Thursday, May 31, 2012

Preschool voting with the iPad

We all scream for ice cream!  Need a way to decide what kind of ice cream to serve at the end of the year preschool party?  Model a great decision making strategy for your class by voting.  Voting provides opportunities to practice many skills. Voting can be an individual or a group lesson.  A child can travel around the school, polling adults, practicing social skills along the way. Skills such as greeting others, initiating interactions and asking questions such as "what is your favorite ice cream?", can be targeted. The entire class can get involved by setting up a polling station so that each child can cast his or her vote.  Higher level thinking skills can be promoted by asking students to predict the results of the poll and compare their prediction with the results.  Counting, one to one correspondence, assigning numerals to sets of numbers and writing numbers are other skills that can be practiced when determining the results of the poll.  The concepts of more, less, many, same, equal, and few, can be emphasized when analyzing the results.  

The iPad can be used as a polling device for your next voting lesson.  In the first example, I used the Pages app to create a template to open in Doodle Buddy.  In the Pages app, I inserted images of two different flavors of ice cream on a blank page and then took a screen shot of the page by pushing the home button and power button at the same time.  I cropped the Pages border out of the picture using the editing features in the Photo app on the iPad.  The next step is to open the Doodle Buddy app and select the tic tac toe icon, then select Photos.  Locate the screenshot on your camera roll and select it.  Tap the chalk icon and choose a color to make your dividing line.  Next, choose the stamp icon and select a stamp for voters to use to indicate their selection.

In the second example, I used Pages to create a template, adding a table to create a basic graph.  

If you do not have the app, Pages, you could make the templates on your computer with another program and then use Dropbox to transfer the template to your iPad.  Another alternative is using the drawing tool in Doodle Buddy to make the template.  You could draw pictures to represent the choices and then draw a grid. Take a screenshot of this template and then open it from the Tic Tac Toe icon. If you want to discuss the results with the group, you can connect the iPad to the projector.  Have fun voting!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Presentation for parents: Using Video with Young Children

In my previous post, I discussed the responsibility early educators and parent educators have to help prepare parents of young children to navigate the digital world.  I also referred to an assignment I was completing for my technology class.  I finished the assignment and I thought I would share it as an example of the types of materials we could be creating for parents. I completed a lesson plan that is intended for use with parents, but the presentation could easily be adapted for use with early education professionals.  Using a Google presentation as a guide, this lesson leads parents through information about using video with young children.  The presentation includes links to articles, videos and activities.  This lesson could be used with parents in a group situation such as an Early Childhood Family Education parent session or could be used with an individual parent on a homevisit.  Here is a link to the lesson plan template that acts as a facilitator guide.  This lesson could also be used by the parent independently, without a facilitator.

I am not as familiar with Google documents as I would like to be, I am still learning, so this presentation is a little rough around the edges.  It is not professional looking by any means but it provides a solid starting point for content.  I plan to develop more of these and hope to increase my skills with technology so that they look a little more polished.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Skill Set for 21st Century Parents of Young Children

As an early intervention teacher, an important part of my job is supporting parents in their understanding of child development.  Parenting is a undoubtedly a tough job, and these little ones do not come with a manual.  Parents are navigating the world of tantrums, potty training, biting and picky eating.  Parenting in the 21st century brings the additional daunting task of learning to navigate through the world of technology that is permeating our lives and the lives of our children.  In my experience, much like educators, there are parents who embrace technology and those who see it as inherently evil.  Either way, technology can not be ignored and parents need to be media smart.

Working on an assignment for my technology course prompted me to write this blog post.  I am creating a lesson plan that is supported by technology.  I chose parents as my students.  The objective of my lesson is to provide parents of preschoolers and toddlers information about using video with their children.  On the lesson plan template, I was instructed to list learner standards that are addressed through my lesson.  The International Society for Technology in Education, ISTE, provides standards related to technology skills for teachers and students, but I couldn't locate any formal standards for parents.  My findings included many suggestions that I could adapt into a standard like statement, but, a majority of these suggestions were meant for parents of older children and were frequently specific to social media.  In this post, I wanted to create my own list of skills, specific to parents of preschoolers and toddlers.  I was going to call these, "standards", but then realized that sometimes the word "standards" conjures up a negative image and feeling in educators.  Instead, I decided to call this a skill set. Here is my recommended skill set for parents of preschoolers and toddlers related to technology.  I have included a parallel skill set for educators who support parents of young children.

1.  Parents need to have a foundational knowledge of what is developmentally appropriate for their child so that they are using appropriate technology in an appropriate way.  Parents of children with special needs need to have a strong understanding of their children's needs and learning styles so that they can be successful in using technology to support their child's learning.

Implications for parent educators:  Helping parents understand their child's unique strengths and needs is often the primary focus of early interventionists.  This process should be well established so it can be applied to discussions around the use of technology to support learning.  Educators need to know how to apply all that we know about supporting children's development to the use of technology.  Educators need to know how to model developmentally appropriate use of technology and teach parents guiding principles for selecting appropriate digital media and technology.

2.  Parents need to understand the impact technology can have on their child's development and learning.  Basically they need to know the good, the bad and the ugly.  Parents need to understand how the proper application of technology can enhance and support their child's development.  They also need to understand how uninformed decisions can lead to inappropriate use which can have a negative impact on their child's development.

Implications for parent educators:  Educators need to be involved in the ever increasing discussions that are occurring in our field related to technology.  There is a great deal of conflicting, confusing and sometimes controversial research and opinions related to this topic.  Educators need to access current information and discussions so that they can provide parents with  assistance in sorting through all the hype, and developing guidelines for the use of technology that they are comfortable with and can support in their home.  A great starting point for educators is becoming familiar with the recently released joint position statement from the National Association for Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning: Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.   

3.  Parents need to know how their children will be using technology. They need to know how to use the technology.  It is very difficult to monitor and guide the use of the technology a child is accessing if you do not know how to use it.

Implications for parent educators:  Educators need to have a basic understanding of a variety of technology so they can guide parents.

4.  Parents need to know how to find reputable sources for information related to technology so that they can make informed decisions.

Implications for parent educators:  Educators need to filter and collect information to share with parents, building a broad base of resources to pull from in order to support the parent.  Educators need to teach parents how to filter and collect information.

5.  Parents need to know how to set limits, monitor use, and provide the safest experience possible for technology use.  

Implications for parent educators:  Educators need to provide training to parents in these strategies and/or lead them to resources so they can learn this on their own.

6.  Parents need to be appropriate role models in their use of technology in order to get their toddler or preschooler started on the journey towards being a good digital citizen.  Parents need to model balance and moderation.  They need to be aware of what they are viewing in their child's presence.  They need to understand the value of and model "unplugged" alternatives to media use such as creative play, reading, outdoor activities, and family time away from technology.

Implications for parent educators:  Educators need to encourage balance and moderation, highlighting the importance of "unplugged" activities in child development.  Educators need to guide parents in finding interactive uses of technology.  Educators should develop examples of ways in which technology might be used to support outdoor play, art, creative play, and other tried and true ingredients to a happy, healthy childhood.

I know this is just the beginning of a list of skills that would be helpful for a 21st century parent of young children to possess.  This same set of basic skills applies to parents of children with special needs, yet there may be some additional considerations for these parents.  Maybe that will be a topic of a future post. What skills would you add to this list?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Making You Tube more child friendly on the iPad

There are many reasons for using video with young children.  Video can enhance learning and provide visual representations the children may not otherwise be able to experience.  Video is very engaging and motivating to young learners.  The built in You Tube app on the iPad has made accessing You Tube very easy.   Early childhood teachers and parents are sometimes hesitant to use You Tube because there are very few safety features and it seems that everyone has horror stories related to searches gone terribly wrong or inappropriate related videos being displayed.  Even the comments related to each video can be offensive. To address these very valid concerns, I have been working on finding strategies that may lessen a teacher or parent's apprehension in using You Tube.        
Parents and teachers  have the option of disabling You Tube under the Restrictions section of Settings, so that the app can not be used on the iPad.  Here are a few alternatives to restricting the app.   Here are some less drastic alternatives that may make hesitant teachers and parents more comfortable.  To make You Tube more child friendly, parents and teachers should consider creating an account and playlists.  Having an account allows you to subscribe to child friendly channels such as Seasame Street, Yo Gabba Gabba, and the Houston Zoo.  By creating playlists, you are screening and collecting appropriate content for your child or students.  Once you create playlists, they can be accessed through the "favorites" tab on the bottom of the app home screen.  All of your playlists will be listed on the left hand side of the screen after you have selected the "playlists" tab at the top of the screen.  I think the app is more child friendly than the website because when you watch a video on the app, the comments do not appear unless you select the "comment" tab.  The comments are often guilty of being inappropriate.
You Tube playlists on iPad

I have been using the built in You Tube app, but was very excited when I heard about an app that makes You Tube much more child friendly.  The app, iTube Listimports your playlists and when the video is playing there are no comments or related videos.  Children can only see and play videos you have approved.  There is also a feature that can be accessed through the settings which allows an adult to set an alert that acts as a timer, warning a child that his or her time on the app is done.  The app has been "buggy" at times and has quit suddenly.  There are ads in the bottom corner of the play screen if you don't change it to full screen.  At the time of this posting, the app was being offered at no cost. 
iTube list home screen
Weet Woo is another popular You Tube related app.  This app does not allow you to import your playlists.  Instead, the makers of the app, collect kid friendly content.  You can choose an age range in order to access the most appropriate videos.  I often use this app to get ideas for appropriate videos to add to my playlists.   
Our department has also started a collaborative Google Doc.  The purpose of the document is to collect and share early childhood friendly videos that can be added to playlists.  We add videos as hyperlinks so that the person viewing the document can click on the link and be taken directly to the video.  We organize the videos by theme, and other categories such as books, songs, parent education, child development, and flashcards.  

These tips and suggestions are helpful in making You Tube something that parents and teachers are comfortable letting young children access.  Please share any of your helpful tips.