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Reflections from Supporting Educators Worldwide during Pandemic

By: Jenna Herdzina, Morgan Russo, & Alexis Lauricella

Erikson Institute’s Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center’s mission is to support child development through 1.) Understanding how digital media and technology play a role in early childhood and 2.) Informing and supporting the adults who influence children’s development and education. From the start of school shut-downs in Spring 2020 through the 2020-2021 school year, we dedicated our work to providing professional development to support educators worldwide with the adjustments required by remote learning, supporting more than 75,000 educators.

Teachers will be more informed and more confident in supporting high quality technology and digital media use with young children if teachers are provided (1) research on how children learn from screens, (2) frameworks and concrete examples on how to use research to guide teaching practices, and (3) space to discuss and reflect with other teachers who are experiencing similar challenges.

When the pandemic-related school shut-downs began during Spring 2020, we pivoted our in-person professional development program online and extended our reach by offering free public PD opportunities to educators nationwide. 

“Please keep this kind of collaboration with the early childhood community” Shared in webinar chat from midwestern educator, January 2021

The summer of 2020 and school year of 2020-21 brought new clients and teachers to TEC Center virtually. We supported teachers by providing synchronous webinars and asynchronous workshops. 

  • We hosted widely-attended webinars, free and open to the public, on topics ranging from “How to Choose Technology” to “Remote STEM Learning”, with a total of 3,734 attendees from across the world. 
  • In the Summer of 2020, TEC Center also hosted PD for a Northeast client, reaching a total of 852 educators. 
  • In Fall and Winter 2020, TEC Center delivered a variety of professional development which included a public series, reaching 240 attendees, as well as synchronous webinars to teachers representing new clients from across the country, reaching 2,399 educators. 
  • Asynchronously, we provided professional development workshops, reaching over 8,000 views and over 21,000 impressions, with over 2,000 hours of content watched. 

This year showed us that technology use enabled us to have a far greater reach than we previously thought possible.

“Engaging, informative and immediately applicable!” Shared in webinar chat from midwestern educator, December 2020

“Today I really gained a greater understanding of Media Literacy, which is much wider than I originally thought.” Shared in post-webinar survey in August, 2021

Our team at the TEC Center has witnessed an overwhelming amount of patience, perseverance, and willingness to try something new from education leaders and educators. As we reflect back on the past school year (2020-2021), there were so many lessons learned that we will continue to apply as we continue to support teachers moving into the upcoming school year and beyond. Two of these lessons learned included:

  1. Teachers’ needs vary immensely. At the beginning of school shutdowns, our team made assumptions about what teachers need to know, but we were met with requests for so many different topics, and questions relating to their specific situations. During remote professional development, we quickly learned that every school, every district, and every state really had such varying experiences with what they were dealing with, specifically related to COVID-19 and school shutdowns, access to technologies, as well as teacher knowledge, comfort, and experiences with technology and abilities to support students remotely. Some classrooms already had experiences with 1:1 tablets in their classrooms and teachers were concerned about efficiency and the quality of screen-based activities, while other classrooms and communities were dealing with low technology access and teachers were concerned about communication with caregivers. Moving forward, our team will continue to prioritize the needs of teachers throughout our client intake process, as well as during our PD development and delivery.
  1. While there are standards for high quality, impactful professional development, there needs to be a balance of clients’ wants and needs with standards. We know the best professional development is done over a long period of time, meeting with the same teachers over and over again, allowing for implementation and reflection of the PD content (Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M.E., Gardner, M., 2017). However, at a time of so much uncertainty of what education and the classroom would look like in the next week or month, clients were asking for something simple: examples of developmentally appropriate apps, websites, and online activities their teachers can use with their students tomorrow. We shifted from providing year-long PD programs to focusing on the small wins of teachers attending today, which meant more one-off workshops, and less requiring teachers to attend multiple webinars. As we move forward, we will continue to challenge ourselves to allow “best practices” to guide our practice, but also listen to our clients and teachers.

With the 2021-2022 school year well underway, the TEC Center is continuing to support educators to intentionally and effectively bring educational technology into classrooms to support student learning and engagement both in their physical classrooms and to connect the home to school learning pipeline.

References

  1. Darling-Hammond, L., Hyler, M. E., Gardner, M. (2017). Effective Teacher Professional Development. Palo Alto, CA: Learning Policy Institute.
Jenna teaching

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