Tag Archives: Early childhood educator

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!

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.