Moving Forward

Moving forward, I would like to focus on to two visionary values from Reggio Emilia regarding technology and young children:

We strive to use digital tools in an empathetic way, in order to give their interpretation of the world.

Many schools use digital technology in relationship with the screen. We find the need is to move away from the screen.

This is going to be a short post because there is much more thinking I need to do regarding what this will look like and how I will move in this direction with intention.

When we return from CNY, PreK 3 will begin a new unit of study ‘Words and Pictures.’ The unit is very open to interpretation and I need to think a bit about possibilities for this idea of using technology in an empathetic way. The first thoughts that come to mind are connecting to SEL and using ourselves as characters to focus on big feelings that are a part of our human existence.

For now I will let this idea sit and come back with a plan soon.

new space and new possibilities

Well, it’s time to pack up for three weeks of holiday vacation. But…before I do I have to share our exciting week in our new classroom space.

Our very first day in our new, cozy classroom a small group of children created a home for a snake. The block structure was the most complex they have ever built. They also collaborated throughout the process, working together and sharing space and materials. When it was time to clean up – I asked that we all leave the lovely snake house so we could talk about it during Morning Meeting. During our conversation, it became clear that every child involved had a clear shared vision for the project. “Can you tell me about this?” I would ask and soon learned that children had built: a door, lunch, toys, a roof, and a castle for the snake. Such detail! In honor of this first-of-its-kind, collaborative creation – I told a story about the snake (long story short: a wandering Bear stops by and plays with the Snake in the castle. The two are fast friends).

 

 

During the Drawing and Inquiry EARCOS workshop,  Deb and Louise mentioned an important idea when looking for a project. Find the idea that rises to the top. Now, the week before holiday I was not exactly looking for a project. But, this play scenario included 6 children and the entire class was engaged in the play story I shared with them (who doesn’t love oral storytelling). And so, this mini-project, at the very least, seemed like a wonderful way to build community and connection to our new space.

So…we played and we built and we talked about snakes, and told stories about snakes. Snakes, snakes, snakes!

Mid-way through this week, Ms. Cindy, shared an idea with me – that perhaps there is a high school classroom with a real snake. Aha! I brought the idea to the group in the form of a question – ‘Do you think there could be a real snake in our school?’ There was a resounding yes to this possibility. ‘Where could it be?” ‘Under the sink!’ said Irene – and soon the entire class agreed that we had a real snake living under our sink. And so, we left science behind and continued with the art of storytelling – this time telling stories about the snake living under the sink cupboard in our classroom. The snake played in pretend play, played with puzzles, and liked our room very much.

 

(Above): Ann and Leo draw their own snakes and narrate their drawing. Their words are beside their drawing. You can see the shared thinking about snakes.

 

And now comes the digital part of our story:

After using the whiteboard and exploring vertical drawing on a white space. We projected an image of our own cupboard under the sink. We allowed for space to explore as this was a first exploration. As children explored I acted as a memory of our story – and narrated bits of our stories about the snake.

(Above): Day 1 – Irene and Leo exploring digital drawing. The sink cupboard is the background.

(Above): Day 1 – Kiera draws three snakes and her explanation mirrors the stories we have been telling as a class. We are keeping a visual record on the whiteboard (below).

(Above/Below): Day 2 – Leo and Ann draw on top of an image of a snake. Ann creates a story that the snake as it is not wearing pajamas and needs a blanket. Leo, explores color, layers, and negotiating space with a peer.

 

In the past, I would not necessarily look for a digital connection to a project. It would not be at the forefront of my m ind (and as mentioned, I have a bit of an aversion to technology with young children). I noticed myself pause several times as children explored over the two days of digital drawing just to consider the value of the experience. Here are a few of my final thoughts on that topic:

  • This is a meaningful experience for Leo, he seems to need large motor movement and seeks opportunities to work on vertical spaces. This allows him to explore a potential physical or cognitive need.
  • I noticed in my photos that Ann chooses to be a part of these large motor and vertical experiences each time as well. (the value of reflecting on documentation, right there!)
  • Drawing over images (snake and cupboard) allow for a provocation as children create. I do think this supported some in thinking of stories as they drew.
  • The ability to share space and navigate sharing ideas, color choice, etc is a great side-benefit of important social emotional learning.
  • Teacher support – through observation and interjecting at certain moments feels necessary for supporting meaningful connections.

I am really enjoying thinking about technology in a new way. I am slowly growing in my thinking about appropriate use of technology with young children – and that is a good thing!

 

A follow up in thought and practice since Reggio

After any professional learning experience I find it important to experiment with at least one practice/strategy/or concept. Since returning from Reggio Emilia I have been exploring the idea of a digital studio space in the classroom. I noticed in Reggio Emilia that the studio space was always an intentional learning space used by a teacher and a small group of students. It seemed to me that having a clearly defined and separate space supported the big thinking and serious work that took place there. And this felt like an area worth exploring and tinkering with in my own classroom context.

Here are my guiding thoughts:

  1. The area is connected to our current Pre-K 3 grade-level unit on Engagement (engagement with others and the world).
  2. A sub-topic of this unit explores movement. We have had ribbon dancers and an acrobat troupe visit Pre-K 3 over the last three weeks. My wondering – was how could I deepen and extend this learning in the classroom.
    1. How do I use my body to engage with others, the environment, and materials? This has been a guiding essential question for me as I plan and develop learning experiences in this area each day.
  3. Documenting students as they explore this space and engage with materials and others has been imperative for planning logical next opportunities.

Over the two week of exploring this new space there have been big and small moments, explorations, and play experiences. I want to share two threads that connect to the idea of investigating movement – that are also threads we are still following as the unit continues.

Understanding our Body – by Narrating Body  Movement and Sketching Body Movement:

As children have been climbing, jumping, bending, and moving about I have been narrating their movements to help build connection to our body parts and how they help our body move in certain ways. We have extended this noticing(and naming)  our body and movements in the digital studio. And our most recent extension has been drawing and painting body movement of our peers.

Kiera is sketching Peter as he lays in Fish pose on the floor. Before reaching this point, Kiera and Peter explored several yoga poses with me and noticed our body movements projected on the wall. We noticed how strong we looked!

Peter and Kiera are two children who enjoy large body movement and activities. They engaged in painting body movement the day before in a different context (climbing in the middle room). On this day, they were in a small group with me to extend that learning using marker and yoga poses as inspiration.

The Spontaneous Creation of Games:

Peter explored ribbons and fans with me and several other students. Others came and went but Peter stayed for the entire morning of play. Peter and I played with our shadows, playing tag and having a good laugh together. After some time I noticed a new hand in the image on the wall. When I looked I saw Cheuk Hoi. Cheuk Hoi does not often engage in group scenarios and we quickly made the game revolve around his hand. What a smile he flashed at us! He quietly joined the game and became an important member of the group.

 

 

 

These two experiences connect with the guiding essential question: How do I use my body to engage with others, the environment, and materials? and they are still being investigated and documented in the class.

I am enjoying thinking about digital technology in new ways. In Reggio Emilia, it was shared that technology (as they view it) does not need to be child and the screen. It is a tool to build understanding and relationship with the world. I am trying to use this understanding and lens in my planning. More soon!

 

I had the privilege to spend last week in Reggio Emilia learning learning from the teacher researchers of the city. This was my second study tour experience with Reggio Children and I knew, with this visit, I wanted to pay special attention to the use of digital technology. I observed several themes in the schools I visited and noted in all of the projects shared with us during the week:

  • each school had similar digital tools available, present, and used in the classrooms such as: portable image projectors, microscope web cams, simple web cams, camcorders, overhead projectors, digital drawing pads.
  • These relatively simple tools were used in created and increasingly complex ways – corresponding with the age of the children

It’s also important to note, I did not see any iPads in use or any apps. All digital tools and technology were used in an active  way to either:

  • more closely observe and explore an object
  • to alter, digitally, an object
  • to explore the characteristics and traits of something
  • to offer creative inspiration (e.g. tiger background in the block building area)

During one afternoon, study group participants were able to join one specialized atelier. The choices were: digital landscape, paper, clay, photography, and light. I chose to attend the two hour digital landscape session, and I am very happy I did! To begin, the aterierista, Isabella, shared some of the beliefs the educators of Reggio Emilia hold, like…

We strive to use digital tools in an empathetic way, in order to Gove their interpretation of the world.

Many schools use digital technology in relationship with the screen. We find the need is to move away from the screen.

In our hands-on session, small groups had an hour to play and investigate one digital provocation. We were also asked to think about the “identity” of the tools and materials we used. I gravitated to an area with one light/image projector attached to a camcorder, and between those two tools was a white screen. The potential for the digital camcorder to cast images on the screen – as well as the opportunity for creating colorful images of shadows was enchanting. In fact, I learned so much from the fact that I got lost in the fun and magic of the experience. However, getting lost in the play component, I realized in the end that I did not take time to figure out how the system worked – how the digital tools and materials were working together. This was a wonderful misstep – as it led to an important realization. If an adult can struggle to understand and think deeply about the complexity and relationship of the system – then this is an area important to support children’s thinking as well. And within this thinking is such important learning!

 

The images above show the digital space I worked in with a small group.

 

This digital space used simple coding technology, a raspberry and colorful lights connected to the code.

 

 

The two images above show a more complex system using a digital drawing pad, light/image projector, and loose part materials.

 

I have recorded the brand names and types of tools used. I am looking forward to talking with Bec and the Ed Tech team about what we currently have available for use here. I am also taking time now to reflect and think about future planning to insure the introduction and use of any new tool makes sense for – and enriches – the curriculum in place.

Goal and 7Cs Reflection

Reading through the 7Cs I am reminded of what it means to create a great classroom and be an excellent educator. I read through the guide this time through the lens of my own goal. This allowed me to see deeper connections between my area of growth this year and the teaching framework. As an early years educator, who has long considered myself to be an advocate of less technology in the lives of young children, I have room to grow in how to appropriately use technology in the classroom. My goal is to gain proficiency in selecting and using developmentally appropriate technology resources that support student inquiry. In truth, I can see a connection with each area the framework but I think my focus on technology especially connects with curriculum support thread: captivate, clarify, consolidate.

 

 

 

 

As I do not have student surveys to pull from in selecting a goal – I reflected on the teaching standards. I noticed that I had consistent room for growth in how I integrate technology in the classroom. In talking with Frances about this, she mentioned the idea of using technology to transform a lesson or learning – not merely replace a learning experience using technology. This thought resonated with me – and is where I will focus my attention.

Next week I will have the opportunity to visit the schools of Reggio Emilia and learn from Reggio Children. I know the schools of Reggio Emilia use technology in this transformative way and I hope to be inspired, learn from their model, and bring exciting ideas into my own practice when I return.

I will share photos and reflection next week during my time in Reggio Emilia as well. Stay tuned!

it all starts with a meeting

I had a productive and helpful meeting with Frances this afternoon. Before meeting I had a few lingering questions about how I could fit, as an early childhood educator, into this professional growth model. I will have a modified process but I feel confident it will still be rich in learning and growth. Here are a few of the important topics that were clarified.

How can I create a meaningful goal – even though it can not connect to a student survey?

Unfortunately, the early elementary survey, geared toward K-2 is not appropriate for Pre-K 3. I would even question the value and how appropriate some of the questions are for kindergarten. I will share a few sample questions from the survey to highlight my thinking:

Language is so important as it shapes our thinking and perception. I do take issue with words like: mistake and tease. They are words that are used more than once in the survey and place emphasis on negative value systems/culture. Even the idea of  “correcting a mistake” is one that I take issue with philosophically. I wonder how the wording of some of these survey questions align to ISB’s ethos. I also think there is a fix, reframing a question in the positive is possible. The simplicity of reframing language from negative to positive also makes me wonder if both were tested by the survey creators and if there was some reason this choice made more sense to students? I’d like to give them (the survey creators) the benefit of the doubt since this is research-based and every component is likely well thought out.

Without being overly negative myself here – there is a positive! Frances shared a fantastic idea to meet later in the year to develop a series of questions that are appropriate for our youngest learners. I think this is excellent and solutions-focused. The overall framework of this system for professional growth is strong. Any system needs to go through a process – maybe a design-thinking process – to make it fit the people it is serving. I really look forward to participating in this process and making something that other teachers can use next year.

I’m also happy to have a solution for my own goal-making. Rather than create a goal based on student surveys and related to the 7Cs, I will design a goal connected to my self-reflection rubric and the 7C’s. In my next blog post, I will share my goal, along with how it connects to the 7Cc.

 

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