Monday, April 7, 2014


Technology is a hot topic. Add children to the mix and we will never run out of research, opinions, and perspectives that influence educational and social trends and policies. What should we consider before we accept and embrace the latest technological wonders for our young children?

To help you answer that question, let's look at two articles I mentioned in the last post, a recent NPR story on computer science for kids and the NAEYC "Young Children" article, "Using Tablet Computers with Toddlers and Preschoolers," to see what's in the popular and professional media and check them against what we know about how young children learn.

Computer Science Learning for Young Children, Silicon Valley Style? 

I listened to NPR's story, "A Push to Boost Computer Science Learning, Even at an Early Age," with concern, but not surprise. Here was a report on venture capitalists gathering in a Silicon Valley hotel to pitch educational technology, including a program to teach basic computing to preschool children. Of course, this would be fun and games. Their rationale for starting young makes no sense to me. Lamenting the inadequacy of quality computer science education for middle and high school students, this company's brainstorm is "the younger, the better." Very young! Besides thinking this is developmentally inappropriate, I ask, "why start with preschoolers? If the concern is poor curriculum for older school-age children, who can benefit from computer science education, why not start with them? Read the NPR Computing Education Blog for listener comments, which are generally against the early introduction and education of computer education.

Tablets for Toddlers and Preschoolers? 

A few days later, I opened my March 2014 issue of "Young Children, the Journal of the National Association for the Education of Young Children," and turned to the article, "Using Tablet Computers With Toddlers and Preschoolers," by Eugene Geist. Featured is a lesson that included a live university marching band visiting the school and playing for the two to four year olds in a Head Start classroom. Tablet apps and YouTube video follow-up activities were part of the lesson, with a description of the children's interaction with each other using the tablets. There is no question that the lesson was well-crafted. However, wouldn't the follow-up activities be more appropriate for older school-age children,  who will do more than swipe, push buttons and quickly memorize predictable results?  The latest commercial apps for toddlers and preschoolers are featured on a sidebar.

Later in the article, a quote from NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media reminds readers that "media and technology should not replace activities… that are important for children's development. (from the Technology and Interactive Media Joint position statement of NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at Saint Vincent College). 

What if the follow-up activities left out the tablets? 

Bring real instruments to school again, use the variety of music-makers that sit on the shelves in early childhood classrooms, ask parents and community members to share their musical talents. After inspecting and handling real instruments, young students can make their own. Inside or outside, children can march, playing their hand-made creations and take them home to share.

Child development professionals and research tell us that preschoolers learn best when engaged in activities that are supported by hands-on, direct and real experiences. The joy of music, movement and dramatic play that follows listening to the marching band and meeting the musicians, will engage all the senses with the real world, respecting children's stages of development with appropriate curriculum and experiences.

Children have one childhood, a limited number of waking hours to play, discover, wonder, observe, experiment, interact, practice, learn sharing, empathy and compassion, build relationships with people and nature.  How do we make sure our children experience that irretrievable gift of time?

The Future? 

When it comes to children and technology, I often hear, "this is the way life is today and we have to support our kids, so they'll be ready for the future." Read well-respected child development expert, author ("Taking Back Childhood") and Professor Emerita, Nancy Carlsson-Paige's article that appears on Valerie Strauss's blog, "The Answer Sheet: Is technology sapping children's creativity?"for inspiration, advice, research, facts and stories. 

What do you think? When is the best time for beginning computer science teaching/learning for children? How do we speak up and advocate for young children? 

Thanks for visiting. Please share this blog and leave a comment, so we can hear your voice about this important topic.  Keep thinking "Beyond Borders." 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014



While recovering from my broken ankle, I didn't have a ROBOT to keep me company. But I did read…"THE MOST HUMAN HUMAN: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us About Being Alive," by Brian Christian and then listened to NPR's TED Radio Hour about Robotics and AI (Artificial Intelligence), "Do We Need Humans?" 

and read more… ideas for future blogs are the NPR story,"A Push to Boost Computer Science Learning Even at an Early Age," and the article, "Using Tablet Computers with Toddlers and Young Preschoolers," in the latest National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) journal, "Young Children."


These titles were red flag topics to me and immediately caught my attention, because our connection with technology and children is not just a concern, but a reality that has been steadily changing the way we educate and raise children in our society. This has been one of the key issues I've worked on as an educator and member of CEASE (Concerned Educators Allied for a Safe Environment, see February 11 Blog). 
Keeping the dialogue open and staying current with movements and policies that need to be considered, analyzed, challenged or supported, are goals moving us toward positive change.


I had time to think how my recovery would have been different if my connection with other people had been primarily through computers, phones and artificial intelligence, instead of face to face, in person with friends and family, real people, real social interaction.  How would I feel after eight weeks of interacting with screens and machines and not humans? I'm lucky I didn't need to find out, because special people in my life shared their time with me while I was healing. The "Tend and Befriend" impulse is powerful in my circle of friends. (See March 2 blog on FRIENDSHIP).

Those questions are added to my concerns about how technology is impacting infancy and childhood through the teen years, as well as society as a whole.  How much is human interaction replaced by computerized devices? What difference does it make if interaction is real or artificial? How intelligent is artificial intelligence? 

Evaluating Technology Needs

I'm writing this blog on a computer and it appears on the Internet; I'm using modern technology, but what's good for adults is not the template to follow when we evaluate what's good for young children. A child's healthy development requires adults to know what they need at different stages and provide an appropriate learning and growing environment. 

The use of tablets, hand held devices, phones, apps and computerized toys for young children has proliferated and has become a marketing tool that continues to target our children as consumers, while limiting the human interaction and playtime needed for healthy development. 

Where does technology fit into balanced and healthy lives for infants, children and adults? We'll explore that question in future blogs.  

I hope you will leave a comment and let us hear your voice about this important topic. See you next time and keep thinking BEYOND BORDERS.  

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Tend and Befriend

"A landmark UCLA study suggests friendships between women are special. They shape who we  are and who we are yet to be. They soothe our tumultuous inner world, fill the emotional gaps in our marriage, and help us remember who we really are. By the way, they may do even more."

Friendship makes our lives manageable, fulfilling, and spiritually and emotionally healthy, which means we are better able to cope with the stresses and challenges society hands to us daily. Our children, grandchildren and students, the kids in our world neighborhood, need us to function well in order to provide them with even their basic needs. As we age, friendship enriches our lives in countless and immeasurable ways. 

I first read the study, "Tend and Befriend," after completing a Master's Thesis, "The Role of Creative Expression in Women's Rediscovery of Identity After Loss" (Pacific Oaks College, 2002).  I interviewed and studied women whose recovery included active engagement with writing, the arts, music, photography and other creative endeavors. They experienced physical and emotional changes that promoted healing and growth. What I also found in my research, however, was reinforced by the UCLA study: during the initial stages of loss or grieving, before picking up a pen, camera or brush, the women felt supported and began healing through their relationships with friends and family. We need each other. 

The UCLA Study on Friendship Among Women, (2002) describes an alternative to fight or flight that has been long attributed to both men and women's reaction to stress. Women have another response, "Tend and Befriend," releasing the hormone oxytocin, when they gather together, helping and sharing, through friendship. 

Researchers in this study suggested that men do not feel this calming response, because their levels of testosterone reduce the effects of oxytocin. I think most of us agree that friendship makes our lives better and nourishes on both the receiving and giving sides. You may recognize this hormone as the one released during childbirth, nursing and tending our young. 

Years ago, during an educational workshop, a wise woman reminded the overworked and tired audience of teachers, women and men,  that we all need friends, as well as work, in order to fly with both wings and not limp along on one. Yes, we needed to hear such elemental wisdom.  While some of the research above is based on women's studies, friendship, of course, is not gender specific. Everyone benefits from kindness and friendship.   

You can check out the links below for two more studies on oxytocin: 

American Psychological Association report on "Tend and Befriend" (2008) on the APA website, "The two faces of oxytocin…"

"The Biology Behind the Milk of Human Kindness,"   a New York Times article (2009) continues the discussion, reporting that the brain's supply of oxytocin in both women and men, plays a part in the development and feelings of kindness, trust, empathy and compassion. 

Stay tuned for the next post on Friendship and the Broken Ankle Update! Here's a peek at my newest fashion statement.   See you next time.
New boot: out with the purple, in with the red. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


When we feel love and kindness toward others, it not only makes others feel loved and cared for, but it helps us also to develop inner happiness and peace.                     ~ The 14th Dalai Lama (1935)


It's no coincidence VALENTINE'S DAY shares the stage with the ACTS OF KINDNESS observance. Love and compassion are expressed through acts of kindness, but the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation  reminds us to be kind every day. Teachers take advantage of the traditional holiday to encourage love, friendship and kindness. We know that kindness and compassion can be taught through modeling, example, and even formal and informal lessons.

But what about Acts of Kindness that are not random? Last week I wrote about the amazing people in my life who demonstrate kindness through their everyday actions, who have stepped up to help me heal from a fractured ankle. Almost everything I do daily, on my own two feet, has become a challenge that I am able to meet because of their generosity. I think I'm being showered with Valentines every day! I'll be so grateful when I can walk on both feet and "pay it forward."


We recognize the kindness of individuals. Now, consider the context of this quote, attributed to Margaret Mead: 

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it's the only thing that ever has.

I belong to CEASE, a network of early childhood professionals, advocates and activists, parents, teachers and other individuals.  CEASE's Statement of Purpose illustrates how they take action by seeking to remove the root causes of violence in our society by advocating for peace, justice, economic opportunity and sustainability. This group demonstrates KINDNESS and makes a difference to children and families. When I write "demonstrate" I mean to live what they believe, through all the different ways people work, in their professions and volunteer life, activism, advocacy, writing, art for social change, their example.  Isn't this kindness, to care about the world's children through action? Random Acts of Kindness Foundation gives kudos to activists who "walk the talk" like CEASE members do daily, locally and globally. 

Check out the CEASE website and links that tell the story of this dedicated group of people.  Then check out the links on the sidebar, to learn about other groups that Make a Difference. 

See you next time with more on teaching and learning KINDNESS, plus the kindness-spirituality connection. Thanks for visiting and thinking BEYOND BORDERS.  

Friday, January 31, 2014


My BEYOND BORDERS Blog is back from vacation.  I've been busy with adventures here and abroad and will share stories throughout the year, but this season we'll explore journeys of mind and space,  a way to consider how life changes over time. My inner-philosopher/poet is active and I invite you to engage yours and continue the conversation through the comments after each post.  Please join me in creating an interactive blog, a place where we can hear everyone's voice.  


It is a little over a week since I broke my ankle, only five more weeks until I am cast-free, I hope. BUT, I know that plans are easily broken, often take detours and fall away,  only to be replaced by the energy of Impermanence.  

A friend and I decided to check out the record low water level of Folsom Lake, which is receding rapidly because of drought conditions. Impermanent levels altered by humans and nature.  

When I began my hike, I had no idea that by the end of the day, with only one misstep,  I would end up on crutches and a non-weightbearing cast. I have never had to think about not walking on my two feet. It's automatic, right? I hadn't considered that I could lose some of my independence or that the  kindness of others would be needed to help me with daily tasks. Now I'm taking lessons to learn to graciously give and receive.  

Isn't this how we live? Our identity, beliefs and ideas are constantly challenged. Does Impermanence feel more present in your life, as the time between birthdays seems shorter and shorter? 

I began to think about the meaning of Impermanence and how it connects to the losses and changes we all experience, as I watched the Gaden Shartse Tibetan Buddhist Monks create a stunning sand Mandala and then, in the sweep of a feather, destroy it and toss the colored sand into the currents of the wild river. My friends will laugh (I hope) and agree that I frequently say, "I wrote a poem about ..." for many experiences we share. Here it is, written after the Monks' visit in Northern California, in 2012. 


Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck~Dalai Lama

Six days creating a mandala, a sand

painting colored with healing prayers.
On the seventh morning, a dissolution
ceremony. The Monks destroy
their creation, brush the grains
to the center, pour them into a brass urn
no bigger than a hand. In the blessing,
they ask the deities to heal the earth.
Afternoon at the river, the Geshe
scatters wisdom of non-attachment,
north, south, east, west, releasing
sacred sand to the flowing water.
Witnesses observe, wishing
to reverse so many words
and deeds, as easily as sweeping
them away with a feather and casting
them to the currents.      ~Irene Lipshin 


(Previously published on Medusa's Kitchen)

Photos © Irene Lipshin

Thanks for checking in. I hope you will join the conversation. Please write a comment about your thoughts on Change and Impermanence. If you want to know when the next post is online, click on the subscribe button for automatic notification.   You can check out archived posts for a 2010 view. 

Saturday, February 6, 2010

...the kind of change they can really use

The sign on the subway reads, Give the homeless the kind of change they can really use. Clever way  to remind us not to give our money to someone soliciting on the train, but to support programs that help homeless people move off the streets into more acceptable quarters. The economy continues to challenge all of us, but the homeless are especially hard hit because of massive budget cuts.

And on top of the economics, the weather is cold, cold, cold. Sleeping in subways, trains and any available shelter is common. Maybe beyond my border of comfort or yours, but not always a choice for the homeless. Yesterday when I entered the train, the middle seating area was open on one side, but on the other side, a man stretched out on the entire seat, sleeping. Passengers on the usually crowded car gave him space and people either stood or sat in other parts of the train. We may be trying, but we aren't reaching many of the  people who need new quarters, at least here and now.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A shopping cart?

Last week I shopped at Trader Joe's, three subway stops and another 10 blocks away from my home. I purchased more than I could comfortably carry, so with $55 worth of groceries in two bags, and my computer in a backpack, I used muscles I forgot I had. Three days of feeling like I had just started a weight training regimen helped me to rethink the pushing of a cart. Is it just for old people? How old am I anyway? Sixty years ago, my Grandma Eva always used a cart; not driving in the city, she needed a way to schlep her groceries across town. My Mother,  almost 93, still does her own shopping and often takes the bus and her cart, yes, to Trader Joe's by the beach in Southern California. So now, I follow in their footsteps, swallow my pride, reduce my carbon footprint and plan to push a cart back and forth, on the subway and to the market. At least I'll try. (and if the cart doesn't work, maybe a pedi-cab!) Cheers for the invention of the wheel!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Traveling Without a Passport

I began this blog as a travel journal and to share my adventures with friends and family. It is good fortune to travel out of the familiar, the continent of my birth, out of my comfort zone, affording me a wide-angle view of myself and the world. But there are many journeys we take in our lifetime(s) and until I venture to a far-off land again, I'll concentrate on the inner-journeys and those closer to home, the social and political boundaries and borders that define, restrict and free us as human beings.

In 2007, I participated in a Sierra College Study Abroad course, War Era Literature, spending a few weeks in Vietnam, traveling from Hanoi in the North, making our way down to the Mekong Delta and then Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in the South. The images above are from my collection of photographs of Children of Vietnam, (and an exhibit, "Vietnam Today: Carrying On"), which tells a story of life in another country. The photos leave out the poetry, the people's inner-most thoughts, their relationships, how basic needs are met, the possibilities in their world. Through our interaction with the picture, we write the details of those stories, using our own experiences, information we learn from news, reading, travel, and our imagination and points of view. We can only know the true details by living the life, so our imagination and empathy really come into play.   I have to ask myself how accurate are we, when we are looking through our own lens, no matter that I was really there, in person?

And how do we write the stories and poetry of our own lives? In the next entries I'll continue posting photographs and stories that illustrate how we travel beyond borders without a passport, but always with the poetry of life.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Workers' Rights

I'm reflecting on the meaning of my trip to Mexico, so much more than a photographic journey. I noticed that some of the photos have disappeared from the pages of this blog, but not from my mind. To be a middle class (or higher) American means to enjoy many of the privileges (we call these rights) that others in this country or in many other countries only dream might be their future. Seeing the gap gives meaning to the vocabulary of poverty and indifference. What is the difference between human rights and rights? I am indebted to my Pacific Oaks journey, an awakening. My questions are never-ending.

The photo above is a newspaper pic of the protest on Mexico's Hwy. 15 that stopped traffic and closed the road in both directions for miles, until 6:00 p.m, a real-life lesson in civil rights. Truckloads of soldiers and many emergency vehicles made their way to the sugar cane factory where growers were demanding federal intervention in their negotiations with the manufacturers. At least that is what I can understand from this small article that was placed in the bottom right column on an inner page of the newspaper. Most of this I found out the next day after we sat in traffic for two hours. I wonder if the protest made a difference to the drivers on the road. Most were patient and we didn't hear horns honking or see people angry, but a few cars tried to drive over a gully to get out of the gridlock. A young entrepreneur sold cold sodas during the wait. This protest is the voice that rises. That makes me wonder where my sugar is grown, just another thought about fair trade.

I have everything materially that I need and more. I saw people in Mexico who also are lucky compared to their neighbors, but others who struggle day in and day out. Many are satisfied and have what they need, but the difference in scale between Mexico and America is remarkable, just like the middle class in Vietnam living in very small homes and while they have many of the technological wonders of the world, televisions, cell phones, Internet, the scale of their possessions is so very small compared to ours. Some of us complain about gas prices, but we have cars. Those of us who have worked with children and adults who also struggle daily, know the balance is tipped towards the strong. I quoted Pablo Freire earlier and I will continue to believe that his assessment of the power of education to create voice and change is the reason I have stayed in education so long and have tried in some small way to carry the message that we need to continue working for human rights and a non-violent society.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mexican Holiday in Poetry

I have been back home for four days, cuatro dias, and I find that reconstructing my trip day by day reveals only an itinerary, not the essence of the journey. I also am discovering that each journey is an individual experience, you have yours and I have mine and there is meaning to "lost in translation". So, a bit of philosophizing, some poetry and photos will follow in the next few posts.

The remainder of the trip is poetry, words falling together as music, color, emotions reveal a Mexico held only in a dream. A dream that occasionally disturbs or at least awakens consciousness, with the graffiti, political signs, protests, beggars, vendors sitting in stalls row after row, selling the same crafts, turning from the lens of tourists, who benefit greatly in understanding the people and the culture by being or becoming bilingual, a goal I will work on this year. This picture contrasts greatly with lavish haciendas, tourist destinations, churches and cathedrals rich with gold, jewels and art and well-maintained colonial architecture. I left this beautiful land with more questions than could be answered in a short time or perhaps at all: from immigration to past battles and conquests, the role of religion in the social structure of the country, the rich history of Mexico is an exploration that invites introspection, reflection and a sense of responsibility. I hope to learn more in the coming years.


In Michoacan
I have been missing my guides.
Living in Braille
feeling is everything.
The skeletons visit at night,
bones of the dead scattered
here and there, bowing to grandmothers.
What is left of this woman
who escaped death only to rattle into it
before she could spell her name
in another tongue?
In all those years I studied
espaƱol I did not know how
to say I love you and I am. Now,
te quiero, yo soy
my first words.

Gloria's parents, both over 92 years old, married 73 years, live in the home of la madre's birth family. Her mother had a stroke right before we were to travel and is now recovering, so Gloria was not able to travel with us as planned. Gloria is staying with her parents in Janamuato to help them, until the end of July, so J. and I were on our own after our visit to this village of her childhood. She gave us a tour of the village and we met many of her family members who were visiting the parents.

Mexico Today

Mexico is a land of contrasts: I expected dry, arid land and immediately the first of many misconceptions, stereotypes was dispelled. Leaving Guadalajara in the early light, we passed verdant fields, agave, corn, tomatoes, whatever produce is exported to America, this is the heartland. Later, traveling through larger cities like Morelia and Guadalajara, we encountered WalMart, Sam's Club, Costco, Office and Home Depot, malls and outlet stores, and global brand names, Coke, Pepsi, McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, Subway and more in communities of all sizes. Internet is available. Our cell phones worked everywhere. Supermercados are well-stocked for the middle-class who look like middle-class people around the world. All this exists within the economic diversity of the country.

The churches, cathedrals, basilicas are rich in gold and incredible art, many built centuries ago. Saints Days and religious holidays, especially Posada, Dia de los Muertos, and Semana Santa are all celebrated with both joy and reverence.

We were fortunate to witness a pilgrimage of Catholic men, women and children, walking from many miles away to the basilica near our bed and breakfast. Others came on buses from all over Mexico on July 7, to honor the day of the Maria Inmaculada de Salud, the patron saint of health, when believers pray for good health or recovery. Everyone carried flowers and walked in long lines, men in front, women and children behind, often through the rain, to the Basilica de la Salud in Patzcuaro. A few walked on their knees to the altar. Later in the day, fireworks and festivities, one of many celebrations throughout the year all over Mexico.

We met a well-educated tour guide, whose other job is professor of archaeology in Morelia, who had grown up in a "liberal" religious family. He calls himself spiritual, not a believer any longer, but nature and culture play a major part in his life. Religion has shaped the culture and economics of Mexico, with many different levels of participation and belief. The study of religion's social-political influence will reveal many intersections with poverty, family values and roles, war and health issues. Here we see the prayer for health and the devotion to the divine. Religious icons are everywhere in Mexico.