MLFTC’s 3rd Annual Early Childhood Conference goes virtual — and global

By

Erik Ketcherside

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University was forced to move its annual Early Childhood Conference online this year due to COVID-19 restrictions. The result for the Feb. 20 conference was nearly double the attendance figure of 2020, and a substantial global representation among participants, including attendees from India, Mexico, Peru, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Turkey, Thailand and Egypt.

This was the third consecutive year for the conference, which was created to bring together current MLFTC early childhood education students, alumni, educators and community members to highlight work and knowledge in the field of educating children from birth through age 8. The agenda featured six tracks: Language and Literacy, Teaching and Learning, Wellness, Advocacy, Dis/ability and Inclusion, and Virtual Learning. Particular attention was given this year to issues of equity in early childhood education.

Clinical Assistant Professor April Boozer coordinated the event. She says that, while the challenges were considerable in transitioning a traditionally in-person event to online, “... due to the overwhelming response and success of the conference, we are considering holding next year’s conference virtually again. This year we had more than 160 conference attendees, representing other states including New York and Virginia, as well as an international audience.” Boozer says last year’s conference had 85 registrants, with more turned away due to space constraints. “The virtual setting this year allowed everyone to join,” she says. 

In recognition of the themes of global and equitable education, the conference began with a “read aloud” of Alexandra Penfold’s 2018 New York Times best-selling book, “All Are Welcome.” Boozer says the audience responded enthusiastically to the opening, which included the words, “We’re part of a community; our strength is our diversity; a shelter from adversity. All are welcome here.”

“I had no idea the conference would extend to people from all over the world,” Boozer says. “This was amazing and humbling. Having the international representation shows how impactful the work we do as early childhood educators is, and how much it matters.”

Videos of conference sessions

“Humanizing Black Children” (Evandra Catherine)

“Curriculum Modifications that Promote Engagement and Participation in the Preschool Classroom” (Bjorg LeSueur)

Explore the full conference video playlist