The Fred Rogers Center (the Center) and its partners commit to implement a research-based digital media literacy (DML) curriculum for early childhood educators, provide low-barrier opportunities for teacher credentialing through a mobile app, and establish a tablet-lending system within regional libraries to promote DML. DML toolkits will be provided to libraries for incorporation into their existing lending systems, and librarians will receive training on how to mentor early childhood educators who borrow the kits for use in their practice. A total of 69 libraries and 75 librarians will be reached across Westmoreland County and Pittsburgh, PA. Approximately 1,210 early childhood educators will be reached through DML trainings, case studies, and within the community of practice.
After extensive data collection from previous in-person DML professional development trainings and other policy briefs, the Center will pilot a project to develop content, innovative approaches and technology-mediated solutions to deliver training to assess early educator knowledge, behaviors, and competencies. The pilot will demonstrate how competency-based DML training can professionalize the workforce, allowing participants to receive accreditation and recognition from organizations such as the Council for Professional Recognition. Core DML competencies will be assessed using a rubric developed by the Center and TEC Center at Erikson Institute.
The Center will then partner with two library networks, the Allegheny Library Network and the Westmoreland County Library Association, to pilot distribution methods by lending DML toolkits through childrens outreach librarians and traditional library check out processes.
Based on the viability of using competency-based approaches to recognize DML skills, the Center will expand the initiative through refining and creating new professional development modules, with special attention paid to online curriculum and enhanced video documentation of best practices. In addition, a newly developed online environment designed for early childhood educators will include videos, messages, and practical exercises for appropriate and intentional use of technology in early education environments. The system will be designed so that participants can receive a digital badge for completing an in-app course.
- June August 2015: Finalize research plan
- June November 2015: Select partner sites for case studies
- September 2015 May 2018: Conduct professional development workshops; collect data on DML competencies
- September 2015 November 2016: Interview educators and video classroom practices
- December 2015 May 2017: Integrate videos into professional development and produce video case studies with study guide
Increasing Knowledge and Changing Behavior
- June August 2015: Recruit a community fellow to run early childhood educator micro-credential/accreditation pilot
- September November 2015: Award micro-credentials to pilot participants
- September November 2015: Community fellow report on micro-credentials for workforce development
- June 2016 November 2016: Deliver DML training to pre-service educators.
- June 2015 May 2018: Create DML technology lending kits and lend to libraries; collect data on DML technology lending kits
- March 2018 May 2018: Report on DML kits use and efficacy
- June 2016 November 2016: Create four new modules on using technology to support whole child development
- December 2016 May 2017: Offer regional (Pittsburgh and Westmoreland County) trainings on updated content
- June 2017 February 2018: Offer new and existing modules through webinars
Designing Professional Development Delivery Systems
- June 2016 February 2017: Create digital modules using video, workshop manuals, etc.
- September 2016 May 2017: Develop and launch online community of practice
- December 2016 May 2017: Integrate new and existing modules into online community of practice
- June 2017 November 2017: Evaluate usage of online community of practice
- March 2017 February 2018: Develop, pilot, and launch a mobile app of DML training
- September 2017 November 2017: Secure free or low-cost internet for DML technology lending kits
- December 2017 February 2018: Install DML app on DML technology lending kits
- December 2017 May 2018: Evaluate usage of app and awarding of micro-credentials
In November 2014, the RAND policy brief Getting Early Childhood Educators Up and Running highlighted barriers and strategies for early education teachers to realize the potential of technology in the classroom. These barriers include: access and equity challenges, uncertainty about standards, provider attitudes, insufficient time, inadequate training, and the technology development cycle.
Despite limitations facing educators, the prevailing position on digital media with young children in the early childhood classroom and at home is beginning to change. Previous recommendations made by The American Academy of Pediatrics and the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity discouraged any screen time for children under the age of 2 and a limit of one to two hours per day for children ages 2 and above. While this recommendation takes into account concerns about the effect of media on the physical, social, emotional and cognitive needs of preschoolers, it is contrary to the goals of preparing young children for using interactive technology tools and digital media with fluency in grade school and beyond: a new standard for 21st century learning.
Digitally literate educators are grounded in child development theory and developmentally appropriate practices and have the knowledge, skills, and experience to select, use, integrate, and evaluate technology tools and interactive media that suit the ages and developmental levels of children in their care. Research by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center indicates that digital media can become tools for childrens learning if two factors are taken into consideration, content and context, indicating that appropriate practices surrounding these tools can increase educational effectiveness.
In order to eliminate disparities, a new approach to professionalization of the early childhood educator workforce must be implemented. Standards based on best practices and research on DML must be devised, and barriers to access removed so that even the most disadvantaged young learners have an opportunity to cultivate the skills that are important to be literate in todays society.
The Fred Rogers Center can use financial assistance to bring the project to scale. The funding would go towards developing a digital media toolkit lending system to support digital media literacy (DML) trainings for 1,300 early childhood educators and 69 libraries in Pittsburgh and elsewhere.
The Fred Rogers Center can provide staffing support, research data, subject matter expertise, identified best practices, and professional development modules. The Center has cultivated relationships with regional libraries, and has two strong partners in early childhood, PAEYC and the TEC Center at Erikson Institute, to help complete the project action plan.