Last week Routledge and NAEYC co-released Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tools for Teaching and Learning edited by Chip Donohue. This book includes 17 chapters from 23 experts and “provides strategies, theoretical frameworks, link to research evidence, descriptions of best practice, and resources to develop essential digital literacy knowledge, skills, and experience for early childhood educators in the digital age”. For this book, I composed a chapter on connected educators to explain how the role of early childhood educators has evolved with new digital tools. While this chapter is geared towards teachers, the ideas resonate with various types of caring adults. Throughout the chapter, I highlight a few points that early childhood professionals as well as parents can consider when using new technologies to support their growth as global citizens and children’s learning.
One point I make in the chapter is that:
“As global citizens, it’s important that educators use technology to connect with professionals in different parts of the world. Through these connections, they can build their own digital literacy and competency through meaningful experiences. Tools such as Skype, Google Plus, email, social media, Adobe Connect, and WebEx can be used to communicate, and Google Drive and Dropbox are tools for sharing and editing documents with others in different locations” (p. 252).
By using digital tools to connect with others, we can strengthen our understanding of multiple communities in the world in an authentic way. We become exposed to various customs and educate others about our own culture through thoughtful inquiries, insightful discussions, and reflection. We experience first-hand the potential of new technologies have to be beneficial and enriching learning tools. These experiences with digital and online tools can help build our knowledge and skills for creating intentional ways to support children’s cultural growth using technology.
Another point I make in the chapter is:
“Educators can also help children use technology to connect to the world by creating opportunities to connect with other classrooms in their country or other parts of the world. These experiences, when intentionally designed, help young children learn the meaning of being a digital citizen” (p. 254).
Providing young children the opportunity to connect with others can be an enriching experience for them. Digital tools can turn abstract information and non-tangible experiences into something that is meaningful and authentic. Children can learn about food, families, climate, and schools of another country from other children of that country, city, or town from technologies like Skype in the Classroom or iEarn. To make sure this is done in a safe and appropriate way, we, the caring adults, are instrumental in providing children with best opportunities to learn, reflect, and build their experiential knowledge with technologies and other cultures.
When used appropriately, digital tools can strengthen digital and global citizenship for ourselves and children. These tools create genuine ways for us to connect with others and use technology as an avenue for learning. Reading and participating in this blog is one way that you are already building your skills of being a connected teacher and parent. Another way to support your learning is by joining an upcoming Uncomfortable Conversation to address issues related to technology, media, and culture in early childhood. By welcoming new technologies into our personal and professional growth experiences, we will enhance are ability to help young children navigate through the world of new technologies and online tools.