Tag Archives: technology

How Bitty Baby Began my Focus on Early Childhood Learning

After reading Gears of My Childhood by Seymour Papert for the MIT Learning Creative Learning MOOC I’m participating in, I started think reflect on: What object from my childhood interested and influenced me?

"Duckie" - My favorite childhood stuffed animal

Me and “Duckie” – my favorite childhood stuffed animal

As I considered this question, my first thought was that I wished I had access to all of the pictures that were taken during my childhood so I could literally see them to recall my memories. I pulled out a few that I had and as I thought some more, I considered my favorite stuffed animal, which traveled with me everywhere and is in probably almost every photo of me as a child. Ultimately, I decided that while well-loved, my stuffed animal wasn’t really an object that pushed me to think differently. I continued to reflect on the question and I realized that one of the most influential objects from my childhood was probably my American Girl Bitty Baby doll.

That might sound like a pretty generic choice but thinking back, I think my interest in the doll was an indicator of my current passions and an interests in early childhood learning that continues to exist today. I don’t remember exactly when I first received the doll, or Caitlin, as I named her, but I think it was probably around my 6th birthday. For the next few years, I spent hours and hours playing with her, dressing her in different outfits, having her interact with her accessories and playing out different scenarios of early childhood play. As I grew older, I became frustrated that there weren’t more accessories and began designing my own furniture and toys (I even submitted my ideas to American Girl!). I’m not sure if they were ever received but I felt better knowing I was doing something that would hopefully contribute to other children’s play by letting the company know about things I felt were missing.

Caitlin in a crib I constructed for her, with her accesseries underneath

Caitlin in a crib I constructed for her, with her accessories underneath

Even as I grew older and other toys became more popular with my friends, I still held on to Bitty Baby as one of my favorite childhood objects. I was completely intrigued with the early childhood stage in a person’s life, a period where so much care taking is necessary but yet there is also so much play and exploration. I remember vividly reading to my doll the board books that came with each new set and testing out each of the related toys (the beach and garden sets were some of my favorites) and considering whether they were good and would engage my doll.

Although Bitty Baby has now been put away in a box to save for my own children one day, I am still essentially doing very similar work. I am constantly thinking about how young children learn and what toys (learning tools) would be best suited for different areas of classroom study or learning goals. Of course today, many of the tools I am examining involve technology (e.g., a Toca Boca app or a Voicethread presentation) which were certainly not part of the American Girl line when I was little. But like Papert, I think the same three factors: having a feeling of love towards my doll, not being told to learn about or play with her, and being young when I was first introduced to it, all affected my interest in early childhood learning. I’m intrigued to think more about the value of love and relationships with an object like a doll or gears. I want to consider how these relationships can affect a child’s learning or interest in a subject and how vital it is to expose children to a variety of objects at a young age (including ones that might seem beyond their understanding).

Walking Through the #ETMOOC Browser

Here it is! My post about another new tool that I tried as part of the digital storytelling focus in #etmooc that I promised to share in my last post about flip books. After seeing someone else in the course suggest using Moquu, a free app that lets you make animated GIFs from your photos, I decided to test it out. Until recently, I had never created a GIF and my first ones were made from videos. So this time, I wanted to create a GIF from still images.

I heard many reports from the #etmooc community that GIMP (a free software that you can use to turn your images into GIFs) was pretty challenging to work with and since my time was limited, I decided I would try starting with a user-friendly app instead.

I found Moquu pretty easy to use, although I was confused for a bit about the difference between the app and “MultiMe” which is included in the getting started instructions but is actually a 0.99 cent add-on. The app has a fairly detailed introduction that you can always revisit by pressing the “i” icon. The instructions explain the different icons and app capabilities over a few screens although some things, like “onion skin” are not explained. I did find another neat animation site by looking it up though! The discoveries I make when I get stuck and go searching for solutions or new ideas is one of my favorite parts of learning with educational technologies.

Some advice I will offer after a few attempts at trying to make my GIF in Moquu:

  • The app hasn’t gotten the vertical video syndrome notice and doesn’t seem to record vertical GIFs well 
  • If you get an error message uploading/sharing, close the app and try again
  • There are 3 shooting modes: Single, Burst, Timelapse
  • You can re-order your photos on the editing screen and delete individual images

Once I figured out the basic tools, I moved on to making my GIF. After one of the scenes I saw in the #etmooc lip dub, I was inspired to create something using the #etmooc blog as my subject area. I also thought about this quote that has spoken to many of us involved in the course:

I decided I wanted to convey some part of that idea through my GIF, so I took shots of opening my laptop (door) onto the #ETMOOC homepage, the central node from which we have all been connected to this community and the place from which we have each gone out to create, connect, and share some more.

etmooc laptop

And although the laptop closes as the GIF loops, it always opens again. That’s kind of how I think of the #etmooc community. It lives in a space that’s primarily virtual and therefore it’s always open and waiting for me to ask questions, to engage and interact, to learn and share and to support me. This GIF tells the story of me opening or walking through my browser to enter the #etmooc community and join in on our shared thinking and learning. How do you visualize and tell the story of walking through the door and joining #etmooc?