Tag Archives: collaboration

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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Let’s Share More and Duplicate Less at #ISTE12

Recently, I blogged about my first ISTE conference experience. After having some time to reflect, I want to share a few more thoughts and questions that have continued to bounce around in my head.

The theme of all of these ideas is the search for consistency from one’s educational philosophy to practice. I think many educators feel that their teaching philosophy is one that focuses on the student. It is a philosophy that values engagement, creativity, open-ended inquiry and exploration, as well as empowerment and respect. A philosophy that entails fostering collaboration and sharing among students and the creation of projects and meaningful products. Yet, when we step back and examine our practice, often times parts of this philosophy are missing, especially when it comes to practicing these tenets amongst ourselves. When we gather as educators, shouldn’t we practice our philosophy with one another?

Today, we talk about flipping the classroom but when will we flip the conference? While many of the ISTE conference materials were made available online during or after the event, they were rarely distributed prior to sessions in a way that would allow attendees to show up ready to discuss and engage in the material. ISTE was an amazing and rich experience but I believe it could have been even richer if there were less lecture and unidirectional dialogue in sessions and more collaboration, sharing, and discussion. In watching the post-conference Twitter feeds and blog posts, I’m continuing to learn so much content and I almost wish the content could be distributed before/after the conference so that sessions would be freed up for debate, sharing, questioning, and collaborative thinking.

The conference is such a unique opportunity for collaboration, creation, and communication across disciplines and roles, as people travel thousands of miles to gather face to face in one place. It seems like the perfect opportunity for people to sit down and deepen relationships, move beyond tools to think about their purpose and plan for technology use. It could be a chance for groups to make concrete plans and next steps about what we can each do for our own professional growth in using educational technologies and how we can share what we’ve learned to make a difference in our districts, our schools, and our classrooms.

We ask our students not to be consumers of media and technology tools but to be producers and creators of innovative works and collaborative products. What are the products that we each created at #ISTE12 that we can use to contribute to our local communities and the larger global education community?

One product could easily involve the many tools, resources, and ideas that were being shared across sessions, disciplines, and devices. I would love to see more unified collaboration and sharing, especially when we have so many tools at our disposal (e.g., Twitter, Google Docs, Evernote notebooks, Symbaloo mixes) to help each of us to share notes and links in real-time during the conference and asynchronously after it ends, so we can take advantage of being part of such a thoughtful community. I’m also guilty of curating my own tools, resources, and ideas from the conference and I understand that we each might be gathering specific resources for specific goals but I wonder if it’s still possible to share more and duplicate our work less. I was so excited to see this new compilation of posts with ISTE 2012 reflections and this Google Doc full of collaborative notes. I know many Google Docs and other backchannels were shared out during the conference and I hope we can gather them all in one place.

In addition to curating these resources for ourselves, I think it is just as important to document our learnings from the ISTE conference for others who could not attend or had not heard of the conference. While at ISTE, in a session where I ended up knowing most of the content, someone asked me why I was tweeting. I replied that I wasn’t tweeting for myself, I was tweeting for my PLN.

As an educator inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach, I believe deeply in the power of documentation to prompt reflection, demonstrate learning, and capture inquiry. I also believe that we need to model and practice what we are looking for in our classrooms and from our students. So I work to create products to document my own learning (e.g., blog posts, tweets, pinboards) so I can share it with others and engage them in a discussion about how, when, why, and if various tools and approaches I have learned about would fit in various educational settings. I worked hard to tweet throughout the conference but I was disappointed at the seemingly small number of people I saw tweeting through sessions and sharing out their ideas, tools, and questions.

I know (but at times struggle to remember) that social media, while an amazing tool for professional development and networking, is still new to many. I want to help use tools like Twitter to demonstrate to others how one person, attending one conference, can affect so many when knowledge is captured and shared globally online.

Curious George, my curiosity mentor!

I know one blogger (@engaginged) was recently discussing the challenge of breaking into the key networking areas at ISTE and as a newbie myself, I found this to be true. I appreciated his challenge to try and find a way to connect everyone at the conference into the same conversation and maybe, if more of us begin to tweet, blog, and share openly during the conference, there will be more space for inclusion and collaboration. And maybe to give things a little push, ISTE could even consider partnering new attendees with mentors who have experience in using tools to share during the conference, visiting the various networking lounges, and migrating new relationships to online spaces so they can continue after the conference. What do you think, would you want an ISTE mentor?