Article #5 from an ongoing Series
I began to seriously consider computer literacy and technological know-how as an important workplace competency for our students in the Early Care and Education workforce when I first joined the SCANS workgroup in 2001.
There is considerable debate in the Early Care and Education literature about the benefits and dangers of introducing very young children to technology in their learning settings. And yet, the workforce is increasingly acknowledging the value and inevitability of technology for adults.
During the initial year, the activities were limited to a soft recommendation that student/instructor communication could occur by email, and a compulsory Internet assignment. This assignment was initially presented as an opportunity to increase familiarity with web resources about children and their families and generally occurs in self-selected groups of two or three with varying technical expertise. Students visit recommended sites, or search by topic and report on the experience, their challenges and findings. Over time the assignment has been modified to include more formal rubrics. James Lim from the Rosenburg Library has been extremely helpful by making a presentation on web research to my Horace Mann Middle School evening class.
In the subsequent years, the invitation to correspond by email became a strong preference, and the number of assignments submitted electronically continues to rise.
This year we are using an electronic reader in place of a text or photocopied reader. Students receive a list of web sites and journal article titles from InfoTrak, which they print out from the Internet. They also are given a letter addressed to their employer, in most cases child care center directors, requesting that they be given access to an agency computer and printer if necessary. This idea has been very well received. Students agree that it allows for an affordable, current, flexible selection of sources without violation of copyright law.
Instructors who have delayed using technology due to concerns that they are not themselves as expert as they might wish, may be heartened by Karl Wheatley’s article Increasing Computer Use in Early Childhood Teacher Education: The Case of a "Computer Muddler" (http://www.citejournal.org/vol2/iss4/general/article1.cfm) The author was the somewhat reluctant recipient of a U.S. Department of Education Preparing Tomorrow’s Teachers to Use Technology grant, and found that teacher educators with average technology skills are often more influential models than are educators with more advanced skills. He came to see himself as someone who could succeed, particularly with help, and provides inspiration for other “muddlers.”