Dish soap and water table supplies. They were the items on Taryn Fawcett-Berthelot’s shopping list as she was preparing an activity for her preschool class the next morning. But, she was stalling on actually heading to the store. The reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic was increasing in Alberta and she had a feeling things were about to change.
Within minutes, her feeling was proved correct. Lethbridge College announced it was moving classes out of the classroom and into the online world. And more immediately for her practicum placement – the Government of Alberta announced that all schools in the province were closed to students.
While the move was necessary to slow the spread of the virus, it created immediate question marks for Fawcett-Berthelot, a first-year student in the Early Childhood Education (ECE) program, who still needed to conduct observations of children in order to complete her practicum placement.
Most importantly – how do you gain experience from observing children, when you no longer have access to children?
“It’s funny, I had asked earlier in the semester, ‘why can’t we just watch videos for our practicums instead of going out into schools and daycares?’” laughs Fawcett-Berthelot. While her suggestion was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, it proved prescient.
Looking for solutions that would allow students to meet provincial requirements and allow them to graduate on time, faculty in the ECE program turned to video – specifically, a system called Videatives that shows children at play and working with educators.
“We’ve used this database for our Development through Play class,” says Cheryl Hatten, ECE program chair. “Students watch the videos to identify where they see development happening with the children. But we believed we could expand its use to fill in the gaps for those who were still missing practicum hours and it’s actually worked quite well.”
Fawcett-Berthelot has mixed feelings about the technology. She misses the one-on-one time with the preschoolers and the way she was able to see them develop week-over-week. But with the world in turmoil, she’s thankful that faculty were able to find a way for her and her classmates to meet the requirements of their classes.
“It’s beneficial that I had the one-on-one time that I did in my practicums prior to this change, because now I can really spot things in the videos that I wouldn’t have been able to see before,” says Fawcett-Berthelot. “I can see and understand where the developmental domains are in the videos I am watching.”
They also allow her the opportunity to really focus in on specific ages and developmental skills in the children in the videos. “In the real-world setting, I might see a child playing but won’t know if they’re two-point-four years old, or two-point-eight. With the videos, I know the exact age of the children and can really identify how they develop skills at certain ages.”
On track to earn her Early Childhood Education certificate this spring, Fawcett-Berthelot plans to pursue her diploma online, while beginning her career. She wants to work in a day home or daycare setting to gain experience, and eventually wants to become the director of her own program, preferably in a setting such as a women’s shelter, where she can help children develop, cope and navigate the challenging circumstances in their lives.
All of these plans are still on track, because Fawcett-Berthelot and her classmates were well supported and able to complete their program on-time. But also because they found something in themselves that allowed them to be successful, despite the upheaval in their lives.
“I would not have been as positive if we had spoken two weeks ago,” she laughs. “But early on, I read a pamphlet about academic resiliency and that really is what I’ve shown – resiliency. I’ve really persevered and I’m proud of that.”