At the Lab, we see leveraging technology as a powerful driver of change in the early childhood field. We recently led a panel conversation with a Head Start inclusion teacher, family child care coach, and professional learning experts to dig into how technology can and is already helping teachers address their wants and needs in supporting young children.
As the early childhood field’s embrace of technology-based solutions grows, we are paying particular attention to adult-facing products. Technology that acts as a support for teachers, caregivers, and parents has the potential to strengthen and allow more time for quality interactions with children.
During our webinar conversation Teaching & Technology, three major teaching challenges and opportunities for tech solutions rose to the top: assessment, family communication and engagement, and professional development. We walked through each challenge and explored some promising tech products with the panel and audience.
Here’s what we heard:
While technology has made significant progress in this space, there’s still opportunity for more improvements. Teachers want technology that helps them consistently input and track data that everyone can use easily and, at the end, gives them a cohesive, clear picture of the data. There’s also added value in assessment products that help educators communicate with parents.
Family Communication and Engagement
Out of all three challenges we discussed, this one came up the most. It’s a critical issue for educators and parents alike, and there are many variable obstacles to success. Some of the challenges, just to name a few, include language barriers between educators and parents, some parents’ lack of access and/or comfort with technology, and the reality of both parents’ and teachers’ busy schedules.
While there are many challenging facets to professional development, during our conversation we came across two main issues: 1) educators have a handful of long trainings chock-full of content throughout the year without many refreshers in between; and 2) there’s often a lack of consistent collaborative time between educators and with other educators at varying levels. There’s opportunity around technology that provides reminders and opportunities for self-reflection between trainings and technology that allows for asynchronous learning.
The panelists had some additional advice for program decision-makers:
- It’s typically preferable to buy rather than build products, unless no product out there is meeting your needs.
- Technology needs to be user-friendly, readily accessible, and engaging so that educators and/or parents not only know how to use it but want to use it. If a tech product isn’t immediately intuitive, consider the training and supports that might be needed.
Our sincere thanks go to the speakers for sharing their perspectives on teaching and technology with us:
Sheetal Singh (moderator)
Interim Executive Director
The Early Learning Lab
Special Education Inclusion Pre-K Teacher
McKinley Elementary, Franklin-McKinley School District
Family Resource Center Initiative
Franklin McKinley Children’s Initiative
Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County
Director of Early Childhood Practice and Innovation
The Early Learning Lab
Senior Director, Early Learning
New Teacher Center
This summer, be on the lookout for more webinars on technology in early childhood and a report examining early childhood funding and technology opportunities.