Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Learning Journals

Connecting Pedagogy with Digital Technology



At UWCSEA Dover Campus we are in our second year of adopting a TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) model based on the exclusive use of tablets, specifically iPads as the primary form of digital technology use in our early years grades. These mobile, multi touch screens have profoundly changed the way our youngest children interact with images, sounds, and ideas (Buckleitner, 2011). We are building a team of digitally literate educators who are grounded in child development theory and developmentally appropriate practices, and who are now becoming more and more proficient in their selection and use of digital tools and interactive media. Media that suit the ages and developmental levels of the children in their care, and, most importantly, that know when and how to integrate technology into the planned and taught curriculum effectively.

As the transformative impact of these technologies began to make themselves felt within the classrooms through the Infant School, it became more and more apparent that these technologies are uniquely suited to reshape the way they as educators share the work they do with their children’s families. The ease with which these mobile devices enable children to save, document, revisit, and share their real-life experiences through images, stories, and sounds, meant embracing a screen based medium as opposed to traditional paper portfolios. The screen allows us to capture these young learners in the modes that are most natural to them, their talk, their activity, alive with interactivity and multimodality, a far cry from the static nature of traditional paper portfolios that are virtually synonymous with early years education. When we made the shift to a digital format we changed the name, as the term 'Portfolio' implied product over process, best work over, well, work. What we really want to see is the 'journey' of learning, yes the final 'product', but arguably more importantly, the process of learning that the student/teacher captures.

[Digital] Learning Journals

Traditional portfolios tend to focus on the latest and best, but this creates what might be termed a ‘performance portfolio’, which supports summative assessment well, but tends to obscure the ‘learning journey’ (WiIliam, 2011). For an incremental view of ability, a learning journal is far more useful. When better work is done, it is added to the portfolio rather than replacing earlier work to allow students, teachers and parents to reflect on review the learning journey of the student. By looking back at earlier samples of their work, they can see what has developed, which has two immediate benefits. The first is that by seeing what has improved and thus identifying the trajectory of development, the student is likely to be able to see how further improvement might be possible. The second is that by focusing on improvement, the student and the parents are more likely to see their child’s ability as incremental rather than fixed (Dweck, 2006).

By leveraging the affordances of digital technologies, students can start developing such learning journals at a very young age. The integration of these digital tools allows these learning journals to be situated online helping educators make and strengthen home–school connections. With technology becoming more prevalent as a means of sharing information and communicating with one another, early childhood educators have an opportunity to build stronger relationships with parents and enhance family engagement. Early childhood educators always have had a responsibility to support parents and families by sharing knowledge about child development and learning. Digital tools offer new opportunities for educators to build relationships, maintain ongoing communication, and exchange information and share online resources with parents and families. Likewise, parents and families can use technology to ask questions, seek advice, share information about their child, and feel more engaged in the program and their child's experiences there (NAEYC, 2012).

Digital devices are now commonplace in homes and offer new and affordable ways for busy family members to communicate, connect to the Internet, and access information and social media tools to stay in touch with their families and their child's teachers and caregivers. These digital learning journals can support the ways educators measure and record development, document growth, plan activities, and share information with parents, families, and communities. The unique affordances of digital learning journals means they not only include photographs but audio and video recordings as well, to document, archive, and share a child's accomplishments and developmental progression with families in face-to-face conferences or through social media. Sending regular updates through social media or email helps families feel more connected to their children and their activities away from home. Most educators understand the value of writing down or recording notes that a child may want to give to parents. Using email, or other communication tools demonstrates the same concept about communication and helps to build digital literacy skills at the same time.

Digital Learning Journals model effective use of technology and interactive media for parent communication and family engagement and also creates opportunities to help parents themselves become better informed, empowering them to make responsible choices about technology use and screen time at home. This engages them as in a partnership with their child’s teachers, meaning that parents can extend classroom learning activities into the home, and encourages co-viewing, co-participation, and joint media engagement between parents and their children (Stevens & Penuel 2010; Takeuchi 2011).

For more details, with examples and a breakdown of our set up please visit this post at http://bit.ly/uwckindy



References

Buckleitner W (2011). “Setting Up a Multi-Touch Preschool.” Children’s Technology Review 19 (3): 5–9. www.childrenssoftware.com/pdf/g3.pdf

Dweck C (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House LLC.

NAEYC Statement (2012). A joint position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at Saint Vincent College. http://www.naeyc.org/files/naeyc/file/positions/PS_technology_WEB2.pdf

Wiliam D (2011). Embedded formative assessment.

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