Archive for Early Childhood Education

03 Jan 2013

ECE and Technology

No Comments Early Childhood Education, Personal Learning Network, Social Media, Technology

I will admit that when I first started in the field of early childhood education I was skeptical about bringing technology into my practice. Like many out there I wasn’t sure that technology and early childhood went together. It wasn’t that I was adverse to technology generally, I have always been fairly “tech-savvy” and have spent many more hours on my computer, smart phone, tablet, etc. than I’d care to admit. In fact, since the field of early childhood doesn’t seem to attract those with computer skills, I have often found myself the unofficial IT dept of my workplace, in charge of all things computer, camera and even photocopier related. That being said, I found myself slowly discovering the benefits of technology in this field.

Working with infants and toddlers, I wasn’t putting a lot of technology into the hands of the children themselves. I believed then, as I still do now that under 2s don’t need any “screen time”. That being said, one of the biggest challenges for an infant/toddler caregiver is demonstrating the learning that occurs every day. A digital camera with video capabilities became my most indispensable tool to capture their learning. This was especially important when I worked in a Reggio inspired setting where documentation was a large part of our practice. Technology made the documentation process easier while providing a clearer and more refined picture of the gathered data.

It was around that same time I began to seek out resources that would support my work with infants in a Reggio inspired setting. I discovered an online group of ECEs who were Reggio inspired and searched for articles, activity ideas and other resources online. Over the years, the online ECE communities have grown as blogging and social media have become more popular. There are more resources now, online journals and magazines, and through social media, ECEs and teachers are forming Personal Learning Networks, something that I have found to be of great value, as I’ve mentioned before.

I will admit that I’ve become a convert. I believe that early childhood education and technology need to be linked. I think there is value for the children, but more than that I think that there is great value for the educator in incorporating technology into their practice. As with everything, we just need to be intentional in the way that we use it.

Photo by Table4Five on Flickr

19 Dec 2012

Practicing Reflection

1 Comment Child Care, Early Childhood Education, Parenting

One of the most important skills that an educator or caregiver should practice is reflection. If it is our goal to support children in their growth and development and to be lifelong learners ourselves then it is essential that we are regularly reflecting on our own experiences and practices. We all do it to some extent, but too often I think we reflect on the challenging or “unsuccessful” experiences more than the rest. However, understanding why a planned experience, group time or interaction went well is just as important as understanding why one didn’t. Over the past year, as I’ve been working with College students pursuing their diploma in Early Childhood Education, I have been trying to encourage them to get into this practice.

Reflection serves many purposes. Firstly it ensures that we remain in the moment and make observations about the children’s play experiences and interactions. If we didn’t take the time to really see what’s happening, then we can’t reflect, and these observations are essential as we plan each day’s experiences. When we plan, we usually have an idea with regards to how we think they might use the materials, however, children are great at thinking outside the box and coming up with new ways to use the materials. Therefore when we take the time to observe and to reflect on what the children actually did, rather than what we assumed they would do, we develop an insight into their skills and their interests, which supports the planning process. I often hear that ECEs and ECE students feel stressed about planning experiences that the children will enjoy, however, when we take the time to observe and reflect, we can often come away with new ideas. Additionally, reflecting helps us to be intentional in our practice. For example, when new materials are being added to the learning environment, do you always take the time to ask yourself why you’re adding that material, thinking about what it will add to the children’s play. Finally, reflection supports our relationships with the children in our care, their parents and with the staff. Since reflection requires that we be observant and intentional in our interactions, our planned experiences and even in how we set up our environment, it supports us to be the kind of educators and caregivers that we want to be, because we are thinking about it and altering our plans and behaviours according to the way that we want to be.

One of the ways that we encourage our students to be reflective is included in their activity planning. They are asked to plan and implement an activity, and then when it’s finished, both they and their supervising ECE are asked to reflect on the planned activity. What did the children do? How did the ECE student respond to the children? What would they do differently? I encourage my students to spend time on this and use it to inform their practice and to plan further activities. I also typically have them do some form of a reflection each week in our field seminar class, asking them to reflect on an experience they had at placement that week.

I don’t limit my reflection to being something I ask my students to do, however, I try and make sure I am reflective in my own practices as well. As difficult as it sometimes is, I always read the feedback my students give me in their evaluations and sometimes do an extra evaluation at midterm, asking students for their feedback on what they find helpful or not helpful. More often than not they request “no more tests”, however there is other feedback which I try to take into account. I always want to keep learning, I don’t ever want to be finished, and so I keep reflecting. I hope that this will inspire you to keep reflecting too.

Photo by radical_vamsi on Flickr

29 Aug 2012

Parents as Partners

No Comments Early Childhood Education, Parenting

TRUST

They bring their child to me
And hope I’ll come to know,
How much their offspring means to them,
Their trust in me bestowed.

They bring their child to me
With love and hope and pride,
Looking for a helping hand,
And a teacher who will guide.

They bring their child to me
And our partnership is clear:
To nurture and allow to bloom
A life we both hold dear.

They bring their child to me
A step toward letting go,
And trusting in our special plan
To help the child grow.

by Gloria Weber Henbest

 

I received the above poem from a member of the Reggio Group that I belong to. We’ve been talking over the last few days about infant programs and the importance of forming relationships with parents in infant care programs. Although parent involvement is always important, regardless of the age group, I think special emphasis needs to be placed on the role of the parent in infant and toddler programs.

This is often a family’s first encounter with child care, be it centre or home-based care. It is even likely that child care will be the first time the child has been cared for by someone other than the parents. You, the caregiver, are a complete stranger and they are in a position where they have to give you their baby and trust that you will care for their child and nurture their child just as well as they would. That’s a hard thing. One that’s incredibly hard where you are still getting to know your child and their likes and dislikes, when they are learning and developing at such a rapid rate that you can barely keep track of all the new things they are doing and when they are at an age where they can’t come home and tell you all about their day, so you can share in their experiences.

Early Childhood Educators (ECE) and parents should be partners. The lines of communications should be wide open, with the ECEs sharing the goings-on in the child care environment, sharing specific things the children do each day and asking questions to learn about the children and their families. Similarly, parents should feel comfortable asking about their child and sharing their own stories from evenings and weekends, sharing their children’s accomplishments and asking any questions they might have about the centre or their child or even parenting in general. It should be a community. After all, it takes a village to raise a child.

In my years in the field, I have developed many wonderful relationships with the children that I’ve cared for, and I’ve also developed many wonderful relationships with the parents of those children. Some of whom I am still in contact with to this day. Those relationships have made my work more meaningful and I am glad that I took the time to partner with parents, because it made a difference for me, for those parents and most important of all, it made a difference to those children.

I hope this will inspire you to think about how you partner with the parents in your programs as well.

 

Photo from FamilyMWR on Flickr.

29 Nov 2011

Musings of an Early Childhood Educator

No Comments Canadian ECE, Early Childhood Education

We might not always feel that we’re valued and appreciated on a large scale, but we make a difference to each child…

  I have to admit that sometimes I feel a little disenchanted with the field of early childhood education. Don’t get me wrong, I’m very passionate about the early childhood years, child development and the importance of quality caregiving. However there are days when it just feels like there’s something about this field that’s too hard. As early childhood practitioners, we struggle for validation, we struggle for respect and we struggle to maintain fair wages without raising the cost of care. There’s a great desire to advocate for the field, caregivers want to be heard, but at the same time, we’re tired, we have families to take care of and it’s hard to find the time to get on our soap boxes and tell the world to listen up and hear the importance of the early childhood field. There are days when I hear someone say “babysitting” and I have to grit my teeth. There are times when someone comments on how lucky I am to get to “hold babies and play all day” and although I do feel lucky to do the work that I do, I hate for people to devalue what I do every day like that, because they say it as though it isn’t work, as though it isn’t significant, as though it isn’t important. I find it so frustrating sometimes.

However the thing about feeling this way is that there are days when I think I want to quit, to leave it all behind, but there are also other days, days when instead of quitting, I want to push back, I want to make a change. That’s one of the reasons I became involved in professional development. The first workshop that I presented came out of my own request. I was an infant teacher and was frustrated by the lack of professional development offered for those working with infants and toddlers. There was one workshop, which had been offered two or three times and that was all. So I spoke up, I approached a few people who were involved with a local organization that put on professional development for child care workers and made my request, loudly and more than once. Eventually my name must have gotten put on a list somewhere because a while later they called me and invited me to do a series of workshops for infant care workers. So I did, and being able to share what I had learned in my own research and my own practice and to hear about what others were doing was a great experience for me, and I was hooked.

It’s difficult sometimes, coordinating so many people, and my involvement is a lot of work. However at the same time, I really believe that it’s worth it.

 My involvement in a local advocacy organization, the Association for Early Childhood Educators of Ontario, came about in much the same way. I was always reading up on the changes in the field and talking to those I knew, both in and out of the field about the importance of early education and what was happening in the field. I realized that I wanted to make more of a contribution to support my local Early Childhood Educators and so I joined the board of my local branch. It’s difficult sometimes, coordinating so many people, and my involvement is a lot of work. However at the same time, I really believe that it’s worth it. Even if I don’t get a lot of feedback, even if there’s only a few people who respond to our newsletters and our events, that’s still enough. It’s not just about the many, it’s about the few, and I have to keep believing that every voice, that every contribution is important.

The field of early childhood is important, early childhood practitioners are important. The work that we do with children is really important. We might not always feel that we’re valued and appreciated on a large scale, but we make a difference to each child and to each family and that’s what really counts. Yes, I have days when I feel disenchanted about what I do, but then I think of the children and the families and I remember that what I do matters.

Photo from Flickr by David Woo (Wootang01)