From “Shelter in Place” to back to the “New Normal”

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The following was written by Chip Donohue, PhD, Founding Director of the TEC Center at Erikson Institute. This article Part 1 of a 2 Part series.

Image courtesy of Ada S. McKinley Community Services, Inc.

We’ve all been sheltering in place for the past 6 weeks, and depending on where you live and work, you have little possibility of reentering the world and getting back to “normal” until mid- or late-May or June. In this two-part blog series, I want to share my reflections, a few gentle nudges, and a provocation or two about what can and should be the role of technology tools in the lives of early childhood educators, young children, and their families after the pandemic.

We’re all eager to get back to normal, but the one thing we can be sure of is that the normal we find in our classrooms and programs will be new. While we’ve been staying at home and practicing social distancing, children and adults have used new tech tools and gained valuable skills to connect, collaborate and create at a distance. We’ve moved from imagining how tech and media could support human connection to relying on our tech tools for our connections.

COVID-19 has changed our digital environment
  • Instead of worrying about screen time – let’s celebrate our use of screen-based devices as lifelines that have supported children’s and families social and emotional needs during this long period of isolation from one another
  • We now better understand the meaning of digital humanity thanks to tech tools that have enabled human connections at a time of social distancing
  • Soon, interacting in “real time” will be real again, but we don’t have to set aside the tools and skills we’ve used to connect at a distance. It shouldn’t be either/or. In the new normal, you should continue to select and use tools that best meet our students’ developmental and academic needs

During the pandemic, and every time the news includes scary things, this quote from Fred Rogers surfaces as a reminder of where educators, children and families can look for help. “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” You are one of the helpers that children and families look to.

Here are some resources for you to utilize as you serve families as a helper during these unsettling times:

Technology in Early Childhood Center (TEC) at Erikson Institute

Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media

Zero to Three

Common Sense Media

NAEYC/FRC Joint Position Statement, Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.


Suggested citation: Donohue, C. (2020, April 29). From “Shelter in Place” to back to the “New Normal”. TEC Center at Erikson Institute. Retrieved from

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