Tag Archives: Child

How Bitty Baby Began my Focus on Early Childhood Learning

After reading Gears of My Childhood by Seymour Papert for the MIT Learning Creative Learning MOOC I’m participating in, I started think reflect on: What object from my childhood interested and influenced me?

"Duckie" - My favorite childhood stuffed animal

Me and “Duckie” – my favorite childhood stuffed animal

As I considered this question, my first thought was that I wished I had access to all of the pictures that were taken during my childhood so I could literally see them to recall my memories. I pulled out a few that I had and as I thought some more, I considered my favorite stuffed animal, which traveled with me everywhere and is in probably almost every photo of me as a child. Ultimately, I decided that while well-loved, my stuffed animal wasn’t really an object that pushed me to think differently. I continued to reflect on the question and I realized that one of the most influential objects from my childhood was probably my American Girl Bitty Baby doll.

That might sound like a pretty generic choice but thinking back, I think my interest in the doll was an indicator of my current passions and an interests in early childhood learning that continues to exist today. I don’t remember exactly when I first received the doll, or Caitlin, as I named her, but I think it was probably around my 6th birthday. For the next few years, I spent hours and hours playing with her, dressing her in different outfits, having her interact with her accessories and playing out different scenarios of early childhood play. As I grew older, I became frustrated that there weren’t more accessories and began designing my own furniture and toys (I even submitted my ideas to American Girl!). I’m not sure if they were ever received but I felt better knowing I was doing something that would hopefully contribute to other children’s play by letting the company know about things I felt were missing.

Caitlin in a crib I constructed for her, with her accesseries underneath

Caitlin in a crib I constructed for her, with her accessories underneath

Even as I grew older and other toys became more popular with my friends, I still held on to Bitty Baby as one of my favorite childhood objects. I was completely intrigued with the early childhood stage in a person’s life, a period where so much care taking is necessary but yet there is also so much play and exploration. I remember vividly reading to my doll the board books that came with each new set and testing out each of the related toys (the beach and garden sets were some of my favorites) and considering whether they were good and would engage my doll.

Although Bitty Baby has now been put away in a box to save for my own children one day, I am still essentially doing very similar work. I am constantly thinking about how young children learn and what toys (learning tools) would be best suited for different areas of classroom study or learning goals. Of course today, many of the tools I am examining involve technology (e.g., a Toca Boca app or a Voicethread presentation) which were certainly not part of the American Girl line when I was little. But like Papert, I think the same three factors: having a feeling of love towards my doll, not being told to learn about or play with her, and being young when I was first introduced to it, all affected my interest in early childhood learning. I’m intrigued to think more about the value of love and relationships with an object like a doll or gears. I want to consider how these relationships can affect a child’s learning or interest in a subject and how vital it is to expose children to a variety of objects at a young age (including ones that might seem beyond their understanding).

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!