Posted on behalf of SEEC educator Carolyn Eby:
Visiting the National Art Education Association conference in San Diego was incredibly inspiring, intriguing, and refreshing. The theme of the conference was Spark: Fusing Innovating Teaching and Emerging Technologies. In a recent conversation with coworkers we had discussed the use of technology with children and what role it plays in our lives. Practically any student in any given age range when given an Ipad knows exactly how to manipulate the screen with their fingers. How much of this technology is beneficial for their little minds, and how much is overwhelming? Or distracting from real learning? These questions are everyday concerns of teachers and parents everywhere. How do we prepare our students and/or children to deal with a rapidly modernizing world around them?
With these concerns in mind I headed into the conference, really not knowing how the presenters would approach the subject or if I would be coming out with any answers at all. The scene was lively and full of energetic enthusiasm that lasted up until the last day. I met so many wonderfully stimulating educators from all backgrounds who had come seeking community and some of the same answers I desired.
As it turned out, one of the most valuable ideas I walked away with as a new Early Childhood Educator with a back ground in art education, was that of the Architect Simon Nicholson and his theory of “loose parts”. Simon states: “In any environment, both the degree of inventiveness and creativity, and the possibility of discovery, are directly proportional to the number and kind of variables in it.” His belief that pleasure came from exploring materials and their possible outcomes rang so true to my ears. If I put puzzles out for our young three year old students they are very interested but if I put out link-n-logs (something we have not yet formally introduced to them) they are magically transformed into magic wands, drum sticks, and/or a material to build with. Without formal instruction as to how to use these materials young children assign meaning that they have created themselves with their imagination. This is a skill I see every SEEC child carrying with them their entire lives.
Using his theory with the theme of the conference I was so inspired! Technology in its most basic form is loose parts that someone once had the brilliant idea to put together to form a new and unique creation. Let’s not forget about the key and the kite that started it all! In today’s world it is most important that we present our young ones with up-to-date tools and technology so they can understand their use within our culture, and also develop their own possible concepts of how to use these tools. In this sense of play a student’s mind for design and problem solving is challenged.
Last but not least, I left the conference understanding and being thankful for what an amazing tool technology is for us as teachers. Not only as a tool in our classroom, but a tool to connect us all and make us stronger and better instructors. Medias such as Pinterest, Blogs, Instagram, and Facebook have enabled us to connect and form a strong community that is ever growing and changing for the better.