Lessons Learned at the Head Start Conference

HeadStart2014

We’ve been reflecting on the experiences Christine Zanchi and Ashley Lewis-Presser had at Head Start’s 12th National Research Conference on Early Childhood!

Here are a few takeaways:

  • Many early childhood professionals appreciated the NGPM approach to integrating technology into preschool curricula:
    • Aim for technology activities to span 10-15 minute sessions,
    • Maintain a high ratio of traditional to tech-based activities, and
    • Focus on iPad uses that take advantage of the tablet’s unique capabilities.
  • An important element for technology developers to share with the community is a reflection on the design process that led, through many twisting turns, to the current technology and curriculum designs. The field of educational technology is evolving significantly. We all benefit from reflecting on the lessons learned throughout the process of designing new technologies and studying their use in classrooms.
  • So many interesting and connected questions come up!
    • How can our curriculum be adapted to work in different preschool settings, e.g. morning-only versus all-day programs?
    • What would a math curriculum look like, fully integrated with science or another topic? How would we preserve the richness of both domains?
  • The technology provides a tool, one which is perhaps unfamiliar to many teachers and which is certainly changing rapidly. For early educational technologies to be effective, teachers need to be well trained in developmentally appropriate uses of technology. Technology designers and other players in the education arena must make sure that high-quality, sustained opportunities for professional development exist to support teachers.

NGPM can’t wait for next year’s conference!

Next Gen Math in The New York Times!

Picked up the paper lately? Or – more likely – have you taken a look at the online edition of The New York Times on your smartphone or tablet lately? If so, you may have seen the Education Issue of the Science section that ran on September 2, 2013, featuring groundbreaking work and research in science and math education, including – you guessed it! – Next Gen Math! Journalist Lisa Guernsey, who joined us in on one of our visits to our preschool partner sites during our prototype development phase, writes that “scientific research on the educational value of apps is nearly nonexistent. The NextGen project is trying to change that.”

Having our fifteen minutes of fame in The New York Times is, of course, a dream for us. But even more exciting is the fact that is just the beginning of the conversation about technology and curriculum in early education centers. We’re hoping that our focus on the student, the teacher, and the learning will steer the conversation in the right direction from the get-go.

Read the full article, and let us know what you think about apps in the preschool classroom!

Project leaders weigh in

As long as we keep children at the heart of this and learning at the center, and we continue to evolve our practices in collaboration with partners – preschool partners, research partners – I think we can have confidence that we will build out a new age for public media, for learning with technology.”

Summer is winding down, but our team is still going full-force getting our apps and activities classroom-ready. We took a moment to sit down with executive producer Christine Zanchi and one of our research leads, Phil Vahey, to get their thoughts on how NGPM is contributing to the field of technology and early learning. Take a look!

What is Next Gen Math?

In the midst of all the passionate discussions about technology in the classroom, this video reminds us of what’s at the core of what we are doing.

And for those of you new to us:

NGPM is an NSF-funded learning design research project that expands over the period of four years.  Our team is focusing on determining the best approach to integrating technology — in our case, tablet games —  into the preschool classroom to teach math. We’re providing multiple opportunities for learning, from tablet apps to non-digital games and hands-on activities, to real world applications of the learning in preschoolers’ every day lives.

Our development team is working hand-in-hand with learning scientists, preschool teachers, and children to create the materials that comprise the Next Generation Preschool Math project.

 

The iPad as Video Camera/ Notebook

Our eyes are constantly peeled for innovative ways teachers are using iPads in their classroom, and this time, we set our sights across the pond to a school in Switzerland. In a blog post for future tense, a collaboration between Arizona State University, the New America Foundation and Slate, edtech thought leader Lisa Guernsey writes about the Zurich International School, where each of the approximately six hundred first- through eight-graders have been given an iPad.

Here’s the kicker: rather than treating the devices as portable screens or gaming devices, the teachers view the iPads as tools that allow their students to record, capture, and document their learning. Students spend more time producing content – drawing pictures, filming videos, recording themselves talking –  than consuming content. As Lisa writes, the focus was not on what’s coming out of the iPad, but on “what was going into it.”

Allowing students to create content (a process made easier by technology like mobile devices) is a powerful way to engage and motivate them in their learning. As we explore the varied ways teachers are making use of the affordances of iPads, we’re becoming more and more convinced that there is no one-size-fits-all use of mobile devices in classrooms, and that a diversified approach – a recipe including game play, content creation, and content consumption – can work best when teachers personalize for their own classroom and students. The possibilities are endless!