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2018 Q4 Newsletter Update

New in Q4: Language Diversity Courses, ELM Curriculum, and more

Two New Focused Topics Courses:

The Supporting Language Diversity Focused Topics course is now live. Two versions are available; one for Direct Care staff and one for Coaches. See details in our previous news posts.

Highlights of Recently Added Resources and Updated Content:

Technology and Personal Cell Phone Use in Centers

The Pew Research Center reports that approximately 95% of Americans have a cellphone, 77% of which own a smartphone, and about one fourth of U.S. adults say they are almost constantly online. With the pervasiveness of digital technology, it is important that we continue to examine how the use and presence of technology influences the quality of care and education. Thus, we have added additional resources that underscore the importance of being present when interacting with children. The following resources reside in the Management track, Safe Environments course, Lesson 3:

This resource describes a NAEYC session on smartphones and social media, and offers a few guidelines for how these tools and mediums can be used effectively--and ethically--in early childhood settings.

Located in the References & Resources section, this 15-page resource lays out pertinent issues that can help you craft a well-planned policy on interactive media use in your program.

Your Program’s Paperwork

Managers wear many hats; they oversee and guide many elements in programs. Looking carefully at a variety of inspection (child care licensing) components, we pointed to tangible opportunities that exist within the VLS for the purpose of post-inspection remediation and program improvement. In line with those efforts, we added content around the topic of program records and documentation. This updated content is available in the Management track, Program Management course, Lesson 1 under the heading, “Your Program’s Records.”

ELM Curriculum

The Virtual Lab School is excited to provide you with access to the Early Learning Matters (ELM) curriculum. This curriculum was developed by experts at Purdue University with funding from the Department of Defense and USDA. ELM can be accessed on the VLS by using the main menu and selecting ELM Curriculum. All of the preschool-related content and materials are currently available and we will continue to add the Infant-Toddler content as it is finalized.

Content in Development

We have several content, technical and user features in development, here is a quick sneak-peak of what is to come:

  • Full-scale review and update of Positive Guidance and Physical Development. As highlighted in our previous newsletter, our content team has been conducting larger-scale reviews and updates, with attention to some of the first courses we developed (see information on Healthy Environments and Safe Environments noted in Q3 Newsletter). Our content team is currently examining recent relevant research, guidelines, and resources to inform our updates to the content and activities across all tracks and lessons for Positive Guidance and Physical Development. Remember that our new Course Guides are now dynamic, so that as we update any activities that staff or providers are asked to complete, you can readily access the most up-to-date activity listing.
  • We have begun outlining some additional Focused Topic content that will provide information, strategies and resources relevant to challenging behavior, problematic sexual behaviors, and trauma-informed care. We will keep you posted on this development in the year ahead.

Research Update

The Benefits of Social Emotional Learning and Mindfulness Programs in Education Settings

During VLS Trainings, and recently to a packed crowd at the NAEYC Conference, Cynthia Buettner, Sarah Lang and Jovanna Tyree talked about the importance of teacher well-being and highlighted the Social Emotional Learning for Teachers (SELF-T) Focused Topics course available to help support teacher’s stress management and resiliency. During these presentations, we often mention the research on using mindfulness approaches within educational settings, and how various interventions have been associated with better child outcomes. We encourage programs to teach children a variety of resiliency strategies, and to practice stress management together, from labeling emotions and reframing negative experiences, to shared breathing, practicing yoga, and expressing gratitude.

Mindfulness approaches focus on helping children learn various self-management techniques, with particular focus on being aware of our thoughts and feelings and how these influence our actions. Mindfulness approaches may include a focus on breath and other bodily sensations. A recent article by Semple, Droutman and Reid (2017) provides a nice summary of the current research on using mindfulness with children and youth, and the evidence-based information, or lack thereof, around what works. Their research highlights that there is still much for us to understand about these kinds of interventions, and provides quick summaries of the programs that have been developed and tested thus far. Although the research is limited, it does appear the mindfulness programs can improve children’s attention and executive functioning, help children and teachers manage stress, and foster children’s social-emotional resiliencies.

Tech Updates

We are excited to be releasing changes to our site menus and navigation this month. Our new main menu provides quick access to each track’s landing page and well as the new ELM curriculum and other resources from anywhere on the site. This menu update, together with the recent changes to our new content headers and our upcoming support article rework, will allow users to access all of our materials quickly and efficiently.

In addition, we are currently working on large changes to the support section of the VLS site. Over the next few months we will be updating and streamlining our help files, FAQs and tutorials. We also have several improvements to help topic navigation and organization in the works that we are confidant will provide context and assistance across all of our features.

We are continuing to enhance our new Competency Reflection tools and will be making additional digital formats available during our next text release early in 2019 so that registered users can use these important documents to record their reflections in an electronic, digital format, or on a printed hard-copy.

VLS version 1.02.09 has been released, for a list of new features or changes, check the Release Notes