In order to make this site a responsive and relevant resource for early childhood educators, I conducted an online survey (responses still welcome!) to find out what technologies teachers currently use in their classrooms and at home and what they would like to know about using technology to create global learning experiences.
I sent the survey out via Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as to colleagues I know working in the field of early childhood. I had 23 teachers respond from Canada, Japan, across the U.S., and a few other locations. They teach children between the ages of two and eight and have been teaching for anywhere from one to forty years. They work at a range of public, private, and charter schools and the majority of them self-identified as being very comfortable with using new technologies. While most (19) of them said they are currently using technology in their classrooms only about a third of responders are using technology for global collaboration.
The most common type of tools teachers said they currently use in their classrooms were mobile tools, presentation tools, video and audio tools, and collaboration tools. Of the teachers who are using technology, more than half of them reported receiving no training on the technologies they use, having to teach themselves these tools.
Of the teachers (10) who are using technology for global collaboration, many of them shared innovative and exciting ways of using tech tools to create global learning experiences. For example, teachers reported using Voicethread to discuss books or math problems with a partner class, using Twitter to follow as many as twenty other classrooms around the world to discover similarities and differences in their classrooms, and using Skype for the SkypePlay project where Kindergarteners free play via video chat with another Kindergarten class. The geographic range of connections was also very exciting. Classrooms in Qatar, Japan, UK, China, Indonesia, Argentina, U.S., Australia, and New Zealand are all using technology to connect their students for global learning. You can hear more about some of these projects on the Teacher Stories page of the site.
In the survey, I asked teachers “What type of research or how-to articles would help you use technology more effectively and/or more often?”Responses included:
- YouTube video examples
- How-to tutorials
- Information about overcoming (parent) fear of using social media and tech with young children
- Information about how to find other language immersion classes
- How to use specific tools (e.g., Glogster, Symbaloo, Prezi)
- Sample lesson plans integrating technology
- Examples of how other teachers are using technology
- How to build interactive websites
- How to find teachers to connect/work with around the globe
- Conceptual articles about why and how to integrate global collaboration via technology into early childhood education
I have worked to include resources to address each of these responses on the website, particularly on the Related References and Global Tools pages. My hope is that the Teacher Stories will also bring some of these projects to life and help demonstrate what projects look like in current classrooms. A few of the responses are issues I hope to cover in more depth as the site grows (e.g., creating a database of ECE teachers looking to collaborate globally).
Responders also had interesting suggestions for what types of projects they would you like to do using technology to connect to other classrooms:
- Connect with classes to compare and witness different cultures
- Engage in shared classroom activities: seasonal or thematic
- Share ideas, experiences, and projects with classes around the globe
- Writing projects: letters, website creation, pen pals
- Projects that allow for authentic collaboration & shared learning
- Projects to share math and science explorations in real-time
- Transdisciplinary, inquiry-based projects to enrich children’s conceptual understanding
In response to these ideas, I created the Ideas to Action page to help teachers find resources and tips for starting these types of projects. I also tried to find examples of similar projects or project databases, listed on the Current Projects page, to link teachers to so they could find other teachers looking to engage in similar work.
The last piece of data I gathered from my survey was what type of free professional development would help teachers most. There were four choices and the breakdown of responses were as follows:
- 17 (74%) - How to network with other teachers at your grade level
- 8 (35%) - How to network with other teachers around the globe
- 11 (48%) - How to use digital technologies to collaborate with other
- 9 (39%) - How to use digital technologies to connect your students to other students
I was surprised at how strong of an interest there was in teacher-to-teacher networking and collaboration. I think this is an under-utilized opportunity for global collaboration and I believe deeply that we can all learn a great deal from sharing our pedagogical beliefs and practices around the world. Still, I hope more and more early childhood teachers also begin to express an interest in student-to-student collaboration. In my experience, there often seems to be a view that young children are not capable or ready to use technology to collaborate and connect with other children around the globe but I feel that the global projects currently taking place in early childhood classrooms demonstrate otherwise.