Tag Archives: Developmentally Appropriate Practice

Helping Others Hack Learning (and Coding)

Last week (#TeachTheWeb week 4), I had an opportunity to build a new Thimble project outlining my goals for teaching coding in kindergarten. Some of you might be surprised to hear kindergarten at the end of that sentence. I’ve heard some people say it’s way too young for kids to have to learn something like coding and I’ve heard others say that there’s no way such young children can grasp the concepts.

Code in K

My response is that, like everything else in early childhood, the key comes back to developmentally appropriate practice, which involves respecting the child’s interests and curiosities as well as her or his individual abilities and limits. Luckily, more and more resources are being developed that are developmentally appropriate for young children. For many years, Scratch has been a go-to resource for educators working with young children who wanted to be makers and creators of technology (and art, stories, music, and more!). Unfortunately, Scratch is specifically built for children age eight an older, although much younger students have used it (check out these examples).

While Scratch Jr. is in the works, other developers have been working hard to create games and tools to scaffold children’s learning of computer programming logic and problem solving, the true foundation of coding (see the resources embedded here). The DevTech group is even working on a coding language that can be constructed with physical, wooden blocks and read by a camera. Once students are exposed to these (potentially literal) building blocks, they can begin to work off of that foundation and create their own programs and games.

Tangible Coding Blocks using CHER-P.
Image credit: DevTech TangibleK

I built my Thimble project to help raise awareness about the fact that resources do currently exist for young children to learn the logic of programming and the basics concepts (e.g., what is a function, how to make an object/sprite move). I also wanted to share the tools I’ve found to support this learning so that others could use them as well and my hope was to then connect with other people who are doing similar work.

Over the summer, I plan to spend more time creating plans, finding resources, and talking with others interested in introducing coding to young children. Being part of Teach the Web has also inspired me to try and create more Thimble resources and maybe even an entire Hackable Kit that others can build off of and remix to work with different ages and groups. I realized that if I want my students (and colleagues) to be creating and remixing the web, I need to be modeling that work by constantly interacting and exploring hacker tools, coding the web myself, and sharing my work openly with a larger community. 

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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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