Second Annual Tech for the Early Years Conference
October 17-18, 2013  •  8:30 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Confirmed speakers include the following:


Amanda Armstrong 2Amanda Armstrong is the Program Coordinator for the TEC Center. She earned her master’s from Erikson Institute and has worked with nonprofit organizations focusing on after-school and tutoring programs for children. She has also conducted research for Erikson’s Early Math Collaborative and taught at Northwestern University’s Leapfrog animation course for 3rd graders. Amanda is a currently leadership team member of ISTE’s Early Learning and Technology special interest group and NAEYC”s Technology and Young Children interest forum.


Katie Blochowiak smallKatie Blochowiak is originally from Milwaukee, WI.  She studied painting at the Maryland Institute, College of Art.  After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree she moved to Chicago in search of new adventures.  Katie gravitated  towards working with young children  professionally for the last eleven years, babysitting, nannying, and finally working in a Chicago Public School tuition-based preschool classroom as a teacher assistant.  During this time, Katie learned and experimented with age-appropriate ways to use technology as a tool while working with young children.  She is currently student teaching and is set to graduate from the Erikson Institute in May 2014.


Warren BuckleitnerWarren Buckleitner, Ph.D., specializes on how young children use interactive media. He’s been a preschool, elementary and college teacher and has provided testimony to the FTC and the US Congress. He speaks at education and library conferences and covers children’s technology for the New York Times Gadgetwise blog.  He is the founding editor of Children’s Technology Review ( and holds a degree in elementary education from Central Michigan University (Cum Laude), an MA in early childhood education from Pacific Oaks College, and a doctorate in educational psychology from Michigan State University.  He coordinates the Bologna Ragazzi Digital Prize and is the founder of the Dust or Magic Institute ( and the Mediatech Foundation (, a non-profit community technology center housed in his town’s library, where serves as a Trustee. He plays trumpet in a Dixieland jazz band, and is the proud father of two daughters.


Daren CarstensDaren Carstens founded Carstens Studios Inc., where he authors, designs, programs illustrates, and develops educational products for children. He has worked in K-12 educational publishing for over 20 years, and his work has received many awards including the prestigious international Bologna Children’s Book Fair New Media Prize in the Best Educational Software category, 2010 & 2011 Parents’ Choice Gold Awards – Parents’ Choice Foundation, and 2010 & 2011 & 2012 Editor’s Choice Awards – Children’s Technology Review.

Daren combines the rare talent of a thorough understanding of learning processes with the ability to bring creativity and innovation to sound instructional products. In addition to creating and developing its own products Carstens Studios has partnered with other companies including PBS, The Jim Henson Company, and Money Savvy Generation.


Arlyne ChinArlyne Chin is a Sr. Project Manager for an Information Technology company.  She studied Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Chicago where her affinity for technology began.  She has worked for various technology companies since 1995.

Arlyne is a wife and mother of two boys (ages 8 and 9).  She has spent many hours volunteering her time and technology talents to various organizations and activities that support her sons’ school.  She grew up in the Unix world, works in the Windows world but plays in the Apple world so her experience crosses multiple platforms.

In her spare time, Arlyne is an avid weekend athlete spending many weekends competing in endurance races.  If asked, Arlyne would describe herself as a wife, mother, daughter, sister, eternal volunteer, athlete, and blogger.


Chip DonohueChip Donohue, Ph.D., is the Dean of Distance Learning and Continuing Education at Erikson Institute and Director of the TEC Center.  He is also a Senior Fellow of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, where he co-chaired the working group that revised the 2012 NAEYC/FRC Joint Position Statement on Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Program serving children from Birth through Age 8.  In 2012 he received the first Bammy Award and the Educators Voice Award as Innovator of the Year from the Academy of Education Arts & Sciences.



caroline_hu_flexer_headshotCaroline Hu Flexer is a Co-Founder of Duck Duck Moose, award-winning creator of mobile apps for children. Founded in 2008, Duck Duck Moose focuses on developing high-quality, educational, fun and engaging apps that are beautifully designed and loved by both children and parents. To date, the company has created 17 top-selling apps – Wheels on the Bus, Old MacDonald, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Baa Baa Black Sheep, Peek-a-Zoo, Musical Me, Puzzle Pop, Fish School, Park Math, Word Wagon, Moose Math, Duck Duck Moose Reading, Trucks, More Trucks, Draw & Tell, Princess Fairy Tale Maker and Super Hero Comic Maker – and has received 15 Parents’ Choice awards, 16 Children’s Technology Review Editor’s Choice Awards and a KAPi award for the “Best Children’s App” at the 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show. Duck Duck Moose apps have received millions of paid downloads. Duck Duck Moose is headquartered in San Mateo, California.

Prior to Duck Duck Moose, Caroline worked as a design consultant at IDEO, and as a software product manager at Intuit.  She holds an AB in Architecture from Princeton University, attended the Master in Architecture program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, and received an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business. She lives in Palo Alto, CA with her husband Michael and two daughters (7 years old and 5 years old), who are the real Duck Duck Moose product managers


Christine Carriere WEBChristine Flynn has worked for Chicago Public Schools for more than 13 years as a classroom teacher and Reading First reading coach. She has taught grades 1 through 4. She has two degrees in English literature, a master’s degree in literacy, language, and culture, and is currently working on her doctorate in curriculum and instruction with a concurrent master’s degree in measurement, statistics, evaluation and assessment. She especially enjoys working with young children as they develop their literacy skills.


Angela FowlerAngela Fowler is a Lecturer in the Education Department at Columbia College Chicago.  She is co-creator of childFolio, an authentic assessment application being released by Experience Early Learning.  The assessment system for iPads allows educators to instantly connect different forms of authentic assessment with formalized standards and benchmarks.  Ms. Fowler is also the author of a book on authentic assessment, scheduled for release in 2013.


AnnGadzikowski smallAnn Gadzikowski is an early childhood educator with a passion for challenging children to think creatively and critically. She is the author of Challenging Exceptionally Bright Children in Early Childhood Classrooms (Redleaf Press, 2013) as well as classroom readers, textbooks, teacher guides, and articles. Ann is the Early Childhood Coordinator for the Center for Talent Development at Northwestern University and oversees the popular summer Leapfrog program at six locations throughout the Chicago area. Visit her Website:


Devorah HeitnerDevorah Heitner Ph.D., is an experienced speaker, workshop leader, and consultant. She is also the founder of Raising Digital Natives and an expert on the research about kids and media. “I love helping families enhance their lives by using technology in a smarter way and making a few small tweaks to tame the stress from the overwhelmingly connected world we live in.” Devorah is currently writing an e-handbook called Raising Your Digital Native.

Devorah earned her Ph.D. in media/technology and society from Northwestern University and has published and spoken in the field of media studies for the past ten years. She has taught at DePaul University, the Better Boys Foundation, Street Level Youth Media and Northwestern University. She is delighted to be raising a budding digital native.


Hofmann smallSharon Hofmann is a second grade teacher at Catherine Cook School.  She has a Bachelors in Psychology and Education from Colgate University and a Masters in Literacy Education from New York University.  Sharon has taught first and second grade in New York City.  Sharon enjoys embracing new challenges celebrating the successes, and learning from her students.  She seeks out ways to learn from other teachers by participating in various professional learning communities and by attending high quality workshop offerings such as the Reading and Writing Project held at Columbia University Teachers College.  Sharon has also participated in non-profit organizations such as Literacy Works and the Fresh Air Fund.


Mariah JonesMariah Jones has been teaching for six years with experience working with children from birth-Kindergarten. She is the three-five year old Master Pre-K Teacher at Christopher House. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Early Childhood Education with a Type 04 from National-Louis University in June 2011, and her ESL (English as a second language) endorsement from Kendall in March 2013. Her passion is working with children and families and building relationships with the families to meet the needs of the child as a whole. Maria is always eager to grow and learn in this field and excited to continue building her knowledge in all different areas as well as share knowledge that she has gained to build a community of growing teachers.


Tamara Kaldor HeadshotTamara Kaldor, a developmental therapist and director of Chicago PLAY Project, has more than a decade of experience supporting families with children with special needs and developmental delays. She specializes in working with children and families to find success using the DIR®/Floortime™ model through The P.L.A.Y Project™. She provides in-home one-on-one therapy, facilitates peer playgroups, develops parent education and training programs, and provides inclusion support services in the classroom and in community programs. Her creativity, passion for social-emotional learning through play, and strong commitment to supporting families guides her work. She enjoys collaborating on multidisciplinary teams and developing treatment plans that support the individual needs of each family she works with.

Tamara is proud to be the only licensed provider of The P.L.A.Y. Project in Chicago and a trained advocate with The Family Support Network/Arc of Illinois. She partners and collaborates with parents to develop tools to help their child grow and move their family forward. This happens primarily through play—an effective and engaging tool for addressing developmental delays, PLAY IS WORK™.


Alexis Lauricella

Alexis Lauricella

Alexis Lauricella is a Research Associate & Lecturer in the department of Communication at Northwestern University.  Dr. Lauricella earned her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology and her Master’s in Public Policy from Georgetown University.  Her research focuses on children’s learning from media and parents’ and teachers’ attitudes toward and use of media with young children. Recent publications include empirical research articles in Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, Computers & Education, Journal of Children and Media, Media Psychology, Merrill Palmer Quarterly and reports for the Fred Rogers Center and the Center on Media and Human Development.  Dr. Lauricella is also the founder of, a website that translates child-development research for parents.


Katie Paciga 2Katie Paciga, Ph.D., is presently employed as an Assistant Professor of Education at Columbia College Chicago. She received a B.S. in Elementary Education and a B.A. in Spanish from Loyola University Chicago in 2002; a M.S.Ed in Instructional Leadership with a concentration in Literacy, Language & Culture from University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) in 2006. In 2011, she completed her doctoral studies in Curriculum & Instruction with a concentration in Literacy, Language & Culture from UIC. Dr. Paciga’s research interests and background are specialized in the fields of early literacy and technology for literacy. Her areas of emphasis are on comprehension development and assessment, digital storybooks, and integration of technology for literacy into schools. She currently serves the International Reading Association as a member of the Early Literacy Task Force and the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Technology & Young Children Interest Forum as a website advisor.

Follow @kpaciga


Brian-PuerlingBrian Puerling is a National Board Certified Teacher and author of Teaching in the Digital Age: Smart Tools for Age 3 to Grad 3.  He is a graduate of the Erikson Institute and is a former preschool teacher in the Chicago Public Schools.  He is currently the Director of Education Technology at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago.  Brian is on the Board of Directors for the Chicago Metro Association for Education of Young Children, has worked as an early childhood teacher coach, a curriculum reviewer, and a professional development facilitator and consultant for various school districts and organizations such as the Chicago Public Schools and Sesame Street.


Lauren Shaffer WEBLauren Shaffer, M.A. is Community Specialist and Teacher Educator at Boulder Journey School, and an Instructor for the Expanding Quality for Infants and Toddlers (EQIT) Initiative in Colorado.  She earned her B.A. in Psychology from the University of Colorado, and her M.A. in Educational Psychology from the University of Colorado Denver.  As Community Specialist, she works with classrooms to bring the larger community into the life of the school, and also seeks ways to offer children’s voices to the larger community.  Through this work, she is an advocate for the capability of young children to participate in their communities as citizens.  She views technology as a valuable tool for supporting education in the twenty-first century, and seeks ways to incorporate technology into various projects that she supports with children, teachers, and families.


Liza SullivanLiza Sullivan is currently the Executive Director of The Alliance for Early Childhood, a community-based organization in the northern suburbs of Chicago which provides programs and support for parents and professionals who teach and care for our young children.  She began her professional career in northern California as an elementary education classroom teacher, with an interest in Whole Language, Reading Recovery, differentiated instruction, and parental involvement.  Liza returned to her native Chicago and joined Chicago Children’s Museum (CCM) where, for five years, she was Manager and Director of Student and Educator Programs, developing on-site and off-site programs for both students and area elementary teachers. For three years, Liza served as CCM’s Assistant Vice President of Education, overseeing the museum’s daily operations, as well as internal and community-based programs that reached over a quarter of a million children and educators per year.  As part of her advocacy of “free play” and “nature play,” pedagogical movements gaining popularity throughout the country, Liza has authored several articles and blogs, and presented at local and national conferences.  She was the co-founder of ThroughPlay, an early childhood educational resource, which supports the facilitation of innovative play experiences and the utilization of Chicago’s natural environment to educate young children.  She also was the Assistant Director of Continuing Education at Erikson Institute, designing in-person and online programs for adult learners.