Tag Archives: fred rogers

Apps in Early Education – The Big Questions

With the start of the school year right around the corner, I wanted to take some time to explore the use of apps in PreK through 2nd grade. I realized that a number of my thoughts about apps for this age level focused on questions. Such as:

  • How are educators currently using apps?
  • How are young learners using apps (at home and/or school)?
  • What are the best review sites for educational apps?
  • What rubrics exist for evaluating apps for this age group?
  • How can app devices (e.g., tablets & smartphones) be used to connect with other tech tools (e.g., interactive whiteboards)?
  • What type of teacher PD resources exist for new app users?
  • What resources exist for young children learning how to use apps?
  • How can apps best be used when you only have one device?

Clearly, there is a lot to consider when examining how and why to use apps with young learners. I decided to start with some of the key questions above and did some web searching. Here’s what I found:

How are educators currently using apps?

out a bout app

Out-A-Bout App by Fred Rogers Center

To start, I reviewed the initial survey results from the Early Childhood Technology Collaborative, which show that only 35% of surveyed teachers of young children are even using tablets. So I realized I needed to narrow my focus to my #ECETech PLN to get information about how teachers who are actually using these tools in their practice work with apps. From there, I discovered a great post by @mattgomez detailing the apps he uses with his kindergarteners and links to how he uses many of them. I also checked out the Fred Rogers apps, which provide suggestions for how to use them and reviewed some other app collections, such as these two pinboards, iPad Apps for Early Childhood and Early Childhood/Preschool Apps, with suggestions for how to use each app. I also found a helpful post of how apps are being used in a 1st grade class and overall,  teacher blog posts seemed to be the most informative to learn not just what, but how teachers are using apps with this age range.  How are you using apps for education? 

How are young learners using apps (at home and/or school)?

Aside from teacher blog posts about how they are using apps with their students, this question was hard to answer through general online research. I did find a very cute video of kindergarten children talking about how they used iPads in a butterfly study in their classrooms. I would love to see more of these types of active examples of technology used as a tool to support or enhance a project/learning from the child’s perspective. How are your young learners using apps? 

What are the best review sites for educational apps?

My go-to sites (in no particular order) are:

kindertown logo

Where do you go for trusted reviews of apps to use in school with early learners?

What rubrics exist for evaluating apps for this age group?

Some rubrics that I’ve found recently (and I hope more and more will be created to meet different needs!):

Do you have other ways of assessing educational apps? What criteria do you use?

How can app devices (e.g., tablets & smartphones) be used to connect with other tech tools (e.g., smartboards)

Apple VGA Adapter

Apple VGA Adapter

It can be helpful to display apps on a larger screen, such as a SMART Board, so large groups can share ideas and see content at the same time. To display your iPad/iPhone screen on a SMART Board or other large screen, you need either a VGA adapter or an HDMI /Digital AV Adapter if you want to connect to an Apple TV/HD TV.

If you want to actually control what’s displayed on your screen from your iPad instead of just mirroring the image on your mobile device, then you’ll need an additional application, such as Doceri or Splashtop. These are helpful if you want to access your computer programs on your iPad.

I want to continue investigating these options because it seems like one of the best uses of the an interactive whiteboard (IWB) and a mobile device  – using the IWB to control your device (e.g., interact with an iPad app on a SMART Board) – isn’t currently possible. This combo could be especially helpful for early learner’s fine motor skills and large group collaboration so hopefully it will be available in the future.

What tips do you have for connecting app devices to other tech tools?

What type of teacher PD resources exist for new app users?

This is one area where the Internet provides a rich treasure trove of resources! In addition to Twitter and a PLN full of other educators who are experimenting and playing with various apps and sharing their tips and tricks, there are numerous articles written on this topic. For example, this site is full of professional development resources  for teaching using iPads in the Classroom. Apple provides a page of resources, as well as ongoing webinars for educators using their mobile products and Android4Schools is a good resource for those with Android devices. 

Successfully finding professional development resources is connected to creativity. Be creative in selecting platforms to search. When looking for resources, include wikis, Pinterest boards, LiveBinders, Twitter, and other networks, as well as news sites, video-tutorials, and of course, colleagues!

What resources exist for young children learning how to use apps?

Although I feel like any technology should be used as a tool to enhance learning and simply another language kids can use to express their creativity, there are still some basics that can be helpful to review before handing a mobile device to a child. For example, how to: turn it on, control the sound, understand when it needs to be plugged in, swipe, click, and so forth.

It was tough to find resources to help with this but I do like the suggestions in the book Teaching in the Digital Age, by Brian Puerling, about how to introduce an iPad to young learners.

I also found these colorful posters about acceptable use, which could be helpful reminders for older children who can read and serve as a good reminder about building in time to discuss digital citizenship and acceptable use with even very young learners.

How do you introduce apps to early learners? What resources have you found?

How can apps best be used when you only have one device?

Finally, working in an environment where children may have access to app-filled devices at home and teachers often have them for personal use but there are no classrooms full of mobile devices, I wanted to consider this question. Luckily, this  has been a popular topic lately and there are many resources online for working in a “one tablet/iPad classroom.” Some only include app suggestions, others take the form of podcasts, blog posts, articles or collections of project ideas and links to explore in more depth.

Do you have suggestions for using only one mobile device in the classroom? 

My head is filled with many additional questions, such as how to use mobile devices to facilitate global collaboration, creative expression, and documentation but those might have to wait for later in the year. I’m excited to keep exploring and to hear from others about their experiences and ideas!

What I Learned at the NAEYC PDI 2012

Taken by Giovanni Arroyo

Last week, I had the chance to attend my first National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Professional Development Institute (PDI). I have attended the larger, annual conference many times but this year, after being selected as a Lasting Legacy Scholar, I was able to make it to the much smaller (around 2,000 people) PDI, which focused on: Leadership throughout the Early Childhood Profession: Research, Policy and Practice.

I was excited for the institute theme because leadership is a key ingredient in creating change and can be a scarce commodity in this field since so many educators are busy fighting to be considered professionals and overcome stereotypes about early childhood education. Additionally, through my work with the Tech Play Date at the PDI, I was interested to see what kinds of discussions would emerge about the need for leadership in developmentally appropriate technology integration in early childhood. There has been increased talk and sharing online about ways to learn more about how technology can be used as a tool to facilitate learning and expression in early childhood since NAEYC and Fred Rogers joint position statement on technology was released and I was curious to see if that would also be visible at the conference.

I learned so much at the Institute, not just from attending sessions but from talking and networking with other professionals and listening to what other attendees had to say. You can read a more in-depth overview of what I learned and what others’ learned at the conference in a Storify I compiled of tweets from the conference.

One of my favorite parts of the conference was the sharing and discussion that occurred during the Tech Play Date. It was great to see early childhood philosophy about the benefits of play in practice as educators took time to play and explore iPads, smartphones, and other devices to see how they could be used in developmentally appropriate ways. Additionally, a range of groups, including teacher educators, administrators, developers, and policy makers all came together in small groups to discuss why technology should or should not be integrated in the classroom and what challenges (and solutions!) they have found. You can find more of the specific apps, questions, ideas, and resources we discussed in our shared Google Doc.

I also loved hearing the range of opinions, ideas, and experiences others brought to the conference. Regarding technology, these ranged from skepticism about the  benefits of technology use to the need to pair developers and educators together to create more developmentally appropriate apps for the classroom. It was informative for me to talk with attendees and remember the range that exists  in terms of how comfortable people are with the new tech position statement, as well as the resources that they have available to truly implement it in their programs. I had a number of discussions about the digital divide and the struggle to fund technology integration, as well as professional development with people at the conference.

Our collaboratively designed “Image of the Child” from a Reggio session

Additionally, I enjoyed attending a few globally-focused sessions that encouraged educators to think about other approaches to early childhood education, such as Reggio-inspired practice. I was inspired by a research project that is taking place between U.S. and Italian teachers in Milan, who are exchanging video of their teaching practice to provoke dialogue and reflection about their existing practice. Some of the questions they are asking about attachment theory, ways of relating to children, and ways of trusting and respecting children seem vital to growing as educational leaders and improving the quality of care for all children. I hope these types of projects will only increase with technology, as it becomes easier and cheaper to connect and collaborate across states and oceans and share ideas about pedagogy and practice.

Overall, I walked away from the conference with three key takeaways:

  1. There are immense benefits in bringing together and supporting professionals in research, policy, and practice across the field of early childhood education to talk with one another and we could gain a lot by making these multi-group dialogues more frequent.
  2. Mentoring is a key part of leadership. In order to create new leaders, the current leaders in our field need to support those who are just starting out and we should all work together to provide guidance and support to others in the industry.
  3. The release of the new tech position statement was only step one. Now we need to focus on professional development, the creation and implementation of developmentally appropriate technologies, and the recording and sharing of best practices in meaningful, open-ended technology use in the classroom.
Were you at the PDI this year or did you follow along online? What were your big takeaways?