Sunday, February 28, 2016

What's Right When it Comes to Screen Time and Tech Usage in EC?

Technology usage and prevalence in early childhood and Kindergarten is some what of a hot topic that circulates around a number of points:

- "They should be outside playing!"
- "What about fine motor development?"
- Concern over appropriate material
AND mostly
- Appropriate screen time

Should kids under 2, or 5 be exposed to iPads, iPhones, TVs, etc. during their most formative years? 

Previously, we were told NO. NO screen time under 2 and limit time for those over 2. BUT things have changed.

According to The American Academy of Pediatrics, "In a world where 'screen time' in becoming simply 'time,' our policies must evolve or become obsolete."

How true is this? We all that know than when multi-tasking with young children, conversations with adults, or getting any type of errand done can prove VERY difficult with little ones.

iPads prove instant engagement. With lots of movement, interactive touch screens, favorite characters and catchy music how can you not be engrossed? I would even argue that an iPad, and its ability to be tailored to any child's interests is one of the MOST dynamic tools you can provide a child. Especially in our adult world that revolves around continuous access to information. 

We give children these tools, loaded with educational content, games, and creation opportunities. But what are the implications and positive outcomes?

In the October article titled, "Beyond 'turn it off': How to advise families on media use, the American Academy of Pediatrics concludes the following:

So what does this mean for the faithful parents and teachers who abide by the little to no screen time rule?

Technology and media are tool. Bottom line. We use them as adults to grow and learn, and so do our children.  Do we know the long term effects of technology usage on young brains? No, and we won't for some time. We DO know that technology and media are ever present forces in our society - ones we cannot ignore.  So we must adapt.

 Our children have, and always will adapt. We are responsible to teach them how to function and thrive in the physical, spiritual, emotional, and virtual world. Their play, learning and activities must ALWAYS be developmentally appropriate and provide them for growth.  

Teaching has not changed. Apply your rules and set boundaries. Mold your children and students into responsible human beings, show them how to carry over their skills no matter who is watching or not watching.

 That said, be a role model. If you don't want your kids to walk around face first in their devices, then you can't do it either. If you don't want your kids to be cyber-bullies, then you can't troll Facebook feeds. Show them how to use technology and devices as TOOLS. Take pictures of family on trips, comment on the beautiful surroundings and how you are so fortunate to document such a wonderful experience. Show your kids how to make picture collages and email them to home-bound family members.  You can bond over it, if you choose to take the time.

 And we will never stop.  Humans need the human experience and emotion. No device will EVER replace the human connection. Discuss the wonders of your favorite fairy tales with your students, then look up videos of how other cultures have experienced those same fairy tales. Your children and students will learn from you, and what YOU love. As started in the aforementioned American Academy of Pediatrics article, "Neuroscience research shows that very young children learn best via two-way communication, 'talk time' between caregiver and child remains critical for language development."
 Set priorities. Use your devices to gain knowledge and create. AND investigate how some apps can be richer than you believe. When you are in the grocery store, your child can count grapes and find the number he/she found on your calculator key pad. Make is meaningful.

CNN has some interesting thoughts on this topic which you can read here.
The TODAY Parents has also broken down the AAPs new guidelines if you would like to read more.

What are your thoughts on appropriate screen time? What do you do to make tech meaningful?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Erikson Institute, TEC Center - Real talk about Ed Tech in EC

This week was the Illinois Computing Educators Conference - which I have never had the opportunity to attend until this year (#shoutouttomyAWESOMEadmins).

If you have read my other blabs, you know I am passionate about two things in education - early childhood ed, and ed tech. More specifically integrating the two in a purposeful, meaningful way. 

When I first read through the ICE brochure, there wasn't much for EC-2 teachers. But, BUT there was a off-site to the TEC Center at the Erikson Institute in Chicago. This was a must - tech in EC? Research based? Um, yes please.

The TEC Center has got it going on. They get it. They get that technology is a tool for kids. That is should be developmentally appropriate. That if kids aren't ready to play imaginatively then they can't do it on the iPad either. Katie Paciga and Tamara Kaldor know their stuff.  And if you have never listened to Chip Donohue talk, you are missing out.

Mrs. Kaldor and Mrs. Paciga gave us a slow start to the morning so we could chat and get to know our neighbors, which was really nice. They were so easy-going, and supportive of conversation. They are both esteemed educators, well versed in early childhood education & development as well as in  technology, yet claimed not to be the experts but partners in learning. I love that - fosters of continuously inquisitive knowledge seekers. 

Chip Donohue, director of the TEC Center and senior fellow of the Fred Rodgers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media (yes, like Mr. Rodgers) spoke next. If he had availability, I would still be listening. 

Mr. Donohue's message was consistent: ALL children should have the opportunity to benefit from strong relationships with "media mentors" and have experiences to make meaning from working with technology tools. That is how they will effectively learn through the TOOL of technology.

Mr. Donohue also talked about having non-negotiables as a "media mentor."

After listening, here are mine:

If it ever becomes the driving force of what we are doing in a classroom, we need to step back. 
Build your relationships with students and tech, or "media mentors" and they will find engagement and success in the technology. 
Let kids EXPLORE with the device. Use it as enhancement, not replacement.   
When planning integration, content comes first. What are student's development and academic goals, how can the technology SUPPORT that?
Students develop at different times, and as we tailor traditional instruction to each child's level or readiness, so do we need to tailor or integration of technology at the appropriate times.

Listening to Mr. Donohue, Mrs. Kaldor and Mrs. Paciga was inspiring and revitalizing. Children will always need mentors, teachers. They will ALWAYS benefit from relationships. As Mr. Donohue said, "The more you connect the less you connect." Concentrate on the personal connection with kids before you loose them, and yourself to a screen. Human interaction is stronger than the screen - always. 

I could go on for days, but I will leave you with one last IMPORTANT thought that Mr. Donohue addressed - accessibility. Keep in mind where your students are coming from. If they are sitting outside the school on a cracked phone to download their homework and use the schools WIFI - is the technology really benefitting them? Really powerful to think about. 

What are your thoughts on integrating tech in EC? If you would like to read more, I HIGHLY recommend this read by Mr. Chip Donohue. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

What's a Chirbit?

I have been dreaming of an EASY way to link voice recording to QR codes for a LONG time. And finally, I have found it! Seriously Chirbit, where have you been hiding?

Chirbit allows you to create audio files right on your computer and seamlessly convert them into QR code or another output. 

Follow these few quick steps and your kids will be using the QRs in no time!

Inno time, you can have QRs that link to voice. Now my kiddos just scan the QR and can hear me read the number to them. We use these cards in centers, as flash cards, and for take home!

Chirbit is SUPER easy to use and kid friendly too! I just used it to create this fun center for tricky teen numbers. And why not for numbers 1-10 too?

If you want to learn more about how I use these centers, just scan the QR code in the lower left! 
How excited are you to use Chirbit in your own classroom?! Don't have iPads or tablets? Just save the link to a word document! I know my kids LOVE hearing my voice...even though I would object! I am sure the would love to hear yours too! 

Have fun learning!

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Our 100th Day!

The highly anticipated 100th day of school has come and gone for us, but we had oh so much fun 100 yr olds!!

 Don't worry...that's only 1/2 my class.... I do have more students.

Anyways, to celebrate the 100th day & being able to (mostly) count to 100, we decided to dress up as 100 year olds and write about it! And BOY, did they get creative this year! See that little girl with the walker? Her dad made it our of PVC pipe and spray painted it pink, just for our celebration! She and her cousin also had cotton balls glued to the inside of scarves for fake white hair - adorable!

I don't know what it is, but seeing them dressed up as 100 yr olds just had me and my co-teacher just cracking up all day long!! 

We did have to get serious (kind of) for a minute to write about what we will look like when we are 100 years old. Thank goodness we had the Aging Booth app to help with that!

I just downloaded the app to my phone and took a picture of each one of the kiddos. You can also use pictures that you already have. 

How cute are they?! After I take each child's picture on the app I drag and drop it into my writing prompt. Voila  - all set! All we needed to do then is brainstorm what 100 year olds do and then we could get to writing!

This one is my fav!! "I am going to knit in my rocking chair with my knitting and my blanket"

 Love ya girl! "I will teach kids."

 My little athlete here has some lofty goals for 100. But the "I will like to have naps, " is right on point! 

And last, "When I am 100 years old, I am in college." Never stop learning kid, never! :o)

You can grab this 100th day writing and more 100th day activities here!

In other news we made some pretty sweet 100th day hats that made the organizational freak in me go bananas...but the kids had it was worth it right! ;o)

How was your 100th day? What did you do that fun and memorable!?