Erikson Institute’s Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center offers an innovative and intensive professional development program designed to develop early childhood educators as TEC Mentors who serve as leaders in tech integration in early childhood programs, classrooms, and out-of-school time settings. The TEC Mentors professional development certificate program aligns to the ISTE Standards for Educators.
“Our teachers like that Erikson staff are modeling behaviors they would typically see when using technology in the classroom,” Allen says. “They want the teachers to experience what the students are experiencing. For example, the Erikson staff give our teachers a problem and ask them to solve it by using technology.”
– Theresa Allen, director of instructional technology for the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office of Catholic Schools.
During the first two years, Erikson’s program trained 85 educators in Chicago, IL, and Washington, DC as part of the TEC Mentors program. Through our professional development program in Chicago, we reached 6,000 preschool through third-grade students across 35 schools. Over several years, the project has the potential to reach 58,000 students across 200 schools in Cook and Lake counties.
TEC Center at Erikson institute’s TEC MENTORS PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT program HAS BEEN FEATURED by:
• New America Foundation in 2018 in their report, Extracting Success in Pre-K Teaching: Approaches to Effective Professional Learning Across Five States
Research on TEC Center’s professional development programs indicates that after the program teachers reported:
- increased confidence in their use of available classroom technologies.
- increased knowledge and skills to facilitate exploration using classroom technologies.
- improved ability to facilitate creation using classroom technologies.
- fewer concerns around their own ability to use technology in the classroom in developmentally appropriate ways.
Who can become a TEC Mentor?
We know that TEC Mentors and technology leadership can come from anywhere in your learning community where an educator demonstrates the interest and initiative to develop appropriate and intentional approaches to technology integration.
We develop TEC Mentors who lead with their knowledge of child development and early learning, who can connect research to practice, who are intentional and reflective in their practice, and who can evaluate technology tools to determine that they are developmentally appropriate. TEC Mentors are thoughtful, intentional, and playful in their work with their peers, young children and families.
A good candidate for the TEC Mentors program is an educator who enjoys collaborating, sharing ideas, playing, exploring, being creative and is interested in learning how to integrate technology in meaningful and appropriate ways in early childhood settings. TEC Mentors do not have to be technology wizards as they are not being taught to be an IT director. An adult who is curious, is willing to try new things, likes to learn, and has a playful approach to technology will model these attitudes and demonstrate skills that will have a positive impact on digital age children, parents, families and educators.
TEC Mentors receive approximately 30-34 hrs. of direct instructional time with the TEC Center team depending on how many sessions are scheduled. TEC Mentors participate in a blended learning model that delivers in-person, hands-on professional development as well as online modules and an online Personal Learning Network (PLN) hosted by the TEC Center. Facilitated online professional communication and collaboration keeps the conversation and learning going throughout the year, as participants share ideas and create resources with other TEC Mentors in the program.
How does the TEC Mentors program work?
- Teachers, teacher assistants, and instructional coaches apply to the program
- The school administration team selects the staff to join the TEC Mentor Program
- The TEC Center team recommends at least two educators per grade level
- TEC Mentors meet five to six times in-person with the TEC Center facilitators who guide the process, model appropriate practice and focus on hands-on time that results in participants designing three meaningful tech-integrated play and lesson plans that they iterate in their classrooms. The program content includes:
- Intro to early childhood and technology, including digital portfolios, media literacy and digital citizenship
- Designing play and learning experiences with tech integration
- Early literacy and storytelling in the digital age
- T in STEM with a math or science emphasis
- End of the year showcase for final projects with administrators
- Two virtual office hours with the TEC Center team for coaching on their tech-integrated play and lesson plans.
- TEC Mentors share best practices and what has worked in their classrooms
- TEC Mentors receive a certificate of completion
Playtime with technology helps TEC Mentors become more playful with technology
Like young children, educators need play time to become confident with tech integration, and in-person and distance workshop sessions are designed to provide plenty of hands-on play and lesson planning time for your teaching teams. The program culminates by bringing the TEC Mentors back together to reflect on their innovative practices, tech-integrated play and lesson plans they have added to their digital portfolios during the year, to assess where they have taken their learning and to set goals for the next school year. Throughout the program, the TEC Mentors are coached on how to share what they are learning and exploring with their fellow teachers within their school community. We recommend a mini-conference planned and presented by the participants where they can demonstrate digital media literacy and best practices in technology integration for their peers, administration and if feasible, for parents, caregivers and families.