Teachers and Technology — Winter Staff Development Day
By Jenny Ludlow, Teacher
In a recent discussion about silkworms a child asked, “Do the worms ever get thirsty?” No one in the group knew the answer so the teacher asked, “How can we find out?” Four-year-old Tomás said, “Let’s ask Google.” So we turned to East PM’s classroom computer and spent the next 15 minutes looking at websites on silkworms. This is just one of the ways technological tools enhance our learning experiences at Bing.
Technology plays a major role in many professions and teaching is no exception. For example, each of our classrooms at Bing has a digital camera. Additionally, in November 2003, Linda Yates and Paul Holland, parents in East PM, generously donated an eMac equipped with iMovie, iPhoto, and iTunes as well as a combination copier, printer, scanner to each of the nursery classrooms. Their gift provided the inspiration for Staff Development Day in February, which focused on how to more effectively use technology to support our goals as educators.
The day began with a presentation by Bonnie Blagojevic and Chia-wa Yeh on digital photography and digital video. (They also gave a like presentation at the 2003 NAEYC conference in Chicago along with Mary Ellin Logue, an assistant professor in Early Childhood Education at the University of Maine.) Blagojevic currently works at the UM Center for Community Inclusion and Disability Studies as a research associate. Yeh works at Bing as technology coordinator, research coordinator and teacher.
For the Bing staff, Blagojevic listed educational “objectives” that can be effectively met through use of technological tools: Technology • Creates a forum to celebrate diversity • Makes learning more individualized • Offers opportunities for further professional development • Provides a medium for reflection • Serves as a tool to advocate early childhood education and the importance of the early years.
Then she gave some examples of using technology in her own classroom with digital photography as the launching pad. One project began with photographs of each child as a basis for an investigation of diversity within the group. Children studied their peers’ photos for such distinguishing features as eye color, hair color and skin color as well as for unifying qualities such as number of ears, eyes, nose and so on. These investigations led to meaningful classroom discussions about valuing diversity. Blagojevic also pointed out that rather than printing the photos, the children enjoyed seeing pictures of themselves and their friends on the computer screen.
In addition she noted the invaluable role that technology can play in working with parents. Everyday, teachers get to witness firsthand children’s experiences at Bing; technology can communicate to parents the significance of these daily events and can offer a tool for interpretation as well.
A relevant anecdote from East PM: One day during winter quarter four-year-old Elijah came to school proud that he knew how to Irish Dance. When questioned by a teacher about this type of dance, he was quick to offer a demonstration. He soon realized that he needed music so he and the teacher searched through a collection of CDs until he heard “Turkey in the Straw” and proclaimed, “This one is perfect!” As the music began, he approached his “stage” (the block area) and began Irish dancing to the song.
Very soon a crowd of curious East PM classmates gathered around him. With support from the teacher, Elijah began teaching Irish Dance lessons to a group of eight children, who were quick to join in. Teachers were able to use photos taken that day with classroom digital equipment and share them with the parents of the children and the children themselves. Thus, technological tools provided parents and staff with documentation of a significant classroom event and its cognitive, emotional, physical and social learning value. Next, Yeh addressed using digital video to document key areas of child development, such as block building and dramatic play, for teacher training and Stanford undergraduate psychology courses taught at Bing. She noted that these video clips with movement and sound offer vital information as well as a “shared reference” for professional discussion. She showed a video clip of several children’s experimentation and predictions of whether plastic balls or wooden balls would go farther down a ramp and invited the teachers’ comments. Through viewing the clip, the staff members learned from their colleagues ways to facilitate children’s learning by asking good questions.
Additionally, as a part of Staff Development Day, teaching teams offered some highlights of other ways technology has been used to enhance classroom experiences:• Quan Ho, teacher in East AM, talked about using technology for bookmaking; specifically, Ho discussed how iPhoto and PowerPoint enabled East AM to create a book titled “Who Takes Care of You?” in which pictures of the children were paired with quotes revealing their thoughts on the subject. • Nancy Howe, head teacher, gave an example of how Center PM used the classroom scanner to create a “field guide” of the plants and trees in their yard. They scanned images of blossoms, branches and leaves from the yard and identified each of them. The results were compiled in a book that could be carried around the yard as a reference. • Tom Limbert, head teacher in West PM, highlighted the convenience of collecting, organizing and formatting daily anecdotes and documentation in PowerPoint, enabling children to revisit experiences of their own and learn about the experiences of other children in their class.
The February staff day concluded with small-group workshops in each classroom led by Andrea Hart, Quan Ho, Tom Limbert and Chia-wa Yeh. The teachers demonstrated specific, practical ways to use software programs in daily teaching. Their presentations focused on tools in iMovie, iPhoto and PowerPoint. The day’s demonstrations and examples inspired new ideas for creativity through technology and helped demystify some of the tech tools thankfully available at Bing.