Tag Archives: webinar

Optimization for Education?

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SEO or search engine optimization is increasingly on my radar these days. Almost daily, I see posts about it on sites like Mashable and tweets about it in my various Twitter streams. It wasn’t that long ago that I was still trying to learn and remember what the acronym stood for but over the past few months I have come to see how valuable SEO can be.

For those of you who are new to this term, search engine optimization refers to “the active practice of optimizing a web site by improving internal and external aspects in order to increase the traffic the site receives from search engines” as defined by SEOmoz. This means that you examine your website to ensure that there is consistency in your naming practices, that your links are updated and active, that your content is original and new, and that you have social media sharing tools embedded on every page.

Of course, there are a number of other factors that affect SEO, many of which I am still learning. Luckily, there are a lot of helpful resources on the web to find out how SEO works. For example, I attended a great webinar by Kuno Creative titled “Inbound Marketing: The New SEO Facts, Figures, and Data” which helped clarify the connection between inbound marketing (if you’re new to this term, check out this great infographic) and SEO. Through that webinar, I was able to find out about updates to Google’s search algorithm and how it rewards sites for providing good content that people want to share across the web. I also learned more about the importance of having numerous keywords appear in search engine results that will drive traffic to your site. Other resources, like SEOmoz’s extensive “Beginner’s Guide to SEO” and Google’s “Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide” have also been invaluable in my journey to understand SEO and its effect on my websites.

Yet, the more I learn about SEO, the more I begin to wonder about the implications of SEO for educators and educational organizations or nonprofits. Many of these groups have few employees and little funding and most of the educators I know dedicate much, if not all, of their time to designing lesson plans and preparing innovative and engaging projects for their students. All of which leaves little time to learn about SEO and apply the related practices to their company websites or personal blogs. Meanwhile, large companies hire full-time “search engine optimizers” or companies like Hubspot to help them with this work.

Does this difference in SEO resources and management capacity matter? Do educators, schools, and educational organizations need to be concerned with SEO? A few months ago, I would have said no – SEO is something that only businesses and companies trying to sell products deal with and need to worry over. Now, I’m not so sure. As I prepare to launch my own new website for early childhood educators to learn about using technology to create global learning experiences, I’m conscious of the fact that I would like my site to be easily found in search engines. I want educators to be able to find the free resources and tools I have collected without having to search ten pages of Google results before stumbling upon the site.

Watching the analytics for this blog, I can see how much traffic search engines can bring to a site and I want other educational websites and blogs to be accessible and easily found by families, teachers, and administrators who want to learn about educational issues. So, I’m left wondering about the importance of SEO for education and about whether there is a way to make information about SEO more accessible and understandable for educators and their related organizations. I want to optimize education so that it is a topic that has a fighting chance at being ranked in search results. I think educators easily have the “fresh” content that Google is looking for, I’m just not sure if they are always aware of how that content has to be coded and marketed to be optimized for search results.

Technology + Early Childhood Education = Dilemma?

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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.

Another Year Gone By

Wow, another year has gone by and we’re already three days into 2012! With the start of a new year, I wanted to take some time to reflect back on 2011 and things that I learned, accomplished, and hope to carry with me into the new year.

I think one of the most memorable things of 2011 will always be my first trip to Africa. As part of one of my master’s courses at American University, I traveled to Nigeria for two weeks in May to conduct research on the early childhood education available in the small town of Yola. I was amazed at the range of education practices and facilities I saw, ranging from mud buildings with a few tables and crayons to a fully-resourced, air-conditioned facility connected to the American University of Nigeria. The trip was a great reminder that no matter how many books you read or perspectives you hear on a country, there is nothing like walking into a new culture, hearing new languages and quickly trying to adapt to the local customs, food, weather, and everything else that goes with international travel! Some parts will always be easier than others, such as getting down on the dirt floors and playing with the children at the various schools I visited. Whereas trying to stay silent and honor the accepted cultural practice of corporal punishment (i.e., watching a four-year-old be repeatedly hit with a large, thick stick) is much, much harder. Overall, the trip was extremely educative. I learned a great deal about life in Nigeria, the education system there, and the importance of traveling with a flexible, supportive group (and protein bars … for when you can’t take one more day of rice and chicken!).

Aside from my international travels, I had some great developments in my professional life in 2011. I had the opportunity to spend the summer working as a teacher at the Penn Children’s Center and loved getting to work closely with one preschool class. Our adventures included “traveling” from Japan to England, learning about the royal family, creating castles of all shapes and sizes, growing flowers and vegetables in our garden, and enjoying many days of water play!

Earlier this fall, I was able to start working as an Education and Technology Consultant, which has allowed me to learn a lot about webinar management, utilize more of my tech skills, and be more active in the field of early childhood. Consulting has allowed me to work with some great new colleagues, including @FSSimon and @KarenNemethEdM, which has been a real privilege. I’ve also really enjoyed helping to facilitate the Early Childhood Investigations webinars and if you haven’t checked them out, I’d highly recommend them, they’re free

I also grew a lot as a learner and educator in 2011 through my master’s courses. I especially enjoyed Models/Methods in Early Childhood Curriculum; Global & Multicultural Education & Training; Training Design; and Critical Educational Psychology. These courses helped deepen my knowledge of approaches to literacy education in early childhood, critical theory and ways it applies to education and psychology, and how to design a meaningful training. I was able to take a fresh look at the works of Freiere, Vygotsky, Piaget as well as many new theorists and I had the chance to read a number of great texts. I would particularly recommend: Making Literacy RealCritical Multiculturalism: Theory & Praxis, Learning to Listen, Learning to Teach.

Of course a big part of my past year has involved a continued exploration of tech tools. As I wrote about in my first post, I discovered Storify not long ago and I have also been testing out Symbaloo, a great way to compile your favorite sites, as well as exploring new uses for the virtual cork board Lino. I also began using Picnik so I could add a watermark to the photos in my new Etsy shop. After following and reading many other papers, I finally decided to create my own #Tech, #GlobalEd & #EarlyEd  paper.li and after being fairly inactive for a bit, I jumped back into LinkedIn in 2011, creating two new networking groups for my master’s program and finding other professional groups where I could join some great dialogues. Twitter was also a major part of 2011 for me, as I traveled to New Orleans to present on Twitter in liberal arts classrooms at the annual meeting of AERA, connected with more educators around the globe, began participating in more great chats like #kinderchat, and started tweeting for my program @ITEP_AU.

All in all, it was a pretty great year! I’ve loved the discoveries I’ve made, whether they’ve been in the field of international education, early childhood, or technology and the connections I have built will definitely be a big part of this new year. I’m excited to see what 2012 will bring and to start charting new waters, either here or abroad, so that I can continue to learn and grow and to connect educators around the globe.