Toddlers and Tweets? One Story of a Remarkable Educator

This post is part of a promotion of Alter Your World, an Alt Summit project aimed at celebrating actions, big or small, that focus on good in the community.

Screen Shot 2015-05-14 at 9.43.13 PM

We live in a world that reminds us of technology’s presence every day. We find ourselves continually wading through screens full of texts, tweets, emails, and moving pictures. At times overwhelming, it can be easy start to wonder if we should eject ourselves and our children from technology altogether.

I am more prone to wonder: 

What if we pull back from the debate about “whether or not” to expose children to media, and alternatively investigate “how” we can incorporate technology into meaningful learning experiences?

Danielle Charron is an extraordinary teacher who embraces this question in big ways. She is working on earning her Masters Degree and Early Childhood Teaching License through the Boulder Journey School Teacher Education Program. As part of this year-long program, Masters candidates spend a week studying world-renowned educational practices in Reggio Emilia, Italy. As Danielle prepared for this trip in March of 2015, she began to consider ways to stay connected to her class of toddlers. 

A child offered one way: 

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 9.58.02 PM


This child reminded Danielle of the natural empathy and keen awareness young children possess. Since the children were interested in her journey, Danielle wondered if she could use Twitter to invite them along and continue to engage as their teacher.

What she did next was simple, yet remarkable: 


Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 9.57.24 PM


Danielle invited her class to follow her journey on Twitter, which offered: 

  • A way for Danielle to bring the classroom with her. 
  • A way for parents and children to share excitement and curiosity about their teacher’s adventure. 
  • A way for the children to engage with technology as a tool. 

Last but not least:

  • A way for the children, families, and co-teachers to travel along, asking new questions, engaging in new conversations, learning new things, and building deeper relationships along the way!

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 9.58.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-13 at 9.58.57 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-13 at 9.59.22 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 9.59.39 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 9.59.52 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 10.00.01 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 10.00.11 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 10.00.27 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 10.00.40 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 10.00.49 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 10.01.37 PMScreen Shot 2015-05-13 at 10.01.46 PM

Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 10.02.06 PM Screen Shot 2015-05-13 at 10.01.54 PM


T’s Mom shared: “T loved this and was excited to have me read your notes and talk about how they corresponded to the pictures. He especially loved seeing Crocodile (his imaginary friend). There was also one photo that showed a window shot of another building. This started a conversation about what we see out of windows and what you were seeing out the window on your trip. Thanks for allowing us all to follow along!”

When M gave Danielle the rock that sparked this story, he told her it was “for your trip”. When she returned to her physical classroom to share her stories in person, she showed M that his gift was still with her. 

“It went to Italy and all the way back here!”

Indeed, didn’t they all? I am in awe of Danielle for her willingness to embrace the possibilities that technology and social media offer!

When we spend time debating “whether or not” to accept technology into our lives with young children, we might just miss extraordinary learning opportunities like this.

AlterYourWorldButton

Disequilibrium: Learning Theory and Personal Practice

IMG_5163

Notable Swiss child development theorist, Jean Piaget, explained learning as a continual process of achieving equilibrium, or balance, in our state of “knowing”…Then that balance is challenged when we encounter new stimuli, resulting in disequilibrium. When this happens, we try to apply our existing schemas (knowledge or ways of knowing) to the new stimuli (assimilation).  We also seek and adopt entirely new schemas (accommodation).  We tinker with all of this until we achieve that state of balance, or equilibrium once again.  (Until the next time we encounter new stimuli…)

Disequilibrium, also known as cognitive dissonance, is not a very comfortable state to be in.  It can feel frustrating, and challenging.  It can cause fear, anxiety, and even panic. It is, however, necessary for true learning to take place. If we never encounter anything that challenges our current ways of thinking or knowing, then we never move forward. We never get smarter, more adept, more diverse, more eclectic, and that seems like such a dull place to be!

Since I started learning how to code, I’ve been thinking a lot about disequilibrium. Continue reading

Universal Children’s Day: Do Children Have the Right to Learn How to Code?

Tomorrow is Universal Children’s Day, a celebration of the day 25 years ago when the United Nations adopted the “Convention on the Rights of the Child”.

Did you know that the United States is one of only 3 UN countries that has not ratified this?

In celebration of the 25th anniversary of Universal Children’s Day, my school created this video. Please feel free to share it with your communities:

https://www.facebook.com/BoulderJourneySchool

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOxodRT3Uf0


I’ve argued on this blog that children can all benefit from learning to code, but I wonder at what point this will be considered a right.  Should it be?

“It’s Never Too Early to Develop”…Is this Brilliant, or Simply Novel?

CLAY85941-1024x648
Photo Source: Codebabies.com

(from website) It’s never too early to be standards compliant! Show your little ones HTML markup code along with letter forms to get them started on the visual patterns and symbols that make up the essential building blocks of the Web. The first in a three-volume set, originally designed by a NYC Web Designer for his baby, this beautiful book is a fun and colorful introduction to the world of web design for babies.

I’m not too sure how I feel about this!

On the one hand:

I mean…I know that giving any book to a baby is better than giving no book to a baby.

Exposure to print is great (and necessary) for babies’ pre-literacy development.

I also know that exposure to simple, clean designs with high contrast is naturally interesting and engaging for them, while also supporting their ocular development.

I also know babies have an incredible capacity for learning language before the age of 3.  The more language exposure babies get results in more foundational neurochemistry being established for learning languages later in life.

I also know that part of the barrier to learning to code is just being exposed to it, and NOT thinking that it looks and sounds alien. (I know this from experience…I can say that now!) Thus, this simple exposure could provide some foundations for code being accepted as a cultural reality in one’s world.

I also think this is clever! I mean…”It’s never too early to develop”…that is fantastic! Continue reading

Should Everyone Learn to Code?

steve-jobs-1

Should everyone learn to code? Maybe, maybe not…but that is not exactly what I aim to debate on this blog (although I welcome the debate if it happens!)

I do, however, believe that every child should have a shot at understanding and learning about coding. Because of that, I’ve come to believe that in the not-too-distant future, teachers will need to know something about computer programming. We should know what code is, know how to write some of it, and know about the types of thinking it takes to successfully write code.

Why?

Because it will make us better teachers!  As our world becomes more and more computer-driven, there will be more and more conversations about computer programming.  More and more children will want to explore and learn coding. Should all those children be encouraged to become professional computer programmers?  Not necessarily, but their natural interests and curiosities around coding and computer programming should be encouraged and supported as they figure out whether or not programming is something they’d like to pursue.

Further, How can teachers support the interests and curiosities if they themselves have no idea what coding is or how it can be used?  We can sit children in front of computers with Hour of Code, or a Scratch tutorial, but if we ourselves don’t know what they are doing, how can we help and support them?  Are we really being good teachers?

I think much of the debate around “should everyone learn to code?” largely misses the point.   Continue reading