April 19, 2016
On April 18 and 19, MFS welcomed more than 20 early childhood educators from 11 Friends Schools from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York for a stimulating program focused on technology, gender, spirituality, and young children. The peer networking event, hosted by the Friends Council on Education, was led by three MFS teachers Kenya Barber (Kindergarten), Melissa McCourt (Lower/Middle School Quaker Education Coordinator), and Lisa Martin (Prekindergarten).
“The conference was about evaluating and envisioning — evaluating educators’ relationships and their students’ relationship to technology and envisioning an intentional relationship that includes Quaker values,” said Ms. McCourt.
Presenters from the conference explored the challenges and benefits of tech in early childhood development and covered a number of topics: teaching coding, exploring how gender stereotypes and technology intersect, incorporating technology into curriculum, and questioning whether or not technology use reflects Quaker values. Two main questions the educators sought to grapple with included: Where do spirituality and technology intersect? How can students be creators rather than consumers of technology?
By the end of the conference, the teachers agreed the most beneficial use of the Internet and technology was to help their students engage with people and moments that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to engage with, such as watching eggs hatch on the Cornell Bird cam.
“We agreed the technology should not be a substitute — it should not take the place of relationships, exploration, or teaching, but it can at times assist in deepening relationships and exploration,” said Ms. McCourt.