Opening Minds USA, the premier professional resource for people who educate and care for young children, announced that its widely attended conference, Opening Minds, is now open to the public.
This early childhood conference, now in its 58th year, brings together 5,000 early childhood professionals for four days of workshops, seminars, focus groups and special events. Topics range across 15 areas of concentration including the most recent research and thinking on all the literacies (reading, writing, talking, listening, financial, and computer literacy), math and science; social and emotional skill development; technology; identifying and addressing special needs; English Language Learning, and the many changes in the accreditation and education systems working to ready young children for Kindergarten and beyond.
This year, however, Opening Minds USA CEO Gail Conway saw a need for the conference to serve a bigger community that also includes parents of young children. I reached out to Gail to learn more about how this conference can be a resource for Chicago-area parents.
Gail Conway, M.Ed. is the Chief Executive Officer for Opening Minds USA, the trusted advisor and professional resource to people who educate and care for young children. Here is what she had to say.
1) What are the most important things parents should know about early childhood education trends going into 2014?
In 2014 and beyond, parents are going to see shifts in the role of their child’s teacher as well as others who serve or welcome young children. Teachers and librarians, for example, are no longer the keepers (holders) of all the knowledge. Teachers and librarians are becoming the curators of content; media mentors and the designers of learning experiences that parents can rely on as we all sift through appropriate and identify inappropriate content for young children. Literacy and learning how to read is also going to include learning the basics of programming logic. Computer coding is going to be the next literacy beyond reading, writing, talking and listening in 2014 and beyond.
Families have an insatiable appetite to know what’s happening in their children’s lives. Technology provides a window into the classroom. In 2014 we are going to see new software tools that strengthen the communication between home and school.
2) What do you think parents will learn from attending Opening Minds?
Parents will learn they are not alone. They will learn what the most current thinking and research is from numerous industries working to educate and care for young children. Parents will learn practical advice to immediately put to good use when they go home. Lastly, they will learn in the months following conference – that when they know better, they do better. I credit Maya Angelou with this last sentiment.
3) What is the can't-miss panel or speaker attendees should try to see?
The Power of Touch presented by Dr. Peter Andersen. Parents and professionals, alike, may not be aware as to the critical role touch plays in all our lives to build relationships, express and interpret emotion, and communicate. Touch is truly our first language and one of the most powerful. I think people will be surprised by what they learn in just 3 hours, and believe this one session has the ability to significantly impact how we think and what we do with our children.
Relationships are still critical to children’s learning. As technology takes hold, we must be more vigilant to remain connected and involved in children’s lives. It’s not easy to raise happy, healthy and well educated children. As much as the times are changing, they remain the same. Learning happens best through relationships. All children need a grown up in their lives who believe in them- to let them know who they are, why they matter and how they fit in to this world. Best advice to make this happen- Get to know their child’s likes and dislikes; hold them and spend time with them; look at challenging behavior as a teachable moment- to help make things go right, and speak up on their behalf until they can do this for themselves.
The Opening Minds Conference runs from January 29 to February 1 at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place and features such speakers as Dr. Peter Andersen, professor of Communication at San Diego State University on the Power of Touch, Carmen Schmidt, Education Outreach Director for WTTW/ PBS Chicago, and Brian Puerling, Author of “Teaching in the Digital Age.”
As a special offer to parents who would like to attend, Opening Minds is offering the special parent promotion rate of $125, a 20 percent discount off the full conference rate. Interested parents who wish to attend should RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org with “parent promo” in the subject line.