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!

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