The Preschool Connect Blog

Welcome to TPC Blog!

  • How to Instill Self-Care Habits Among Preschoolers

    Anya Willis
    anyawillis@fitkids.info

    Instilling good self-care habits among kids from a young age teaches them the best ways to prioritize mental and physical health. When it comes to preschoolers, the focus on self-care activities should be to help them develop independence in tasks such as bathing, eating, dressing up, cleaning, and more. While these tasks may seem mundane to adults, for kids aged between 3-5 years, they serve as a major step toward developing maturity. In this article by The Preschoolers Connect, we’ll explore the best self-care habits to teach young children.

    Making the Bed

    This seemingly simple task is a big step towards teaching your child the importance of organization and cleanliness. Being in a cluttered environment is one of the primary causes of stress, and after waking up, our bed is one of the untidiest places in the home. By making their bed, your child will start the day in an organized manner and learn an important habit that will instill discipline in their everyday routine.

    Cleaning Up After Themselves

    If there is one thing kids are experts in, it’s making a mess. But, at their age, it is important to provide them avenues to exert energy as it plays a major role in their physical and mental development. Once your child is finished with their activity, don’t let them simply walk away from the space, rather, make them clean up each time after use. This can include putting toys back in the bin, washing the brushes and palettes and putting them to dry, and more.

    One of the best approaches is to transform cleaning up into a game. For instance, you can have a competition on who picks the most toys. After a few repetitions, cleaning up will become an ingrained habit that your child won’t view as a chore, but rather, as a responsibility.

    Learning a Hobby

    This is an activity where you’ll need to take the lead and expose your child to various activities such as dancing, music, arts and crafts, storytelling, etc. Naturally, your child will gravitate towards certain activities and partake in them daily. Hobbies serve as a great outlet for children to express their creativity and learn new skills. Additionally, it makes them aware of their interests which later in life will help them make decisions regarding degrees and jobs to pursue. As they grow older and start having more responsibilities on their plate to manage, their hobby will serve as a healthy outlet to keep stress in check.

    Being Physically Active 

    As reported by Kids Health, pre-schoolers should engage in physical activity for at least three hours a day. Here are a few examples of structured and unstructured activities to plan for your child:

    • Take them for a daily walk around the neighborhood
    • Visit the local playground where they can play with their friends
    • Enrolling them in sports training which can include soccer, swimming, tennis, athletics, skating, and more.
    • Indoor activities such as a treasure hunt, hide-and-seek, creating an obstacle course, and more.

    According to the CDC, regular physical activity plays a crucial role in a child’s overall development and provides the following benefits:

    • Promotes better memory and retention resulting in higher academic performance.
    • Improves cardiovascular health and develops stronger bones.
    • Greatly reduces the risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and other chronic diseases.
    • Decreases the chances of depression and promotes good mental health.

    A commonality in all these habits will be the fact that you, as the parent, will need to take the initiative and serve as a great role model for your kid(s) to follow. Understandably, not all parents have the luxury to spend the whole day with their children. In such cases, the best approach is to create a schedule and reserve time daily to spend with your child. This can include spending the morning with them before going to work, taking them to the park in the evening, partnering with them to clean the home every night, or planning outdoor activities each weekend.

    Every child learns at their own pace. Focus as the parent will need to be on being consistent with your actions and guide your child towards integrating good habits into their routine.

  • Book Review: “The Design for How People Learn” by Julie Dirksen

    Instructional Design for Context: Book Review

                With the text, “The Design for How People Learn” by Julie Dirksen provides a practical framework for creating learning opportunities for all learning abilities.  The text takes the instructional designer on a journey to discover how to cater to the learning demands of their students.  Throughout the course of this paper, a deeper look into the Dirksen (2016) text will be provided as a means of understanding the author’s perspectives relating to creating high quality and effective learning design.  Following this, questions relating to the content illustrated within the text will be posed.  Also, a solution and action-based approach will be provided as a means of moving into the development and design phase of instruction. 

    Summary

    This framework begins with providing insight on potential limitations that are present within the minds of learners.  Dirksen (2016) identifies this as “learning gaps.”  The text states that “to meet the ever-changing learning demands of the student, the content designer must first consider any potential gaps including knowledge gaps, skill gaps, motivation gaps, habit gaps, environment gaps, and communication gaps,” (Dirksen, 2016, p. 16).  The designer is encouraged to identify which learning gap greatly influences the student as a means of creating content and learning experiences that pushes the student to the next level.  The text provides the “most practical solution to closing the learning gaps is asking questions” (Dirksen, 2016, p. 44). 

                Next, the designer is given the opportunity to get to know their learners through observation, evaluation, and scaffolding. A comparison between motivated and unmotivated learners is provided.  In context, “motivators learners are encouraged to learn regardless of the content. In retrospect, unmotivated learners can remain uninterested throughout the span of an entire unit” (Dirksen, 2016, p. 53).  The concepts of learner skill level are pulled into the conversation as the content designer is encouraged to create opportunities for learners to act as the teacher (Dirksen, 2016, p. 66).  To successfully scaffold a learning experience for students, the designer is encouraged to build upon prior and current knowledge.  Ultimately, this creates new learning experiences that are not completely foreign to the student. 

                Differentiation of instruction considers both the instructor and learners’ differences.  The designer is to create learning opportunities that supports the motivations and interests of the student while being completely aware of one’s own limitations and biases.  Checks and balances are the priority with this concept, as “the learner and the educator’s knowledge will build the overall learning experience” (Dirksen, 2016, p. 82). While in the process of creating balanced content, the designer is moves forward with creating a learning goal. There are several elements to take into consideration when defining a learning goal including identifying a problem, the destination, learning gaps, and stamina (Dirksen, 2016, p. 102). 

                Once the learning goal has been determined, the designer is to combine elements of memory and motivation to create a dynamic lesson.  Dirksen (2016) identifies this as “the rider and the elephant” (p. 192).  “The rider is identified as the impulse control part of the brain.  The elephant is identified as the part of the brain to which is attracted to attention getting events that are considered pleasurable” (Dirksen, 2016, p. 192).  The text suggests that the rider considers the long-term implications of their actions while the elephant ‘goes with the flow.’

                When considering the student’s style of learning, the instructional designer is to move into the content creation phase of course or content design.  Within this phase of the journey, the designer is to create content that is relevant to the knowledge, skills, motivation, behavior, and habits of the learner.  The knowledge phase of content creation diminishes any misconceptions while building on background knowledge.  Coaching, feedback, and practice follows within the designing based on skill phase.  The design for motivation, behavior, and habits of the learner interplay in the process as the designer creates content to which promote self-efficacy and build healthy learning habits through the learner motivation concepts.  “Improving the environment for learners is about clearing out content to which is useless within their minds” (Dirksen, 2016, p. 388).  Designers are encouraged to fill the minds of their learners with useful information to which can be applied to the real world and eliminating any misconceptions relating to the content.  Lastly, the learner is evaluated using predetermined methods set by the instructor. According to the text, “the designer evaluates the learners progress through formative and summative assessments” (Dirksen, 2016, p. 407). 

    Concrete Response

                The Dirksen (2016) text relates to my own personal career journey as I have been ushered into the educational training environment within the recent years.  When I think about educational mentors to which have taken the time to relate to my ‘elephant,’ the effort has been relentless.  I started my career within early childhood education as around the age of 23.  With that being said, my attention span was incredibly short at the beginning of my career.  However, my training managers and supervisors sought out creative measures to gain and retain my attention. 

                The text allowed me to reflect over my own career and educational journey.  I have acquired 85% of my college education remotely.  Throughout my educational journey, I have experienced many of the examples listed within the text.  As an example, the environment to which a student is learning within places a critical role in their educational progress.  When I first became a new mom, the environment to which I were learning within was a tad bit stressful, given the need to juggle multiple demands at once.  While I was able to complete the required coursework, the level of difficulty was much greater in comparison to having older children now. 

                One major thing that I can appreciate from pursuing higher education online includes the fact that the learner is constantly taken into consideration.  Online educational platforms have allowed me to enroll within one course every six to eight weeks.  In all, this has created balance on the work and home front.  As mentioned within the Dirksen (2016) text, “the designer and learner are aware of their own limitations” (p. 82). 

    Reflection

                While the information provided within the Dirksen (2016) highlights how instructional designers can reach and teach all learners.  However, the organization of the information presented can be a bit confusing to a new instructional designer. A new instructional designer might ask the following questions: How do the gaps interplay into each identified learning strategy suggested within the text?  How can instructional designers relate the lesson to students with disabilities?

    Also, the reader would benefit from the text relating to relevant educational theorists for practical application within the classroom. For practitioners seeking ways to integrate learning opportunities into the classroom, the presence of content to which acknowledges the views of educational psychology can lend itself as additional resources.  The views of Piaget, Vygotsgy and B.F. Skinner will provide additional perspective when it comes to content and course creation. 

    To better understand the integration of the strategies within the text, more information pertaining to the application of the necessary tools into varying educational settings would benefit the reader greatly.  This application might include educational settings such as in the classroom and in technology settings. 

    Lastly, the text mentions the construction of learning goals as “needing to identify what problem you are trying to solve, setting a destination, determining the gaps between the starting point and the destination, and deciding how far you able to go” (Dirksen, 2016, p. 102).  The construction of the learning goals fails to acknowledge how to effectively integrate different learning styles into the lesson.  The strategy provided lists details pertaining to the ‘end point’ of or the desired outcome.  However, more details will need to be provided for those of different abilities.

    Action

                To best suit my own professional journey, I will take the useful information obtained within the text and apply into the content creation phase.  Combining the Dirksen (2016) text and my own critiques of the text, the goal is to create useful content to which caters to all learning styles while keeping the same outcome in mind.  Utilizing the resources provided within the text, there is a value placed on allowing students the opportunity to “self-select” their learning opportunity.  Research shows “that students to which self-select their learning experience have a higher outcome as it relates to assessments” (Adkins and Guerreiro, 2018).

                In the mentioned, ‘self-selection’ process, a variety of educational technology resources will be provided to learners.  The presence of educational technology further diversifies the learning experience as students can engage in instruction using different web based and computer-based software applications and programs.  For adult learners, the presence of educational technology video conferencing tools such as Zoom, Go-To Meeting, Skype, and Google Hangouts diversifies the content for learners.  With providing these multiple opportunities to students, this further allows for all learners to be included in the lesson, regardless of skill level and presence of technology resources.  As an example, students might have the opportunity to engage in a learning opportunity to which requires group participation through use of a video conferencing tool.  While the instructor might not be aware of the students’ abilities with using different technology tools, the option to use multiple types of media technology addresses different learning gaps. 

    Dirksen (2016) identifies several areas to which play a role into student learning including motivation and behavior.  In seeking ways to create meaningful content for adult learners, I plan to utilize the concepts provided within the text along with other research-based resources on the topic relating to simulation training opportunities.  According to research, “the presence of simulation-based trainings eliminates the potential for behavior related conflict within training environments” (Shernoff, Schalscha, and Gabbard, 2020).  “Development of simulation-based training opportunities requires an approach to which adds graphics, content, and instructional design elements that maximize learning and transfer” (Shernoff, Schalscha, and Gabbard, 2020

    Lastly, to best address any present gaps in learning, the presence of a reliable assessment tool will aid in the process of content development and facilitation.   At the start of a training, students will have the opportunity to partake in an assessment to measure current knowledge.  Post the last training module, students will be re-issued the same assessment to gauge the level of knowledge acquisition to which occurred during the lesson.  This approach considers the multiple gaps listed within the Dirksen (2016) text that can cause a hinderance to student learning.

    Resources

    Adkins, D., & Guerreiro, M. (2018). Learning styles: Considerations for technology enhanced       

                item design: Learning styles. British Journal of Educational Technology, 49(3),

                574-583. https://doi.org/111/bjet.12556

    Dirksen, J. (2016). Design for how people learn (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: New Riders.

                ISBN: 9780134211527.

    Shernoff, E. S., Von Schalscha, K., Gabbard, J. L., Delmarre, A., Frazier, S. L., Buche, C., &

    Lisetti, C. (2020). Evaluating the usability and instructional design quality of interactive virtual training for teachers (IVT-T). Educational Technology Research and Development, 68(6). 3235-3262. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-020-09819-9

  • Collaboration and Communication Apps

    Collaboration and Communication Apps

    Marilynn Andrews, M.A.

    GroupMe Application

    GroupMe is a messaging application to which can be categorized into groups based on the intended audience. GroupMe is best known as a simpler way to stay in contact with coworkers, organizational groups, friends, and family. This application can be downloaded from iOS, Android, and desktop devices. One of the benefits of using GroupMe is the ability to add people from your already existing contact list.

    Within the field of education, the GroupMe app can be used as a means of expanding communications within an “inclusive learning environment” (Grosseto and Hebert, 2019). This simply means that everyone has an opportunity to engage and communicate using the mobile application. Communication takes place using this app from multiple perspectives including teacher to teacher, teacher to student, student to teacher, parent to teacher and teacher to parent. Research shows that students within higher education were more comfortable with approaching their instructor when teacher to student support was initiated using the Groupme app (Gronseth and Hebert, 2019).

    Yan (2021) describes the conditions when navigating remote learning during the Covid-19 pandemic. With the mass influx of media and technology integrations into learning, “minor adjustments had to be made to ensure students continue to learn and remain socially, emotionally, and intellectually whole” (Yan, 2021). Since learning remotely is a newer concept to many populations, there has to be an emphasis placed on the well-being of its users. Within the early childhood education sector of education, social media usage is best utilized as a means of communication and engagement between families and educators. Research shows that lack of parental involvement leads to inadequate social and emotional development for young children. Research also suggests that attempts to contact families using technology are “often unsuccessful” (Fan and Yost, 2016). The reason to which a lack of communication takes place for families within the early childhood education sector includes a lack of access to technology resources, lack of technical knowledge, and other socioeconomic related reasons to which contribute to this breach in communication (Fan and Yost, 2016). It is suggested that families be very cautious with the information shared using this application, as many users can access the content if the message is sent to the entire group. However, private messaging is an option when using this application.

    Within a clinical educational environment, the use of GroupMe further enhances mentoring opportunities for students and practitioners alike (Mackessy, 2019).  Adult learners have the opportunity to engage in messaging, asking and receiving questions, engaging in events online, and participating in online meetings (Mackessy, 2019).  Much like parents within the early childhood sector, engagement opportunities can expand with the use of the GroupMe application.

    Zoom

    Zoom is best described as a video conferencing application.  Zoom allows its users to virtually schedule and meet up with one another through its video conferencing tools.  There are several features within Zoom that benefits both the facilitator and the meeting participant.  Of these features include one-on-one meetings, group video options, screen sharing, and screen and audio recording.  Zoom offers teams a free and simple option to hosting video meetings and events. One of the major features of Zoom is its compatibility to other web based programs such as Google Suites.   When a scheduler seeks to schedule a Zoom call, the information can automatically be imported into Microsoft or Google calendar requests for easy access for users.  

    With every online technology software, there are downfalls. The Zoom application within an educational setting can be extremely beneficial for knowledgeable users. However, navigations such as the ‘mute’ function or ‘camera-on’ feature are two of the most misused features when seeking to deliver a video to people of all educational backgrounds. Also, privacy is another major concern when working with young children and families. Within early childhood education, Zoom has been used to host parent meetings and community wide engagement opportunities for childcare partners. Unless the Zoom platform is protected or made private, there is the possibility of Zoom “bombing” to occur. Zoom “bombing” is best described as an outside Zoom account user hacking into unsuspected Zoom conferences. Many times, these hackers enter into the Zoom meeting and solicit inappropriate content to the participants online.

    Within the school setting, educators and administrators are advised to set parameters when utilizing the web application with students at home.  During the Covid-19 pandemic, remote policies and procedures had to be implemented within school systems, as misuse of the Zoom platform became an issue.  Within many lower income, urban communities, educators reported witnessing inappropriate behaviors from the students and parents to which were logged into the Zoom sessions remotely.  Prior to issuing the laptops to students, a signed technology agreement needs to be issued to parents to ensure a healthy learning environment ensues with each remote learning opportunity. 

    According to Dayal and Tiko (2020), parents of early childhood students are more concerned about their students not learning content virtually as they would in a face to face setting (p. 338).  During the pandemic, educators reported their primary concerns when interacting on Zoom relating to the health and safety of themselves and their students (Dayal and Tiko, 2020).  The teachers also expressed concerns about the emotional well-being of their Pre-K students and spending long periods of time on the Zoom platform during the initial Covid-19 lockdown (Dayal and Tiko, 2020). 

    Facebook

    Facebook has become a household name and commonly used mobile and web-based application.  Facebook is a social media application to which connects virtually anyone of legal age to the platform for communication and social networking opportunities.  While communication and networking are the two major components of Facebook, the web and mobile application also offers the ability to post content for sharing capabilities to other users.  This feature is one of the most used on the app.  When implemented within higher education and professional training environments, the use of Facebook has many benefits, as it serves as a major connecting piece to those utilizing the application.  Users can interact and post content relating to the professional environment to which they are working within. 

    When using a social media network as large as Facebook, there are potential dangers to its users, especially with children. Since the creation of the website, there has been an age restriction present for users choosing to sign up and create an account.  However, as many educators and parents have experienced, there are simple ways to avoid this safety measure and young and teenage children still are able to access the content on the social media site.  The primary concern is children networking with the public along with posting content that poses a potential safety hazard to themselves such as address and school information. Parents of teenagers are encouraged to monitor their child’s social media usage to avoid any mishaps. 

    From an early childhood education lens, the use of Facebook within historically underserved communities proves beneficial for young children.  The use of Facebook as a means of communication and sharing pertinent information to parents and caregivers of young children is the reason for this conclusion.  Early childhood practitioners utilize social media to promote healthy and developmentally appropriate practices to teenage and adult parents.  Research has proven this to be extremely effective, especially in the areas of social emotional, healthy eating, and nutrition behaviors (Zhang, Panochelli, and Hall, 2021).

    When using the social media site within an educational environment, there are certain precautions the educator should take to ensure that everyone stays safe. Research suggests that students be engaged and using a variety of technology and software programs within the curriculum rather than focusing on one application such as Facebook. Research conducted by Yan (2020) suggests this same notion as it was implemented within a high school as the entire school participated in a shift to remote learning. During one school day, students had the opportunity to participate in Dance, Language Arts, Mathematics, Science, History, Chinese, Special Projects classes (Yan, 2020, p. 189). The research showcases that the students were not negatively impacted by social media usage during the allotted four-month trial period. Using a variety of technology tools, students had the opportunity to interact with their peers while learning new content.

    Google for Education

                Google for Education is an all-inclusive web and mobile device application to which seeks to connect educators to their students, families, and community. Google for Education includes Classroom, Mail, Slides, Drive, Hangouts, Voice, Sheets, and many other applications easily accessible under a registered Google account.  For users, Google is an excellent option for integrating technology into curriculum as the web-based applications are also accessible on mobile devices.  Google also offers certification programs for those seeking to expand their Google related skills and services. 

    Google Hangouts powered by Google Suites and Google for Education is an application used for communicating through desktop and mobile devices. Google Hangouts is an additional branch of the Google Suites or Google for Education.  The major benefit of using Google Hangouts is the ability to merge existing contacts into the application for immediate contact.  Google Hangout provides additional safety measures as its users can opt for using a Google Voice phone number instead of their assigned phone number per service provider.  When considering the safety measures that are needed within an educational environment, this application is beneficial to educators. 

    When utilizing Google for Education within a professional or educational setting, there are additional safeguards to consider ensuring that safety and data protection is a priority. Documents can be created using Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides.  Research proves that the use of Google applications improves the collaboration and feedback efforts of educators, students, and families (Odewumi and Ahmed, 2019).  Within each of these applications, there is the option to share and collaborate with peers within one working document.  While this feature is beneficial when seeking to create cohorts or collaboration groups, if the content is not on a view only mode, it can be altered, deleted, or copied.  Also, there are additional security concerns with the Google platforms as any document can be made into a copied version.  Educators are advised to upload content as a PDF document when seeking to share information with students or parents using the Google platform. Although safety is a major concern when creating documents, one of the major benefits of Google for Education is the Google Classroom application.  Students enrolled within a Google Classroom course can collaborate and communicate using discussion boards, messaging features, and shared documents.  Educators are advised to monitor the content entered into Google Classroom to ensure the remote learning platform remains educational and professional. 

    Class DoJo

                Class DoJo is an educational technology platform that connects parents, students, and educators using a mobile and web-based platform similar to Facebook.  Class DoJo gives educators autonomy as there is an option to create a classroom for students, parents, and community partners.  Within each classroom, members of the group can then participate in collaboration by posting on the class wall, sharing content, and commenting on posts.  Class DoJo can be downloaded from a mobile device or desktop computer program.

                Class Dojo does not pose any immediate threats to safety, as each class invite must be sent and approved by the educator.  Parents are encouraged to limit the posting of personal content since these items are viewable by all members of the classroom.  Research shows that the use of software such as Class Dojo allows teachers to gamify education and increases student’s overall engagement and collaboration (Gerber, 2017).  “Students are encouraged to play the games and accept failure due to unlimited opportunities to participate.  In turn, this creates a culture of experimentation” (Gerber, 2017).  Within a platform such Class DoJo, teachers can post the link to the exercise or activity for immediate access from students.  Parents can also keep track of the current materials and play along with their students at home. 

    When considering the concept of gamification, there is always the possibility for unhealthy habits to result. These unhealthy habits include too much screen time, gaming addiction, and social emotional issues. However, with proper monitoring, students benefit from gamification through applications such as Class DoJo. “The Dr. Suess quote, ‘Games you can’t win because you play against you,’ emphasizes the fact that educational gamification trends can tap into students’ meta-awareness to play through failure” (Gerber, 2017). Teachers can set parameters to ensure students do not develop unhealthy habits.

    References

    Deal , H.C., & Tiko, L. (2020). When are we going to have the real school: A case study of early childhood education and care teachers’ experiences surrounding education during the covid-19 pandemic.  Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 45(4), 336-347. https://search-informit-org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/doi/10.3316/informit.579839451210378

    Fan, S., & Yost, H. (2019). Keeping connected: exploring the potential of social media as a new avenue for communication and collaboration in early childhood education. International Journal of Early Year Education, 27(2), 132-142. https://doi.org/10.1080/09669760.2018.1454301

    Gerber, H. R. (2017). Soft(a)ware in the english classroom. English Journal, 106(6), 88-90. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fscholarly-journals%2Fsoft-ware-english-classroom%2Fdocview%2F1918837406%2Fse-2%3Faccountid%3D12085

    Grosseto, S., & Hebert, W. (2019). Investigating use of mobile instant messaging in higher education courses. TechReady, 63(1), 15-22. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11528-018-0361-y

    Macke’s, L. (2019). Intervention for Focused Online Mentoring. Nurse Educator.44(6), 292–292. https://doi.org/10.1097/NNE.0000000000000687

    Odewumi, M. O., & Ahmed, M. A. (2019). Fostering google apps for education (gafe): The conceptual framework. Bulgarian Journal of Science and Education Policy, 13(1), 34-49. http://ezproxy.liberty.edu/login?qurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.proquest.com%2Fscholarly-journals%2Ffostering-google-apps-education-gafe

    Yan, S. (2021). COVID-19 and technology use by teenagers: A case study. Hum Behav & Emerg Tech. 3, 185– 193. https://doi-org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1002/hbe2.236

    Zhang, Q., Panochelli, J., & Ann Hall, L. (2021). Using facebook to promote healthy eatingbehaviors among low-income american caregivers of young children. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, S78-S78. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jneb.2021.04.458

  • Golden Years: Tips and Resources for Raising Children of All Ages

    Author: Lisa Walker

    Diverse class of preschool students playing with blocks

    It’s true what they say, it takes a village to raise a child – in the modern age, that often means making use of the many online resources at your disposal. Whether they’re 2 or 12, help is only a click away.

    Brilliant Babies

    From the ages of 0-3 months, your newborn will be focused on getting to grips with a few basic human functions and, as a first-time parent, your main concern will be with safety.

    • There’s plenty of material on car seats, breastfeeding, sleeping, and holding.
    • Always support your baby’s head and neck and remember, at this stage, they are not ready for rough play or any activities that are too bouncy.
    • Washing bottles and other items for newborns is different than for adults or older children.

    Terrific Toddlers

    From the ages of 1-3 years, your child will be busying themselves learning words, testing out emotions, and moving around on their own. For parents, this is a great time to introduce new activities.

    • There’s an art to introducing new activities.
    • There are plenty of respectable internet forums with other parents for discussing toddlers.
    • Child nutritionists have created guides to ensure healthy eating from 1-3.

    Playful Preschoolers

    Preschool (3-4 years) is all about learning to use tools, developing socially, and creating special memories.

    • Understanding your growing child and their unique needs is key to navigating this exciting period.
    • Finding and choosing the right childcare can be a head-scratcher without guidance.
    • Getting a headstart on reading is an advantage for life.

    Changing Children

    From the age of 4, we notice our babies growing into amazing little people with unique personalities.

    • You need never run out of fun, creative ideas to keep your child entertained.
    • Introduce your child, aged 5+, to the digital space in a healthy, educational way.
    • Use your newfound extra time to refocus on self-care and self-development – for example, earning a Master’s Degree in management or leadership from a certified college with remote learning opportunities.

    This wonderful, exceptional journey can also be a great challenge without help. As a parent, you can rest assured that there are plenty of others, on and offline, who are ready to lend a hand.

    The Preschool Connect provides FREE online resources for young children in urban communities. Learn more, at: www.thepreschoolersconnect.com

    Image by Pexels

  • STEM, Robots, Codes, and Maker’s Spaces

    STEM, Robots, Codes, and Maker’s Spaces

    Marilynn A. Andrews, M.A.

    Technology within education continues to expand as the demand and interest levels of students and prospective students steadily increases.  Within various educational environments, the concepts evolving around STEAM, Robots, Codes, and Maker’s Spaces are integrated into curriculum as a means of technical exposure, proactive training, and differentiated instruction.  Present day, students are at an advantage, given that these concepts are already built within the curriculum.  Children as young as 3 years old are introduced to the basic concepts of technology education within preschool classrooms.  Each year, the concepts grow from hands-on, device free STEAM experiences to much more complex, technical instruction involving new and innovative technical equipment and software programs. 

    While students travel from grade to grade acquiring technical knowledge, there are still pitfalls present within technology education. One of the most relevant pitfalls includes teachers not receiving adequate training in order to properly facilitate the technical content to students. To further understand the implications of educational technology, this article will explore the topics of STEAM, Robots, Codes, and Maker’s Spaces as a means of providing developments within the field.

    STEM (STEAM)

    The topic of Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) within the field of early childhood education continues to expand as new discoveries are being made.  The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) seeks to provide resources for educators and parents with interests in working with children ages 0-5 with STEAM.  According to NAEYC, STEAM within early childhood education is considered as a part of inquiry education.  “Inquiry instruction encourages active (often hands-on) experiences that support building understanding and vocabulary, critical thinking, problem solving, communication, and reflection. Educators and parents can facilitate inquiry experiences by creating opportunities for children to learn about the world through STEAM lenses and by asking high-quality, open-ended questions” (Eckhoff, 2020).  The processes of STEAM in early childhood education include ‘what’ to learn and ‘how’ to learn. 

    Why is it significant?

    As mentioned, the concepts of STEAM within early childhood education teach children to ask questions at a young age.  As children continue to acquire language and knowledge, the complexity of the questions should increase within context.  As an example, a teacher might ask students to locate where butterflies live? With this question, children ages 2 and 3 might point outside or at a tree nearby.  When asked this same question, students ages 4 and 5 might respond with a supplementary question relating to the weather and its impact on a butterfly’s home.  The educator would then explain the metamorphosis process of a butterfly and the climate best suited for the insect.

    The significance of STEAM is in teaching children how to ask relevant questions as a means of problem solving.  While the butterfly’s climate and habitat are a more complex problem, young children can also learn how to solve simple day-to-day problems with inquiry based learning.  As an example, a Pre-K student may be assigned to pass out paper napkins to classmates during snack time.  The student will need to know how many students are at each table and how many napkins to organize to pass out to his peers.  The teacher can use this as a teaching moment and inquire how many paper napkins are left on the counter or how many students are in the classroom.  “This is a STEAM experience because the children use reasoning to decide on solutions and reflect on those solutions to settle on an overall strategy for passing out paper napkins during snack time” (Eckhoff, 2020). 

    What are the downsides and/or barriers and how might these be overcome?

                The concept of STEAM within early childhood education faces many barriers relating to developmentally practices and appropriateness of the integrations.  Teachers new to the early childhood education field benefit from learning about developmentally appropriate practices as the content and materials issued to young children may not be suitable for development.  This topic has been on the forefront for many years, however, the COVID-19 pandemic brought light to this area with the increased use of remote learning with mobile devices.  One of the major concerns centers around screentime with young children and the long-term health implications.  Research suggests that children to which participate in too much screen time are more likely to suffer from educational problems, obesity, social anxiety, sleep issues, and violence (Korhonen, 2021). 

                The Academy of Pediatrics provides recommendations for screen time for children 0 through 12 years of age.  It is recommended that a young child ages 0 to18 months participate in 42 minutes maximum a day while a child aged 6 to 8 years of age can participate in almost 3 hours daily (Morin, 2020).  Parents and educators can monitor, and limit screen time based on the individual needs of the child.

    Where is it going in the future?

                According to research, STEAM within early childhood education has been historically focused on building foundation numeracy skills and on understanding natural sciences. Over the years, the concepts have expanded to integrate and promote creativity and expression through technology and science (Cohrssen and Garvis, 2020).  Present day, STEAM allows for integrations into all subject areas in the form of “hands-on projects, books, discussions, experiments, art explorations, collaboration, games, and physical play” (Cohrssen and Garvis, 2020). 

    Robotics

                STEM or STEAM have been a big deal in the education field.  However, according Schrum and Sumerfield (2018), there is more focus placed on robotics and coding in education during recent years.  Educational Robotics (ER) is a new learning approach that is known mainly for its effects on scientific academic subjects such as science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Recent studies suggests that ER can also affect cognitive development by improving critical reasoning and planning skills” (Di Lieto, Pecini, et al, 2020).  Research further suggests that ER can control the executive functioning of young children and results in positive long-term benefits.  

    Why is it significant?

    As mentioned, ER can enhance and control the executive functioning of the brain in children ages 5 and 6.  This discovery is significant as this is during foundational years of child development.  Research further shows that children engaged in activities to which incorporate robotics show enhanced skills in “reasoning, decision making, sequential thinking, memory functioning, problem-solving, and all of the executive functioning in the cognitive domains” (Di Lieto, Pecini, et al, 2020).  Since the executive functioning matures during the early teen years, it is suggested that young children engage in activities that enhances these abilities during their early stages of brain development.  Robotics have been viewed as a means of teaching basic life skills to children and adults.  Since robotics include many complex systems, students to which are engaged in these types of assignments will learn skills relating to personal development, team working, and cognitive development (Schrum and Sumerfield, 2018). It is suggested that all students participate in robotic activities and exercises, rather than a particular group of students.  Schools are seeking to integrate robotics into the curriculum, as a proactive means of training students. 

    Within some school districts, entire schools have shifted to a STEM based curriculum, offering students the opportunity to learn hands-on technology lessons every day.  The largest school district within Tennessee, Memphis-Shelby County School District, seek to promote and enhance STEM education for students through varying programming.  One school, East High School, operates as a STEM and magnet school and seeks to grow the economic health of the city of Memphis through providing an enhanced curriculum in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.  There is a focus in students becoming college and career ready post-graduation. 

    What are the downsides and/or barriers and how might these be overcome?

                There are always barriers when seeking to integrate complex topics into curriculum.  One of the primary barriers is the lack of teacher training in the area of robotics.  While some schools are equipped with technology education teachers on staff, other districts may not be as fortunate.  In retrospect, the research is suggesting that robotics be taught within every subject area.  This poses another kind of downfall, as teachers of general education backgrounds may not be able to fully deliver the content. 

                Another pitfall relates to the underrepresentation of students with disabilities within robotic and coding courses.  “Children with disabilities are pervasively under-represented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education” (Kolne and Lindsay, 2019).  Children with disabilities face barriers within STEM classrooms, as teachers are not comfortable with providing accommodations to meet the student’s needs.  “Research shows that teacher interactions with children in a robotics course are important for supporting children in the building process, and for helping them to identify and solve problems” (Kolne and Lindsay, 2019).

    Where is it going in the future?

                Robotics in education will continue present day and in the future. As mentioned, when integrated properly, the benefits of ER can have a profound effect on all students.  “During the last decade, robotics has attracted the highest interests of teachers and researchers as a valuable tool to develop cognitive and social skills for students from preschool to high school and to support learning in science, mathematics, technology, and informatics, and interdisciplinary learning” (Schrum and Sumerfield, 2018). 

    Hour of Code (Coding in Education)

    Coding in education has grown to become a fundamental skill for children from kindergarten to high school.  The coding industry has grown over the years and organizations have sought to provide training and supplementary support to school districts.  One program, The Knowledge House, located in the Bronx New York seeks to provide high schools students and beyond with the opportunity to gain technical skills relating to progressive web development, cyber security, web design, and computer programming.  While this is just one program, there are numerous non-profits and organizations to which have made it their mission to provide technical training to people within underserved communities. 

    Another organization to which seeks to serve the community, more specifically women is Girls Who Code.  The mission of this organization is to close the gender gap present within the technology sector and provide coding opportunities to women.

    Why is it significant?

    Integrating coding into curriculum is significant for workforce development, starting with the youngest students.  “Robotics and coding instruction has provided statistically significant contributions to preschoolers’ problem-solving skills compared to the pen and paper activities” (Cakir, Korkmaz, and Idil, 2021).  Robotics and coding activities add much to problem-solving and creativity thinking skills as well as digital citizenship and ICT skills included as twenty-first century skills. These kinds of activities can contribute to preschoolers, as well. This is because coding itself is a problem-solving process” (Cakir, Korkmaz, and Idil, 2021).  Preschoolers can design and build robotics using manipulatives in their classroom.  When a piece does not fit into the manipulative, the preschooler will then use problem solving skills to rearrange the design or select a new piece to fit into the puzzle. 

    What are the downsides and/or barriers and how might these be overcome?

                “Coding is about thinking and putting those thought processes into a particular code” (Schrum and Sumerfield, 2018).  However, with everything there are downsides.  Research shows that students engaged within coding courses are more likely to experience disconnection in their day-to-day lives relating to in-person social interaction.  While technology usage aids to the overall motivation of student learning, there needs to be a focused placed on both synchronous and asynchronous learning to further enhance the interpersonal skills of students (Tugun, Uzunboylu, & Ozdamli, 2017).

    Where is it going in the future?

                Coding within education will continue to evolve the way students receive content.  Teachers are integrating this concept into their learning environments and creating more opportunities for students to be fully engaged in the curriculum.  Teachers are resulting to flipped classrooms as a means of reaching and teaching students coding curriculum. “It has been observed that the application of the flipped classroom education method increased the motivation of students. Programmers should develop a model related the integration of the flipped classroom education model by collaborating with the academics working in education technologies” (Tugun, Uzunboylu, & Ozdamli, 2017).

    Maker’s Spaces

                Many schools are resulting in maker spaces in the area of STEM.  These spaces give children the opportunity to learn and grow in a ‘safe’ learning environment.  As an example, students may visit their school library during lunch time to play with Lego’s along with a computer programmed tutorial (Fasso & Knight, 2020).  Students within the gifted program benefit greatly from this opportunity to recharge their brains and feed their imaginations.  “Makerspace’ is a term that refers to a physical space in which individuals engage for the creative purpose of making artifacts.” (Fasso & Knight, 2020).  Research suggests that makerspaces enhance problem-solving skills and give way for students to engage in a meaningful project. 

    Why is it significant?

    Maker spaces can vary based on their environment.  Whether the space is in a museum, library, college, or after-school program, students have the opportunity to engage in their interests as a means of connection to self.  Research shows an increase in individual identity with the presence of maker spaces. “On a common day, people operate like professionals in the field, and through this genuine enterprise, gain a personal identity situated within the domain such as a STEM-identity, an engineering-identity, or a technology design-identity” (Fasso & Knight, 2020).  Rather than building a ‘one-size fits all’ model of students, the presence of maker spaces allows for individuality to take place. 

    What are the downsides and/or barriers and how might these be overcome?

                There is controversy centering around whether maker spaces are the next fad in education. Also, there are also challenges relating to technology and teacher expertise along with how to effectively integrate maker spaces into teaching when the curriculum and daily schedule is full.  “There are concerns around creating and managing the school makerspace which requires expertise that ranges from being a technical expert, a programmer, a creative problem solver, and pedagogy and STEM expert” (Fasso and Knight, 2020). Educators are also seeking ways to locate the interests of students through providing a student-centered environment rather than a teacher centered one. Lastly, one of the primary downside’s centers around the costs of maker spaces, especially within underserved populations (Fasso and Knight, 2020). 

                While the potential pitfalls are not easy to solve, teachers are still urged to create simplified forms of maker spaces within their classrooms or schools.  This can be done using a quiet space within the classroom or school library.

    Where is it going in the future?

                In previous years, maker spaces were equipped with non-technical materials such as sewing and crafting materials.  However, research is showing maker spaces heading into the direction of mobile technical devices and 3D printers within local libraries (Maceli, 2019).  Libraries are seeking to use this space as an innovative method to promote new technologies, enhance digital literacy skills, and provide technical access for all (Maceli, 2019). 

    References

    Cakir, R., Korkmaz, O., & Ugar Erdogmus, F. (2021). The effect of robotic coding

    education on preschoolers’ problem solving and creative thinking skills. Thinking Skills and Creativity, 40, 100812.

    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tsc.2021.100812

    Cohrssen, C., & Garvis , S. (2021). Embedding Steam Into Early Childhood Education

                  and Care. Palgrave MacMillian.

    Eckhoff, A. (2020, March). Breaking down steam for young children. NAEYC. Retrieved

    January 29, 2022, from https://www.naeyc.org/resources/pubs/tyc/feb2020/breaking-down-steam

    Fasso, W., & Knight, B. A. (2020). Identity development in school makerspaces:

    intentional design. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 30(2), 275-294. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10798-019-09501-z

    Kolne, K., & Lindsay, S. (2019). Exploring Gender Differences in Teacher–Student

    Interactions during an Adapted Robotics Program for Children with Disabilities. Social Sciences, 8(10), 285. http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/socsci8100285

    Korhonen, L. (2021). The good, the bad and the ugly of children´s screen time during the

    COVID‐19 pandemic. Acta Paediatrica, 110(10), 2671–2672. https://doi.org/10.1111/apa.16012

    Maceli, M. G. (2019). Making the future makers: Makerspace curriculum in library and

    information science graduate programs and continuing education. Library Hi Tech, 37(4), 781-793.

    https://doi.org/10.1108/LHT-01-2019-0005

    Morin, A. (2020, September 17). How too much screen time can hurt kids and their

    families. Verywell Family. Retrieved January 29, 2022, from https://www.verywellfamily.com/the-negative-effects-of-too-much-screen-time-1094877

    Schrum, L., & Sumerfield, S. (2018). Learning supercharged: Digital age strategies and

    insights from the edtech frontier. Ingram Publisher Services. ISBN: 9781564846860.

    Singh, S., & Balhara, Y. (2021). “Screen-time” for children and adolescents in COVID-

    19 times: needs to have contextually informed perspective. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 63(2), 198-195.

    https://doi.org/10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_646_20

  • EdTech Vs. Instructional Tech

    Educational technology is best defined as  technological tools and software to which are integrated into learning environments.  As someone who has studied and worked within this area, I can attest that the definition varies per environment.  Within the field of education, educational technology is used for classroom instruction and planning by educators, administrators and designers.  Educational technology consists of online software such as Kahoot, Wikipedia, Screen-Cast-O-Matic, Google Classroom, and Scratch.  Each of the mentioned platforms can be integrated into curriculum for educational and facilitation purposes of the instructor.  Over the years, the number of online software and web based platforms steadily sees increase, due to the world wide web steadily increasing.  

    Instructional technology refers to the scientific based practice of course design.  Foundationally, instructional technology is similar to educational technology, with the relevance of integrating technology into learning content. However, the platforms vary due to the need for content creation, learner assessments, collaboration and platforms needing cater to these demands of the field.  Some of the common platforms used within the instructional technology field include Google Classroom, Moodle, and TalentLMS. 

    There are some similarities in the two terms as both rely on student learning styles for direction with technological integrations and curriculum planning.  These learning styles often include the well known terms such as audio, spatial, visual, auditory, and physical.  In terms of students with disabilities, both terms seek to differentiate instruction using content models and technological tools (physical and web based) for instruction.   “Teachers that utilize digital technologies and acquire a higher perception of learning effectiveness of digital distance learning are significantly more likely to use web-based teaching technologies” (Dincher and Wagner, 2021). Instructional technologists also seek to utilize additional models into the instruction including Merrill’s Principles and the ADDIE Model. The Addie Model consists of Analysis, Development, Design, Implement, and Evaluate.  Merrill’s Principles seeks to engage learners into real world problems through activation of prior knowledge, demonstration and activation of new knowledge and integration into the learner’s real world. “Empathetic design is the ability for the designer to predict the cognitive and emotional experience of learners as they engage with the design product and process. It aims to center sensitivity toward learners, and the design process as a whole, which suggests potential application in educational settings” (Mehta & Gleason, 2021).  One caveat to instructional technology is that educational technology can be integrated into instructional technology platforms to increase learner engagement and meet different learning styles.  

    I have only been in the field of educational technology for about 4 years and I have witnessed new platforms rolling out on a consistent basis. As long as the internet continues to serve as an open platform welcoming collaborative efforts of its users, educational and instructional technology tools, software, and web based platforms will continue to evolve.  “This change is facilitated by advancements in educational technology, such as vodcasting, screen-casting, and e-learning portals. Instructors are now able to deliver lectures before class meetings via instructional videos” (Chung, 2018).  

    Dincher, M., & Wagner, V. (2021). Teaching in times of COVID-19: Determinants of teachers’ educational technology use. Education Economics, 29(5), 461-470. https://doi.org/10.1080/09645292.2021.1920000

    Chung, K. L. (2018). Grounding the flipped classroom approach in the foundations of educational technology. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 66(3), 793-811. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11423-018-9578-x

    Mehta, R., & Gleason, B. (2021). Against empathy: Moving beyond colonizing practices in educational technology. Educational Technology Research and Development, 69(1), 87-90. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11423-020-09901-2

  • Mini Lesson 1: The Digital Divide and Inaccessibility Within Communities

    Click the link to watch the recording.