What do you do?
I am the Dean of Distance Learning and Continuing Education and Director of the Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center at Erikson Institute in Chicago. Erikson Institute is the nation’s leading graduate school in child development and I hold a PhD in Early Childhood Education and Instructional Technology. I am also a Senior Fellow and Advisor of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College, where I co-chaired the working group that revised the 2012 NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center Joint Position Statement on Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs. I am the editor of Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tools for Teaching and Learning, co-published by Routledge/NAEYC in 2014 and have edited a new book, Family Engagement in the Digital Age: Early Childhood Educators as Media Mentors published by Routledge/NAEYC in 2016. In 2012 I received the Bammy Award and Educators Voice Award as Innovator of the Year from the Academy of Education Arts & Sciences. In 2015, I was honored as a children’s media Emerging Pioneer at the KAPi (Kids At Play International) Awards.
I have earned an international reputation as a leader in the innovative use of technology and distance-learning methods in early childhood teacher education and professional development to increase access, enhance learning, and improve teaching practices. Since 2001, I have partnered with Selena Fox of New Zealand Tertiary College to develop ecelearn, an innovative online approach for early childhood teacher education now being used in New Zealand, Australia, India, the Philippines and China. In 2012 I was invited to lecture at the Open University of China on effective practices for online teacher education.
So my career focuses on technology for teaching and learning including teacher preparation and professional development and to support healthy child development and learning in the early years. A consistent thread throughout has been the essential focus on media literacy.
Tell me about your latest work or project in media literacy.
The two books I have edited have included invited chapters from media literacy expert Faith Rogow, Media Literacy in Early Childhood Education: Inquiry-based Technology Integration (2014) and from Faith and Cyndy Scheibe, Sharing Media Literacy Approaches with Parents and Families (2016). Including media literacy chapters in both books acknowledges the important of media literacy for educators, parents and children growing up in the digital age.
At the TEC Center at Erikson Institute we engage and empower early childhood educators to make informed decisions about the appropriate use of technology with children from birth to age 8. Through carefully selected resources and real-world examples, the Center strengthens educators’ media literacy and their ability to intentionally select, use, integrate, and evaluate technology in the classroom and other early childhood settings.
Our current focus on professional development to foster technology mentors, builds on media literacy principles and best practices in the early years and we have connected the dots between media literacy and technology as a tool for learning with topic areas including: developmentally informed technology integration, social emotional learning, Universal Design for Learning, coding and computational thinking, STEM and family engagement.
Why is media literacy important to you?
My work focuses on the adults who care for young children. In the digital age both educators and parents need media literacy to become mentors who can support children’s media literacy and model appropriate and intentional technology use to equip children for the world they live in. In the digital age, when young children have easy access to smartphone, tablets, computers and other devices, it is essential that we equip the children with the knowledge and skills of media literacy to safely and effectively navigate the online and on screen world. This places a high premium on helping the adults in children’s lives to better manage their own screen use and to engage and empower them through media literacy practices and to activate them as media mentors for 21st century learning. We have to start with the adults before we can have a positive impact on young children.
What are you most excited about in the media literacy field?
I’m excited by the growing interest in media literacy for the early years. Championed and defined by Faith Rogow, Cyndy Scheibe and others, there is an emerging definition and principles of media literacy that are appropriate for how young children learn and what their experiences with screen-media are. We need to extend these ideas to educators and parents so they can be media mentors for the children. The TEC Center at Erikson Institute is thrilled to be collaborating with NAMLE and the Association of Library Services for Children (ALSC) to plan a preconference day in Chicago next summer that will build off the media literacy in early childhood education convening organized by Faith Rogow in conjunction with the Philadelphia conference. This will allow us to continue the conversations started then, identify best practices and put the spotlight on innovative media literacy approaches that focus on adults and children.
Why did you become a NAMLE member, what benefits do you see to membership, and how will it support your work?
Given the scope of the work I am doing on technology and interactive media in the early years, it was a natural step to join NAMLE and become more deeply engaged in media literacy for the early years. The TEC Center is partnering with NAMLE to plan the event or next summer, and I continue to be inspired by the leadership of Faith Rogow. I’m excited about all that I can learn and the media literacy experts who will shape my work in the years to come.