A farewell message from Founding Director, Chip Donohue, PhD

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It’s fitting that I’m writing my last TEC Center blog from a hotel room. I’m in Istanbul to keynote the TRT International Children’s Media Conference 2018 on Content Selection and Managing Children’s Screen Time. This will be my final keynote representing Erikson Institute and the TEC Center and it’s been quite a journey since the TEC Center was launched in 2012. Since then, I’ve been invited to deliver keynotes, featured presentations and workshops in 9 countries and I’ve spoken at national and state conferences in 31 states and the District of Columbia. That’s a lot of frequent flyer miles. That’s a lot of sharing our approach to technology in the early years.

Along the way, the TEC Center has earned its place at the table as an influential thought leader in the ongoing conversation about young children and technology. We bring an Erikson perspective to our thinking about technology in the early years, beginning with child development theory and the importance of relationships for young children – and only then considering the role technology can play. We’re not technologists, but we are excited about the potential of technology and digital media as tools to support healthy development, early learning and relationships.

Early Childhood STEM Work Group
The White House

I have had the pleasure of learning with and from an amazing team of innovative thinkers and big idea “doers” from the TEC Center including Amanda Armstrong, Tamara Kaldor, Jenna Herdzina and Katie Paciga, PhD. I’m now handing off the role of director to Alexis Lauricella, PhD and the TEC Center is in very good hands indeed.

I have been a Senior Fellow at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College since 2009, and, with Roberta Schomburg, I co-chaired the working group that revised the 2012 NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center Joint Position Statement on Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. It was the release of the position statement in March of 2012 that provided the impetus to launch the TEC Center with the support of the Boeing Company and Erikson Institute.

When the integration of technology and interactive media in early childhood programs is built upon solid developmental foundations, and early childhood professionals are aware of both the challenges and the opportunities, educators are positioned to improve programquality by intentionally leveraging the potential of technology and media for the benefit of every child. (NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center, 2012)

What matters most

Media Literacy in Early Childhood: A Critical Conversation
June 26, 2017
Erikson Institute

In recent presentations and publications, I’ve been reflecting on all that we have learned since the Position Statement was released in 2012 and sharing my thoughts about an emerging consensus about what matters most for intentional and appropriate use of technology. I now believe that what matters includes:

  • Relationships
  • Technology use should be guided by child development theory, developmentally appropriate practice and the whole child approach
  • Lisa Guernsey’s 3Cs, Content, Context, Child
  • Early childhood “essentials” like open-ended and creative play, exploration and discovery, physical activity, outdoor experiences and time with family and friendsare “non-negotiable” and should never be displaced or replaced
  • Look for interactive media that invites and encourages interactions with other
  • Children as media creators and digital storytellers
  • Leverage new digital tools to empower parents and enhance family engagement
  • Every child needs a media mentor
  • Relationships matter most
6 myths that need we need your help in busting

Augustus Tolton Catholic Academy
February 14, 2017

Some myths about technology and young children linger on and on and on and they need to be challenged and set aside.  

  1. The iPad will destroy childhood and be the end of play
  2. All screens are created equal
  3. There is no such thing as “beneficial” screentime
  4. Technology use is isolating and disrupts social and emotional learning
  5. Grown-ups are managing their media well
  6. Educators and parents lack the knowledge, skills, and experiences to be role models and media mentor

At the TEC Center, we love the role of “Mythbusters” who offer evidence, best practices and stories from classrooms along with provocations and nudges to move the conversation forward.

Living well with media

What we owe our kids is a rich and diverse experience…. Our focus should be on living well with mediarather than opposing or restricting it. Michael Rich, MD MPH The Mediatrician

There is no one size fits all for the definition of “living well with media.” What matters is that we all ask ourselves how well we are currently living with media and what we need to do to live better in a world filled with smartphones, screens and digital media.

Where to from here?

I recently learned that in an average lifetime a person walks about sixty-five thousand miles. ‘That’s two and a half times around the world. I wonder where your steps will take you. I wonder how you’ll use the rest of the miles you’re given. Fred Rogers

My last day at Erikson is December 12, but my work in support of the TEC Center will continue in my role as Founding Director. I will stay active in the conversation about appropriate and intentional use of tech in the early years. I have some travel to New Zealand and Singapore scheduled in 2019 along with presentations, keynotes and two books to finish, so I’m planning to be very picky about taking on additional writing, speaking and consulting work to be sure I have time to relax, enjoy living in the mountains, and spend time casting dry flies on the local trout streams.

So, that’s where my next steps will take me. How will you use the steps ahead of you? I hope you’ll join me as we continue searching for what is wonderful and wondering about what we still need to know.

It’s not about the technology, it’s about relationships

When used wisely, technology and media can support learning and relationships. Enjoyable and engaging shared experiences that optimize the potential for children’s learning and development can support children’s relationships both with adults and their peers. (NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center, 2012)

Thanks to you for supporting the TEC Center and following our work over the past 6 years. It’s been fun learning with and from you. By collaborating we have amplified our message, deepened our influence and increased our impact as we help young children, parents, guardians, families and other educators safely navigate the digital age.

Learn more
December 10, 2018
10 Reports You Should Read
TEC Center has compiled a list of 10 Reports which highlight recent research findings of various aspects of young children’s technology use. These 10 Reports inform the work of educators and early childhood professionals. Read more →
November 20, 2018
Hello TEC Center Community: A letter from Director, Alexis Lauricella, PhD
Learn more about TEC Center's new Director, Alexis Lauricella, PhD in this letter from her to the TEC Center community. Read more →
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