18 Jan 2013

Community and Technology

No Comments Early Childhood Education, Technology

The following is a post that I originally wrote on a private blog as part of an online course I took on Children and Technology.

 

The idea of “community” as it pertains to technology is an interesting one. I think the concern which has always encompassed any new form of technology has been how it will affect communities, and the relationships between individuals in communities. Even from the earliest forms of technologies, such as the written word, there were concerns arising that eliminating the need for passing information in the oral tradition would impact the way that we interact with one another. Socrates himself was opposed to the written word, which we know of course, because his student Plato wrote it down.  I know for myself I have had concerns about the way that technology has changed and will continue to change my relationships with others and the community in which I live. This course has presented an interesting opportunity for me to reflect on these ideas.

Looking at the different types of “community” technologies presented in Chapter 6, it seems there are several different ways in which collaborative technology can be used. Wikis are a wonderful example of collaborative technology, in that they are contributed to by many users and shaped by those users, however although they are collaborative in a cumulative sense, they aren’t interactive. Many can contribute to a wiki and many can view these contributions, but users don’t connect directly to each other. Knowledge Forum seems to be a little more interactive, in that users are building on each other’s ideas and knowledge in a way that sets apart individual users comments, rather than Wikis, in which all users contribute to the same article. I am also intrigued by the language used in the Knowledge Forum, such as scaffolding. Coming from a Reggio background, I have spent a lot of time thinking about the how and why of scaffolding but this is the first time I’ve seen it applied through technology. It’s an interesting thought, as I wonder if online scaffolding would produce the same support as it does in the more traditional use. I also wonder what Vygotsky would think.

I’m most interested in the more “social” community technologies, since I think that humans by nature are relational beings and as such we learn and flourish best in relationships. I find the international opportunities to be of the most interest because this is the one way in which I think technology can really enhance both our learning and our ability to form more relationships, specifically those with individuals of other backgrounds and cultures. I participate in a Reggio listserve which has members worldwide, which has been a great learning experience for myself. Additionally, one preschool room in Hawaii did a project on Wind, and the teacher was communicating to the listserve about this project. What came out of that was collaboration with other preschool rooms around the world, who also began projects on wind and they were able to set up various interactions and communications between these classrooms so the children had opportunities to share what they had been learning. I hope that with our continued advances in technology, there will be more opportunities like this in the future.

All in all, I think there are benefits to all these types of communities and collaborative technologies, but I think that the best methods for learning with or without technology are those which are interactive and relationally based. This is true for young children as well as adults. This is why I’ve appreciated the approach that has been taken with this distance course. The use of the blog and social media has made this much more interactive than other distance courses I’ve taken and I’ve found that helpful to my own learning.

17 Jan 2013

Isn’t being an ECE enough?

1 Comment Child Care, Early Childhood Education

I meet a lot of early childhood education students, both at the college and university level and lately it seems like every student that I meet has an end goal of being a “teacher”. College students want to go on to university, university students want to go to teacher’s college. All the ECE students seem to want to move beyond being “just ECEs”. I understand that in Ontario, the field of early childhood education is changing. With Full Day Kindergarten rolling out and ECEs moving into the school boards, there’s bound to be a shift. However, this is not the end of child care, this is not the end of early childhood education and care as we currently know it, at least not completely. However, I’m starting to wonder if being an early childhood educator has stopped being the goal. I wonder if it’s become a stepping stone for many, an entry level stage they need to move through in order to get where they really want to go.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all about teachers, I think that’s a great career to pursue, and I am actually in favor of the full day kindergarten program. However, I’m worried about what happens when we stop holding on to our early childhood education roots, when we move past ECE, when we let it go. I think that the specialized education that an early childhood educators receives that relates to child development, to play and to learning is essential. I think this education can be of great benefit to kindergarten teachers and to primary school teachers. I just fear that it will be lost if it’s just a hurdle to get past to get to the real goal, to get to teacher’s college.

For me, I’ve had a number of different positions in the field of early childhood education and care, and only a couple have been in traditional child care centres. However, I have always tried to hold on to my ECE-ness. I identify as an early childhood educator, even when I’ve worked with adults more than with children. No matter what degrees I earn, no matter what letters I can put beside my name, I will always be an early childhood educator. That’s my career, that’s what I wanted to be, that’s what I still want to be. I hope that this is just a transition period, that we’re all just figuring out what all these changes mean to our field. I know there are many out there who like me, are proud to be early childhood educators. I hope that the next generation will feel the same.

16 Jan 2013

Wordless Wednesday – Cars

No Comments Documentation, Early Childhood Education

15 Jan 2013

My Favorite Children’s Books

1 Comment Early Childhood Education

Without further ado, here are five of my favorite children’s books in no particular order.

 Chicka Chicka Boom Boom

by Bill Martin Jr and John Archambault

Now I’m not normally a fan of alphabet books, however what I love about this book is that unlike many alphabet books out there, it’s not pushing an agenda. The letters are simply the characters and one by one (in order) they make their way up the coconut tree, where the inevitable happens and… spoiler alert… they all fall out of the tree. This rhyming book has a great rhythm to it (it’s probably the only children’s book I’ve read that has a section of scat), it’s easy to read and it’s fun. I have read it hundreds of times, in fact, I can read it without even needing the book, but I’ve never gotten tired of it. I even like the board book version, which just ends at the halfway point, catering to the attention spans of the littlest readers. For me, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom is a must read.

Llama Llama Mad at Mama

by Anna Dewdney

I have read most of the books in the Llama Llama series and they are all great reads, however, this one is definitely my favorite. When I have worked with parent groups, I would read this on an almost monthly basis because I think it really resonates with parents as well as children. It is the story of little llama going shopping with his mama llama. I think that it’s a very realistic depiction of an outing, where little llama gets pulled away from playing only to fall asleep in the car and getting woken up to go into the store. Inevitably little llama has a bit of a meltdown, but it all works out, as mama llama sees little llama’s needs and they finish the shopping together. This book has a great story, some great rhymes (the llamas shop at the shop-o-rama) and it’s a nice reminder that all parents and caregivers have the same struggles.

 Grumpy Bird

by Jeremy Tankard

Grumpy bird is another great book for toddlers and preschoolers (and their caregivers). Poor bird is in a bit of a mood and he’s out for a walk, but all of his friends keep interrupting that walk to join him. At first this just makes him even grumpier, but eventually he forgets all about his grumpy mood because he starts to have fun. What I like about this book is it’s simple story, as bird walks and the animals join him one by one. Predictable books are great for young children, as they can join in figuring out what comes next. What I also like is that this book is so truthful to children’s occasional grumpy moods, which I think makes it very relatable for caregivers and children.

Those are just three of my many favourite children’s books; what are your favourite books?

14 Jan 2013

Motivational Monday

No Comments Early Childhood Education

My unanticipated 16 hour long day which included stops in four cities has delayed my plans to write a post on my favorite children’s books. So that will have to wait until tomorrow.

Instead I thought I would share a quote with you from one of my favourite books, “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by Dr Seuss. Although many might consider this a “children’s book”, I think it’s a book for everyone, as the many adults that I have purchased this for or read this to, can attest. I have strong emotional ties to this book, as it connects to one of my favorite memories, of a much beloved teacher reading this to us on our last day after four years of being in her program. It was also her last day, as the program she’d run for so long was being cut, and so she had decided to retire. Mrs A. changed my life and I think of her often, especially when I read this book.

There are many quotes in this book, as it speaks to success, but also to the reality of things not working out, of having to wait, of feeling low. However, here’s just one of my favorites.

“So be sure when you step,

Step with care and great tact.

And remember that life’s A Great Balancing Act.

And will you succeed?

Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed)”

-Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

13 Jan 2013

Sunday Watching and Reading

1 Comment Early Childhood Education

I came across the inspiring story of children’s author/illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka this week.

He shares the story of how he became a children’s author/illustrator, starting from his childhood. What I really appreciated about his story are all the individuals who had such a profound impact on him, because it went beyond families to many supportive teachers and even to a simple comment from a visiting author.

I came across this video via the TEDBlog, and so accompanying it was an equally interesting read in Krosoczka’s 10 picks for children’s books that will become classics. You can read it here. Some I recognize, and some I will definitely be checking out in the future.

Tomorrow on the blog I will list some of my favorite children’s books, so be sure to check that out as well.

12 Jan 2013

Saturday Reading – January 12 2013

1 Comment Blogroll, Early Childhood Education

Here’s a few blog posts that caught my eye this week.

C is for Chicks from Preschool Daze – One of the most vivid memories that I have from my early years are a pair of chicks that we hosted in my third grade class. I remember being fascinated by them, and I remember the sounds they made (and that smell). I had the opportunity to take them home for a few days, probably a long weekend, and that’s when we named them Orville and Wilbur after the Wright brothers, because they seemed determined to fly. I think that animals of all kinds are a wonderful experience for young children.

Best Art and Creativity Quotes for Children & Adults from the Artful Parent - I always hold onto quotes and there are a number in this post that I will definitely be writing down. A couple of my favorites are “Art takes nature as its model.” – Aristotle and “The art of mothering is to teach the art of living to children.” -Elaine Heffner.

Painting the Snow from Happy Hooligans – This activity combines two of my favorite things, snow and bringing art experiences outdoors.

What have you been reading this week?

11 Jan 2013

Documenting History

No Comments Child Care, Documentation, Early Childhood Education

I visited a child care centre where I used to work this afternoon and it was an interesting experience. Certainly a lot has changed in the years since I’ve worked there, but what was interesting to see were the things that hadn’t changed. Documentation panels that I’d assembled at the end of long term projects were still on the walls and a classroom display that had come out of a project on farm animals was still up on the cupboards. The furniture was different, the toys and learning materials were changed, but there were still these base elements, part of this centre’s history that remained. These project boards and displays were once the first things put up on bare walls, the first few pages of a new centre’s history. Now they are joined by more recent documentation and displays of current projects. The walls are full of history, and the centre seems lived in, rather than institutional as it had before.

I remember when I started at that centre, it was just opening in a brand new building. We shared a building with another institution, and so although the centre was beautiful, the starkness of the bare walls and the general design of the building seemed more like a hospital than a home. We wanted to fill the walls with documentation and other displays, as we were Reggio inspired and wanted to create a similar look and feel, however we were reminded that creating a history takes time. I was certainly reminded of that today. I think that we are often eager to move forward to get to the next stage in our practice, in our journey; we want the end result and lose sight of the process. Being in that centre today reminded me of the importance of the journey, that each step is necessary and important. History doesn’t happen overnight.

Photo by JaniceCullivan on Flickr

10 Jan 2013

Simple Planning

No Comments Child Care, Early Childhood Education

Less is more. I think that’s one of the hardest things for an Early Childhood Educator to learn. We know that our role is to build relationships, to set up a supportive environment and to provide learning opportunities to promote children’s development. So, we “plan activities”, which is where the challenge lies.

For my students going out into the field to do their practicum they know that one of the expectations is a certain amount of “planned activities”. What is challenging for these students, and for other ECEs as well is that once you’ve planned the activity and you’re implementing it, you have to let go of the plan. As ECEs our role is to facilitate learning, to provide an environment where children are free to make choices in their explorations. We can support their learning, and we can scaffold their learning, but I think that learning happens best when the adults let go of their own agendas and follow the child’s lead. This is hard for ECE students, who want to plan “successful” activities, and who often base the success of their plan on whether the children did as they anticipated. Allowing children to change the plan or to use materials in new ways, is something that can still be difficult for veteran ECEs. We make plans based on the children’s interests, sometimes based on our own interests or experiences, and based on our knowledge of child development. Sometimes a patterning activity turns into pretend play, sometimes an art activity becomes a sensory explorations, and that’s okay.

Therefore, I think that simple can be better. Our plans should require less planning. We can bring together materials and speculate on two or more ways the children might use them, anticipating the different learning that can occur, then when we actually give them the materials, we carefully observe. Maybe some of the children will do as we anticipated and we’ll feel prepared to support them in that, but even if they don’t, we can still use our skills as observers and our relationship as play partners to join them in their explorations, and to support the learning that is still happening.

The more planning that an adult puts in to an activity, the more closed-ended the materials, the less the children can do with it. The more open-ended the materials, the less the adult puts into it (in the planning stage), the more the child puts into the activity, the more opportunities they have to make choices, to experiment, to problem solve and to learn what they need to learn. It’s that simple; but then again, keeping things simple is a hard thing to learn.

Photo by woodleywonderworks on Flickr.

09 Jan 2013

Wordless Wednesday – First Friends

No Comments Early Childhood Education