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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 + Early Childhood Education = Dilemma?

Image: 'Ferreñafe' by hostmaster. Some Rights Reserved

I have been thinking about the combination of technology and early childhood education (ECE) quite a bit the last few days. Of course, this is not particularly surprising given that I’m passionate about exploring ways to incorporate technology in ECE  and the possibilities for sharing and global collaboration that technology can create. Still, my most recent thoughts have been somewhat troubling and I want to reflect more on the dilemma I have been encountering in trying to combine technology and ECE.

As I delve more into the fields of educational technology and ECE, both personally and professionally, I’m frequently reminded of the pro-technology bubble I sometimes live inside. On a daily basis, I am in communication with my PLN, a group of people on Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as face-to-face colleagues, who are already utilizing technology extensively. They are testing out new and exciting ways to use tech tools in their teaching practice and with their students and so I begin to forget how many others are not only not using technology but are completely skeptical or even opposed to it!

Living in a pro-tech-savy bubble has major benefits. It allows me to have 24/7 access to a community of people who push my thinking in regards to how technology can and should be used in the classroom and helps me to test out new technologies. I have the opportunity to ask questions, learn from these great tech users, and share my own tech knowledge. In the bubble, I feel like my goal of using technology to connect early childhood educators around the globe to share pedagogical practices and connect their students, is absolutely achievable and supported.

Then, there are days when I step outside the bubble and try to introduce my ideas about technology and ECE to others. On these occasions, I encounter confusion, skepticism, disregard, and/or disbelief about technology in ECE. I hear a different mantra than the idea, as NAEYC stated in their latest Technology Position Statement, than yes, technology can involve “the application of tools and materials to enhance children’s learning and development, interactions, communication, and collaboration.” Instead, the mantra is:

  • No, early childhood educators are not ready for these types of technologies and tools.
  • No, young children are not capable of using these tools.
  • No, technology is not developmentally appropriate for these young children.
  • No, technology is too difficult to for these teachers to handle.

Not only is there resistance to tech, as we discussed last week in #ecetechchat but there can be a complete rejection of technology, in large part it seems, due to a concern about teacher capacity to learn and use these technologies.

This is a mantra I find very disheartening. I believe that, when used appropriately and meaningfully, technology truly can enhance a young child’s educational experience, her or his growth and development. I believe that technology can expand a child’s world to encompass the entire globe and can provide an amazing resource for professional growth to early childhood educators. Yet, I am troubled by the fact that the value and meaning of these technologies may never be seen, if opportunities are not presented for early childhood educators to learn about them. How can early childhood educators begin to see, and classrooms grow to include, technology as a pedagogically valuable enhancement if the response is always “no” and there are no opportunities for teachers to learn more?

While this dilemma deeply concerns me, I take hope in the new initiatives that are beginning to sprout up to educate early childhood teachers about technology and ways it can be used with young children to enhance learning. For example, the new Erikson Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center, Technology Workshops by the McCormick Center for Early Childhood Leadership, free technology webinars by Hatch and Early Childhood Investigations and continued updates to the NAEYC Technology Position Statement, demonstrate that technology is beginning to be infused in early childhood professional development. Hopefully, in time, technology education can become as accessible and supported in ECE and for early educators as it is in other areas of education.