Technology Integration in Early Childhood with Dr Chip Donohue



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Video Transcript

Michael - Well, good morning, good afternoon, good evening wherever you are. My name is Michael Hilkemeijer from ICTE Solutions Australia, and it's my great pleasure to have a guest presenter of such expertise as Dr. Chip Donohue to present what he calls are his all time favourites. His all time favourites, and I am so looking forward to this. Bit of background on Chip. First of all, Chip, you don't mind me calling you Chip?


Chip - That's fine. Perfect. Yap.


Michael - Okay. He's the Founding Director of the Technology in Early Childhood Center at Erikson Institute, is a Senior Fellow at the Fred Rogers Center, and also a Dean of Distance Learning and Continuing Education at the Technology Education Center as well. So wherever you're listening to, watching today, or tonight, or evening, this presentation, I'm sure will will enlighten you and we'll be sure to help you in your goals in being able to effectively use technology in the early learning environment. So just before I continue, Chip has provided a handout which I'll have attached in the chat for anyone who wants to download and follow along through the presentation. Also in the chat as well, I have provided links to my LinkedIn and social media group, as well as to my free online course, and my free articles from my website there. So feel free to drop by anytime and have a look at that and see how you can further learn in this area. So without any further chatting, Chip, it's my pleasure to have you and it's all yours.


Chip - Delighted to be here. Let's see if we can get this working. I think you've got it. Is that good?


Michael - Yes, we can see that. Yes.


Chip - All right. Excellent. So thank you for the invitation, thanks for the opportunity to talk about what I've been reflecting on a lot in the last year or so as we struggled through the pandemic which is, what really matters when we talk about young children and technology? We have lots of ideas, we have lots of teaching methods, we have lots of technologies, but in the end, what does it really come down to? So that's what I'm gonna talk about today, at least my perspective on that.


Before I really kinda jump in, take a look at the image that's on the screen right now. It's one of my favorite photos from a classroom in Chicago Public Schools. It was not staged, this was what was happening. What I love about this photo is, look at where the eye contact between the teacher and the and the young girl on the right, look at where the three boys are looking, which is at the screen, look at the smiles on everybody's faces, and look at there's only one iPad and five of them sharing that. So to me that all of those things speak to what I'm gonna talk about today, which is the importance of relationships, the importance of cooperation and collaboration around technology, and how technology can create this opportunity, so just wanted you to take a look at that as we begin.


Chip's Background

So as Michael said, I'm Chip Donohue. I have been at this for a long time, I began thinking about young children and technology and technology integration in around 1983, when the first Apple IIe computer went into a classroom here in Madison, Wisconsin, where I lived at that time, I was a Montessori director. Parents in the school came in with all these big boxes and their stuff, laid them on my desk and said, "This is really cool. We got to figure out how to do this with children." So that really sparked my interest, and it's been going on since. At the lower left of the screen are just the covers of three of my books. And I wanna mention that because while I edited those books, really the role that really means the most to me was as a convener. That I brought together 55 different contributing authors across those three books, people who are thought leaders in our field. And what a pleasure it is to kinda stir the soup and see what other people have to say about these things. So that's really the intent they're talking about.


But also you have a little Australian context there. Kate Highfield wrote two chapters for me in the three books, Susie Edwards wrote a chapter in the third book, and Christy Goodwin wrote a chapter in the second book.


So there has been some back and forth between Australia and myself.


The others on the bottom are really just things I've written. The forward four are reports that I've been part of, and this one here, the one to the left of that group on the right, is our national position statement in the United States. And I've included that because just when ECA was getting ready to look at your national position statement on young children and digital technologies, I was in Australia to speak at the conference, and I had a chance to meet with that planning group before everything got started to talk about what our experience was in the United States around process more than content. The content was well known to us, it was certainly well known to folks in Australia.


Pandemic and Screentime

Okay, so let's just take a moment to think about the pandemic because we're not done with it quite yet, at least not here in the United States, but it occurs to me that we learned a new language along the way. Look at some of these words: Pandemic, I didn't know what that was two years ago, coronavirus, COVID-19, variants, omicron. These are things that have become part of our regular conversation. But the next group is really important as well, shelter-in-place, lockdown, isolation, quarantine, and then masks, social distancing, vaccination boosters, all of this.


When you really think about this, these words were describing this rapidly shrinking world for young children and families. When this all really hit the United States and we were all putting in lockdown, that meant that we weren't seeing each other; kids weren't seeing their teachers or their peers, or other family members. So that that notion that while we were doing these things for all the right reasons, from a public health perspective, they really limited person to person contact, they resulted in social deprivation by eliminating essential human interactions. And if anybody knows about the essential human interactions, it's early childhood educators who understand how essential, how basic, how fundamental it is for children to interact with one another and with the adults in their world. And now we're struggling with this consequence of war, the pandemic is keeping going, is there another variant coming, are we gonna have a spike, we have uneven economic recovery in our country, and it really reveals a lot of inequities as well in the United States.


So I'm gonna talk a little bit about all of that as we go. I think this title on this slide is important. Differential access equals differential outcomes. We really as educators needed to be aware of the access, equity, and economic issues that caused digital inequalities during the pandemic and will continue to if we don't address them. We have to really support what I call "under-connected" families caught on the wrong side of the digital divide. Here in the United States a family might have a smartphone, they might be connected, but not have broadband connection, and that phone wasn't gonna be a tool for learning at home for young children. We need to be sure that every family has broadband internet, a connected device, and digital skills.


These are the big three in my conversations. We have to provide all of those, we have to make sure adults with young children have the digital skills, including us as educators, to really help children navigate this digital age. We need to promote the benefits of using technology tools for communicating, connecting, working, living, learning, staying safe, healthy, and well informed. I really think we know the upside, the silver lining, to the pandemic for me as someone who's interested in technology, is that we really had to depend on technology. And let's not stop depending on technology, let's find out how it fits best as we move forward and we move out of this phase of the pandemic.


And then we really need to help parents gain digital skills and competence as remote learning facilitators. I'm not exactly sure how it all played out for you in Australia, here in the United States teachers were teaching children at home using this kind of technology that we're on right now, having zoom meetings and all of that, and we were dependent on parents to be there to help the child learn, but parents weren't feeling very confident about remote learning facilitators, and they were struggling with all their own issues as well. Our national association wrote this about equity: "All children have the right to equitable learning opportunities that help them achieve their full potential." And I'm sure there are no disagreements with that. But we didn't have equitable learning opportunities during the pandemic, and we will continue to not have them if we don't learn lessons from what we experienced. COVID-19 really changed our digital environment. Children and adults discovered new tech tools, they gained new digital skills, whether they wanted them or not, we went from wondering if tech could foster human connections, to relying on technology to stay connected.


This is a really important one because often all of us who are used to technology, the push back is around, while it prohibits relationships, it makes kids isolated and we're not really sure that we can use it well to stay connected. While we only had it to stay connected, we found out we could we could do that. It wasn't perfect, it wasn't great, it wasn't as good as being together, but it was certainly better than not. And instead of worrying about screen time, we really need to celebrate screens as lifelines. We forced a lot, and we continue to, and I'm gonna talk about screen time issues in just a moment, But screens became lifelines for families, and for educators to connect with families, and for family engagement strategies, so instead of fussing over what we shouldn't be doing with screens, I'd like to suggest that we need to celebrate them. And all screens are not created equal, so we need to be thoughtful about what is the screen, what is the experience, what's the content that children are experiencing. So what I'm saying here is that I hoped, as someone who has been at this since the mid 80s, that a conversation around screen time would just go away; that it was irrelevant, that's not really what we want to be talking about. Unfortunately, when COVID came here in the States, screentime debate raged on again.


Questions about how much is too much, when is enough enough, how do you set limits during the pandemic, and what's that gonna say for beyond if children are really using screens a lot during the pandemic, or they're gonna continue to do that afterwards? But I think we have to step back and say pandemic screentime included a lot of very valuable things. For a lot of children, it was the way they went to school; through remote or hybrid learning. It was their tool for learning; for engaging, participating, contributing, achieving. Without that, they were left out of that educational and learning conversation. It was all of our tools for communicating, it became the only tool we have for socializing, it was about creating media and sharing stories. Hold that thought 'cause I'm gonna come back to it as something I really have passion about in a little bit. And then it was, yes, it as an entertainment; we were watching television programs, or watching YouTube videos on our screens, we consumed media, but we also figured out how to do digital play, and in many cases for older children, how to play with others in a digital environment.


So instead of limiting use, let's leverage technology tools to remain safe, healthy, and well-informed; this notion of what we really need to do with technology is use it as a tool for good. So are you feeling screen-worried or are you feeling screenwise? And this really... The next two slides really speak to your role in supporting families as well who may be feeling very screen-worried, but let me just hit some of those key points. Did screen time go up during the pandemic? Absolutely. Across all ages across the world, kids were spending more time on screens.


So the concerns about inappropriate content, being sedentary, which actually in Australia you've done some great work around that, children with lesser attention span, excessive use, all of these words came back. But I wanna remind us that time is just one way to determine how much is too much. How many minutes a child spends looking at the screen is a metric, it tells us something, but it's not the same as really thinking about the content and the context in which the child is using the screen. We have to dig deeper than time. I'm not suggesting time doesn't matter. I'm putting it right up there, it does matter, but it's only one of the things that matter. And we can also set screen time limits and promote activities off the screen, and off screen time. This not an either/or, we can do both. There's a lot of either/or's in this thinking about technology and young children that I would love to eliminate. Shift from how much they're watching to what they're watching. That's that content issue. It's not so much about a half hour of watching, what did they do in that half hour? What did they see, what did they watch, what did they learn, what did they engage with, who did they engage with, becomes a much richer conversation. And it's also an opportunity for keeping the story going.


So for you in the classroom, but for parents at home, help children connect the real world and the virtual world. Help them build that bridge. So what they're doing on the screen can be talked about, and played out, and acted on when they're off the screen, and the same can be true in reverse. And then this notion of watching together, asking questions, talking about it, lets them teach you, making the experience with technology very, very, very verbal, very word-oriented, language-rich. And then here is a quote at the bottom in red from the position statement that I was a part of writing in the United States: "Technology and media should not replace activities, such as creative play, real life exploration, physical activity, outdoor experiences, conversation, and social interactions that are important to children's development." You hear that? You got it? They should not replace that.


Screens should not replace all of these things that we know as educators are fundamental to the child's development. It's not about replacement. So the other thing about becoming screenwise is that educators and parents can plan for unplugged time. Instead of fussing when it's time to turn the screen off, maybe we need to have already been talking about, what are we gonna do when we turn it off? And what would you like to do now that we're gonna put the screen down? The second bullet point is what I talked a lot about with parents and have a little fun teasing them about, but these digital devices do have on and off switches. You can turn it on, you can turn it off, and you need to be the one, the adult in the room as the teacher or the parent, to have control that. You're in charge of that on/off switch.


We need to choose interactive media that invites interactions with others. And this is a passionate thought for me as well. We talk about interactive media all the time, and that's important, and it's interesting, and it's improved so much over the time that I've been thinking about this, but can we use in-media to invite interactions with others? To not be solitary, but in fact be connected?


We need to promote a healthy media diet and help children learn what it feels like to be full. What it feels like to be full. Let me tell you what I mean by that. You know when you have a good meal at a restaurant or you make a meal at home and you've had enough and that kind of pushback from the table, "I'm done, I'm full, I couldn't eat another mouthful"? Well, how do we help children use that same idea for when they've had enough media? For when they're full and they are ready to get off the screen and do something else? I think it's an interesting concept to play with.


We need to define digital well-being and living well with media with each family. There is no one definition of this, and there shouldn't be. Each family is gonna approach this, each teacher in a classroom is gonna approach this differently, but I think the constructs of digital well-being, doing well during the digital age, and having to be positive, and living well with media as a family, are really important ideas to share with parents and families.


We need to mindfully manage and balance our own screen use. The children are watching everything you do, everything you say, so they're also watching how you use technology and media, and whether it is to connect or whether it ends up being a disconnect. And then join in as engaged co-viewer or co-explore. Look at this line at the bottom. The more you connect, the less you connect. This comes from a public service announcement in China.


Where there was real concern about parents staring at their screens and not interacting with the children. So the nudge was, the more you connect with your screen, the less you connect with a child. I love this 'cause I can flip it around. The more you connect with a child, the less time you have to be on your screen, right? So it really works both ways. It's a very simple idea, but powerful. And these are words that parents seem to resonate to; they get it when I talk about that idea. That they're making choices about the quality of connection that's happening.


What happens if we reimagine screentime as beneficial? What if we we think it's good and not bad? What if we focus on it being active, not passive? Not sedentary time, but in fact active learning time? What if it's interactive, not isolating? What if it's about inclusion, not exclusion? What if it's about enhancing learning, not displacing traditional activities that we thought mattered most for learning?


What if it's about meaning-making, like giving children tools for making meaning of their world, not meaning this time wasted looking at the screen? What if it's about creation, not just consumption? All of us, all of us, everyone, while we're consuming media right now, we're looking at the screen right now, the idea of consumption got a bad rep also because it fits that idea of children wasting time looking at screens.


We all consume media, everyone does, so it's about managing that amount of consumption. But what I really want to put in the conversation is, that children can be media creators alongside the amount of media that they're consuming, so it's not either/or, but this notion of children as media creators, children as digital storytellers, really ignited a lot of excitement in the team I work with at Erikson and with the teachers were working with.


And then it's a tool for learning and teaching. Again, it's not either/or, but it's both. And it needs to be both, and we as educators need to understand that it's both. And look at the order that I put those words in. You kinda know now what Chip's all about. This is a tool for learning. And it's for teaching. It's a tool for learning, and it's for teaching.


So that notion of giving kids tools to explore their world and to learn, and then to be the educator who guides them through that process, is really powerful. And remember, it's not the technology, but what children are doing with it that matters. Technology is only neutral. We need to think post-pandemic, if I can be so bold as to imagine there's gonna be such a time. Technology became essential during the pandemic.


Your challenge is to keep it essential after so that we don't rush from why our kids are using screens too much during the pandemic, so let's take the screens away, no computers in the classroom, they've had enough of that in the last few years. No, no, no, let's keep this going. Let's understand what we had to do.


And as digital decision makers, you're not unequipped. You know a lot. But it's easy to feel ill-equipped to guide these conversations. I wanna get you to explore the intersection of child development, early learning, effective teaching and technology.


That's a really cool intersection to hang out of. And sometimes there's collisions, and accidents, and people bump into each other, and there's a little road rage along the way, but we have to get there. 'Cause we already live at the intersection of child development, early learning, and effective teaching, so if we invite technology into that conversation, we embed technology in what we know is best for young children.


We need to strive for intentional, developmentally-informed, evidence-based, technology-enhanced learning and family engagement. Ooh, there is a mouthful there. Intentional, meaning you're using technology 'cause you know exactly what you're gonna do with it and what you want children to get out of it, developmentally-informed, meaning that it really fits into our understanding of how children develop, and grow, and learn, there is evidence-based, that as we understand more about these technologies, we need to be putting the evidence in practice in our classrooms.


Do we have enough evidence? Nope, we never have, and we get criticized for jumping in without the evidence. The evidence is coming. And don't forget, you're an evidence maker in your own classroom. You're learning things, you're trying things, you're figuring out what works. That's classroom-based evidence that we need to share with others. And then this idea of technology-enhanced.


So I like that phrase as well because technology is there to enhance learning, not to be the learning. Put the child before the technology, the child as always comes first, and then the technology. When we do it the other way around, the tail is wagging the dog and we make a lot of mistakes around that. So the technology comes first, we're excited, we see these new things coming up, but the child hasn't been put at the beginning.


Think about an iPad, or a tablet, whatever kind, and a digital phone, these devices were not designed for children. They're designed for you and me. They were adult-driven devices. But they ended up in children's hands really quickly! And then we scrambled to figure out, "Oh, well, we better make this a good time, good experience for kids."


So understand that as well. And then the last one... The one before the end is about the whole child and again, I get pushed back around the notion of technology as a tool for the whole child. If we think about it that way, if we understand how it fits in promoting development across all the domains, then it becomes a richer conversation as well. And then use technology to support social interaction, emotional expression, and culturally responsive learning.


Again, a powerful collection of words there, but often words that people who are concerned about technology and young children believe can't possibly happen through the use of technology. And we have to know better, and we have to demonstrate why it works. This quote at the bottom is from a report that came out kind of mid of pandemic here in the United States, and I really grabbed a hold of this phrase, "Prospects were daunting," we didn't know what we were doing, we raced to figure out how to teach and learn at a distance and all these things, "but the possibilities were endless."


And the possibilities remain endless. So don't let the possibilities end when the pandemic ends and you get pushed on kids have had way too much screen time over the last few years, it's time to put the screens away. No, it's time to figure out what they learned, how they use them, and how we're gonna continue to use them. So set goals for your technology integration.


And tech integration is something we talked about a lot at the tech centre. Bigger, deeper concept than just how to use tech, this notion of how you embedded tech. So we need to be intentional, we need to be appropriate, we need to let the pedagogy drive the tech use. There is another tail wagging the dog. If technology decisions drive the pedagogy, we got it backwards.


If what we know about how children learn drives the decisions we make about technology, there you go, then you are in the sweet spot, then you got it going. Focus on beneficial use, I mentioned some of those ideas. Enhance, don't displace or replace, those are real knee-jerk fears that people have about technology and young children that it will displace and replace. And then look at these last ones 'cause they're really, I think they're important around my philosophy around integration.


Technology needs to be integrated into the classroom throughout the day. It's all day long, it's part of the one of the tools that kids can use and choose. It needs to be used across the classroom, it's not just in the STEM corner, or mathematics, or construction, it's a tool for learning everywhere and anywhere in the classroom. And that needs to be woven deeply into the curriculum. Not an add-on, not an "oh, by the way", not an "oh, I forgot to include technology", but deeply embedded into the way you think about how young children grow, develop and learn.


So integrate your technology tools into teaching and learning. I talk a lot about this idea that these are called mobile devices, right? A smartphone, a tablet is a mobile device. What does that mean? It means it goes wherever. Well, what if you think about a technology like that in the classroom being mobile and going to where the learnings happen, where the excitement is, where an interesting conversation is going on, where an amazing block structure has been built by two children and you can take pictures and tell their story digitally? That's the idea; that it goes, that it is portable, it's mobile, and we grab a hold of those affordances to make teaching and learning even richer.


Now, this one I think is important because to me, at least in the United States, the one silver lining that's most obvious to me in early childhood education is that we figured out how to use technology to stay engaged with parents, and to keep parents involved even when we weren't seeing them and they couldn't come to school and all of that. We really dug in, and we dug in based on the principles of family engagement we already knew, right? The family engagement is ongoing.


That it has to be two ways. Not just me to the parents, it's both of us. That is for all families, not for some. And the all families thing gets complicated when parents aren't connected, right? And now we're back to digital inequities. You've got these new strategies to reach them, but they can't participate. That is relationship-based, that is strengths-based, and assets and formula.


We really look at what's going right in the family, going right with the parents, what are they really doing, what do they have to draw on, instead of starting in the other direction. That is focused on family well-being. Family well-being broadly constructed, not just digital well-being. And then it's empowering to parents and engaging to families.


Look at the phrase at the bottom. Family engagement is something you do with parents, not due to parents. I really think that's powerful. Family engagement is something you do with the parents, not something you do to the parents.


So engaging, and being involved, and being partners in this process, makes it so much richer. And we have so many powerful stories in the United States around the aha moment for teachers and parents around how these technologies could actually provide new opportunities to be partners in their children's learning. We need to meet parents where they are.


And so that means we have to recognize barriers to access and participation. And if a parent can't participate digitally, then it's your job to figure out how they can participate. And what else to use, and there are other tools, and there are other ways, and there's old school ideas around sending a note home that might feel different than a digital solution, but we gotta have it all in our bag of tricks.


We need to provide multiple pathways for engagement so that parents can choose what works best for them. This next one's really important to me; we did a whole book on family engagement technology. Ask parents how, when, how often, and how much information they wanna receive. It's a dosage issue.


Think about yourself if you're on a mailing list, an email list, and you just get one every day and you're like, "I don't need all this. I can't keep up with it." Well, parents can feel overwhelmed by that as well. But we can be very respectful by saying, "Well, how is it best for us to communicate? When is it best for me to get in touch with you if we wanna do a zoom call, for example? How often do you wanna hear from me? And how much information do you wanna receive?" Things seems simple, but we often don't ask those questions. And now with technology, I think those questions are more important than ever. 'Cause it is really easy with the text messaging service to just bury parents and information that may be valuable, maybe really good for them to get, but you get an overload.


It's just too much. And then become a media mentor to parents so they can become media mentors to their children. I'll talk a little bit more about what I mean about media mentors in a bit, but this is the idea of you being the role model for using technology well so that parents can learn how to use technology well to support their child.


Learning to communicate to do all of these things. At the bottom there's a quote from Fred Rogers. And Michael mentioned Fred Rogers Center that I'm a part of. Fred Rogers was a beloved television personality here in the United States for years and he was kind of a quote machine, he came up with all of these really profound things, but look at this one: "Strengthen a parent, and you strengthen a child." "Strengthen a parent, and you strengthen a child." To me that's the rationale for family engagement. When parents do well, children do well. When families feel stronger and more confident, children do well. We live on this end of the thing around children, but the reason why we engage with parents and families is because children will do better when we do that well.


Okay, so know what matters, you know a lot already. As I told you before, you're not unequipped for this conversation. You know about child development, you know about early learning, you know about the whole child and the notion of how you support the whole child across all domains. You know about the importance of social-emotional learning, and language, and literacy.


These are fundamental core ideas for how children in the early years need to learn. We know about culturally responsive teaching and a sense of belonging and you've done some amazing work in Australia on culturally responsive teaching. And that idea that can technology help a child feel like they belong? Somehow feel like they're more a part of the group? How can we do that? Non-tech "essentials", hold that thought, I'm gonna come back to it; this is one I like to talk about.


Creating, making, storytelling, this idea that these are tools for children's creative expression and they can tell their story, and they can share their story, and they can save their story, and they can revisit their story when it happens in a digital environment. That's really powerful. This is really exciting to think about, and you've already got the tools in your classroom. And parents already carry the tools in their hands or in their pockets, or in their pocket books everyday. They have a smartphone with them, it can be a tool for the storytelling. Parent empowerment and family engagement, I've talked about. This last one's really important for all of you. Teacher preparation and professional learning.



And if you're anything like the teachers I work with here in the United States, you got thrown into the deep end when the pandemic began without any professional training, without teacher preparation around online teaching and learning and teaching at a distance and using zoom as a way to communicate with young children. You just had to figure it out.


Well, that's not the best pedagogical approach as we know, but don't discount what you did figure out. What worked? What actually did work in the end? What did you figure out? Because remember, you're an evidence-based provider as well. What's your evidence for how you made it work? And then apply what you know. So it's not enough to just know all this stuff, you gotta put it into action. And then I think my title was something about what matters most.


Well, here's what matters most; relationships. It's all about relationships. It starts there, it ends there, it's all about children interacting with each other and learning social skills, children interacting with important adults in their lives. So use technology to connect children with attentive, responsive, and fully present adults. Enable co-viewing and joint engagement. Make it possible for the adult and the child. In every one of the images that I've included on this slide, there is an adult, there is a teacher, and there is a child or children who are all engaged. Look at the top one, by the way, just on the side. The little girl on the back with the digital camera is taking a picture of her classmates and teacher using an iPad. That is a double win. That's kind of metacognitive; this notion that we're really using technology to understand how to use technology. Promote well-being, social and emotional development and language.


Remember, I've said a couple of times people don't think that that's what technology is all about. You know better, you understand. Encourage interactions and pro-social skills. Help children build relationships by using technology. And a reminder here in the little nudge, "It's not about technology, it's about relationships." It's about great teaching, it's about what you do with kids to help them grow, develop, and learn. Okay, I've talked about this one and I think this is fun. You would have your own list here. If we had time to do an activity, I would ask you what your non-tech essentials are. So here is Chip's. Interactions or relationships. Without technology.


Supported by technology, yeah, great, but without technology. Solitary and shared experiences that kids in classrooms need, opportunities to be alone and to do their own thing, but also to play with others. That creativity, curiosity and wonder are so essential to young children and how they learn, so they don't need tech to do that, but if you have tech, then don't let it get in the way because these are your senses, Inquiry and discovery. unstructured active imaginative play, boy, we really tripped over the play idea in technology here in the United States.


And then Susie Edwards here in Australia talks about digital play and everybody freaks out 'cause they don't know what that that means and that sounds like exactly the opposite of what we want. Kids need to play and they're gonna play without technology, as well as with. Hands on learning, the idea of loose parts, STEM, outdoor playtime in nature. If you look at the three photographs that I included on this slide, there's not computer to be found. No technology required to build a big pile of leaves and throw them up in the air, or to play with kids on a swing, or to be part of a classroom doing an activity.


So protect your non-tech "must haves". What's non negotiable to you? If I said what do you absolutely have available to children for them to have a positive experience in the early years that's non negotiable, I can't take it away, you won't give it up, then that's your list, and remember those things. And if technology gets integrated into them, be very intentional about that. Another thing that came up here in the United States is this idea of media literacy. And I think that's one... When we went through the pandemic, as we went through the pandemic, I'm sure in Australia, just like in the United States, what you believe, what's the public health information, what's fake news, what's real news, what's just inciting us all and getting us excited, how do we really know what matters?


So helping young children, and their parents, and you as educators become more media literate, to me seems like an essential, a critical, at this moment. Faith Rogow who wrote the book that's on the right there, a good friend of mine and has written two of my books as well around media literacy, said this: "Media literacy is about helping children develop the life skills they need to become thinkers and makers in the multimedia environment that is their reality." It is their reality; they're surrounded by media and digital tools, so it's how do we help them make sense of that and use it well? It's precisely because our culture surrounds us with media that we need to model healthy and productive ways to integrate digital media technologies into our lives. It's there, it's overwhelming, too much tech, too much screen time, whatever it is. Let's help children make wise decisions.


Let's help them understand when they're full, that's one version of that, let's help them understand sources of information and what to believe and what's true in what they read and see. "Media literacy helped open the world's possibilities to young learners", a quote from faith. I'm not gonna really dig into this one; lots of content here. A great report came out of the tech center around media literacy in early childhood. So I'm just gonna highlight the actions of media literacy that children and grownups need to know about. It's about access. It's about engaging and exploring and intentionally using media.


It's about comprehending media messages, and practices, and who is the messenger, and what is the the message that I need to understand or not? Critically inquire; how to ask good questions and analyze what's coming at you from the media. How do you know if it's true? Evaluate; ask, is this media right for me or my tasks or this idea? Again, of the goodness of fit between how we learn and how we're exploring the world, and what the media comes at us with. And then create; this making media with intention. Back to this idea of children as media creators. Prepare children to be creative and healthy consumers and creators of media. So this investment is not a one-shot deal. What we learned at the tech center was you dig in early, media literacy begins very early, start using language and helping children gain strategies so that as they grow up they are ready to face a more complicated media world even than the one they're in. Jeff Bezos from Amazon has an interesting quote: "I very frequently get the question, what's gonna change in the next 10 years? I almost never get the question, what's not gonna change?" And I submit to you that the second question is actually the more important of the two.


And I submit to you that what we already knew about child development, and early learning is not gonna change. That's not what changes. How we apply technology changes, but those fundamentals are there and we're not gonna lose them. We didn't lose them during the pandemic, we're not gonna lose them afterwards. But they can give us a lot of direction to go forward. Okay, so your journey to the next new normal, again, as that arrives in Australian and arrives here, these are just some provocations and nudges for you to connect the dots between what did we have before, what happened during, and what is gonna be after. And that after is so important.


What do you want it to be after? What are you gonna help it become after? What does early learning look like to you after? Because we already had to before, we learned during, and now it's the after. I've said some of these, but just to have you hear them from me one more time, it's not about technology, it's about relationships. It's not the technology, it's what children do with it. Celebrate screens as lifelines. Teaching and learning should never be "remote". And by "remote" there, I mean the meaning of detached and not engaged, not a distance, right?


We use the word "remote learning" to describe distance, but I always tripped over the idea of learning being remote for young children. Wonderful todays equal future-ready children. So really understanding that if we want children to become ready for whatever the future will bring, it's not about learning coding skills to become a coder at 21 years old, right? It's about understanding that coding helps me understand the world and how it works, and so that's what's happening today. So it's very easy in the technology conversation to get future-oriented. To be always thinking about, what are children going to become?


 I wanna encourage you to say, what are they doing right now? What's fantastic about today that we really should focus on and carry into the future? Strengthen the parent, you strengthen the child, one of my favorites, and then the more you connect, the less you connect. If you come away with anything from this time we're spending together right now, come away with that one.


The more you connect, the less you connect. And then remember that I encourage you to think about it in both ways. Tech's not going away or going back to how it was when the pandemics done. It falls to you as educators to help define what that looks like. So here's a call to action for you: Allow old theory and pedagogy to inform the use of new tools. Montessori didn't know about the iPads, Piaget didn't know anything about a smartphone, look at what they had to say to us about child development and they're telling us tons about how to use technology well.


This is the stuff. This is your foundational stuff. Go back to it and look, what were the messages that they were giving us about how to make intentional decisions about tools with children? Seek equity-centered, strengths-based and assets-informed approaches to access and use. So again, coming back to that idea that beyond is bigger than us, but we need to take a stand on ideas around equity and focusing on strengths that children have, and parents have, and that families have, and look at their assets. What do they bring with them that are really positive and strengths?


Include underrepresented and marginalized communities in digital leadership and technology decision making. Okay, I'm gonna put my hand up and say we really were lousy at that. In the United States, we probably still are in many, many ways and I hope we've learned some lessons, but if people aren't in the conversation, or can't connect with the online learning or the text message system that you're using, then they're out of it, they're under connected. And what about marginalized communities? My encouragement, my nudge, my call to action for you is to involve families in digital leadership and technology decision making. Remember, do with, not do to.


So don't make technology decisions about how families are gonna use technologies without hearing from families. Without engaging families, without having families help you understand what works for them. We need to focus on children's rights, online safety, privacy and data protection, and this one, this area is really blowing up. Lots of people really paying attention to these ideas as young children get online. Not just using an app on a device, but are now starting to be in an interactive environment. What do we know about how to keep them safe, and how to keep them private, and protect their data? Promote media literacy, digital skills and citizenship.


So I talked about those as well. Parents need all of those things, we need all those things as educators, and children will need all of those things, so let's get started now. Surround children with digital navigators and media mentors. And I think I said really right at the very beginning, help children navigate the digital age. And that's what I mean by digital navigators.


We can't do it all for them, we shouldn't do it all for them, but we can help guide them through the process to keep them safe. To protect their rights, right? Collectively seek a path forward that connects the dots with before, during and after. And that's that passionate I have about the after, but not to leave behind the before and during. And the word collectively is important to me as well. I've been talking a lot about you as one teacher in one classroom with one group of kids, but collectively, we have so much to offer each other.


We have so many lessons you learned during the pandemic around using technology well for family engagement, for teaching, for learning. We need to share those ideas with each other and strengthen each other in a way that really empowers educators to see that they are in fact the evidence creators. Depending on technology revealed the need for media literacy and media mentors. So here is this idea of you as a media mentor, you need to have a positive disposition in the knowledge, and experience, and competencies to support digital age children, parents and families.



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Technology Integration in Early Childhood Education

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