PLAYBACK: At Issue: Access to Technology and Social Media in Schools, From Pre-K to College


3.11.12 | NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center release statement on technology and interactive media in early childhood programs; PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are providing free apps to Head Start centers; students (and schools) demand more access to technology and the web, and YouTube, among others, responds; South by Southwest isn’t just for bands and techies anymore—the highlights from SXSWedu.

Guidance on Use of Media and Interactive Technology in Early Childhood Programs: The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center have released a long-awaited joint position statement on “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.” The statement, key points and examples of effective practice are available online at

“Our world and technology are rapidly changing; teachers and administrators face new choices every day about how to use interactive technologies,” Jerlean Daniel, executive director for NAEYC, said in a statement. “The position statement provides important, timely, research-based guidance to professionals as they consider if, when and how to use technologies.”

“We believe that when used appropriately, technology and interactive media have tremendous potential to nurture early learning and development,” added Rita Catalano, Executive Director for the Fred Rogers Center. “The position statement is intended to support all those who care for and about young children in making informed, child-centered decisions about these new tools.”

Spotlight has reported on the work leading up to this release and will have more coverage of the statement next week.

Bridging the “App Gap”: Speaking of early learning experiences, PBS and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) are looking to bridge the “app gap” by providing two free educational apps to Head Start centers, local PBS stations, and organizations in underserved communities.

All Aboard the Dinosaur Train! for iPad and Dinosaur Train Camera Catch! for iPhone, are designed to help kids ages 3 to 5 build critical math skills. The apps can be downloaded onto devices that families have access to in local Head Start centers and other community organizations.

“Through this new initiative with Head Start, we are taking a step towards helping bridge the achievement gap by offering access to the latest educational media content to kids in underserved communities across the country,” said Lesli Rotenberg, senior vice president, Children’s Media, PBS, in this release.

The collaboration is part of the Ready to Learn Initiative, a grant program managed by the U.S. Department of Education.

YouTube is Now Cool, for Teachers: Since Google launched YouTube for Schools in December, giving educators the ability to limit student access to YouTube EDU videos plus videos their school has added, more schools are allowing YouTube in the classroom, reports The New York Times’ Stephanie Strom.

“We’re really excited about it here,” said John Connolly, educational technology director for the Chicago Public Schools, which began allowing teachers to use YouTube for Schools last month. “We’re making content and tools available to our teachers to help them increase and enhance their teaching.”

Chicago is perhaps the largest school district to loosen its restrictions, but school technology administrators say it is just a matter of time until more barriers fall. At a time when financially ailing states are slashing public education budgets and there is mounting evidence of a widening achievement gap between rich and poor students, schools can ill afford to turn off a free source of credible, often premium, educational tools.

The story also notes that Google is creating and soliciting new channels; TED, for example, will launch a channel on Monday that will eventually include hundreds of educational videos.

Students Demand the Right to Use Technology in Schools: Students from five Los Angeles-area schools raised money to travel to the 2012 Digital Media and Learning conference in San Francisco earlier this month, where they delivered an important message: They want access to the same technology and tools that are considered commonplace at schools with greater resources.

Tina Barseghian of Mind/Shift has a great post covering the students’ research on technology use and availability in their schools. At one high school, for example, only 10 of the school’s 30 laptops can access the internet, and the majority of computers operate on Windows 2001.

“If our school has technology and equitable resources, our graduation rates and college attendance rates will increase,” a Morningside High student said. “This means we’ll have more prepared students for our democracy, and we’ll have more public conversations about equity.”

Other issues raised include not being allowed to use personal tech tools in the classroom or losing access to those tools for minor disciplinary infractions. Students also argued for the opportunity to learn new media literacies and good digital citizenship: “Doesn’t it make sense to use the tools that engage us the most? How are we supposed to use technology responsibly if we don’t use it at all? Why aren’t schools creating culturally relevant curriculum?”

Pioneering Digital Media in Education: Francis Parker School, an independent day school in San Diego, is at the other end of the resource spectrum (high school tuition is $26,000 per year). A column by Kevin Yaley, head of Francis Parker, popped up in my news feed this week. It’s worth noting that the students from Los Angeles are asking for the same opportunities Yaley is arguing that independent schools have a responsibility to provide:

Independent schools are in a prime position to pioneer the use of digital media in education; and because of this, they also have a responsibility to set a pro-active and forward-thinking example for other educators across the nation. At Francis Parker School, our leadership has always been passionate about pushing beyond the bounds of conventional education techniques and circumventing the borders of brick and mortar classroom walls: and in keeping with this philosophy, we are taking action to improve our students’ fluency in digital media through the integration of contemporary technology into our already diverse and comprehensive curriculum.

The way we see it, a communications education focused solely on traditional essay writing and public speaking skills leaves today’s students at a disadvantage when it comes to interaction within the global community. In the future – and even, in many respects, at this very moment – proficiency with social media outlets like Facebook, Twitter and blogs will play an essential role in the exchange of information sharing and development of ideas throughout the world at large. Thus, it is critical to bring these platforms into the classroom – and to teach using a variety of both contemporary and conventional methods in order to prepare our students for engaged and effective careers.

You Can’t Study Digital Media Without Computers: “Do you know what it requires to be a Digital Media student? Other than a lot of creativity and time, the complete Adobe Creative Suite is a must,” writes Honor Stewart, a student at Florida State College Jacksonville and layout editor of the Campus Voice Online.

The problem is, the two campuses that have the full suite of Adobe programs are at least 20 miles away. Individual ownership isn’t always practical—the cost is high, and users need a computer that can handle the software.
“So, a huge chunk of us have to find extra time around classes, part-time jobs and family life to drive back up to South Campus or Deerwood Center to finish homework,” writes Stewart.

“As a full time student who has no job and very little gas money, it would be fantastic to have a lab at Kent with the full Adobe Suite and Maya in more than one lab. It would make getting work done a lot easier. If I had time to make picket signs, I would, and I assure you, the rest of the Digital Media students would be right behind me.”

Conference Highlights, Reflections: South by Southwest receives a good deal of attention for the bands and the tech speakers—but what about education? Based on the growing interest in SXSWedu, now in its second year, it’s not hard to imagine it competing for buzz. Take a look at the #SXSWedu tweets.

John Barilone, community manager of DMLcentral, covers the highlights of the three-day SXSWedu, including the keynoters, sessions and controversies. Here’s an excerpt from Barilone’s discussion of the Distinguished Speaker sessions featuring S. Craig Watkins (“Education in a World of Social and Technological Change”) and Jane McGonigal (“Learning is an Epic Win”).

Watkins kicked things off by looking at the profile of a future digital learner and insisting that we need to prepare for their arrival: “How do we begin to reimagine formal and informal learning environments that prepare to receive these future young learners?” he asked. “We have 21st century kids walking into 20th century classrooms.” (This quote struck a nerve, as it was Tweeted and ReTweeted repeatedly).

As an extension of his statement that “learning happens anywhere, anytime in today’s networked age,” Watkins walked the audience through the DML Research Hub’s new connected learning model and a simplified version of the related infographic that were introduced last week at DML2012

McGonigal set the energy level for her talk by getting each person in the room involved in a game of “massively multiplayer thumb wrestling.” It was definitely the most interesting and entertaining icebreaker I’ve ever seen/done. A renowned game designer, McGonigal is in the business of “taking games seriously” and grabbed the audience’s attention early with this statistic: by the time they are 21, the average person [presumably in the ‘Millennial’ generation] will have played 10,000 hours of video games. If combined with education in the classroom, McGonigal argued, this could help young people develop important skills and encourage them to achieve greater heights in global citizenship.

For more from DML2012, read Mimi Ito’s reflections on technology discussions and differences in approach to educational reform, along with my colleague Sarah’s take-aways and Spotlight’s Q&A with keynote speaker John Seely Brown.

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