood education. Additionally, through my work with the Tech Play Date at the PDI, I was interested to see what kinds of discussions would emerge about the need for leadership in developmentally appropriate technology integration in early childhood. There has been increased talk and sharing online about ways to learn more about how technology can be used as a tool to facilitate learning and expression in early childhood since NAEYC and Fred Rogers joint position statement on technology was released and I was curious to see if that would also be visible at the conference.

I learned so much at the Institute, not just from attending sessions but from talking and networking with other professionals and listening to what other attendees had to say. You can read a more in-depth overview of what I learned and what others’ learned at the conference in a Storify I compiled of tweets from the conference.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the sharing and discussion that occurred during the Tech Play Date. It was great to see early childhood philosophy about the benefits of play in practice as educators took time to play and explore iPads, smartphones, and other devices to see how they could be used in developmentally appropriate ways. Additionally, a range of groups, including teacher educators, administrators, developers, and policy makers all came together in small groups to discuss why technology should or should not be integrated in the classroom and what challenges (and solutions!) they have found. You can find more of the specific apps, questions, ideas, and resources we discussed in our shared Google Doc.

I also loved hearing the range of opinions, ideas, and experiences others brought to the conference. Regarding technology, these ranged from skepticism about the  benefits of technology use to the need to pair developers and educators together to create more developmentally appropriate apps for the classroom. It was informative for me to talk with attendees and remember the range that exists  in terms of how comfortable people are with the new tech position statement, as well as the resources that they have available to truly implement it in their programs. I had a number of discussions about the digital divide and the struggle to fund technology integration, as well as professional development with people at the conference.

Our collaboratively designed “Image of the Child” from a Reggio session

Additionally, I enjoyed attending a few globally-focused sessions that encouraged educators to think about other approaches to early childhood education, such as Reggio-inspired practice. I was inspired by a research project that is taking place between U.S. and Italian teachers in Milan, who are exchanging video of their teaching practice to provoke dialogue and reflection about their existing practice. Some of the questions they are asking about attachment theory, ways of relating to children, and ways of trusting and respecting children seem vital to growing as educational leaders and improving the quality of care for all children. I hope these types of projects will only increase with technology, as it becomes easier and cheaper to connect and collaborate across states and oceans and share ideas about pedagogy and practice.

Overall, I walked away from the conference with three key takeaways:

  1. There are immense benefits in bringing together and supporting professionals in research, policy, and practice across the field of early childhood education to talk with one another and we could gain a lot by making these multi-group dialogues more frequent.
  2. Mentoring is a key part of leadership. In order to create new leaders, the current leaders in our field need to support those who are just starting out and we should all work together to provide guidance and support to others in the industry.
  3. The release of the new tech position statement was only step one. Now we need to focus on professional development, the creation and implementation of developmentally appropriate technologies, and the recording and sharing of best practices in meaningful, open-ended technology use in the classroom.
Were you at the PDI this year or did you follow along online? What were your big takeaways? 

Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood

Keywords from the new tech position statement

Even after watching the webcast, where @chipdono highlights the keywords of the new NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center Technology Position Statement: Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8, I still love staring at them.

I am excited by the prominence of children and childhood in a statement about technology. Even the title of the statement reminds readers that technology is but a tool in early childhood programs and therefore it should be used as a way to enhance learning and support children’s development. I think this idea is what often gets lost in the hype of shiny new tech tools and a world where everyone seems glued to a screen. @Matt_Gomez summarized it well during #ecetechchat on Wednesday, saying “Big take away for me, tech itself is rarely the learning goal. The goal is for tech to enhance the learning.”

I have read and heard so much fear from parents and educators about using tech with young children. Some are concerned that children are being exposed to too much, too soon, while others worry that this exposure will be detrimental to children’s health. Yet, the new position statement helps us to realize that if technology is used in developmentally appropriate ways and integrated into classrooms to further enhance existing learning goals, technology can actually help support children’s development and growth, instead of harming it.

Of course, as we discussed in #ecetechchat last night, a great deal of work, planning, and thought needs to go into technology use in early childhood classrooms for it to be done in appropriate ways. Interactivity and open-ended programs should be a core requirement when selecting technologies and planning tech activities. Additionally, teachers need to understand that “all screens are not created equal” and therefore there is a vast difference between children watching a DVD and engaging with a multi-touch table. And when working with children under two, technology should only be used to support responsive interactions between caregiver and child. Again, the focus is on the child, not the tool, and the goal is strong, positive relationships and social-emotional development (not tech skills!).

Of course the tweet I found most exciting during our #ecetechchat discussion about the position statement was a comment by @Matt_Gomez about technology and global learning, the one thing I think tech provides that nothing else can is the opportunity to collaborate globally.” This is, of course, the focus of my own studies and current technology work, as I am in the process of designing a resource site for early educators with guidance and research about using technology to create global learning experiences in the classroom. My hope is that the new tech position statement can help clarify when and how technology can be an asset in the classroom, making it easier for teachers to understand how tech can be used to further the goals of global collaboration and learning.

Ultimately, the answer seems to be balance between taking advantage of the opportunities technology provides (@mentormadness summarized it well “Tech makes connecting, learning, sharing, discussing, reflecting, collaborating & creating globally an instant reality”) while ensuring that tech is used intentionally and with specific learning goals in mind.

Unfortunately, as @ECEtech highlighted “the most difficult part will be helping teachers and administrators focus on the end goal and not the tech.” We also discussed the real need for professional development on this topic and more opportunities for educators to explore and play with new technologies. Luckily, there are a lot of great new resources available for teachers, administrators, and others interested in using technology in early childhood to learn about the best ways to integrate tech into the classroom:

The TEC Center at Erikson launched this week and they are currently collecting videos and other resources to help teachers understand what best practice looks like when using technology. ECEtech.net also launched this week, providing a new, interactive community for early childhood educators who want to explore the practical side of technology use in preschool settings. Plus, a number of additional resources were published with the position statement that should provide more guidance to teachers and administrators.