Words are important. I believe that when we use our words to communicate about our work with children they are critical. When people come into my classroom and watch or join us at work, one reason that I believe they do not want to leave is because they are touched by the sense of purpose with which we approach our daily work. Our words have purpose, our actions have purpose, and it is very clear that what we do comes from a place of value and trust.
I recently read a post by Christine Pinto which I had seen before. Her work with children and technology is stellar, and she leads teachers and children on their journey to discovery. Although I had seen this particular post, I stopped and reread it - carefully. I was not paying as much attention to the logistics of the activity this time, but to the purpose with which she and her children work. What struck me was the very meaningful transition from the concrete, developmentally appropriate and high level tasks for children, to the digital communication of their ideas. Through this lesson, the children were able to explore, discover, self-reflect, and communicate in a way that matches the world in which they live. This is why our communication is important. This is why our words are important.
In my respect and admiration for her work, I retweeted her post. When she responded with a compliment about my words, I really took time to think about the importance of how we, as teachers communicate. A simple tweet back did not feel right. A message directly to Christine felt too safe - my thoughts needed to be communicated with more than one person. A blog post sharing my ideas on this subject - risky...and necessary. I trust that if you are here reading my words, they are meant to fall upon your ears.
When we question, share, and explore possibilities together, we lift each other up. We model for our kids how they can lift each other up. When we communicate, our words matter because we have to be very clear on why our work needs to grow and change. In the world of early childhood education, teachers are extremely protective of their work. They have been trained in what is important for young children, and will often hold fast to protecting them from the ever-changing world in which they live. They will try to create a safe-haven from technology so that children can experience childhood in its purity. It is a noble perspective, and I get it. Teachers of young children work from a place of love and passion. This is their gift.
However, I propose an alternate perspective. The most successful progressive educational philosophies have always allowed for growth and change. The people that work within these settings hold fast to the ideals in which they believe, but they also constantly reconsider the ways in which the needs of their children change based on the cultural shifts that surround them. They understand that we can keep what is organic and real, and elevate it with purpose and intention.
Technology is defined as the application of scientific knowledge for practical purposes. Today, we often make the leap right to digital technology when we consider the definition. However, one of the greatest examples of the need to innovate learning and play came through the introduction of a technology which is common in every classroom in America today - the picture book. The mass produced picture book solved an everyday problem of how we would help young children learn to read. It served the purpose of helping to develop young minds to contribute to society and their evolving world. What is fascinating is the idea that people had to discover the most meaningful and effective ways to use picture books. It was a process that, over time, led to the conclusion that we cannot simply give children picture books and expect them to learn to read. It is the interaction with the book and surrounding adults that supports the reading process for young children. It is the integration of picture books into their play and daily experience that makes it an effective tool - or technology - for learning and communicating.
Now, consider where we are when using digital technology with young children. We are in the exploration phase. This is the messy part - the real part. Where we question and try new things and make discoveries about how we can support children in our current culture. So, our words are unbelievably important. In order to support meaningful and thoughtful change, we must be clear with each other, with our families, and with the children we have the privilege and responsibility of guiding each day.
So, thank you for taking the journey with me and reading my words. I am so grateful to be able to share them with you.
Heart & Soul,