The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) National Institute for Early Childhood Professional Development has long been one of NAEYC’s premier conferences. This conference brings together early childhood professionals who are passionate about assuring that educators are knowledgeable and on the cutting-edge of the latest research. The 2014 conference “Excellence for Every Child: Standards without Standardization” highlighted some of the country’s leading early childhood education professionals in Minneapolis, Minnesota this June.

We, as an early childhood education community, are bearing witness to increased exposure on the local, state, and national levels for the work that we have been advocating for to be seen as a profession for many years. Never in history has early childhood education been mentioned in the political landscape as much as in this presidential administration. Now more than ever, we need to be sure that we are continuing to support the lives of children, families and communities as advocates for best practice when educating today’s young children.

Thanks in part to the support of The Sprout Fund, The Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children (PAEYC) joined several other partners from the Kids+Creativity Network as presenters at the conference.

Sue Polojac, Director of Programming at PAEYC co-presented “Engaging Families in dialogue about today’s media and technology landscape” with Tanya Smith, Ele Coordinator at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. This session explored appropriate and secure ways to engage families using Facebook, Twitter, You Tube, and Pinterest with families. Sue and Tanya also co-presented “Integrating digital media literacy and technology into early childhood standards and practice” with Chip Donohue, PhD and Amanda Armstrong from the TEC Center at the Erikson Institute in Chicago.

Chip Donohue set the stage by using the NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center joint Position Statement on Technology as a guide to select and implement technology in effective, developmentally appropriate, and intentional ways.

The presenters shared another useful tool for educators, the Pennsylvania Digital Media Literacy Project’s Checklist for identifying exemplary uses of technology and interactive media for early learning. The checklist helps educators use media tools in a manner that support the technology position statement. Pittsburgh and the surrounding region continue to lead the national discussion on digital media literacy and early childhood.

PAEYC Director of Operations Cara Ciminillo and Executive Director Michelle Figlar also presented on behalf of the Playful Pittsburgh Collaborative, a group of local entities including the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy, Carnegie Museum of Art, Let’s Move Pittsburgh, The Sprout Fund, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and others who are working to raise awareness about the importance of play in the development and health of children, family and our communities.

The conference reminded us that the reciprocal developmental relationship between individual educators and learners is, in the words of Junlei Li of the Fred Rogers Center, ‘the active ingredient’ in any learning setting.

Presenting alongside Junlei, Cara, and Roberta Schomburg of Carlow University, Hedda Sharapan of the Fred Rogers Company presented this simple and yet powerful message with a  reminder of the wise words of Fred Rogers:

“If you look carefully, listen carefully…there is a lot that you can learn carefully. Look and listen.”