Tell us a little about yourself and your background.
I grew up in southeastern Wisconsin in a family of four. My sister April is a year and half younger than myself. I went to the University of Wisconsin La-Crosse and graduated with a degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. It was at UW-L in fact where I discovered a passion and interest in early childhood education. While teaching preschool in the Chicago Public Schools, I went on to get my Masters in Early Childhood Education at the Erikson Institute along with achieving National Board Certification. My wife Emily, and daughter Lydia, and I live in Chicago. I enjoy warm weather and listening to music.
Have you always been technologically minded?
I have always had an interest in technology yes. I remember getting my Nintendo for the first time, that was quite a rush. I still remember the first time I sent the dragon down the pit in Super Mario Brothers. I still have my Gameboy with my one favorite game Tetris! Besides Nintendo and Gameboy, I have always, and still do enjoy working with Legos. They invite endless opportunities to create and imagine.
Tell us a bit about your book, Teaching in the Digital Age.
Teaching in the Digital Age: Smart Tools for Age 3 to Grade 3 is a book that is intended to help teachers think about planning and teaching with all the possible resources in mind. Technology as we know offers teachers the opportunity to develop new authentic and meaningful experiences for children. The book provides a variety of vignettes from my classroom and other teachers classrooms. These strategies consider the position statement on the integration of technology in early childhood programs written in collaboration by the National Association for Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. On top of written vignettes, the book includes QR codes linked to videos of strategies in action and teachers reflecting on various ideas. Each chapter addressed a various technology and how to use that technology to support, document, and share learning. I also include strategies to help teachers think about long term planning with curriculum mapping.
Have you been pleased with it's reception?
Honestly, I am quite pleased with how teachers and administrators have received the book. I had a particular voice and tone that I had hoped would come across, but I was not sure if it would be received in the way I intended. Based on the discussions I have had with readers, the voice and tone came through loud and clear. It has been quite exciting to chat with readers who have developed new ideas, found inspiration, and felt more motivation. Since Teaching in the Digital Age has been released, I have come out with a companion for families titled, Children in the Digital Age. This brief pamphlet provides families with a translation for classroom practices and some quick tips for using technology at home. I also come out with out some companion powerpoint presentations to support staff in professional development. Stay tuned for my next book focusing on Preschool and Kindergarten in the Spring of 2015.
In general, how important do you feel the use of mobile technology is in the 21st Century classroom?
I believe that mobile technology has a place in the classroom, just like paper, pencils, scissors, magnifying glasses, books, etc. They are simply another tool to provide a necessary experience to access, inquire, create, and communicate. I do believe that this is a crucial tool in today’s classroom. I look at schools in this century and wish that I could have been a student in today’s classrooms!
What do you think the number one priority should be for schools looking to implement the use of tablets for the first time?
There is so much to consider when developing a successful technology program. I think an extremely important item to consider is the how the current teachers feel about the integration of these devices in their classrooms. If teachers are not knowledgeable of what these devices can offer their students, they will not use it. It is important to consider how teachers will become educated on the possibilities. Many administrators are finding themselves in a transition as they decide to commit to a technology integration initiative. They are finding that they have a range of teachers who may or may not be interested in utilizing tablets as a tool in their classroom. Over time it is important to develop systems and interview processes that are structured to acquire teacher candidates that match the educational philosophy of the school.
Can you tell us about a particular success story you've had utilizing tech to educate?
I am the Director of Education Technology at the Catherine Cook School in Chicago. My job, essentially, is to partner with teachers to consider curricular goals in their technology integration. In my first year at Catherine Cook, there was a teacher who was apprehensive about how to approach the integration of five iPads into her classroom. Together we discussed some of the success of the other teachers and her upcoming curriculum goals. We identified that having her students publish eBooks in Writer’s Workshop would be a good start. In our partnership, I modeled a lesson that helped her students see the difference between printed books and eBooks and understand that there is a variety of ways to publish and share books. Together this teacher and I worked together to develop systems to manage her students writing and publishing on the iPads. Over time she felt comfortable using the iPads with her students without my help. It is important to know that each teacher has a different comfort level and skill set when it comes to using technology with their students.
If you could only ever use one app in the classroom which one would you choose?
I think that technology is powerful when used to help students create. Given that, there are a variety of applications that come to mind that provide students with the opportunity to create content for others to view. In classrooms serving 4 year old children at Catherine Cook, our teachers have used Doodlecast Pro to record students describing their process to create a piece of artwork. In a first grade classroom, Beth Lambert used this application to capture students number stories they created. In second grade, Kemi Adeodu used this same application to invite students in math to record videos describing the difference in temperatures on a thermometer. Educreations, a similar application, but houses videos on the Educreations website, has been used by our middle school math teacher Sara Folger to create tutorial videos on particular strategies. These videos have been posted to her classroom website for students and their parents to view at home.
Are there any apps you have on your wish list? Something that you'd love to see more of in the App Store?
I am looking for more applications that invite children to connect with each other in various ways. LaunchPad Toys created a great application, Toontastic Jr. where children can co-create a cartoon together while being in different locations. This experience is powerful for you children. I am also looking for more applications that provide children with the ability to share their work with individuals. Moreover, I would like to see more applications that provide students with the ability to share their work with individuals that can be viewed on a variety of devices: iPhones, Windows Phones, Android, Laptops, Desktops, etc. Many applications out there today which have a great experience for the young user seem to have a limited list of options for exportation.
What's next for you?
As I said I am currently working on a second book that focuses on Preschool and Kindergarten. I am also a contributing author to a book coming out this July, titled, Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tools for Teaching and Learning, being published by both Routledge and NAEYC. I have been excited about the international interest, last May I was a keynote presenter at the Early Childhood Council of New Zealand Conference. Since then I have had a few articles across New Zealand and Australia and will have another in New Zealand this Spring. This May I will be presenting at the World Forum on Early Care and Education in San Juan Puerto Rico on technology integration in the United States. I will also continue to be a guest blogger for the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. Other than the book I am currently working on, I have some other book collaborations in the works, but I am able to elaborate on those right now, but stay tuned.
Thank you so much for taking time out to speak with us Brian, we look forward to hearing more from you in the future.
Pick up your own copy of his book "Teaching In The Digital Age" from Amazon here.