Empowering Early Childhood Teachers for Program Completion Through the Integration of Technology

Empowering Early Childhood Teachers for Program Completion Through the Integration of Technology

Dawn L. Mollenkopf (University of Nebraska at Kearney, USA) and Martonia C. Gaskill (University of Nebraska at Kearney, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-6888-0.ch010
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Abstract

Political and social pressures, influenced by research on the importance of early learning experiences, are putting pressure on the early childhood workforce to go back to school to complete required certification or degrees. Online programs are effective solutions when they include a multi-layered system of supports. This chapter showcases how one university has built and maintained an early childhood program that allows fully online and face-to-face delivery options for completing bachelor's degrees or certification. Lessons learned will help other early childhood teacher education programs know how to (1) build the technological infrastructure behind successful online programs to ensure student persistence and completion; (2) provide instructor and course supports for successful online course completion, including field-based courses and student teaching; and (3) incorporate student supports that enable early childhood teachers to utilize technology successfully to complete their program. Adjustments and technological supports during the COVID-19 pandemic will also be addressed.
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Background

Early childhood care and education programs in the U.S. evolved from multiple, diverse historical streams that funneled into two primary developments: (1) day nurseries focused on custodial childcare, and (2) the nursery school-kindergarten movements focused on development and educational learning. Different societal values, policies, expectations, and funding streams for these developments have created a fragmented system with varying degrees of quality, access, and supports (Kamerman & Gatenio-Gabel, 2007). However, as research has demonstrated the impact of early educational experiences (Camilli et al., 2010; Engle et al., 2011) and policy makers have seen the value of quality early education as a smart investment (Heckman, 2011; Bivens et al., 2016), systems are moving to integrate early care and education into a unified field (NAEYC, n.d).

Given the strong association of teacher qualifications with the quality of the early childhood environment (Manning et al., 2019) experts suggest early childhood teachers hold bachelor’s degrees with specialized knowledge and competencies in child development and pedagogy (Institute of Medicine and National Research Council, 2015). However, paths to degree attainment are not equal. While kindergarten teachers complete bachelor level teaching degrees and teach in an integrated school system with their elementary education counterparts, preschool teachers work in a variety of early childhood settings where educational requirements vary and may not require more than a high school diploma (Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, 2017). Nationally, 52.5% of center-based lead teachers have Associates degrees or higher, while only 38.2% have post-secondary experience with a major in Early Childhood Education (National Survey of Early Care and Education Project Team, 2015). Many early childhood teachers enter the workforce with little or no pre-service training.

Key Terms in this Chapter

T.E.A.C.H. – Teacher Education and Compensation Helps: The T.E.A.C.H. scholarship is housed at the national center and is specifically designed to help the early childhood workforce complete degrees debt-free while also improving their job stability.

Traditional Student: College student between the ages of 18-25 who enrolls directly in college after finishing high school, is usually a full-time student, and is not balancing family and heavy work responsibilities.

Remote Learning: A subset of e-learning separate from online learning that allows face-to-face students to attend class and/or work on assignments remotely. Some parts of the class could be synchronous, and some could be online.

E-Learning: Any electronic learning experience, including remote learning or online instruction.

Early Childhood Workforce: Any adult working in an early childhood program, particularly those serving as the teacher or assistant teacher in a childcare setting with children ages 0-5.

Certification: A teaching license in an endorsement area, which is completed as initial certification or an additional endorsement.

Digital Literacy: A set of skills students need to know to work with technology in a learning environment. This includes knowing how to use a variety of software applications, navigate websites, read and process electronically presented information, and apply these to learning.

Asynchronous vs. Synchronous: Asynchronous instruction means that all class instruction occurs independently, while synchronous instruction requires students to attend in person or via technology at a set time.

Early Childhood Inclusive (ECI) Endorsement Program: Program that prepares students to hold a teacher license to work with children ages 0-8 in regular education settings and children 0-5 in special education settings. The term, inclusive, according to state certification regulations indicates that the graduate is also certified (licensed) to teach children with disabilities. The program includes the bachelors’ degree, initial certification, or additional endorsement.

Field-Based Experiences: Student activities prior to student teaching in a school or early childhood program classroom that involves a set number of contact hours observing, assessing, teaching, or otherwise working with some or all those children.

“On-Demand” Teaching or Learning: Instruction available for the learner to access at the point they need it. An example would be a faculty member who accesses a tutorial to learn how to upload a video at the point they are building that into their course.

Learning Management System: A software application system that allows a university to administer, track, and deliver courses electronically. It houses faculty’s course websites and enables faculty to design and build courses.

Initial Certification: Program of study leading to a teaching license in an endorsement area for a student who does not already hold a teaching license. In this chapter, this specifically refers to the student who has completed a non-teaching bachelor’s degree but is returning as a post-baccalaureate (after the bachelor’s degree, but before a master’s) student to complete teacher certification in an endorsement area.

Additional Endorsement: A teaching license that allows someone with a teaching degree in one endorsement area (e.g., Elementary Education) to teach in another endorsement area (e.g., Early Childhood).

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