Tag Archives: fred rogers

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.

Inquiring into Play – Part I

 Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood.
~Fred Rogers

Play is a topic I always enjoy returning too and it’s something that has been popping up on my digital radar a lot in the past month or so. I also recently discovered a blog that encourages educators to “inquire within“. I really appreciate this sentiment because as an educator I think it can be easy to get lost in your work teaching or researching and slowly let the inquiry begin to fade away. So I’ve decided to use a recent Washington Post article by Alfie Kohn discussing his thoughts on How children’s ‘play’ is being sneakily redefined to inquire within and “aloud” about some of my thoughts on play.

Kohn made five propositions on the subject of play (the first three are listed below in bold), all of which I found very thought provoking, so I decided to split my thoughts and questions about them into two post (post #2 coming soon!) to allow more room for inquiry and discussion.

1. “Play” is being sneakily redefined.

I have seen classrooms where “play” has slowly transitioned into planned, curriculum-inspired and teacher-directed activities. Instead of allowing children the freedom to express their ideas and creative energy, we’re asking them to funnel that energy into specific activities that we, or our curriculum books or state standards, have labeled appropriate and productive for children’s learning and development. Our focus has shifted (although maybe this isn’t such a recent shift?) to achievement and results, to finding ways to demonstrate how our children are scoring and some would argue, to label children so that we can categorize them and even, at times, create hierarchies of knowledge.

In a course for my master’s program we have been discussing the merits of critical educational psychology (Bird, 1999) and the need to integrate different cultural values and practices into our views of education and childhood (as well as the assessments that we use) (Burman, 2010). I want to problematize the idea that we can so easily use standardized objectives and measurements to determine a child’s level of development and learning and their related opportunities for play. Do these achievement-oriented activities that are now labeled “play” and related assessments truly support the diversity of contexts (e.g., cultural, linguistic) that children are bringing to the classroom? If not, how can we better incorporate that diversity in the classroom while also allowing Kohn’s “pure play” to regain its place at the center of classroom activity?

2. Younger and older children ought to have the chance to play together.

After traveling through Italy and seeing multi-age early childhood classrooms influenced by the views of Montessori and Reggio Emilia, this idea of having younger and older children playing (and learning) together definitely resonates with me. Although I know there can be difficult challenges with trying to manage a classroom and the learning goals of children in a mixed-age class, with the right support, I think it can be really beneficial for both the younger and older children involved. Which makes me wonder, what would it be like in school if there were more interaction between grades? What if collaboration between a first and fifth grade class or a preschool and an upper grade class, was the norm?

3. Play isn’t just for children.

Thank goodness! I would be quite disappointed if play were just reserved for kids. I think the idea that “play, or something quite close to it, should be part of a teenager’s or adult’s life” is not as problematic as how we make play a daily part of our lives, whatever our age. When we’ve spent so much time separating “play” from “work” and even “learning”, it’s challenging to try and remind employers and ourselves about the benefits of play and to find ways to integrate play in our day-to-day activities. And how do we encourage the children we teach to value play in this way?

What do you think of Kohn’s first three propositions? What are your thoughts on play? I’ll try to post thoughts on the last two propositions soon!

Citations

Bird, L. (1999). Towards a more critical educational psychology. Annual Review of Critical Psychology, 1, pp. 21-33.

Burman, E. (2010). Discourses of the child.  Deconstructing developmental psychology (pp. 67-84). London: Routledge.