Thanks to Lee for putting this group together and I hope some great connections come out of it. My Hampshire education was a combination of early childhood and elementary education and computer science. My Div. III involved working with a class of fifth-grade students to design and develop a math computer game. In doing this project, I asked 2 questions: what educational concepts can students learn through creating a math computer game? What could the software development industry learn by developing new programs in partnership with children? The short answer to both questions was “lots” and it was a great experience.
After graduating from Hampshire in 2000, I went on to graduate school at the University of Maryland in College Park. While all of my research and most of my time was spent in the Human-Computer Interaction Lab, they didn’t have their own degree program at that time. Therefore, my classes and degree were through the College of Education’s Human Development department. While at UMD, I worked on several research projects, including designing the kindergarten classroom of the future and developing StoryRooms, immersive, digital, storytelling environments for preschoolers. One of the things that I liked best about graduate school was working on an interdisciplinary team, which included engineers, computer programmers, child development experts, and children. When the kids had an idea to create an interactive Sneetches room, the education experts could say what was developmentally appropriate, the programmers and engineers could make it come to life, and we all built it together. That was really fun! I left UMD after earning my Master’s Degree, though I had been enrolled in a Ph.D. program. I decided to spend some time getting “real world” experience.
After UMD, I held a couple of teaching positions, including as a long-term substitute teacher at the Hampshire College Children’s Center. Then I taught for and managed a local franchise business called ComputerTots/Computer Explorers. We provided technology education classes for preschoolers through middle schoolers in daycare centers and after-school programs. As the manager, I did everything from hiring new staff to overseeing programs to determining pricing for our programs. My favorite part of this job was designing and testing new curricula to teach robotics to elementary school children.
In the midst of all that, I managed to get married and have a child. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for the past 4 ½ years, since my son was born. Given my professional background and my personal philosophies, I have been debating appropriate technology exposure for my son. My husband and I decided to greatly limit our son’s TV and computer exposure before age 3, as well as really wanting to ban toys with batteries (we did restrict them a lot). As he continues to develop cognitively, we are expanding those horizons. At 4 ½, we did just build his first robot, which was lots of fun!
I have some questions for this group of Hampshire-minded people. How do you balance the technology you use in work/play with your family? Have you changed any of those habits since having children? How have you dealt with mainstream companies or universities after your Hampshire experience? Any creative ideas about research opportunities involving children and technology use?