A Real Digital Camera for Kids

As a photography hobbyist, I love taking pictures of anything and everything. Seriously. I’ve made many, many contributions to Google Maps.

My hobby found it’s way to the preschool classroom, but I wasn’t happy. “Kiddie” cameras are horrible. Yeh, kid cameras look fun, but the pictures are so bad.

Furthermore, it’s not easy to give a child a camera (or any electrical device). The idea of a child dropping a camera brings a sinking feeling to my stomach. Noooooo!!!! And cameras are expensive. Are they really worth the investment to have children take pictures worse than your Motorola Razor (remember those)?

If you want to give your kiddos a camera, but have the same concerns I have, then this camera should bring some relief.

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First, it’s a Nikon (a Nikon S33 to be more specific). A legit camera company. Second, it’s around $109 for the white one or $126 for the blue. A little pricey, but wait for number three. Third, this is a waterproof and shockproof camera. See the numbers on the lower right? It can go under water 33 feet and be dropped 5 feet and still work. Do you know any 5 foot preschoolers?

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A camera graveyard no more.

The camera looks fun and – what I like the most – it’s a real camera. I’ve purchased these in the past. When showing to other teachers, I would drop the camera, take a picture, and showed the result – demonstrating that it still works.

Imagine taking pictures underwater at the water table? What about kids taking pictures during painting activities, without worry of getting paint on the camera? It’s waterproof. Just wipe it off. This opens up so many opportunities for documentation without the worry a broken device. I highly recommend!

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Best Buy: A Toddler’s Fantasy Land

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It was raining and cold. Windy too. Although I wanted to stay inside, poor weather prevented my son from getting out of the house the past week. When there was finally a break in the gray, it was time to end the cabin fever. I thought about places he would enjoy, and perhaps me too.

And then it hit me: Best Buy.

It was a Saturday. My wife was out for the day enjoying so much needed R&R. So I would have my son the entire day. My only instructions were that my son needed to get out of the house.

Best Buy. Done and done.

I got my son dressed, bundling him in a jacket and pants. I put a hat on his head three or four times, because he repeatedly took it off his head. His shoes went on easier than expected. Then I got dressed as he ran around the house in anticipation of where we would be going.

Park! Park! Park!

We drove a couple of minutes and stopped in front of the giant yellow price tag in the sky. Walking through the parking lot, my son looked around, probably wondering, “Where are the slides?” We walked through the doors to a festival of lights, sounds, and colorful displays. My son’s eyes lit up, probably thinking, “Way better than slides! Way better than slides!”

For the better part of an hour, we walked the aisles of Best Buy. There was no rhyme or reason to the path I took throughout the store, besides my son pointing and toddler grunting “Uhhh! Uhhh!” (Translation: “That way Dada!”) Cradled in my arm, he was the wind and sail through our technological odyssey through an ocean of electronics as I skillfully dodged Best Buy staff trying to figure out what we were doing.

My Son’s Favorite Sections

Tablets

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What’s not to love about these if you’re a toddler? You touch them and there is an immediate response on the screen. It produces sounds and shakes to provide physical feedback.

I opened the camera app and he started to wave to himself when he appeared on the screen. And then he started talking to himself… loudly. Most shoppers within 100 feet could hear my son happily video chatting himself. I shyly smiled around at people within ear shot, then stealthy dismissed ourselves from the tablet section.

Bluetooth Speakers

I held up my son so he could see the speaker display. He began lunging to press down on the glowing white and red buttons, as if he were a moth beckoning for a porch light at night. As soon as the button was pressed, the speakers would start booming music. Some of the speakers had lights, which sparkled a rainbow of patterns that flashed and dimmed to the beat of the music.

My son would have stayed at this display longer, but Dada’s arms gets tired.

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A promo image, but not too far from my son’s experience.

Big Screen Televisions

The first thing my son wanted to do when he saw the gigantic television sets was touch them. He probably thought they were enormous tablets. Not the case. I held him at a distance, but he was still mesmerized by the giant colorful animals and the surround sound of birds flapping their wings. We walked by rows upon rows of forty, fifty, and sixty-inch television sets, each with images of oceans and forests, sports teams and dancers, and overhead views of European villas. Throughout the entire time, my son didn’t say a word. He was completely mesmerized.

Like an electrically power blue ice tunnel.

Like an electrically powered blue ice tunnel.

When our time was done and my arm felt like it was ready to fall off, we left Best Buy. My son whined as I started sitting him back in his car seat, wanting to push more glowing buttons, see colorful screens, and listen to more music. And I understood why: being around all of that technology provided him with a sensory wonderland of experiences.

There are times when routine, everyday places for adults can be wonderful experiences for children. You just have to adopt a child’s eye, which is one in constant wonder and awe of everything around them. When you can switch your perspective to a child’s – even briefly – then you’ll have an enjoyable insight into the delight of childhood.

Fred Rogers’s Technology Legacy

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Last night, I had the pleasure of going to the birth city of Fred Rogers’s (aka Mister Rogers) and witness the launch of a new technology lending program. It was a great experience and equally exciting to meet people who champion technology tool usage in early childhood. If you’d like to read more about my experience last night, please read my post here, which is located on my technology and early childhood website. For those interested in Fred Rogers, technology tools or early childhood, it’s a good read.

Daddy Reads Everywhere

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Reposted from http://www.tech4ece.com

Every Wednesday night, I teach an evening course, which means that I won’t be reading a book to my son at night.  That made me think about other nights I may be away, whether for work or travel.  Besides video chatting or something, how else could I read to my son at night?

Then I got an idea.  I got one of my son’s favorite books (I asked before taking.  My son just grinned and looked away.  He’s one.)  I went out to do work and tried to find a place where I could record audio.

The best place I found was actually my car.  No one around to hear my talk and complete silence from the outside.  I setup my phone on the steering wheel, then started reading the book.

wpid-wp-1429632666284.jpgThere was no special setup or equipment other than my smartphone.  It was quite easy; more so because I had read the book nearly a hundred times.  No need to practice.  Bear Sees Colors is traveling into long-term memory.

That was it.  After a couple of minutes, I had the story recorded.  I could send the file to my wife over email, some kind of cloud drive, dropbox, or some other form.  If I had an old smartphone laying around, I’d just record to that, then keep a library of books for my son to hear anytime.

wpid-wp-1429633276756.jpgMoral of the Story: Parents can read to their children in your classroom everyday.

Smartphones are wonderful tools and can be utilized in creative ways.  For example, ask a parent to read one of their child’s favorite books.  If you have a smartphone or recording device, show the parent how to use it, such as starting and stopping a recording.  Ask the parent to go to a quiet area, read the story, then comeback with the completed recording.

Presto! You can play the recording during group readings or small groups while in your library area.  It’s a very neat way to have parent involvement in your classroom.  Just think about the adults and family members who could participate in this kind of activity?  Think about the different languages you could incorporate into the classroom?  There are ideas abound!

Oh, and this is a finished (edited and stylized) reading I did in my car.

P.S. If you’re interested in purchasing the book for yourself, click here.

Clouds Move Slow

Clouds move… very, very slowly.  If they’re moving fast, you shouldn’t be outside.

Teaching children about weather?  Clouds are going to come up.  If you’re room has windows, you can look outside.  But students looking at moving clouds will not last longer than 60 seconds.  This is where your smartphone can come in handy.

Using my Android phone, I downloaded an app called Framelapse, which turned my phone camera into a timelapse camcorder.  While in a cafe, I turned the app on, leaned my phone against a coffee mug, and pointed the camera towards the windows.

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I turned the recorder on, then I waited.  I read a book.  Journaled.  Drank some coffee.  Timelapse takes time, like baking.  And, just like baking, if you do it right, the end result will be very good.


Students may not sit and watch clouds for 25 minutes, but they could watch this video (25 minutes to record 10 seconds).  Framelapse allows you to mess with the settings to choose how long you want your video, the duration between each picture, and video quality.  If you can setup a space in your room where you can prop your smartphone – out of the kiddos reach – then you can show these kinds of videos during small group.  Imagine the conversations children will have when they see this kind of video.

The New Juke Box

The New Juke Box

30 years ago, I wonder if you told a teacher, “Hey, you can carry thousands of your classroom songs in your pocket in the near future,” whether they’d believe you or not.

Unless you were wearing very big pants…. Lol.  Get it?  Because it’s the only way you could… never mind.  Moving on.

If you squint, smartphones are juke boxes.  You just have to load them with the right songs and material.  And with all of the docking stations and variety of ways you can connect speakers to smart phones, you won’t have to have everyone huddle around the phone to hear.  Here are some places where you can stream and download content.

Have Fun Teaching

Have Fun Teaching has a YouTube channel that has songs for each letter in the alphabet.  And the beats are impressive, similar to today’s rhythms, but without those horrible lyrics.  If you explore the channel further, there are other songs on numbers and shapes.  I played these songs for the kiddos.  Very soon, I made choosing the “letter song” a classroom job.  And, if you really like the songs, you can purchase them (and a great way to support fellow educators).  Here are links to their alphabet songs and counting song.

Singing Songs in Spanish

Dual language learners are changing the face and structure of early childhood education.  Whether it’s Spanish or another language, teachers are training themselves to support children who don’t speak English.  Jaime and Kelly can help out here.  They sing popular children song’s in Spanish.  You can check out their YouTube list of songs here.  There some in Spanish, but also more in English if you want a larger repertoire.

iTunes and Google Play

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This is the only “non-free” option.  I know that we are pinched for moola.  But once you purchase and download the songs, you have them on your phone – without the need for smart phone reception or wifi.  Keep in mind that our phone space will be taken up.  But if you don’t have a lot of programs and pictures on your phone, then you’ll have no worries about the phone space.

If you have some music recommendations, please comment and share.  Adios!

Digital Tools: Smart Phones

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“Ding.”  Hear that?  It’s a notification.  A notification to change the way you think about smart phones in preschool.

Smart phones.  Let go of everything you think you know about them.  Blank slate.  Empty cup.  Now, allow me to input some fresh knowledge.  Here are some ways that a preschool teacher can use a smartphone in the classroom…

Clocks

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You use your phone to keep time, especially when you’re out on the playground. Your phone can also be used as a stop watch, timer and alarm.

Set stop watches for a lot of things. Time how long a child stays working at a puzzle. Challenge children to run around the playground and beat their previous time.

Set timers when your students need help turn taking. Like, when I was outside, kiddos wanted to ride the tricycle. 16 kids. 2 trikes. I used the timer on my phone. The kids saw this and, when they wanted a turn, they came to me and said “Teacher Gilbert, use your phone.”

Alarms are just like timers, but you can set them throughout the day.  They can be reminders about when to go inside from the playground.  You can set alarms to remind you about parent-teacher conferences.  Alarms have more potential than just waking your tired eyes from bed.

Audio Recording

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Teachers have a hard time writing down observations of children’s language development.  If you have a co-teacher that can write down your conversations, it probably means that half the class is unsupervised.  Your smart phone can help out.  Almost all smart phones can record audio, and they do a pretty good job.

When you have time – and I know you don’t – go back and listen to those audio clips.  Don’t transcribe the whole thing, but there is such great information you’ll get out this technique.

Pictures

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Take pictures of projects.  Pictures of children playing outside.  Snapshots of field trips.  There are things that you can’t write or describe in the moment, but you can snap a picture.

With that image, you can do a lot of things.  Look at the pictures and you relive the experience, and you can jot down some observations you remember.

You can show pictures to children and get their thoughts or memories on the experience.  While they’re talking, write down notes.  Later, print the picture, write their dictation under the image, then post in the classroom.

You can take pictures of the entire alphabet – one by one – then use the images for assessment.  Simply swipe through each letter and ask the child “What’s this letter?”  The images are like digital flash cards.

Conclusion

You may ask, “These ideas are fine, because I’m the one holding the phone. I wouldn’t give the children the phone.”  Well, the thing is, you can.  In some situations, you should.  It’ll enhance their learning.  But the first step, like anything that happens in the classroom, is that the teacher models how something should be done; how something should be taken care of; how something should be handled.

You’re the role model.  In a world where smart phones are used to sap away children’s attention and displace conversations, you can show children some ways to use the device as a tool.

Digital Tools: Tablets

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Tablets are a great teaching tool.  I like to think of it as a magical portal; a portal that brings images and sounds from the outside world into my classroom.  But how would you use a tablet in the classroom?

Small Group Pictures

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Ever wonder what an umbrella bird looks like?  Sure, you can print it out.  But let’s save money and a tree.  Download the picture to your tablet and show it to the kiddos during small group.  Heck, keep tons of pictures on your tablet of animals, cloud shapes, colors, letters, or pictures of your hometown.  You don’t have to print them out all the time.  Save the tangible pictures for when the children want them.  Save the rest on a tablet.

Small Group Videos

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A child during circle time asked me, “What does a lion sound like?”  Sure, I made a lion sound, the best I could muster.  But it’s not real.  I looked online and found some kind of african safari video and a lion roared.  At small group, I got the video setup, pressed play, and tiny jaws dropped.  “Woah,” said the children.  “Lions are loud!”

Digital Books

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E-books are getting cheaper and cheaper.  So, did you know that you can keep an entire classroom library on a tablet?  You can.  Of course, keep a regular library.  Tangible books a great.  Think of a tablet e-book as an option, not a replacement.

During reading time, you can bring out the tablet and have the children read along side of you.  My big push for this is that children need to know that electronics can be used for reading, not just games, apps and social media.

Digital Tools: Digital Camera

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Technology tools are my friends.  My “under construction” tech website and graduate school thesis will show some ways.  More on that later.

However, there appears to be a gigantic rift between preschool professionals.  Either you think technology tools support preschool children or they don’t.  I have the proof to back it up, as I’ve had teachers and preschool professionals in the bay area take survey’s.  You’re on one side or the other:

Some say they support dual language learners.

Others say they stifle children’s play and creativity.

Some say they support creativity.

Others say they are why children have short attention spans.

Some say they support

Others say they keep children from moving, which is why kids are obese.

I support technology tools – and not because I’m a tech geek.  It’s because I’m a teacher.  My pedagogy is based on sound teaching practices and curriculum.  AND, teachers should always be looking out for the best tools to promote learning – and a love of learning – in children.  Technology tools offer great solutions.  There are some barriers to why people don’t use or refuse to use them.  However, used in developmentally appropriate ways within a teacher’s curriculum, technology tools support learning, play, creativity, and all the learning domains.

The camera doesn’t have to be fancy, shiny, or even new.  As long as you have a working camera, batteries, a memory card, and the cables, then you’re good to go.

For children…

  • Document field trips
  • Capture images that document their emotions: flowers that make them happy, adults that make them feel safe, etc.
  • Eye spy using a camera
  • Have children make their own books using photos they’ve taken

For teachers…

  • Excellent observation and documentation tool (especially for physical development)
  • Take pictures of famous buildings and structures in your town, then posting them in the block area so children can build them
  • Take a picture of the child with their family, then post to family portrait wall
  • Snap photo for each part of the day, then use them for each part of the daily schedule
  • Document how to do the hand-washing routine

These are just a few to get you started.  Now, I know there are still a lot of questions people have which prevents them from giving children a digital camera:

What if they drop the camera?

They are expensive?

What if the camera gets stolen?

Can’t I just use my smartphone instead?

Do children know how to use a camera in appropriate ways?

All those questions in good time and in future posts.  This is to get you started.  A digital camera is a great tool and I’m excited to share how I use it.  And I’m sure there are others who are reading this and have ideas of their own.

Getting Back to Crazy

If it’s been awhile between posts, it means that my free time is coming to an end.  I start falling back into the my crazy, yet highly structured, routine: Center Manager of a preschool by day, graduate student by night, and a father and husband for my family.

Yeh, that last one is “by day” and “by night”… weekdays and weekends… 24/7 and rest of my life.

Posts may be fewer and farther between, but my presence on the world wide web will be taking on an additional role.

My graduate student life is coming to an end.  My culminating project – the summary of learning and studying for over two years – is coming up.  With my interest in technology, as well as skills with multimedia and writing, I thought best to share my learning and understanding of early childhood in a way that is important – and perhaps widely misunderstood…

To share how early childhood educators and professionals can use technology tools in developmentally appropriate ways; ways that will enrich, enhance and extend learning and play.

You get that last part?  Yeh, I said play.  No, not play as in flinging birds at pigs or picking clothes for your avatar.  I mean play as in outside and with other children.  Using technology alongside pencils, paintbrushes, paper and crayons – not replacing them.

tech4ece handYou think this could trend on Twitter?  Hope so.  That’s a tattoo…kidding, kidding.

It’s crazy to think my graduate student time is coming to an end, but I’ve set myself up for something bigger and grander than any of my papers, presentations, and homework assignments.  I gave myself something that will keep me learning, current, and researching.

And perhaps lead to something else down the line. Who knows.

It’s a large undertaking to make a website, design graphics, write, and present learning material to adults. Luckily, I have knowledge in all these disciplines. However, the idea that every skill and piece of knowledge I’ve ever learned – professionally, personally, life experiences, personal hobbies, all of that – will be maxed out throughout this entire project is extremely daunting. It’s like climbing Everest.

But, that’s what an education is suppose to do.  An education is meant to stir a desire to learn and acquire knowledge.  I’d add that we should use that knowledge for the greater good.  So, that’s what I’m going to try and do.  Right now, that greater good are the little people I work with everyday and the people that live and work with those little people.

Deep breathe… crazy schedule… here we go.

P.S. If you’re a parent and wanna help out with this project – and you have or have had experience with a 3-5 year old – you could take this survey.  Information from here will guide me in this project.  Here’s the link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LGH88D9