Meet Aussie Kate Highfield; In Plain English

Kate is an Early Childhood education researcher from Sydney, Australia. I have not met Kate IRL, but the fact that she advocates for meaningful integration of technology in Early Childhood earns huge respect from me. One of the objectives of my district’s Strategic Plan ensures academic proficiency of all students in pre-kindergarten through grade 2. As we strive to develop the capacity to deliver effective instruction in these young grades, I constantly worry that meaningful technology integration will be ignored. I’ll be sure to check out one or more of Kate’s sessions, and so should you.

Kate’s Sessions:  W165: Creativity and Problem Solving with Young Children: Is there an App to Cross Boundaries and Borders? • C115: STEM: Branching Into the Future for Young Children • C609: Making Early Childhood and Technology Play Well Together: Questions and Answers as You Plan • C715: Quality Teaching with Technology: Is there an App for that?

  1. What is your background in education?
    I spent ten years teaching then returned to study and completed a PhD in educational technology. Since leaving teaching I’ve spent ten years as a teacher educator and researcher. The main focus of my teaching is with young children in prior-to-school and the early years of school. I also research how teachers (working with students of all ages) use technology to enable practice.
  2. What unique message do you bring in your keynotes?
    For some, young children’s use of technology causes concern – the message I bring is that when tech is used well it enables new opportunities for young children. My presentations are unique as they cross the intersection of research and practice and as they focus on the specific needs of young children (and how technology supports and extends this vitally important time for their learning).
  3. What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you while presenting?
    Hee hee, I’m Australian and have had the honour of speaking in many countries, the weirdest though was in a college where they had translators, including one who offered to translate my presentation from Australian to English! I think we Australians speak English (even if it is with a slight Aussie twang!).
  4. Is there anything (related to edtech) you expected to see fully embraced in schools by now, but are disappointed to see it has yet to be fully adopted? Briefly explain the barriers.
    As I mentioned I focus on young children’s learning. Given all that is happening for them socially, emotionally and developmentally it is a powerful time for them as learners. So my concern is that many schools and early childhood settings focus on technology in the older years and leave out the youngest learners – when in fact technology offers them so many amazing opportunities. Young children need more than ‘babyish’ Apps, we need quality 
  5. What do you see happening in Charter or private schools that you think our public schools could learn from?
    I think, from the schools I’ve visited in the US that there is such tremendous variability – even between similar schools in similar areas. We need to hear more from teachers about what is working and ask teachers (regardless of their school) to share evidence of their technology practice so we can all learn from this community of learners. 
  6. What is one compelling reason for parents to keep their students in public schools?
    I can’t really comment on that as an Aussie!
  7. If you weren’t in education, what field would you be in?
    I’d be a baker, florist or a potter.
  8. What kind of kid were you?
    For parts of my schooling I was a wee bit naughty, known to run away from school from time to time. I did settle down in high school though!
  9. What are you most excited about right now?
    I’m really excited about technology tools that allow us to do something we couldn’t do before – for young children this might be programming, creating or communicating – finding those pieces of tech that enable something new. I’m also excited about opportunities for children to create rather than consume – so open ended technologies that put control in the hands of the child.
  10. Anything else (message, links, etc.) you would like me to know and/or write about.
    Come and visit me in Australia, we have some amazing educators and we’re a pretty fun country to visit!