Social Media Toys

Often, the issue of toys being from social media is brought up.  Girls play with Barbies and boys play with toys from movies like Cars and Spiderman.  It is difficult to walk into a store and find a toy that has not been affected by the media.  Many people would argue that children are losing their imagination because of this.  They reenact movies and television shows because that is what their toys are from and that is the only thing they can play with them.  While i do no agree that reenactment is the only thing that can be done with those toys, I do believe that it strongly influences how children play with the toys.  The other day at the daycare I work at, I noticed that the doll house the children were playing with had small wooden dolls with simple feature and square bodies.  Quite different from the Barbies I had as a child.  I quite liked that the toys were very generic and I noticed that the boys played with them as often as the girls did.  I was intrigued by this and went in search to see if there were any other toys in the room that were from the media.  I am happy to report that I couldn’t find any.  There were cars, but not from any movies and there were big dolls of different skin tones (although no males).  As I payed closer attention to what was happening in the room I noticed, day after day, that no area was always used solely by a specific gender.  There are usually more girls in the dress up area and more boys in the big blocks area, but there is always both genders at both areas.  I think this is wonderful!

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Understanding Multiculturalism

Wordle: Understanding Multiculturalism

I recently wrote a paper for a class about multiculturalism in Canada and the classroom. I created a wordle from the document. It is difficult to understand multiculturalism and know whether or not Canada truly is multicultural. By some definition Canada is, but by others it is not. For myself, I do not believe Canada is truly multicultural, as this country does not yet treat every culture member equally or equitably. As far as multiculturalism in the classroom, I find that it is usually superficial. According to this document there are a number of stages a person can be in regarding their understanding and actions towards multiculturalism. It is important to know and show that there are many cultures, but also to integrate them into the classroom on a deeper level than just decorating Ukrainian Easter eggs or celebrating the Chinese New Year. I am striving towards integration , as should all teachers and Canadian citizens. This means that respecting other cultures and communicating effectively with people from other cultures happens without thinking about it and including them, their beliefs, and their practices into our everyday lives. What are you striving towards?

Social Media Effects on Play

In a class today we talked about social media and technology and it’s effect on children.  One of the things we focused on was how modern children’s televisions shows and violent video games affect children.  There were many mixed opinions on the matter, most of them being that the effect is very negative and children are very violent because of the images they see in the media.  However, I disagreed.  I don’t think that modern media is making that much of a difference.  It has always been in the nature of children, especially boys, to play in a way that portrays violence.  This doesn’t mean that the play itself is violent because, for the most part, there is never any physical contact and they don’t actually fight with each other – it is mostly imitation.  Also, my professor has told us that when his children were young he tried to cut out all influential media and did not purchase stereotypical toys for them.  This means no Barbies for his daughter and no toy weapons for his son.  However, one day his son brought a friend over and they played that they were shooting each other with guns in the backyard.  Is this the influence of media?  No. It is in their nature.  Boys have played “violently” since the beginning of time.  Modern media and other influences have not caused children to suddenly start doing this, or even do it more often.  The idea that parents can “protect” their children from this is a bit silly because there is no way to do this.  When his son was playing guns with is friend my professor gave up and went into his shop and made toy swords and shields for the boys to play with.

Now we move on to a new question.  We know that, no matter what, there is violence in play.  Is this a bad thing?  Is it a negative thing that children are playing that they hurt each other?  The children aren’t actually hurting each other and it isn’t necessarily going to lead to actual violence.  The most important thing, in my opinion, is that there is an explicit conversation about it.  Violence is part of our life and our reality so it should not be hidden away and ignored.  For example, when 9-11 happened children heard about it and some even watched about it on the news.  Many children play through things like this because play is what they know best and it helps them make sense of what has happened to pay out the events they have seen.  I was in grade 6 at the time and for the entire morning my class sat in the hallway and watched the news.  The event was important to our reality and it was important they we were aware of it, even if there were some parents that weren’t happy that we watched it.  We can’t hide underneath rocks.

Playing with toys

I watched this video in one of my classes today. I want to focus on the therapist’s comment that in the era of technology, children have sort of forgotten to play with toys. The value of playing with toys has lost its importance a bit with some children because everything is focused on technological games.
I am currently doing a project for the same class and I am interviewing and observing play behaviours in a public school and comparing it to a classroom in the Huda school. I have found that some of this focus on technological games is present here. I have found that, when asked what their favorite thing to play is, most students from the public school answered with things like made up games and games that use toys. In contrast, the students at the Huda school most often answered the same question with some kind of computer game. Also, at the public school there are two East Indian girls in the class that answered similarly to the students at the Huda school, listing computer games as their favorite things to play.
So this lack of play with toys mentioned in the video may have a connection to cultural perspectives, not just the fact that we are in the era of technology. Does anyone have any input or experience with this subject?

Another thing that I thought about this video was that the tips the therapist is giving the grandmother about playing with her grandson who is on the Autism spectrum are tips that I think are important for every child and caregiver, regardless of having a disability or being able-bodied. It is important to play with the child and not just be an observer. This comes into the classroom as well, as teachers should not just sit back and let their students play. I think it is important to get involved while still allowing the children to shape and lead the play because it will allow for the richest play environment and learning opportunities.

Media and Children

This is a TedX Talk by Dimitri Christakis that I watched in my ECE435 class. His research on over-stimulation is fascinating. If you want that part of the video start watching at about 5:00.

The research results show that the more television children watch before the age of three, the more likely the child will have attention problems. Also, the more cognitive stimulation that children receive the less likely the child will have attention problems later in life.
Another thing that they found was what the children are watching on television. They found that educational programming provides 0 risk of attention problems while entertainment shows provide 60% more and violent t.v. shows provide 110% more risk of attention problems. This seems to stem from the fact that entertainment and violent shows are much faster paced. The scenes change a lot more frequently than educational programs. This information is not all that surprising, except perhaps the actual percentages.
In the 1970, the average age children started to watch t.v. regularly was about 4 years. Today, it’s 4 months.
So what does this mean to us as educators? We need to provide a classroom setting that keeps the attention and interest of our students. We cannot change what happens at home and how much or what kind of television our students watch other than teaching them about how to spend their time wisely and encouraging physical activity. In my classroom I strive to provide an environment with minimal distractions – which means not a lot of mayhem on the walls or access to view outside. That last part sounds mean, but it is just a matter of facing the students’ desks away from the window, not blocking the windows. Also, I try to plan my lessons in a way that changes, not doing the same thing for the entire time. One other thing I find that helps students is brain breaks.

Scarf Play

I am currently taking an early childhood education class about play and I am finding that I notice a lot more things about play when I am around children than I did before this class. I am looking at play a lot differently and I often stop myself from ending light rough-and-tumble play because I have learned about its benefits.

At daycare last week something phenomenal happened. There is a teacher cupboard that the students are not allowed in and there was a bag of some squares of a meshy fabric – basically scarves. In the afternoon one of the teachers had removed the bag from the cupboard for some reason and it was sitting on a table out in the open and one of the children found it and pulled one out. Now, this happened on Saturday and on the weekends things are a little different at the daycare. The weekend staff allow the children to do a lot more than the weekday staff and actually let them make a bit of a mess without getting on their case about being so messy and loud. In other words – the weekend staff let the children play and have some fun. So, there is one child playing with a scarf and of course, the other children notice it and want one too. All of the children find the bag and everyone takes a scarf and miraculously none of the teachers object to this.

It was incredible watching these children play with the scarves. After everyone had at least one scarf some of the children took another one, and none of the children fought over who got two scarves and who got just one. One of the staff, the only male that day, helped some of the children tie their scarves into different props. There were aprons, capes, scarves, skirts, robber/bandit masks, shirts, and many other things and each was worn by both girls and boys. I have never seen all of those children play together and have so much fun with just a swatch of material. There were some kids that I had never seen play together who were because their scarf costumes matched.

When it was time to clean up for supper the teachers helped the kids untie their costumes and the kids put their scarves back in the bag. I found myself just standing back and watching everything that happened instead of helping with supper or clean-up. The only thing I kept thinking was that I can’t wait until I am in my own classroom so I can inconspicuously place a bag of scarves in the room, stand back, and watch what happens.

“The Fun Theory”

I watched this video in one of my University classes a couple of weeks ago. The idea of making taking the stairs fun really speaks to me as a teacher. There is the age-long question of “how do I keep my students engaged?” This video gives us a very good answer – make it fun. Taking the stairs is not a very fun activity, but adding those piano keys and having it play music is such an amazing idea. I’m sure people who had never even been to that stairwell made a point of going there just to see it.
As a teacher, this is my goal – to make learning fun. No matter how seemingly boring or undesirable the activity or topic seems, it is my goal to make it enjoyable and fun for my students as well as for me! Not every topic is super fun to teach because of my own personal interests, just as each student has subjects and topics they don’t particularly like. So I think it is doubly important to make learning fun. Students can pick things up from their teachers and if the teacher obviously doesn’t like the topic, the students will have a similar feeling. Making the topic fun for the teacher will give the students a better impression and create a happier and more effective learning environment.

Reading as a Punishment?

This past week I overheard something that didn’t sit very well with me.  I work at a daycare in the city and it is the routine that, after any meal or snack the children need to clean up their spot and go to the library centre to read books until everyone is done eating.  When everyone is finished they can put their books away and go play whatever they like.  I normally work with the older children, but they were still in school so I was in the area with the younger children and, as per usual, they were not reading books but running around and playing with toys.  The teachers asked the children to go to the library centre a few times, but it didn’t make much of a difference.  Then one of the teachers told the children that because they weren’t listening she was going to read aloud to them all.  If they listened well she would only read two books, but if they were misbehaving she would read a lot more.

At first, it seems to be an effective way to calm the children down and get them to behave because they obviously don’t like to read very much.  However, this is not the right approach to the situation in my opinion.  I have always loved reading books and it is one of my goals to foster a love of reading in my future students.  By telling the children at the daycare that if they behave they will not need to read a lot of books, the children begin to view reading as a punishment.  This is not conducive to instilling a love of reading in them.

Computer Games in the Classroom

There are many people who believe that games do not have a place in the classroom, particularly games on computers or other forms of technology.  However, I think there is a huge benefit for these games.

Games are a form of play and there is a ton of research on play in the classroom and the research tells us that it is a good thing.  Not only do the children enjoy it and behave better, but they are also often learning while they are playing.  Some people know this and are advocates of play in the classroom. But what happens when we bring in the question of play through technology? Is it still considered play? Do the students still learn from it?  Of course. In our current society as Canadians, and in much of the rest of the world as well, technology is taking over every aspect of our lives.  This includes or leisure (or play) time.  Every other child has a cell phone, iPod, or DS to play games on.  Why do we try to exclude those things from the classroom? To win a power struggle between the students and the school? If these things are what students are interested in, why would we, as teachers, not use it to our advantage?  If the student is learning what the curriculum is outlining, does it matter if they accomplish it by listening to a teacher at the front of the room or by exploring and discovering themselves on a screen?  Of course, they can’t be just any games.  In the classroom there has to be guidance from the teacher in the area of what computer games they are playing; and this is a huge issue.  There has to be a LOT of careful selection by the teacher to provide games that are actually benefiting the student in the academic setting of the classroom.

Now, I’m not saying that students should be sat down at computers and stare at screens all day. I don’t believe that is good for a child.  There is still a huge benefit from social contact that I think a lot of younger generations (including my own) are missing out on.  However, is it going to hinder the students’ learning if they play an educational game via technology for 20 minutes?  I think not.

Sharing Personal Information with Students

There has always been the question from teachers: “How much personal information do I share with my students?”  Of course, as a teacher I would want my students to get to know me.  I want to know all about my students – the things they like to do and don’t like to do, the subjects they like and don’t like, the friends they have, their family life, and what they think their strengths and weaknesses are.  not only do these things make me a better teacher in planning my lessons and instructional strategies, but it also allows me to connect with my students.  I want to know what kind of people my students are.

From a student perspective, I would want to know about my teacher.  In my elementary experience I had a stronger bond with those teachers who told me things about themselves and who had some similar interests to me.  Those were my favourite teachers.  My co-operating teacher often asked herself this question.  During lessons she would use experiences from her own life to relate to her students.  Sometimes, as a journal prompt, she would ask the students what they did on the weekend, but she would first start with what she did on the weekend.  I thought this was great and the students clearly enjoyed learning about their teacher!  Obviously there are things that are not appropriate to share with students.

But, things have changed a bit.  With technology and websites like Facebook, the question of how much information to share develops a whole new level.  What do you think about it?  In my opinion Facebook is not something a teacher should share with their students until the student has graduated.  I personally have a number of my high school teachers on Facebook, but we didn’t friend each other until after I had graduated – and I didn’t want to add them until I was done at the school.  But when we start to talk about elementary students it is a little different.  Elementary students generally want to add their teachers because they are so interested in them.  I think personal Facebook accounts and schools should not mix.  If a teacher wants to create a profile specifically to add their students, all the power to them, but as a teacher there are still aspects of my students’ lives (that inevitably get posted to Facebook) that I don’t want to be a part of.