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Certified PreK-6. Masters in Child Development. Advocate for play, teacher & children choice, & the family's voice. Believe in volunteering as social justice.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Strengthening Relationships Through Technology

Through the course of my internship I've really been pushed to articulate my reasonings behind choices that I make. In particular, I have been focusing on articulating why the use of tech tools to supplement in person relationships. Essentially, the program I am interning with works to provide support and professional development to pre-k through third grade teachers in ten of our city schools. One of the goals of the program is to create a community of practice across the pre-k to 3rd grade levels within each school and across the ten schools. One of the challenges is that the schools are spread throughout the city and are not all on the same academic calendar. This means that it is often difficult to provide space and time for the teachers to meet in person to network and build relationships in which to get support and reflection. That's where I come in. It is my role to develop a framework that will encourage the teachers to engage in dialogue via virtual means.

To me, this seems pretty straightforward as I have found tools such as blogging and Twitter to be invaluable in reflecting on my practice and connecting with others passionate about early childhood. What I'm realizing is that it's not so straightforward to everyone. It's easy to get caught up in the abstract idea of technology versus the idea that technology is just a tool that can help support relationships. I created a mind map to help illustrate the interplay among tech tools, other tools, reasons for networking, and relationships that seemed to bring the team back to the root of our goals. Relationships.

Just as in teaching children, when supporting teachers through professional development, relationships are the heart and soul of the process. Everything that I have been suggesting we explore to network our teachers is focused on building bridges to relationships-on connecting teachers when distance and time prevent them from doing so in person. For it is within relationships that we learn. It is within relationships that we learn to trust in reflection and feedback. It is within relationships that we grow as individuals and professionals.

With relationships forefront on my mind, I attended a conference today, Technology for the Early Years. Coming home, I looked through the tweets I sent (and which ones started the most conversation) and through my journal. One word stood out repeatedly. Relationships. At a conference focused on the intentional use of technology in early childhood, the focus was on relationships. A panelist talked about the ability of technology to create strong, focused, and beautiful documentation. Documentation that helped bridge the relationship between families and school. Another presenter talked about redefining technology from the days of an isolated child alone at a computer to one of children working in collaboration and research around a tech tool to deepen their experience within the classroom. As I observed teachers playing with a variety of tech tools, I watched them engage in conversation-in building relationships with each other over a shared experience.

It is quite clear to me that relationships are the integral piece to both childhood learning and to teacher development. By whatever ways we can, we must foster relationships and collaboration.

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