Technology for Dual Language Learners in Early Childhood Education

By Michael Hilkemeijer


This is the transcript from one of my free webinars for early childhood educators that you will find as part our ICT in Education Teacher Academy. Gain INSTANT ACCESS to this replay and many others in addition to 40 plus online workshops for preschool teachers. Become a member now for just $43 AUD per month (Cancel anytime).


Video Transcript


- Well, good morning, good afternoon, or good evening to wherever you are, whoever you are. Welcome to this online presentation with my special host Karen Nemeth. Karen is an author consultant and presenter on first and second language development in early childhood education. She's a writer and consulting editor for the National Association for the Education of Young Children and serves as the co-chair on the early childhood special interest group for the National Association of Bilingual Education. And a steering board member for the International T-E-S-O-L Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, early childhood and everything else. Welcome, welcome, Karen.


- Yeah, a lot of things.


- It is my privilege and pleasure to meet you and to co-host this presentation today on digital technology for dual language learners in early childhood education.


- Well, I thank you for inviting me to have this conversation. And I know we already have somebody who's signed on, which I like to say hello, and other people who will be watching this as a recording later.

So we'll try to talk both ways, talk to people who are with us in the here and now, and talk about things that would be of interest and spark conversations for people who view this later. And so I know it's a kind of a funny list when you list the things I do, but you have to understand that it's very easy to get pulled in to these different kinds of work because there's so much going on right now.

And it's always exciting, and there are new ideas to learn about and just new perspectives, new resources. So every time I think, "Oh, I should really just take a break." Then something new will happen, and then I'll wanna like get together with another co-author and write an article or something like that, or sign on and do presentation.

So as I was saying to you a little earlier, Michael, I think you offer so many great resources about technology in early childhood education.

And one of the ways I wanna connect with that work today is thinking about well, what's on the mind of an educator when they read the guidance or suggestions that an expert provides, but that educator might say, "Well, I don't know how to use your advice because the children in my group speak different languages, or they don't speak the same language that's on the computer screen or whatever language changes or challenges might be faced."

I brought some information from my own work, but I also wanted just to have a chance to have conversations, ask a few questions, like, what is it really like to implement the technology that we have in groups that we might not expect, and with languages that we might not be prepared for or that kind of thing?

So I think it's very important to start a conversation in education, we must always have a PowerPoint. A PowerPoint is where the power is. We have a PowerPoint, but that's just a kind of a scaffold. It's not a rule that we'll have to follow, but I did start with these slides and 'cause I did wanna show it. This is my email address,, because that is my website

And these are some of my publications. I have one, my newest book is called "Educating Young Children with Diverse Languages and Cultures" where I talk a lot about technology in there.

Also have at the second edition out of Universal Design for Learning in the Early Childhood Classroom." A lot of talk about technology in there. I have another book specifically for school leaders and directors called "Young Dual Language Learners" a guide for pre-K to three leaders. And so these are just some of the things that I've been working on, but I actually even brought this book that I co-authored in 2012, which seems new, but is actually a long time ago.

But like what back in 2012, my co-author Fran Simon and I really wanted to write all these things into a book that teachers could have on their shelf that they could refer to. And of course, whatever we wrote in 2012, a lot has changed since then, but it just goes to show you that digital decisions, choosing the right technology tools for early childhood education has been on my mind for a while.

And most particularly because it's been on my mind to sort out what do we have available to us and how can we make it work when our children speak different languages or our families speak different languages. So it's a big subject and that's why I'm sort of impressed Michael, about what you do because you are taking on this whole big subject of technology. And I'm sure that you get a lot of questions and you see things happening out in schools.

And so I don't want to get overwhelmed by the bigness of the topic.

So I try to just squash it down into four components that I really try to think about.

And I really think about the importance of connections in the work that we do with young children. And so as young children are developing, we actually are physically helping their brain build connections between neurons, actual cells are being built and changed by the way we teach young children and that includes the way we use technology.

But more symbolically, we're helping children learn words and learn the connections between words at their meanings. We're helping children build connections between people, social connections.

And then we are helping children make connections between words they already know and in their familiar language and then words they have to learn in a new language.

So technology plays a really big part in supporting all of these things, but we have to know what are the best ways to use it. And so that makes it so important to connect how we use technology to support children from diverse languages, with your recommendations, Michael, about what is developmentally appropriate for children.

So we want those things always to go together, not separate, right? So I worked with the group at the National Association for Education of Young Children in United States, and they partnered with the Fred Rogers Center. And I don't know if early childhood, well, if anybody or you Michael, do you know Mr. Rogers? Are you familiar with the "Children's Show"? You are?


- I've heard of it, yes, yes.


- You're making me feel old now, okay. Well, the funny thing about Fred Rogers was that he was all about supporting children's feelings and their social connections and here, it was called Mr. Rogers neighborhood because of all about who was in the neighborhood and who do we talk to and how do we help our neighbors and how do our neighbors help us?

And so it was very kind of emotional and social until you take a step back and you realize he was doing the whole thing through technology, through television. And it was so warm and fuzzy that we often forget that Mr. Rogers was our leader in the United States. And thinking about ways to use technology, where you forget that it's technology.

And it just allows you to really communicate things that are developmentally appropriate for young children. So he made this and we've had puppets and songs "And the Mailman Came to Visit" and "A Little Toy Train" came around. You know those kind of things. But as time went on, he really built a whole system of supports for early childhood and the use of technology.

And so even though Mr. Rogers has passed away, there is still a Fred Rogers Center, a Fred Rogers Institute sort of, and that group, the board of that group worked with the National Association for Education of Young Children to create a position statement about ways to use technology tools and interactive media in early childhood education, which really connects with the principles that you're talking about in your work in Australia.

And so actually, I don't know, I never asked you this, Michael. Did you read, are you aware of this or is it just that everybody's reading the same research and we have the same conclusions.

- Pretty much that a mixer of both, I think like I am aware of this and yeah.


- But it goes together with the things, because this was written like 10, 12 years ago. And what you're writing about now reflects this position statement in the context of new developments, new tools and new resources. But a lot of the things that they said then are still true for what we are working on now. And so this is my statement.

This is not a quote from the position statement, but over the years, I've had to be willing to fight for the value of technology because we have a lot of early childhood teachers who think all technology is bad, but when you teach children who come from different language backgrounds, educators need technology, right?

To be able to find resources in the languages, or to get to learn more about where a child came from or to find translations or different versions of things, technology really makes the difference in how well we can build a high quality learning environment for children that's-


- Absolutely, absolutely Karen. One of the things that strikes me about this is that when you're talking about those people that think that technology in early childhood education is a bad thing, the moment they might, those people may or may not use technology in the work, in the learning environment there for what you just said to find things out for the internet, for anything else that might have a mobile phone.

And one of the things that really stands out about that is that young children learn best through observation. So they are already observing you using the computer, using your phone, printing off something. And then yes, it doesn't make sense to me.


- Those things are true. And so it's often like a very difficult sort of push and pull conversation because you and I would agree too much technology is not good. We're not advocating that every child should do everything on technology all the time, but we also don't like people to say never do technology none of the time, right?

We wanna try to sort out that balance, but I still do have, I mean, even recently there was research in the United States, not research, a study in the United States that looked at an online preschool program. And so an article came out with a headline that said, Such and such locations seeks however, millions of dollars of funding to provide computer education for preschool children.

And all over Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, people were complaining and yelling and objecting, but they hadn't read the article and they didn't really know what it was all about, but just the idea that they would write, "Well, it's terrible children need to interact with other children.

They shouldn't be sitting in front of a computer all day." With this particular program in United States, it was actually called, it's called Jumpstart.

And the idea was in areas where there is no preschool available and that children's parents are not aware of all the things they could be helping their children learn that this program, if there's funding to bring computers and internet that for 20 minutes a day, just 20 minutes, the program would be for the parent and the child to sit together and learn together what are some developmentally appropriate explorations or songs to sing or things to learn together that the parents might be surprised they didn't know that their child could begin to learn letters or could understand science concepts that they could explore in the kitchen or that kind of thing?

But 20 minutes a day does not replace social interaction. It doesn't replace playing in the mud. I mean, I'm a big fan of playing in the mud, just as much as I'm a fan of working with technology. I think we could all join together and also support that messaging, right? So that we have that opportunity to reach out to early childhood educators to say, it's not all, it's not nothing.

It's intentional use of technology for a purpose. So what do you find in Australia? What kinds of objections are you hearing from people that are concerned about technology?


- Pretty much the same.


- Yeah.


- Pretty much the same, Karen. I would just sometimes even when I post, some of my articles to early childhood groups anywhere, someone would be objecting, oh, this should never have to be a thing in preschools, the same sort of argument, same sort of thinking as you would find over there pretty much.


- Yeah, yeah. And I think that is very difficult because those objections are very heartfelt, right? People feel very strongly, but I will push back because I have to say to people, even if you're not comfortable, if you are working in a classroom with a child who doesn't understand a word, you're saying, is it right to deprive them of language connections and information, they could understand because you're not comfortable with the screen.

How else will you learn the child's language and help them learn in your classroom? If you say no to all screens or all technology. And it's not that easy. Well, in United States, especially in the urban areas, we have sometimes have early childhood teachers that might have 20 children in their class, and there might be eight or 10 different languages that teacher can't possibly learn all those languages all the time, but technology can really help, right?

So these are some things we need technology and digital resources to support the languages, to connect with newcomers to make a welcoming environment. You know that reminds me of a story. Once I worked with a teacher in an urban area right outside of New York city.

So lot of language diversity, and she said, "Oh, every year I have a lot of children that speak Spanish, but one this year I decided to learn a Christmas song in Spanish with the children in December."

Well, they started school in September. So September, October, November, she had nothing prepared in Spanish for these children, but the children only spoke Spanish. So she was teaching, teaching, teaching. She had a whole bunch of children that didn't understand anything until December when she sang ♪ Feliz Navidad ♪ ♪ Feliz Navidad ♪ ♪ Feliz Navidad ♪ ♪ Prospero Ano y Felicidad ♪

So then, in December they learned Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. So that wasn't much of a learning experience for those children. And so that's why I say connect with newcomers.

What are we doing the very first day? When you have children that come to your group that speak a language you don't speak how nervous they must feel and timid and so out of sorts and out of connection and technology can help teachers get ready to welcome those children on the first day, because a good first day is like the best path to a good year in education, right?

Those first impressions make a big difference. So I really look for that looking for ways to be prepared proactively for the first day a child comes to respond to those teachable moments. Like in a lot of times we have preschool teachers that do like planting seeds as a science exploration, they'll make maybe little paper cup with dirt, and they put the seeds, they put it on the window sill, wait for it.

Well, if your children all speak your language, the teacher is talking about what will happen when you put this is a seed and here's where it came from. She's talking, talking, talking, but if you don't understand the teacher's talk, all you know is that she's got a cup of dirt.

She put some little round things in there and put it by the window, and you have no idea what that means. But my goodness, if that teacher could open up the computer and play a YouTube video that shows how a plant grows from seed to a seedling, to a plant, to food, that video can reach all the children. And it doesn't interfere with any of the children, does it? So teachable moments, that's what I'm saying.

It's not always about a grand plan for a major purchase of software for the entire school. Sometimes it's just like thinking about what does this child need so he can understand what we're doing right now in this moment?

And then when we are able to think about the big plans and those moments, those small moments, that's when we do the last thing, right? Providing equitable access to learning for all children, providing equitable access because we're using technology to make sure the door to learning is open for every child, whatever they need, right?


- Absolutely. Okay, okay.


- So in the position statement now I see, oh, I have to move, oops, I have to move my face.

This my face is blocking the word. When used the position, this is the Fred Rogers Center and NAEYC position statement says when used intentionally and appropriately, technology and interactive media are effective tools to support learning and development.

You've written about that, right? Intentional, the second point is intentional use requires early childhood teachers and administrators to have information and resources about technology tools.

They need professional development, and they need to know what are the latest resources what's available out there. And they need to be informed in order to make the best choices and then to use the technology in the best ways.

And so that is something I want to ask you about. Like I will just interview you on your own show, Michael, what that this is kind of central to your work is this idea that it's not just about having technology, but it's about learning about it that makes a difference in how well it will work.

So what sort of is behind, what is your motivation? What have you observed or what entered your mind or your heart that made you really want to build this information source for teachers?


- Pretty much, it was my observations and my observations as being I teach myself for many years and for observing how teachers would normally use technology in the classroom, that they just needed to be aware of how they can best apply the strategies, the evidence based strategies that will actually help them to use the technology, the available technology as a tool for learning in their environment there.

And the fact that many, I think many of us, I think still take technology for granted. And as a result that we sometimes might transfer these impressions on young children ourselves.

Sometimes, might not be intentionally, but I think we need to sort of move away from showing young children about how lucky we are to have technology and then us to use it for different things and to model appropriate uses of technology from early childhood education, but also in primary education and secondary education.

And so that young children through their schooling career do learn to use technology as a tool for learning. And they see it as a tool that is designed for specific purpose. And through the work that I've been doing, I hope that teachers will start to see, well, these are the strategies that need to be applied, not just in early childhood, but in primary and secondary.

And so that progression in their capabilities are made, are formed, and then they can become digitally literate citizens in the future.


- Now that is an interesting word. When you take the step from technology, digital learners to digital citizens, that adds a whole layer of responsibility to ask questions, and I'm listening to you talking, I'm thinking, yeah, wow, we want educators to ask questions.

Don't just accept, oh, this is the popular software. Just 'cause it's popular, doesn't mean it's good. We want you to ask questions. We don't want you to accept all technology, right? But hey, if you model that for the children, we want the children to ask questions also.

And I think that just I was listening to you and I was realizing, yeah, when you're talking so much about modeling, you are talking about building that digital citizenship where children also will ask questions. Why, why teacher? Why did you give me this program, this assignment? What am I supposed to learn from this? What is this gonna do for my learning or what...? I mean, sounds funny.

But I actually do know three year olds that ask those kind of questions. We have to be prepared. We have to be prepared to answer those questions and we need to provide information for teachers and administrators to ask those questions as well. So I think that is really important.

So providing online resources, using technology to provide information about technology like your approach is not telling people what to do. It's like giving them thinking tools and citizenship tools that they can use to make their own decisions, right?


- Right.


- So, all right. So now I go to additional parts of the position statement that say limitations are important. We shouldn't just be seeing young children at computers all day, every day.

And this is like a hard message to get across, right? Just because some is good, doesn't mean a lot is better, right? Like it's a good idea for children to learn the alphabet and hear about the alphabet, right?

But making them sit in front of a computer, repeating the alphabet for three hours would not be good. Four hours of alphabet would not be better, right? And we need those limitations, everything in balance.

That's I think that's what that point is saying. And then special considerations about the use of technology with infants and toddlers. And this is so important. And I didn't ask you about this yet. What do you think about the uses of technology with infants and toddlers?


- I think in terms of infants and toddlers, that as with any sort of technology, it should be used with the right guidance, especially with infants and toddlers, where they are at the very key areas of development there.

And it should be, I think always be minimal to start off with, but parents shouldn't, I don't think should ever just give a smartphone or an iPad or any sort of technology to a child as something to play with.

They should be seen there and guiding them and helping them and then, and moving on from that, but always for the advice given on those areas there's.


- Yeah, and so some of the ways that I've seen technology be really useful for infants and toddlers, and there will be some educators that are going to be ready to pounce when I say this.

But if you think about it, when you have a tablet, if you have an iPad or a smartphone, then you can sit with any toddler or infant and show them pictures of their family while they're in childcare or pictures that their family has emailed to you or messaged to you so that you can continue to give that child that connection between home and the program and something familiar that they can talk about that's developmentally appropriate and as well as culturally appropriate.

And I think people sometimes forget about that, just the value of having pictures because families could send pictures in and then you could print them out and then you could make them into a book and then you could show them to the child, but then people grow and change and then they need new pictures.

Now you gotta print those pictures out, and then you gotta make a new book. But if you use your technology, you can have up to date, you can have the picture of what child ate for supper last night, you could have a picture of where they went on the weekend together and have a chat with them, a picture of their new puppy.

And you can talk with that baby about the new puppy in their home. And so you can think of ways to use technology that are not games or quizzes or anything like that, but are just at your fingertips, ready to build those connections that are even good for infants and toddlers.

But I'll tell you a language oriented example, which is that I have observed in programs that care for infants and toddlers that come from different languages.

Now, you think about a baby who's just beginning to try to say words, and they'll say sounds, and you're not really sure is that just gibberish or are they really just trying to say a word, right?

But if you don't know that child's language, they might actually be saying their first words in their home language, and you might just think it's babbling and you might not even respond.

And I have watched that happen. The look on a baby's face, like a one-year-old baby's face when they are saying something meaningful, like they are asking for the ball in their language.

And they are clearly saying the word in their language, but the teacher doesn't know it. And she just looks right past them. And that the baby's face just sinks. It's like, I'm communicating, but it's not getting through. I can't make a connection with the person that's supposed to care for me.

But if I had recordings from home where I can listen to the family recording, real words of the infant saying in their whole language and then explaining what they mean or how to say them properly, imagine what a difference it would make to that baby if that teacher could turn around and repeat that word in their home language and then go get the ball together. So there are ways even for infants and toddlers, that we should be open minded about how we can build those connections.

And it's hard to imagine until you see it in action. And I actually have a video clip, and I didn't ask you this before we talk today, what will happen if I show a video clip.


- Just on one of your screens, it should be I think, okay. I know. Let me have a look.


- May be I should have asked you that earlier. But usually when I record these things in United States usually does continue to record. And it's the video appears on the recording.


- Yup.


- And so I'm gonna gonna give it a try 'cause it illustrates this. And it's really interesting piece of research and the technology the researcher uses is a whole other technology question. And then it connects to language. Well, let's see if I actually am capable of doing this. So I'm going to stop sharing my beloved PowerPoint and see if I can do this. It is actually the link to the video is on my PowerPoint because I use it a lot. And when you see it, you'll see why, but let's see, it's a TED Talk. It's called "The Linguistic Genius of Babies." And now, oops.


- This is why I stopped using laundry pods. They waste water and pollute the environment with microplastics.


- Skipping the ads. We don't want those ads. We want this TED Talk. And now let me see if I can get back to share. If this doesn't work, you'll tell me and then we'll just stop it.

And we'll just share the link. But it's really engaging so I'm hoping this will work. Let's see, share sound. Oh, now this might not. Wait a minute, what is it saying to me here? It is not giving me.

I have to read this, optimize screen sharing for best full screen video clip zoom, and may... it's not giving me... there's a command that says optimize for video that it's not letting me click.

I wonder what that means. I don't know. I'm just going to go back and try one more time. Because if I can only share the sound, then I'm just gonna share one part where you can hear the sound. I'm going to try it. Is it doing? Can you see?


- I can see that. All right, now I'm gonna click play.


- I want you to take a look


- Can you hear at this baby


- and see it?


- I can, yes.


- Onto are her eyes and the skin you love to touch.


- I'll be back. But today I'm gonna talk to you about something you can't see what's going on up in that little brain of hers. The modern tools of neuroscience are demonstrating to us that what's going on up there is nothing short of rocket science.

And what we're learning is going to shed some light on what the romantic writers and poets describe as the celestial openness of the child's mind. What we see here is a mother in India and she's speaking Koro, which is a newly discovered language.

And she's talking to her baby. What this mother and the 800 people who speak Koro in the world understand that to preserve this language, they need to speak it to the babies.

And therein lies a critical puzzle. Why is it that you can't preserve a language by speaking to you and I, to the adults? Well, it's got to do with your brain. What we see here is that language has a critical period for learning.

The way to read this slide is to look at your age on the horizontal access. And you'll see on the vertical, your skill at acquiring a second language. The babies and children are geniuses until they turn seven.

And then there's a systematic decline. After puberty, we fall off the map. No scientists dispute this curve, but laboratories all over the world are trying to figure out why it works this way. Work in my lab is focused on the first critical period in development.

And that is the period in which babies try to master, which sounds are used in their language. We think by studying how the sounds are learned, we'll have a model for the rest of language.

And perhaps for critical periods that may exist in childhood for social, emotional and cognitive development. So we've been studying the babies, using a technique that we're using all over the world in the sounds of all languages.

The baby sits on a parent's lap and we train them to turn their heads when a sound changes like from A to E if they do so that the appropriate time, the black box lights up and a pan to bear pounds of drum, a six monther adores the task. What have we learned?

Well, babies all over the world are what I like to describe as citizens of the world. They can discriminate all the sounds of all languages, no matter what country we're testing and what language we're using.

And that's remarkable because you and I can't do that. We're culture bound listeners. We can discriminate the sounds of our own language, but not those of foreign languages.

So the question arises, when do those citizens of the world turn into the language bound listeners that we are, and the answer before their first birthdays, what you see here is performance on that head turn task. For babies tested in Tokyo and in the United States here in Seattle, as they listen to ra and la sounds important to English, but not to Japanese. So at six to eight months, the babies are totally equivalent.

Two months later, something incredible occurs. The babies in the United States are getting a lot better. Babies in Japan are getting a lot worse, but both of those groups of babies are preparing for exactly the language that they're going to learn.

So the question is what's happening during this critical two month period? This is the critical period for sound development, but what's going on up there? So there are two things going on. The first is that the babies are listening intently to us and they're taking statistics as they listen to us talk, they're taking statistics. So listen to two mothers speaking motherese the universal language we use when we talk to kids, first in English and then in Japanese.


- Oh, I love your big blue eyes. So pretty and nice.


- During the production of speech, when babies listen, what they're doing is taking statistics on the language that they hear. And those distributions grow. And what we've learned is that babies are sensitive to the statistics and the statistics of Japanese and English are very, very different. English has a lot of Rs and Ls the distribution shows. And the distribution of Japanese is totally different where we see a group of intermediate sounds, which is known as the Japanese Ra.

So babies absorb the statistics of the language and it changes their brains. It changes them from the citizens of the world, to the culture bound listeners that we are. But we as adults are no longer absorbing those statistics.

We're governed by the representations in memory that we're formed early in development. So what we're seeing here is changing our models of what the critical period is about. We're arguing from a mathematical standpoint, that the learning of language material may slow down when our distributions stabilize.

It's raising lots of questions about bilingual people. Bilinguals must keep two sets of statistics in mind at once and flip between them one after the other, depending on who they're speaking to.

So we asked ourselves, can the babies take statistics on a brand new language? And we tested this by exposing American babies who'd never heard a second language to Mandarin for the first time during the critical period.

We knew that when monolinguals were tested in Taipei and Seattle on the Mandarin sounds, they showed the same pattern. Six to eight months, they're totally equivalent. Two months later, something incredible happens.

But the time when these babies are getting better, not the American babies, what we did was expose American babies during this period to Mandarin, it was like having Mandarin relatives come and visit for a month and move into your house and talk to the babies for 12 sessions. Here's what it looked like in the laboratory.

- So what have we done to their little brains? We had to run a control group to make sure that just coming into the laboratory didn't improve your Mandarin skills. So a group of babies came in and listen to English, and we can see from the graph that exposure to English didn't improve their Mandarin.

But look what happened to the babies exposed to Mandarin for 12 sessions. They were as good as the babies in Taiwan who'd been listening for 10 and a half months. What it demonstrated is that babies take statistics on a new language, whatever you put in front of them, they'll take statistics on, but we wondered what role the human being played in this learning exercise.

So we ran another group of babies in which the kids get the same dosage, the same 12 sessions, but over a television set. And another group of babies who had just audio exposure and looked at a teddy bear on the screen.

What did we do to their brains? What you see here is the audio result, no learning whatsoever. And the video result, no learning whatsoever. It takes a human being for babies to take their statistics.

The social brain is controlling when the babies are taking their statistics, we wanna get inside the brain and see this thing happening. As babies are in front of televisions, as opposed to in front of human beings.

Thankfully, we have a new machine magnetoencephalography that allows us to do this. It looks like a hair dryer from Mars, but it's completely safe, completely noninvasive and silent.


- Okay, I'm stopping it there because hopefully people who are watching us talk today will be motivated to take a look at this video, "The Linguistic Genius of Babies" that is a TED Talk. And it told us something really interesting, right?


- It did.


- About the role of technology in teaching. And we find that with the really young children, it's not about technology pushing information into the brain. It's about using technology to support our interactions with people, right?

So I'm gonna go back to my PowerPoint to see, and 'cause I have some information about that. Let's see, I need to move our faces so I can get to my commands. Okay, all right. So these are just some more of the things that we talked about that are in the position statement and these principles that I just showed from the Fred Rogers Center and NAEYC position statement about technology and early education were then adopted by the United States Federal Department of Education as guidance so the national education website now posts these same principles.

And this is the part about dual language learners that I wrote that's in that federal document now, which I won't even repeat it because it's basically all the things that we've been talking about.

And this is the link to that video that I wanted to make sure everybody has. And now I wanna take a step back and say, wow, when she said she had the babies watching the video, no learning whatsoever.

So I wanna take a step back from that because there are gonna be people that say, that's right, we told you, but the truth is there are circumstances when research has shown that really young children do learn a lot from screens.

And one of those whole categories of research is when children have responsive interactions with adults, by video chat, by Skype or FaceTime, there's a whole class of research now showing that they really do learn, and very particularly they can really progress in language when they have responsive two-way interactions using the screen. So it turned out was never the screen that was bad. It was the way we were using it.

So do you know examples in Australia of ways that teachers use screens that allow children to interact back and forth.


- Pretty much just which would see they're happening in the U.S. We have touch screens, iPads of course are being used to develop languages in early childhood centers as well. So just in those sort of cases, yeah.


- So I'll add to that, that a really fantastic technology tool is relatives. So like we always think about, oh, I like to support technology, you have to just like buy the technology and the technology will do the teaching.

But what if one of your tools in a classroom of two-year-olds or three-year-olds or four-year-olds was access to Skype or FaceTime or some video chat platform where a relative from their home country could sign on and sing songs with the children in their home language, or read a story in the home language or take the phone outside and show the neighbourhood like this is where June Lee used to live and this is where we used to go shopping and that kind of thing.

So sometimes we're always thinking of like, well, how can technology put information in children? But sometimes it's just the pathway for the information. And so that's why I like to show that video that it reminds us the more interaction children have when they use technology.

It can be two children or a child and adult looking at the screen and interacting, or it can be two people on two sides of the screen interacting. Oh, I would just tell you a funny story. 'Cause I have grandchildren that live in another country, and they are 10 and seven and three-years-old. So I have to be pretty creative to play with those children and keep them occupied on the screen with me.

But the other day, two of my grandchildren were both ill at the same time. They both had chickenpox. And so their mother was trying, you know when they have a fever very near time, "No drink a little bit more, oh, eat this healthy food."

And they say, "No, I don't feel well." So I brought the laptop into my kitchen. I said, "Well, look at all the healthy food I have, I have this banana, and I have this carrot." And my daughter said, "Wait a minute. Why don't you try throwing that banana really hard at the screen? Maybe it'll come through and come to our house in England." So I threw that at that screen and she said, "What? I hear a noise in the kitchen." And she went running into her kitchen and she came back, "Whoa, the banana came in our kitchen. Technology, technology. So, but that is a story about using technology. I could not have done that without technology, right?


- Right.


- And yet it wasn't the technology that controlled the learning. We had all the technology was the support for the learning, not the control.

So I just put a few facts here about children under age six, who are learning in two or more languages are considered dual language learners because the research shows they're not finished with either language they need.

When children are young, they need supports in all their languages to help them understand and learn the things they need to learn. And so that's what all these points say, bilingual brain is not the same as a bot monolingual brain.

It needs different kinds of supports to exercise and receive in both languages or even if they have more than two languages. So we need to find resources, videos, books, recorded books, et cetera.

Technology can also help teachers by finding translations, help teachers by finding research that supports the choices they make to support their dual language learners, videos and demonstrations I talked about helps teachers create materials for the children finding.

So if you have a favorite story book in your classroom, you can just translate some of the key words and just print them out and add them, stick the translated page into the book you have.

So you can then have it ready to read in both languages. You can collect observations, which I think is so important that as children are talking about what they're learning in class, their artwork, they're playing outside, whatever it is, if I don't understand what that child is saying, I want to use technology to record what they're saying so that I can have somebody listen and say, oh my goodness that child is having a whole sophisticated conversation with their friend about ramps going up and down in the playground.

I wouldn't know that if I didn't record it with my technology in order to get those translation and that's a good way to get the families involved. We also talk about learning games, tools for creating things.

These are all things that are on your list of recommendations, right? Software that allows children to do exploring and researching, technology that allows children to document their work to snap pictures of things they're building or things they're observing on a walk outside, reading digital stories, listening to culturally appropriate music that it's not just silly songs, but songs that have real meaning to children or real traditional songs, et cetera.

These are all things that teachers can use technology to bring in and to make available to the children. But we have problems when we look at educational software, the teaching software, because those softwares they spend so much developing them that they don't often build in these kinds of tools.

And they may be are available in two languages and that's their big concession. But in United States, in our early childhood programs, we have over 200 different languages represented. And I always say it's not just about the most common languages.

Every child needs to learn. Not just the ones in the majority. And so we need to think about how we're looking for flexibility, creativity, responsiveness in these big programs. What do they provide for the child that doesn't understand the language of the software that's being used? I have a couple of examples, but I know, I feel like I'm just gonna talk forever.

We've been talking for an hour already. We have to stop right now, Michael because if we do, I'll just send you links for some more examples. Do we have to stop right now?


- No, it's fine. It's all good.


- Oh boy, okay. But I do wanna ask you what kind of examples you recommend just in general about early learning software that lets children be creative?


- Well, I think one of the ones that come to mind is "Book Creator" is one that allows children to be creative and also allows them to develop their language skills, language and literacy skills.


- Does it let them record their voice, the "Book Creator", or do they just type and put pictures together?


- They can type and put pictures together. Another one though, I think trying what's it? Oh yes, I think it's called "Draw and Tell."


- Oh yes.


- From "Duck Duck Goose."


- No. "Duck Duck Moose" I think.


- "Duck Duck Moose."


- "Duck Duck Moose." I thought it was.


- I've met those guys so I know.


- That's a really good one where they can take digital images, they can draw on the images to add their own stories. They can then record the voice telling the story so that's-


- Oh, now I'm gonna interrupt you. I'm gonna interrupt you 'cause that is one of my favorites, right? So when you have children that speak a number of different languages.

So say if the teacher takes the children on a walk to the post office, to mail a letter. And she takes pictures of what they observe at the post office, then she can download those pictures into the "Draw and Tell" story. And each page could have a picture.

So you could have the same file of pictures, but one child can record what they remember in English. Another child can record on the same pictures. You have the same file, but another child can record what they remember in Mandarin.

And another child can record what they remember in Korean or whatever language. So that in one project, the teacher can include every language and they can send the file home.

The families can have the software too, 'cause that one's free the "Duck Duck Moose" version. And the families can have it at home. And so if the child is too young to tell the story, a family member could tell the story in more detail and we save it and now it's available in the classroom. See, I'm jumping on you. I asked you the question, but I got too excited. I'm gonna show you this other one. This is like old school.

I'm just showing you my phone 'cause this is another one that's called "My Story App." Anyway, if you could see that.


- All right, yes.


- And I have some stories in there, but wait a minute. I'm gonna see if I can show beginning of what it looks like.


- Something else that comes to mind too is in terms of using children's voices I see.


- You see?


- I do. If you don't have like iPads or tablet PCs, you could use things as simple as PowerPoint allows us to record children's voices these days.


- Yes.


- So you can use that and then you can combine that as well with other simple or not simple, but developmentally appropriate software that is already available on most computers. Like what used to be MS Paint, now Paint 3D, children can create images, which is another way of telling stories. And then I can...


- I'm gonna interrupt you again. You keep saying these things that get me all excited. Okay, so I have a friend who's written two books about three dimensional learning for young children, but we present together, right?

Because she's talking about the research about three dimensional hands on learning and how it supports language.

And so then we talk about, imagine if it helps all children, so those drawing programs are good for all children, but if you are a child where that has entered school and nobody understands your language and you have no way to communicate, and then somebody gives you a way to draw these beautiful, rich, sophisticated artworks that communicate, you have now a way of communicating that's on par with every child in your class.

And so sure enough, my friend actually has found in the research that she did for her books, that it's not just about doing hands on things, but then drawing what you've done and preserving it is takes it from creating to communicating about what you've created through the drawing.

And that's a great equalizer for all children, right? So you see what I mean? You just started talking about it and then I just got a little too acceptable.

Sorry. But so yeah, so to making drawings as a way of communicating, let's elevate that as a message for teachers that are working with linguistically diverse children, drawing can be a language across for all children or children that have trouble with speech or language delay or all those kinds of reasons why we need additional ways to communicate.

So I hope you remember what else you were gonna say, because I already interrupted you two times. So sorry, do you have any other suggestions to add here about things that let children create? And so simple drawing and using PowerPoints, voice recording, these are all good ones.


- No, absolutely. Video recording children's story experiences, video recording them, I think the most important thing is that as long as you think use technology as a tool for creating, right?

And then the children be able to pick up what they then need to do. And then the same time language development can be achieved through many of these things, through image creation, through even creating digital stories, enabling children, not only to read digital stories, but to create digital stories, simple software such as PowerPoint "Book Creator", "Draw and Tell." All those are just the developmentally appropriate for young children to be able to work on their language development in their learning on this.


- Each in their own way, each in their own way.


- Absolutely. But you know what I love about the way you're describing that is it has that feeling, not only of allowing children to create their stories, but honoring their stories, by preserving them, honoring their thinking by giving them a way to capture it, honoring the power of their creativity by making it last.

And so, yeah, we read a book with children and then they act out the story afterwards. How about we take a video of them, how powerful their creativity comes to life when they're acting out at a story or they're doing puppets about a story.

And for many years that happened and then it disappeared like it happened. And then we had no way to remember it or recall it. But now with technology, you can... I find children are better photographers and videographers than I am.

So I like to just hand over my phone and say, "You take the video." And it honors their work and their brain power and their innovations that they make every day. And it shows them what you're doing is important.

And we may not speak the same language together, but I can see you are learning and I wanna capture it. And I wanna show it to you. I wanna show it to your family and that you know what's another thing about that though, Michael, thinking about what it's like when you're a parent in a new country, you're not very familiar with the language.

You have to bring your child to a preschool program or early childhood program and your child doesn't speak the language and you're dropping that baby off. And I say, baby, it could be a three year old, four year old, five year old, but you're dropping that child off. And they're gonna be all day in a place where they can't talk to people, they can't communicate with people.

And then as a parent, you have no idea what your child is going through. It's terrifying to think you don't understand the language, your child doesn't understand the language, but you're just dropping them off someplace and walking away.

But my goodness, if you could show that family a video of their child interacting or solving a problem or building something, imagine how that would change, that family's experience and their relationship to the school. So I think all those things are really important.

And we haven't really talked about anything about benchmarks or learning objectives or anything, or really just talking for more than an hour about the natural connections that happen when we use technology and developmentally appropriate, fun, engaging creative ways.

So I'm really liking this. It makes me wanna get, oh, look, here it is. Here's my examples. I see, I have "Draw and Tell" by "Duck Duck Moose" on my list. Oh, this is one bit I just wanted to share.

I worked for the office of Headstart in United States, the federal office that oversees some millions of children in preschool programs all across the United States.

And we developed an app called the "Ready DLL App" for teachers. The teacher can open it and they can see the learning standards for young children. They can see video examples of children who are dual language learners.

They get access to resources like links to recorded webinars or handouts or things like that. And they get word translations. And it has like the top five languages that are currently in those programs and gives them key words that they can use. So "Ready DLL App."

And I put the link at the top there because is available for free on Apple, on iPhone, iPads and also the Google Store. But I don't know, just because it's available in the United States, does that mean you can download it on a device in Australia?

I don't know, but we don't know who's watching, do we? We can people from all over, we don't know. And then we've talked about how the resources are used. Are they watched alone passively, or is the screen used for interactions? Which is a key component.

Do children have a chance to discuss what they're doing with the screen? Are subtitles used to help either if the child can read or if there's a helpful adult that could turn on subtitles to read to the child in the language that they speak? That's pretty rare though. Is the content relevant to the child?

So it's identifiable. And is it connected to the child's age, proper for the child's age? And this is an example of the research I told you about that shows that responsive interactions over video chat platforms do result in learning, but passive viewing of screens is less likely to result in language learning.

And so that's just more about that. In the rubric that I develop, these are just some questions that I always like people to ask. When they're deciding to buy an app or software, computer software platform, whatever, what languages are available, what is the complexity of language in the app?

Is it appropriate for the children? We don't want it to be too simple. It's not really gonna help children, if it says hello in 20 languages 'cause once you say hello, where's that conversation going? Where's that learning going? Nowhere.

So I want language I'm gonna actually use in play and learning, right? What language was it written in? Sometimes we have things that are written in English and then somebody tries to translate them, but they sound really awkward when they're translated. 'Cause we use slang just for expressions in English.

In English we use that word toddler and in America that it usually refers to children who are about one year old to two-years-old or one to two and a half. But in Spanish, there's no word for that age range. They talk about the ages.

They say, I have a one-year-old, a two-year-old, there's no word for toddler. So if I write a whole article about toddlers and you translate into Spanish, it doesn't sound right, 'cause there's no word for that. So these are the kinds of things.

Does the app comply with developmentally appropriate practice, which you talk about in your work all the time? Are the images culturally appropriate and free of stereotypes? That's something to look for.

And look is there a way to record the language which you and I just talked about? We wanna look for things that are proactive and include all children that with a universal design approach, we want things to have changeable images and content so that if we have girls that come to our program, that we're huggy, we want to be able to make sure the images include children.

I have a child that comes in the program, that's in a wheelchair. I want to be able to include images of children in wheelchairs. So images that can change or content that can change is very important.

Culturally rich and authentic, but things that are not chopped up. This is a question, not things that are not just bouncing all over the place. Like count these fruits, put these trumpets in a box, make the monkey jump three times. Those are not coordinated functions.

We want things that make sense, right? That there's responsiveness and even language learning apps, even apps that are designed to teach language should have content, not just memorizing words, right?

And so this is my quote from Fred Rogers. That of course now my... okay, no matter how helpful they are as tools and of course they can be very helpful tools. Computers don't begin to compare in significance to the teacher child relationship, which is human and mutual.

A computer can help you learn to spell H-U-G, but it can never know the... see I have to move all my screens. They can never know the risk or the joy of actually giving or receiving one.

So I always think that's a good quote to remember from somebody who seemed like he didn't care about technology, but actually showed us the path for high quality use of technology. So that is my PowerPoint. We did it.


- That was awesome, Karen.

- Well, thank you.


- That was awesome.


- And just wanna thank you from the bottom of my heart, for this opportunity to learn from you and to meet you. It's been so enlightening, and I do hope that we could catch up again sometime in the future.


- Well, clearly we have more to talk about than can be contained in one hour, but I think what was enlightening for me was that having just met you recently to discover how much developmentally appropriate practice and intentional use of technology turns out to be a real bond that connects people all over the world, as we're talking about teaching young children. So I've appreciated the work you're doing and getting to know more about that and feeling comfortable that this is all fitting together, that we are not all over the place. We are all following the same path for what's best for all children, every child, each child. And so I guess that's it, I guess it's been an hour and 15 minutes by now.


To watch replays from our free webinars for early childhood educators, become a member of our ICT in Education Teacher Academy now and get INSTANT ACCESS to 40 online workshops for preschool teachers on the successful integration of digital play in the early years learning environment for just $43 AUD per month (cancel anytime).