Tag Archives: naeyc

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? 

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.