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

Resources:

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/

Let’s Eat, Family-Style: 4 Benefits Beyond a Healthy Meal

Let’s Eat, Family-Style: 4 Benefits Beyond a Healthy Meal

Agape Family Services Child Care Center

Children enjoy a family-style meal with Betty-Anne at Agape Family Services Childcare Center.

by Jennifer Hilgendorf, WECA Digital Marketing Manager

It’s lunch time at Agape Family Services Childcare Center in Sheboygan and children are getting ready to share a meal. Toddlers buckle themselves into their seats, 3-year olds start setting the table with real silverware, plates and cups, while owner and provider, Betty-Anne White, places their meal on the table. As the children pass the various dishes of food to their neighbors (yes, even those under the age of 2), the room is filled with excited chatter on what is being served. Once everyone has food they’ve chosen, together, they feast.

Serving family-style meals reap many rewards in not only a child’s nutrition, but also in their development. “I serve family style because it’s my desire to have children master foundational social skills before they enter school,” shared Betty-Anne. She is right. There are many valuable benefits in serving family style that go beyond having a nutritious meal.

_MG_0839-13Motor Skills: From balancing serving dishes, passing the pears, pouring the milk and scooping the grilled chicken- each task allows children to practice fine motor skills.

Language Skills: While serving different foods, children learn new words like jicama, quinoa, and kabobs. Don’t forget the wonderful conversations shared at the table while eating. Family-style dining provides a wonderful opportunity to sharpen language skills.

Social Skills: Nothing says practicing patience when a two-year old is waiting for her turn to serve herself peach slices. Practicing good table manners, saying please and thank you, are subtle moments that benefit children’s social skills.

Math Skills: Just how many homemade fish sticks does Dominic have? Let’s count! Eliza is responsible for getting one big spoon and two small spoons for serving. Which spoons did she choose and why? You can discover great math moments right there at the table.

Ready to switch to family-style dining? Follow Betty-Anne’s journey through her Facebook page and check out these simple tips on family-style dining from the USDA.

photo credit: Kith and Kin Photo
Getting out the door and loving Winter with kids

Getting out the door and loving Winter with kids

winter-1By Emily Sonnemann, family childcare provider 

“Snow pants first!” the children all shout as they excitedly run towards their cubbies and begin to toss six sets of coats, hats, mittens, boots and snow pants into a big heap. As the giant heap of gear begins to sort itself out I can hear them encouraging each other, gently reminding about the best order in which to put on their winter gear – snow pants first, next … boots or your coat, a hat and at last your mittens.  “Can you start my zipper?” the first one yells.  Yep!” I reply as I take boots off the youngest child’s hands and place snow pants out for her to try. There are lots of grunts, furrowed brows, concentrating faces, insistent cries of “Can you help me please?!” and “Never mind! I got it! I did it! Look! I got my zipper all by myself!” This can be a good 20- minute plus exercise in figuring things out, working through frustrations, practicing patience, helping and encouraging others and themselves. It is exhausting and it is invigorating. The process gets a little easier each time and here’s the good news: it always ends with success and the rewards of getting outside.  They are a determined, resilient and eager bunch! “Good job everybody!” I cheer as I scramble to get my own winter gear on before someone gets undressed. “Snow pants first!” they shout back at me. The smiles and joy and laughter and adventures that lay on the other side of the door – those are the reasons why we go outside in the winter!

Getting out the door really is the biggest obstacle to loving winter with kids.  Once you’re out the door on a snowy morning it’s like a giant playground made of chilly white play dough. The possibilities are endless and with six little imaginations, we have hours of entertainment at our fingertips no matter the conditions.  We like to build snow forts and snow people. winter2croppedWe go sledding on the neighborhood hill. We make frozen ice shapes with old bundt pans and ice globes by filling punching balloons. We paint snow with water and food coloring. We shovel the neighbors’ sidewalks and driveways. We keep the bird feeder full, follow animal footprints in the snow, look for evidence of the neighborhood beaver, monitor the changing seasons and the changing conditions of the Yahara River and Lake Monona. We make and eat snow ice cream. We use sticks to write letters and make designs in the snow. We ice skate at the local outdoor ice rink or any patch of ice we can find. We look for any crunchy ice to stomp on and for fluffy snowballs to toss. Every day is different and new! Learning and – most importantly – joy abounds in the great outdoors, even in winter. So, bundle yourself up, get outside with kids and find your own adventure! The possibilities are endless, fun is around every corner – just follow those little boot prints into the magical world of winter play!

Tips for Parents: 

  • winter-4croppedSee the whole process as worthwhile. Getting out in winter time can feel overwhelming. It’s cold, slippery, wet…  It’s often easier to find excuses rather than taking on the battle of dressing little ones. It’s a process worth taking the time to engage in. There are a number of skills that your child builds competence in just with the process of learning to get dressed for the weather.
  • Invest in warm winter gear, especially mittens that stay dry inside.  There’s no such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices.  Dress in layers.  Winter gear doesn’t have to be expensive; hand-me-downs abound since gear usually only fits for one season. Look for waterproof things and mittens with extra-long cuffs that can tuck into coat sleeves.  Don’t forget about yourself! Find winter gear for yourself so you don’t get cold before the kids are done playing!
  • Impart a love of nature and the great outdoors.  Speak positively about the possibilities and fun of winter.  Before you know it, even the most hesitant will be deep in the snow and smiling ear to ear.
  • Learn a winter sport together as a family! Try cross-country skiing, downhill skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating or biking. It can be a lot of fun to learn something new together!
  • Check local parks, state parks and natural areas for winter events such as candle lit hikes and skiing or other winter programing. Offerings are typically family friendly, educational and loads of fun.

Emily is now in her fourth year of owning and running her family child care business.  She lives and plays with her husband and two children on Madison’s near East side.  

 

“The Raising of America” and a view from Wisconsin.

Among the 29 richest countries in the world, the US ranks 26th in child well-being. How can that be?

The Raising of America, a soon-to-be released PBS documentary, explores the connection between a strong early childhood education system and a child’s overall well-being.  To this point, the film reveals that the U.S. ranks 16th in child care affordability and 22nd in child care quality.

At a pre-screening last fall, viewers asked “What’s being done?” and “What can we do?”

Nesting graphicIn response, WECA and eight other organizations dedicated to children and families will be hosting a Wisconsin World Café in April for a variety of community leaders. Participants will participate in small-table discussions about children, families, and communities and what they need to succeed.

Also attending is, Dr. Renée Boynton-Jarrett, a pediatrician and researcher, who appears in the documentary. Using the metaphor of a nest, Dr. Boynton-Jarrett sheds some light on the interdependent nature of young children, their families, their larger community, and culture.

“So you have a child who is an individual with their biology, their genetics, and their personality characteristics,” Dr. Boynton-Jarrett explains in the documentary The Raising of America. “They are nested in their family, their peers, and their close social relationships. But that is nested in another level that is your school, your community institutions, your neighborhood. That level is nested within our cultural, our laws, our policies, our social structures, our systems. As a society, where do we see the role of our policies? Is it part of that role to help children grow and develop?”

For more, watch this 11 minute preview clip.

Next month, WECA will highlight the event and report on the discussion. Stay tuned.

Summer reading for play and progress

Summer is finally here! The days are longer and the sun is warmer. The barbecue is on and friends and family play outdoors. As you savor the changes I encourage you to weave reading into your summer days and nights. The children in your life will benefit so much.

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Babies love to read. So do toddlers. “Books build better brains” says Reach out and Read and their web site has simple yet powerful ways to foster the habit of reading with even the smallest child. Reading aloud helps children acquire early language skills, develop positive associations with books and helps children build a stronger foundation for school success.

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Click image to enlarge graphic. Source: The First Book Blog

For school-age children, summer reading is key for maintaining and strengthening the literacy skills gained in the previous school year. On the PBS Parents web site national education consultant Julie M. Wood, Ed.D. says that “the stakes for children who do not read over summer vacation are high. Substantial research on this topic shows it’s usually the students who can least afford to lose ground as readers who are most likely to suffer from summer reading loss and fall far behind their peers. The few months of loss in reading skills compounds over the years; by the time children reach middle school, those who haven’t read during the summers may have lost as much as two years worth of achievement.”

Dr. Wood says that if children read just six books over summer vacation, they will likely avoid summer reading loss. From PBS here are a few ideas for reaching–and going beyond–this six book goal: Continue reading

Cap Times Article by Arne Duncan: Give all 4-year-olds a chance

Recently, The Cap Times published an article by U.S. Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, on the need to give all young children an equal chance to begin kindergarten ready to learn.

Secretary Duncan writes that, “President Barack Obama put forward a plan last week to make access to high-quality early learning a reality for every 4-year-old in America by making full-day preschool available to families with incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty line.”

Duncan notes that parents and education professionals across the country agree that more needs to be done to ensure that children from disadvantaged families begin kindergarten just as ready as children from better-off families.

But members of Congress have asked Secretary Duncan questions, doubting the impact of early childhood education. “How do we know early learning works?” Congress members ask, and “What about its lasting impact?”

The Secretary uses the article to share research on the impact of quality child care in states ranging from Oklahoma to Georgia and New Jersey.

He also writes about the need to invest in early learning to compete globally. “The countries we compete with economically are well ahead of us in preschool opportunity. We rank 28th in the proportion of 4-year-olds enrolled in early learning in surveys by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and 25th in public funding for early learning.”

Click here to read the full article.

Share your opinion: What do you think needs to be done to make sure all children receive quality early learning opportunities? Comment below…