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Going Low Tech

I just went to an IT integration conference in Shanghai, Learning 2.010, and it was just the spark I needed to try blogging again. So…

My nine year old daughter and I have been working our way through the activity book ‘50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Child Do)’. My daughter and I are having fun, but her mother is not all that happy about some of the things we have planned. The author of the book, Gever Tulley, also runs a summer camp  called the Tinkering School. I wanted to try something like this with my class of five and six year olds.

I decided to put together a tinkering cart to use in our kindergarten classes at school. At the beginning of the year I found piles and piles of old equipment outside our school’s AV department. All these goodies were getting ready for the final journey to the dump. A few of us kindergarten teachers decided took as many of these broken keyboards, mice and stereos as we could and put them into our storage room. Along with all the discarded equipment there was also an old overhead projector cart, perfect for this project.

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Tuning In

About two months ago I started this blog for a course I am taking. From day one I have wanted to the blog to be something that I use well after the course has ended. I have spent the last couple of months reading other people’s blogs, writing comments and writing here and there on my blog. I feel like I have had a pretty good ‘tuning in’ session. I have allowed myself to explore blogging on my own terms, with very few rules and even less structure. I think it is time for me to move forward with my blogging and web 2.0 usage a bit.

tuning-fork
by Shaylor

More to come…

Teachers and educational institutions have a love affair with ‘new’ ideas. Learning all the new jargon and acronyms have a way of making the learner feel like a member of a new exclusive club. Repackaged ideas are a big hit with teachers.

This video makes me think we might spend a bit too much time repackaging and we need to focus a bit more on refining. Hands on learning, project approach, constructivism…what ever you want to label it, has been around for quite a long time. Maybe we should all take a few minutes to learn from the past.

industrial2

by Elsie esq. flickr.com

One of the main concerns for many parents and teachers is whether our students are learning enough content at school. Will students know enough ‘stuff’ to make it in the real world once they’ve graduated? Schools used to teach (or still teach) students how to remember as much information as possible because knowing information would help students to be successful. We used to live in a world where knowing a lot of information took you a long way in life. Now our world needs people who can filter through the mass amounts of information at their fingertips and understand how and when to use it. Even though the world has moved into the information age, many of our schools still live with an industrial age mentality.

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I am trying to come to grips as to how to utilize web 2.0 in an early childhood education (ECE) program .  New tools such as blogs, wikis and social networking should be  ideal instruments to help young children express themselves and make connections with others across the globe. With these new web tools there seems to be a bull in the china shop, privacy and protecting our little ones, that we must deal with before moving forward.

I’ll start with a fairly safe web 2.0 tool, wikis. Over at Always Learning I discovered of an interesting little wiki where children are using voice thread to share drawings and comments with children around the world, KinderKidsDraw. Wiki’s can be a safe place for children to store work and have a selected audience. I  see a lot of possibilities with parent communication using wikis and I would love to find some examples. Though wikis seem good for closed community activities I still like the idea of blogging for opening an ECE classroom to the world.

When I think about what blogs have to offer my current group of students, 5-6 year olds, my mind begins to race with all the possibilities. Over at ICTECE I am  inspired by a wonderful post about the possibilities of blogging in children’s education. I would love for my students to show the world who they are and what they can do using the tool of blogs. Blogging allows for the creator and the viewer to have a conversation, something that should happen more in all of education. Unfortunately having an open blog puts  images and names of children together on the web for all to see, traditionaly a taboo in education. There is a part of me that thinks walling off (password or invite only protection) a child’s blogs  keeps children from experiencing  a large part of what blogging has to offer. It seems web 2.0 in an ECE program still has to deal with some age old questions…When does protecting our children interfere with their learning? Or…When does learning interfere with protecting our children?

If you would like to read more on blogging safely with children you can visit HERE.

At the moment I am pretty excited about the potential of IT in my classroom. One of my biggest reservations I had in the past, the antisocial pull computers can have on young learners, is beginning to fall by the wayside with web 2.0. Computers have gone from being a place where students play games in an early childhood classroom to being a tool students use to better learn about their world. Now with social networking, user generated content and computers in all of my student’s homes I see many more opportunities than I did years ago.

In the classroom I have started to move the students away from using computers as a mere game console. We have been using MS Word to make signs & posters and we just started a podcast channel where we share some of our songs and poems with our school and home communities.

Blogs and wikis seem like a great way to make home/school connections. I just read a blog from a school in New Zealand, Manaia Kindergarten, where they make blogs with student content. I really like the idea of having a stuffed animal from school visit the student’s home and then making a video blog showing the visit. Now it is time for me to learn how to do some video editing.

Making connections with other early childhood education professionals around the globe is one of my main goals for this blog. Being new to the blog scene is exciting and there seems to be many more doors for me to open in the web 2.0 world. Over the years I have had mixed feelings about using computers and IT in an early childhood setting, but I see those doubts slipping away more every day.

Let’s get this blog started,

Steve