3 Essential Steps to Helping Your Family Become Sensible Digital Users

by Paula Drew, WECA Conference Team and Former Executive Director at Discovery Center

Phone appsA while back I was reading a news article about media usage and young children. It referenced a report by Common Sense Media titled, The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens 2016. This report covered all sorts of media stats like the astronomical amount of time children spend in front of screens but largely, it highlighted children’s most important role models, their parents. In one section, kids talked about how they thought parents were doing with moderating their own media usage. Essentially, what the kids said is that their parents were well, a bit hypocritical. 9 hours and 22 minutes is the average amount of time American parents spend on screens and the bulk of this time is focused on personal use [1]. Additionally, 78% of us parents think that we are good media role models for our children. So, if our kids are awake for at most 14 hours a day, how often are they competing with a screen for our attention?

Create a Family Media Use Plan

Sensible Digital Media Family

Becoming a good role model is the first step to helping your child become a responsible digital citizen.

We didn’t grow up with screens and so alongside our children, we’re learning our own capabilities and weaknesses when it comes to handling digital media responsibly. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report guiding media use by age for children. It stated that excessive caregiver use of digital media can have adverse effects on a child’s development. They suggest that parents create a Family Media Use Plan to keep everyone accountable.[2]  Just as we make personal guidelines for weight management, household budgeting and weekly chores- we need to create steadfast ways to help curb our own media addictions in order to be fully present in our children’s lives.

Plans can include such things as:

  • Content Usage: How much time are we spending on social media, news, YouTube etc.
  • Present Time: When are screens off-limits?
  • Value and Values: How is media content adding positively to our understanding of the world and does it reflect your families core values?
  • Find Your Family: What areas of the house are off-limits for screen use?
  • Stop Watch: What is the max amount of time you’re ok with giving to screen use?[3]

Become a Good Role Model
Being a good role model is the first step to helping your child become a responsible digital citizen. However, that’s not all we parents need to know and do in order to support our children in the 21st century. Let’s face it, this technology thing is not going away and our children are going to need to navigate digital platforms daily in their work and lives. How can we support the development of these skills and furthermore, how can digital media play a role in fostering other aspects of our child’s development?

Attend Lisa Guernsey’s Presentation this October
Lisa Guernsey, deputy director of the Education Policy program and director of the Learning Technologies project at New America and author of Screen Time: How Electronic Media – From Baby Videos to Educational Software – Affects Your Young Child and co-author of Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens will visit Madison this fall to kick-off the Wisconsin Early Childhood Association’s annual conference. On Thursday, October 25th, she will speak to parents and educators about her research, her recommendations and her own journey as a parent in the digital age. No one is perfect in the parenting arena but when we know better, we parent better. Lisa has made a career of knowing the hows and whys of media use with children and this event promises to help us all get a little closer to perfect when we’re thinking about parenting and digital media.

This community event is generously sponsored by UW Health, UnityPoint Health – Meriter & Quartz and is free and open to the public. Registration is now open.


What Parents Can Do

Common Sense Media

How to Make a Family Media Use Plan

[1] The Common Sense Census: Plugged-In Parents of Tweens and Teens 2016 | Common Sense Media. (2016, December 06). Retrieved July 16, 2018, from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/research/the-common-sense-census-plugged-in-parents-of-tweens-and-teens-2016

[2] Council on Communications and Media. (2016, October) Media and Young Minds. Pediatrics.

[3] Korioth, T. (2018, June 20). Family Media Plan helps parents set boundaries for kids. Retrieved July 16, 2018, from http://www.aappublications.org/news/2016/10/21/MediaParents102116

Teaching in a New Era- What Do We Know About Using Technology in the Classroom?

by Paula Drew, WECA Conference Team and Former Executive Director at Discovery Center

Join us this year at the annual WECA Conference to hear from keynote speaker Lisa Guernsey as she gives insight into 21st century learning opportunities.

Kids with tabletBack when I was an early childhood educator, “technology” was used to refer to things like the classroom typewriter, boombox and disposable camera. These items were interactive by nature and students usually used them in collaboration with others. There wasn’t ever a time where my co-teacher and I had to think critically about if they played a valid role in our classroom.

Fast-forward a decade and as a director, this topic was much more complex in our field. The advancement of interactive screens posed a whole slew of unanswered questions for me: Can this technology help teach new concepts? How is it going to create or hinder relationship? What about creativity and risk taking? Does digital media encourage a sedentary learning environment? As my team and I worked through a decision to possibly purchase iPads for the classrooms, it was difficult to know where to begin. I brought our concerns to our licenser, our city accreditor and fellow directors in the area. In the end, I couldn’t gleam a consensus as to whether this was going to support learning or create havoc in our classrooms.

After months of debate, we took the plunge and purchased the iPads. To start out, we practiced caution and used the new device in ways that emulated older technology; we took photos, listened to music, wrote letters and drew pictures. Slowly we experimented with language apps to help communicate with new English language learners. We added a three-dimensional design game that utilized the camera technology to copy in real time what children were doing with tangrams in front of the screen and then added movement to it on the screen. Our teachers learned by experience that it was essential to experiment with a new game or app on their own before introducing it to the students (not everything out there is DAP or otherwise appropriate). Even though we could find some interesting activities to offer our students on the iPads, there were still a lot of concerns about the valuable time they ate up during the day, both teacher prep time and student engagement time.

By now electronic media has been around long enough that studies have been done to assess all types of ways that it can affect developing minds. Recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a report stating that excessive use of digital media can lead to an increase in body weight as well as sleep and cognitive delays in young children. They urge that children under the age of two only be exposed to screens while using video chatting with loved ones and for older children, a limit of an hour or less per day.[1]  Now that we know this, new questions arise. If children are experiencing screen-time at home, can we justify including it at school too? In addition, what we’re also learning is that time limits are not the only thing to keep in mind when using digital media.

UW native Chip Donohue and his colleague Roberta Schomburg write in the September issue of Young Children, Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs that intentionality should be paramount to anything digital media related in the classroom. They suggest being mindful of the following ideas:

  • Not just time limits- it’s about the quality of the content and how it relates to your student’s life experiences.
  • Cooperation – using technology should bring students and educators together, not signal isolation for the child.
  • Think positive- use smartly vetted resources that can support healthy social emotional development.
  • Representation – it’s your duty to make sure that your choice of games, apps, digital stories etc. for your students show images that represent all your students. Your students will look to them for confirmation that who they are matters.
  • Encourage creativity- students can use media to document, tinker and develop new ideas.
  • Citizenship- remember to talk about safety rules when using on-line platforms. [2]
Lisa Guernsey

Lisa Guernsey, author of “Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens” and “Screen Time: How Electronic Media-From Baby Videos to Educational Software-Affects Your Young Children.”

This fall WECA welcomes Lisa Guernsey as the keynote speaker for the 2018 Wisconsin Early Childhood Association annual conference. She is the deputy director of the Education Policy program and director of the Learning Technologies project at New America. She has researched and written extensively about the use of digital media as an educational literacy tool, what she calls a “21st-century literacy opportunity” and has two thought-provoking books to show for this work.

Lisa’s work bridges the digital divide of do or don’t in the classroom and argues that it’s our duty to introduce the use of digital media to our students. She’s concerned about access of educational opportunities for all children. She rightly states that not all children can interact with digital media at home but will be required to know how to work with it for most of their lives. She also argues that the right type of media can help our DLL students continue to flourish in both languages while at home and at school. Lisa will help us create a greater understanding what Chip Donohue and Roberta Schomburg talked about in terms of intentionality and then she’ll pave a path of how to move forward with the vast array of e-books, apps and other multi-media options that can help to further a child’s learning at an individualized pace. [3]

I truly believe that quality early childhood education has the means of creating a more equitable and bright future for all children. Being an educator in the 21st century requires expertise in a vast array of developmental domains. We also must be able to collaborate with families, the greater community and additionally be aware of our social justice responsibilities. Part of this is asking those tough questions about anything introduced into the classroom and we need to have solid resources to guide these decisions. Please join us October 25-27th to go in-depth with concepts related to learning with digital media responsibly in your classroom.

You will have three opportunities to hear Lisa Guernsey speak:

Thursday, October 24th  at 7:00 pmScreen Time: How Electronic Media—From Baby Videos to Educational Software—Affects Your Young Child. This is a community-wide event and Lisa will speak through a parenting lens when addressing digital media and children.

Friday, October 25th 8:30 -9:30 am – Lisa will kick-off the 2018 Annual WECA Conference as our keynote with Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens.

Friday, October 25th 9:45 – 11:45 am – Go in-depth with Lisa Guernsey in this after-keynote breakout session.

Other tech-focused sessions to catch at the 2018 Annual WECA Conference

Friday, October 25th 9:45-11:45 am El Uso de la Tecnología, ¿Buena o Mala para el Aprendizaje de los Niños (Spanish) with Harry Salas, Maestro de Música y Movimiento y Tecnologia, Lighthouse Christian School

Friday, October 25th 12:45 – 2:15 pm Putting Technology to Work for Learning and Play with Heather Kirkorian, Associate Professor

Saturday, October 26th 12:45-2:15 pm Wired and Tired with Angel Stoddard, Instructor, UW-Milwaukee/Spark Early Learning

Saturday, October 26th 2:45-4:15 pm Wait! Wait! I Missed it! with Allison Kaplan, Faculty Associate, Information School, University of Wisconsin – Madison and Emmi Lohrentz


What Educators Can Do

The Three C’s: Content, Context, and Your Child

How to Use Digital Media to Support Children’s Home Language

[1] Media and Young Minds. (2016). Pediatrics, 138(5). doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2591

[2] Donohue, C. & Schomburg, R. (2017, September). Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs. Young Children, 72-78.

[3] Announcing a Tap, Click, Read Toolkit to Promote Early Literacy in a World of Screens. (2016, October 03). Retrieved July 16, 2018, from http://www.tapclickread.org/announcing-tap-click-read-toolkit-promote-early-literacy-world-screens/

Maria Hernandez: Creando un salón de clase mágico, usando una botella plástica a la vez

Algunos de nuestros momentos favoritos en WECA involucran conocer proveedores increíbles que van más allá en su trabajo. María Hernández, propietaria de Green Planet’s Daycare en Milwaukee, es un excelente ejemplo.

Maria Hernandez, owner of Green Planet's DaycareMientras Pam Polenz, directora de reclamos del Programa de Comidas, estaba acompañando a Alice Gómez Palacio, coordinadora de área del Programa de Comidas, ella sabía que estaba a punto de ver algo espectacular.

“Tan pronto como puse un pie en su patio delantero, inmediatamente me llamó la atención su creatividad única”, compartió Pam. “Tenía estas grandes estructuras de metal en el patio delantero que me llamaron la atención. Sabía que iba a ser una visita emocionante “.

El interior no fue la excepción. Brotado en una parte del aula había un árbol de tamaño natural. Lo que lo hizo fascinante fue que estaba hecho completamente de papel maché. Dispersos a lo largo de las paredes colgaban flores coloridas hechas de botellas de plástico y latas de metal. Una oruga hambrienta, hecha de vasos de plástico verde, estaba sentada en la parte superior de la estantería. Un reloj amarillo, transformado en sol, colgaba de una pared.

“María tiene talento”, agregó Pam. “Fue muy inspirador ver su habilidad para tomar objetos comunes y transformarlos en herramientas mágicas de enseñanza. Su talento cosecha un fuerte ambiente de aprendizaje para los niños bajo su cuidado ¡es asombroso!”

Le pedimos a Maria, participante del Programa de Alimentos de WECA desde 2013, que reflexionara sobre su pasión por enseñar a los niños y su enfoque en el reciclaje.

¿Por qué decidió comenzar a cuidar niños en su hogar?
Mi meta siempre ha sido implementar algo diferente en mi guardería de cómo cuidar nuestro medio ambiente por ello el nombre de “Green Planet’s Day Care”. Ya que cada uno de nosotros podemos marcar una diferencia para tener un nuevo mundo reciclando.

Mi pasión siempre ha sido apreciar y valorar la niñez cómo una etapa única y valiosa en la vida del ser humano y cómo proveedora tengo la responsabilidad de brindarle a los niños un ambiente seguro, saludable y estimulante, por ello me comprometo a crear un plan de trabajo qué cubra desde las rutinas diarias, hasta las actividades relacionadas con las áreas y centros de la clase, sin dejar ninguna pendiente, pues todas ellas van de la mano y estas se transforman en el niño en su totalidad.

IMG954291¿Qué originó esta idea de un cuidado enfocado en el reciclaje?
La idea se originó a través de mi trabajo en México en una comunidad rural donde había escasez de recursos para obtener los materiales necesarios para trabajar con los niños. Por lo tanto, siempre tenía qué reciclar los materiales y los niños tenían la oportunidad de reciclar los materiales, dándole un nuevo uso en el salón de clases.

¿De dónde obtiene sus materiales reciclados?
Los materiales reciclados los obtengo en su mayoría con las familias de los niños, recolectamos diferentes materiales de reciclaje. También reciclo lo que consumimos en mi hogar.

¿Cuáles son algunas de las actividades favoritas que hace con los niños usando los materiales reciclados?
Una de las actividades favoritas que más les gusta a los niños es hacer *maracas con botellas de agua y flores con cartones de huevo y rollos de papel. También les gusta hacer **alebrijes los cuáles son típicos de México. Esto les permite desarrollar su creatividad elaborando su propio arte.

¿Los niños bajo su cuidado crean cosas que están en su colección de arte reciclado?
¡Así es!  los niños mayores ayudaron a poner la corteza del árbol usando papel periódico y pintura no toxica, así cómo también cortaron flores con las botellas de plástico.

¿Si otros proveedores de cuidado infantil familiar quisieran utilizar su idea, cómo podrían comenzar?
Primeramente invitar a las familias a aprender a recolectar diferentes tipos de materiales qué consumimos día a día cómo el cartón, plástico, papel, envolturas, latas, tapas, etc.. para luego motivar a los niños a que ellos mismos separen los desechos o “basura” que se pueden reutilizar. Así mismo, enseñar tanto a los padres y niños la importancia de practicar las 3 “Rs” (Reducir, Reutilizar y Reciclar).Flowers made from plastic bottles

¿Cuál es la importancia, para los niños en su cuidado, que usen productos reciclados?
Mi meta es ofrecer a las familias la mejor experiencia de calidad protegiendo nuestro medio ambiente; crear conciencia y enseñarles a los niños, desde edades tempranas, a reciclar todos los días. Es importante guiar a los niños para que sean responsables primordialmente por nuestro planeta ya que esta será su responsabilidad futura.

¿Alguna idea que le gustaría compartir con otros proveedores para todo el estado de Wisconsin?
Además de reciclar adecuadamente, es importante motivar a los padres, familias y o amigos de los niños que acuden a la guardería, que se propongan trabajar en equipo para limpiar nuestro vecindario frecuentemente juntando la basura que hay en nuestras calles, y no esperar para hacerlo sólo el 22 de abril que es el día de la tierra, para crear conciencia de cuidar y proteger nuestro medio ambiente. También, es fundamental motivar a los niños a elaborar huertos y enseñarles el proceso de plantar semillas de vegetales, flores y diferentes tipos de plantas que no sean dañinas para el niño, esto ayudará a que ellos tengan la oportunidad de ver crecer las plantas y cuidarlas ellos mismos.

¿Algún otro mensaje para compartir?
Es muy importante si cada proveedor inculca a los padres el formar parte de un proyecto de reciclaje para así comenzar desde el hogar, ya que vivimos en un país multicultural en donde consumimos día a día diferentes tipos de productos los cuáles, si no los reciclamos, tardarán muchos años en deshacerse por sí mismos lo que continuaría afectando nuestro planeta.

Nos gustaría agradecer a María por compartir su pasión por el reciclaje e incorporarlo en su centro de cuidado infantil familiar. Si está buscando impulsar sus esfuerzos de reciclaje en su centro, ¡tenemos noticias para usted! Maria presentará un taller en nuestra Conferencia de WECA 2018 en octubre. Este taller será una experiencia práctica donde podrá crear herramientas mágicas de aprendizaje para su propio centro.

Maria Hernandez: Making a Magical Classroom, One Plastic Bottle at a Time

Some of our favorite moments at WECA involve meeting amazing providers who go above and beyond in their work. Maria Hernandez, owner of Green Planet’s Daycare in Milwaukee, is a prime example.

While on a shadow evaluation with Food Program area coordinator, Alice Gomez Palacio, Pam Polenz, Food Program Claims Director, knew she was about to see something spectacular.

Maria Hernandez, owner of Green Planet's Daycare

“As soon as I stepped foot onto her front yard, I was immediately struck by her unique creativity,” Pam shared. “She had these large metal structures in her front yard that caught my eye. I knew it was going to be an exciting visit.”

Inside was no exception. Sprouted in one part of the classroom stood a life-sized tree. What made it fascinating was that it was made entirely out of papier-mâché. Scattered along the walls hung colorful flowers made from plastic bottles and metal cans. A hungry caterpillar made from green plastic cups sat on top of bookshelf. A yellow clock hung on a wall transformed into the sun.

“Maria has talent,” Pam added. “It was so inspiring to see her ability to take ordinary objects and transform them into magical teaching tools. Her talent harvests a strong learning environment for the kids in her care; it’s amazing.”

We asked Maria, a WECA Food Program participant since 2013, to reflect on her passion of teaching children and her focus on recycling.

Why did you decide to start caring for children in your home?
My goal has always been to implement something different in my daycare on how to take care of our environment. This is why my program is called “Green Planet’s Day Care.” Each one of us can make a difference in our world by recycling.

My passion has always been to appreciate and value childhood as a unique and valuable stage in the life of a human. As a provider, I have a responsibility to offer children a safe, healthy and stimulating environment. I am committed to creating a work plan covering from daily routines to activities related to the areas and centers of the classroom. They go hand in hand, and together help transform a child entirety.

How did this idea of a focus on recycling originate?
The idea originated through my work in Mexico in a rural community where there was a shortage of resources and materials necessary for working with children. I always had to recycle materials and the children had the opportunity to also recycle materials to give them a new use in the classroom.

Where do you get your recycled materials?
I mostly get the recycled materials from the families in my program. We collect different recycling materials and I also recycle what we consume in my home.

IMG954291What are some favorite activities you do with children using recycled materials?
One of the favorite activities that children like is making “maracas” with bottles of water, and making flowers with egg cartons and rolls of paper. They also like to make “alebrijes,” which are typical of Mexico. By making their own art, children develop their creativity.

*Maracas are a pair of rattles made from gourds.

**Alebrijes are brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical/mythicial creatures.

Do children in your care create things that are in your recycled art collection?
Yes! Older children helped put on the tree bark using newspaper and non-toxic paint. They also cut the flowers made of plastic bottles.

If other family child care providers would like to use your idea, how could they start?
First, invite families to learn how to collect diverse types of materials that our programs can consume day by day, like cardboard, plastic, paper, wrappers, cans, lids, etc. Teach both parents and children the importance of practicing the 3 “Rs” (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle), and motivate them to learn new ways that “junk” can be re-used.

Why is it important for children to use recycled products?
My goal is to offer families the best quality experience while protecting our environment. I create awareness and teach children, from the early years, to recycle every day. It is important to guide children to be responsible for our planet as this will be their future responsibility.

Any ideas that you would like to share with other providers?
Besides recycling properly, it is important to motivate parents, families and children’s friends to work as a team cleaning our neighborhoods, often picking up the garbage from the streets. We can’t wait to do this only on Earth day; every day we need to create awareness of caring for and protecting our environment.

Also, it is essential to motivate children to plant gardens and teach them the process of planting vegetables, flowers and diverse types of plants that are not harmful to children. This will give them the opportunity to see the plants grow and to take care of them.

Any other messages to share?
It is very important that each provider engage parents to be part of a recycling project. We start from home, since we live in a multicultural country where we consume many types of products day by day. If we do not recycle, it will take many years for it all to decompose and our planet will continue to be harmed.

We would like to thank Maria for sharing her passion for recycling and incorporating it into her family child care center. If you are looking to boost your recycling efforts in your center, we have exciting news! Maria will be presenting at our 2018 WECA Conference in October.  Her workshop will be hands-on experience where you can create magical learning tools for your own center.

Technology Meets ECE – Don’t miss the 2018 WECA Conference!

The 2018 WECA Statewide Early Childhood Conference kicks off this year with a Parent-Provider event on Thursday evening, October 25th, featuring Lisa Guernsey.  Ms. Guernsey, Deputy Director of the Education Policy Program at New America, will speak from her works as an author of:  Screen Time: How Electronic Media Affects Your Young Child and Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens.

2018 WECA Annual Conference Save the Date

Following are two exciting days of engaging with new ideas and materials through workshops, exhibits, networking, and a keynote presentation by Ms. Guernsey.  Themes that we hope to explore this year include: Technology and ECE, Play-Based Learning, Reflective Practice, Workforce Supports and Well-Being, and Anti-Bias Early Education.

Save the date and keep updated on the WECA website. We hope to see you all there!