How to Appropriately Use Technology in a Preschool Classroom

There is often a lot of discussion and opinion as to whether using digital technology in a preschool program is effective.  If you’re an early childhood teacher, you may have already heard first hand from “concerned” parents that the use of iPads and “screen time” on the SMARTboards is unnecessary.  From their point of view, they don’t send their kids to school to play games on the iPads and “watch TV”.  Believe it or not, this is what they say amongst themselves.  If they only knew that, contrary to what they might think, we are in fact utilizing technology appropriately and in a way that supports early development.

I came across an article recently that I found very interesting and informative by Anne Epstein of Curriculum Development, where she shares her research with us and explores ways that educators can integrate technology in their early childhood classrooms.  Epstein points out that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Communications and Media recognizes “that high- quality interactive media can have educational benefits for children above age two, improving ‘social skills, language skills, and even school readiness'”.  You cannot deny the fact that we live in a society that lives off technology for nearly everything we do.. and it is here to stay.

Apart from what research shows us, many still debate on whether or not, this is in the best interest for our children.  It is a back and forth debate with one side saying that too much technology results in a loss of creativity and social skills in children, meanwhile others say  that through using technology, the speed at which students process information intensifies.

When it comes down to it, I think that we live in a world that is only moving forward, in terms of technology and innovation.  Parents need to be educated of the benefits of exposing children to technology outside of their home environment. The reason why some parents may feel like technology should stay out of the classroom is because they are only familiar with what they see their children doing at home, and they aren’t educated about the programs and softwares we might be using in the classroom with their children.  A child might go home saying, “Mom, I got to play a game on the iPad today!”, and immediately the first thought that pops into moms head is going to be, “Why is my child playing games on the iPad at school?  Is this how they spend their time, when my child should be learning?” Let’s educate our parents as best we can- whether it be through Parent Ed sessions at the school, informative emails, or scheduled parent meetings.  We are cultivating our next generation of little thinkers… and technology has a huge role in their education.

What is an ePortfolio and Why Use One?

At the conclusion of the first course of my Master’s program, I like many others, was overwhelmed with the fact that I needed to create a fully functional ePortfolio/website, in probably the busiest time of the school year for me!  It certainly was daunting, but no matter how daunting it initially seemed, I was curious and excited to start it, nonetheless.

So, what exactly is an ePortfolio? As one of my professors put it, an ePortfolio is simply “a learner’s digital evidence of meaningful connections”.  It is a place for one to reflect and make connections.  A digital evidence of learning.  I know that creating an ePortfolio would be an extremely valuable learning tool for me.  I mean, the research is there… We now know that a number grade does not determine whether we know something.  And as John Dewey also put it, “We do not learn from experience…. we learn from reflecting on experience.”  You might hear someone say, “Well, based on my experience, this this and this is fact.” But really, it’s not just based on their experience.  It’s based on their thoughts in regards to their experience.  I agree with Jennifer Moon when she stated that “Reflection is a form of mental processing”.

I’m excited that I have begun the processing of creating my ePortfolio, and apart of the many benefits that come with it, what really excites me is that my whole ePortfolio will have been created to my likes, hobbies and thoughts.  It is not just a paper, or project that will receive grading… It is more than that.  For me, it is a more personal look into who I am as an educator, as a mother, wife, and photographer.

Most Likely to Succeed | A Documentary

 


<p>For more information, please visit: http://mltsfilm.org</p&gt;

Take a look at the trailer above.  The school I teach at recently did a private screening of the full film Most Likely To Succeed during one of our teacher inservice days.  I found this film very interesting, and it’s been described as

“the best film ever done on the topic of school — both its past and its future. The film inspires its audiences with a sense of purpose and possibility, and is bringing school communities together in re-imagining what our students and teachers are capable of doing.”

If possible, I highly encourage your organization to host a screening so that you can see the full film.  It is definitely an eye opener.

If you’ve seen the film already, please share your thoughts in the comments.  I’d love to hear your views on the film.

 

The Life Long Learner vs. The Continuous Learner

A few weeks ago, while doing some research on the value of the ePortfolio, I came across an article that caught my attention written by Robert Talbert, an educator and mathematician.  It was the title that caught my attention first, Continuous Learning Instead of “Lifelong Learning”.  Being a “lifelong learner” is a term I’ve heard for a long time, and frankly, something I’ve always strived to be.

In recent years, we hear the term being used more and more.  With the impact technology has had on education, educators must be capable of change- we have to be able to adapt to the rapid changes of technology.  There are also many professional learning networks available to educators to keep us inspired and to allow us to ask questions and collaborate with other teachers and educators around the world, and so we are taught and encouraged to not only teach our students, but to practice what we teach.  To be lifelong learners.

In the article linked above, Talbert makes some interesting points.  Does the term “lifelong learner” convey the sense that the learning is happening gradually?  On our own time?  He gives a great analogy-  it’s “like taking a class at the college every now and then for enrichment, doing that macrame course at the community center when you retire, or even taking an online computer programming course for fun”, when in reality embracing lifelong learning should be something that happens all the time.  As educators, we should crave the need and want to learn all the time, but does the term itself convey a different meaning?

After reading through the article, I found myself agreeing with a lot of what Talbert had to say.  The more I thought about it, the more I liked what the word continuous conveyed.  For me, there is never a break or a pause, there is a sense of urgency, and so when the time came for me start building my website, I thought “Do I want to be called a lifelong learner or a continuous learner?”  If you look right at top of my website, you’ll see what I went with.

 

 

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards

Over at Presbyterian School in Houston, we are in our third year of offering Fine Art elective courses.  I love that I get to combine two of my passions and call it work everyday. For 3 years now, I have been teaching 8th grade photography and after every quarter, I think about new projects I can do with the kids, new ways of teaching, and really, just bigger and better things I can do to help build the Fine Art program at the school.  We are right in the middle of one of the best museum districts in the country.  We have so much at our disposal, and I want to expose these kids to all forms of art- not JUST- photography, as much as I can.  In addition to exposing THEM to art, I want to get THEIR photographs as much exposure as I can as well.  One thing that I started at the beginning of this year, was having each student submit one photograph into the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards.  This the the oldest and most prestigious art and writing contest in the country. The Awards are an important opportunity for students to be recognized for their creative talents and to earn scholarships and have their works exhibited or published.

In late January, I got word that 3 of my students received Honorable Mentions for their photographs, and one student received the Silver Key Award.  I was ecstatic! For our first year submitting art, this was great news.  The three Honorable Mentions are posted below.

Claire Duval- Reflections

reflections

Lily Kyriakides-Crowe- The Dancer

thedancer

Gunther Hess- Trapped

trapped

Nicholas Yum won the Silver Key Award for his photograph entitled Spectrum, pictured below.

spectrum

On March 5, the ceremony for all Silver Key winners in the Houston Area was held at the Harris County Department of Education.  There was a great talk given by local artist, Justin Garcia, and some amazing art work on display by middle school and high school artists in Houston.

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Nicholas’ art work is currently on display at Texas Art Supply on Montrose in Houston.  This is a great achievement for Nicholas that has given him great exposure!

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Dr. Lisa Miller- The Spiritual Child

I LOVE being able to teach in a school that embraces and understands the importance of spirituality in children.  Presbyterian School in Houston, TX is a special place and our sole mission is to provide a space where “Family, School and Church are united in the education and support of each Child”.  At the conclusion of the school year last year, one of the books that was recommended to our faculty was The Spiritual Child by Dr. Lisa Miller. In this book, Dr. Miller reveals her many years of research that explain the science and power of spirituality.

Last week, we were lucky to have the opportunity of having Dr. Lisa Miller stop by Presbyterian School and talk to the faculty for a couple of hours.  Unfortunately, our talk with Dr. Miller wasn’t recorded, so I’m including a link to a video of another one of her talks.  This one with Teachers College, Columbia University.  It is a little lengthy, but it’s something I believe is worth hearing. Take a listen… I think you’ll find it interesting.

Early Childhood Lesson Plan With An Embedded Digital Tool

My previous post talked about my experience in joining several professional networks.  Another assignment that I was given as a part of my graduate course work, was to create a lesson plan with an embedded interactive digital tool.  I’d say about 80% of my graduate class, at the time, were middle school and high school educators, and as I was looking through some of the lesson plans that they had posted for peer review, I was blown away with the things they were coming up with.   There were lessons that utilized social media with the students.  We all know students LOVE social media, so when you can tweet and hashtag for school… that’s pretty much the coolest thing ever for them.  Talk about gaining interest!  There were some great Prezis and wonderful ideas about utilizing other programs with students like Google Drive,  Kahoot, Plickers, Padlet… I could go on and on. I was getting so many great ideas and inspiration, but being an Early Childhood teacher and trying to find new ways to integrate technology with my 3 and 4 year olds (that aren’t JUST iPad games!), was proving to be quite challenging.  I spent the entire week researching and trying out different programs, apps and softwares that might benefit my Early Childhood classroom.  I came across an app called Shadow Puppet, which is an app that teaches our children digital storytelling.  Since our school already embraces the Storytelling Project, I thought this would be perfect.  I will say that I feel that this app would be perfect for PreK-2nd grade students, but with some assistance and guidance from the instructors, some great digital stories can be created with even 3 and 4 year olds.

Attached is the sample lesson plan along with comments:

Lesson Plan with Embedded Tool