Posted by Angie Kalthoff & Amanda Strawhacker on Aug 05, 2020
Title image
Positive technological develepment(PTD) framework.
Hybrid learning to support Children's positive technological development.

This blog post is an introduction to a six-part series of posts about supporting children’s Positive Technological Development through hybrid/distanced learning.

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Title image
Positive technological develepment(PTD) framework.
Hybrid learning to support Children's positive technological development.
Image border is decorated with headshots of authors and pictures from the classroom.
This blog post is an introduction to a six-part series of posts about supporting children’s Positive Technological Development through hybrid/distanced learning.

Preparing for a Hybrid or Distanced Back-to-School

As we head into the coming school year, we hear more and more requests from educators about how to engage young children in rich, collaborative, creative learning using technology and STEM. As educators, researchers, and innovators in the field of EdTech, Angie Kalthoff and Amanda Strawhacker created this series of blog posts to offer suggestions and recommendations for supporting children’s Positive Technological Development (PTD) through hybrid or distance learning. These recommendations are based on years of research conducted by the DevTech Research Group with educators and families in both schools in informal learning settings.
This is an unprecedented global situation and we recognize that no one is going to feel 100% prepared for this coming school year. Although we are all making accommodations as we adapt to this new situation, we encourage educators to rely on their instincts and trust your gut when making decisions about your unique learning situation. We are all in this and learning together, so if you have a great adaptation, a question, or a conversation you’d like to start around Positive Technological Development (PTD) and distance learning in K-2, we would love to talk to you! Find us on Twitter or Facebook @TuftsECT!
Hybrid Learning includes face-to-face classroom instruction with online learning. Solutions to what hybrid learning could vary for everyone based on their situation but here is what we have been reading about:
  • Cohorts of students / Alternating days or half days
  • Selective return of grade levels, students, or teachers
  • One course at a time
  • One room school house
  • Individual learning plans
  • Distance learning/learning from home
This working definition of hybrid learning was adapted from many resources including: Cult of Pedagogy, Digital Promise, U.S. Department of Education.
As members of the Eliot-Pearson Child Study and Human Development Departmental community (Statement of Solidarity: we are committed to promoting curricula and educational content that acknowledges and respects children from all backgrounds and all life experiences. We will endeavor in these blog posts to present activities and tools that align with this commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion in early childhood education. Understanding that we are learners and if you see an area of growth for us, please reach out. If you are interested in understanding what is being done with equity in regards to Computer Science (CS) Education, you can learn along with us as we follow the work of the CSTA Equity Fellows. We are proud of ECT alum and CSTA Fellow, Michelle Lee, for the work she is doing in this area!

What is Positive Technological Development?

Angie, a technology integrationist, was excited to bring CS and Computational Thinking (CT) into her school district but realized she didn’t have a framework to follow that was specific to young learners. After finding Marina Bers’ TEDx Talk, she dug deeper to learn about Positive Technological Development (PTD). She was able to co-plan and co-teach with classroom teachers while learning about CS and CT and used PTD to make sure their lessons were effective. An analogy from Dr. Bers’ talk that really spoke to her and that she continues to use today is around comparing physical playpens and playgrounds to the digital environments we create for children.
Just because children are physically located in different spaces doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give them access to playgrounds. Today, when playgrounds are physically closed, we can provide digital environments that foster the same spirit of self-directed play and exploration that children experience in a playground. This metaphor can help bring a playground mentality to learning, even in a physically confined space.
The Positive Technological Development (PTD) framework offers guidelines to develop, implement, and evaluate educational uses of technology to promote learning and positive youth development (Lerner, Phelps, Forman, & Bowers, 2011). From a theoretical perspective, PTD is an interdisciplinary approach that integrates ideas from a range of learning science fields, including the Constructionist theory of learning developed by Seymour Papert (1993). Learn more about PTD here:
As a theoretical framework, PTD proposes six positive behaviors (six C’s) that should be supported by educational programs that use new educational technologies, such as KIBO robotics and ScratchJr. These are: content creation, creativity, communication, collaboration, community building, and choices of conduct.
Some of the Cs support behaviors that enrich the intrapersonal domain (content creation, creativity, and choices of conduct); others address the interpersonal domain and look at social aspects (communication, collaboration, and community building). These behaviors are associated with developmental assets that have been described by decades of research on positive youth development. Teachers can support these behaviors through classroom learning opportunities, like collaborating in whole group projects, hosting a “technology circle” to share feedback and ideas while working on technology projects, and using storytelling and self-expression as a goal for coding projects. 
PTD provides a framework for understanding how technology can be designed and used to promote positive behaviors and how, in turn, those behaviors can promote developmental assets. The diagram below shows how the C’s are connected and examples of how they can be put in practice in any learning setting.

Figure 1. Positive Technological Development Framework. The center column shows the behaviors that children exhibit when engaging in positive uses of technology (examples in right column). These behaviors indicate the development of specific character assets (left column). Reprinted with author permission (Bers, 2018).

While Angie was learning about PTD, Amanda was working on her Ph.D. with Dr. Marina Bers as her advisor. She kept hearing from teachers at conferences and schools that they wanted a way to evaluate the learning they observed when they brought new technology into their classrooms. After using the PTD framework to develop and evaluate a new early childhood makerspace for her Ph.D. studies, Amanda compared the ways that the makerspace’s physical environment and the teachers in the space contributed to children’s positive engagement with technology.

Figure 2. Chart displaying the level of teacher and environmental support for the different dimensions of PTD, and children’s observed level of engagement with each PTD behavior. Reprinted with author permission (Strawhacker & Bers, 2018).

After this work, Amanda was convinced that the environment is another “teacher” for children, and that educators can use and shape the environment to improve children’s positive engagement with learning technologies. As we head into a hybrid or distanced back to school, it is important to remember that the environments children inhabit can be as important as the family members and educators in children’s lives.

Her results showed that the teachers and the environment were both important for children’s development, but in different and complementary ways (Strawhacker & Bers, 2018). Teachers were important for fostering children’s communication and choices of conduct, while the environment was uniquely supportive of creativity and content creation (see figure 2). Teacher actions and the physical environment supported each other to promote children’s communication and collaboration.

An Overview of this Blog Series: Bringing PTD Education into our Current Reality

Group of teachers posing and holding up signs together at a conference

Angie’s and Amanda’s paths crossed at Infosys Pathfinders Institute 2018, and since then they have continued to partner in their efforts to bring high-quality CS content and best practices to educators, families, and young children.

For each of these blog posts, we have been careful to consider the home or school learning environment, since we know how important space is for young children’s CS learning and PTD engagement.

We understand that kids live and play in a variety of environments, especially during this time. No two families will have equal access to tools, learning supports, play spaces, and time. Just like the teachers in your child’s classroom, we will do our best in this blog series to provide you with resources that you can adapt to suit your current situation.

In our upcoming blog post series, we will break down each of the six PTD behaviors that we always look for when children are engaging playfully with developmentally appropriate technologies: Communication, Collaboration, Community Building, Content Creation, Creativity, Choices of Conduct.

If you can’t wait for the blog post, check out these resources from the DevTech Research Group:

DevTech Website:

Marina’s book: Bers, M.U. (2018). Coding as a Playground: Programming and Computational Thinking in the Early Childhood Classroom. New York, NY: Routledge Press.

ECT Webinar series + DevTech Webinar Recordings:

Follow us on social for updates about this series and other resources that we’ll be putting out in the coming school year!

ECT Twitter: @TuftsECT
ECT Facebook: @TuftsECT
Amanda Twitter: @ALStrawhacker
Amanda website:
Angie Twitter: @mrskalthoff
Angie website:


Bers, M.U. (2018). Coding as a Playground: Programming and Computational Thinking in the Early Childhood Classroom. New York, NY: Routledge Press.

Lerner, J. V., Phelps, E., Forman, Y., & Bowers, E. P. (2011). Positive youth development. Academic Press.

Papert, S. (1993). The children’s machine: Rethinking school in the age of the computer. BasicBooks, 10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022-5299.

Strawhacker, A. and Bers, M. U. (2018). Promoting Positive Technological Development in a Kindergarten Makerspace: A Qualitative Case Study. European Journal of STEM Education, 3(3) 09. doi:10.20897/ejsteme/3869

About the Authors

Angie Kalthoff headshotAngie Kalthoff is the Product Manager for Curriculum and Instruction at Capstone. Over her career, she has been an English Language (EL) teacher, Technology Integrationist, Program Manager, and University Instructor. She has an M. Ed in Teaching and Learning.  Connect with Angie on Twitter: @mrskalthoff and visit her website:
Dr. Amanda Strawhacker headshotAmanda is the Associate Director of the Early Childhood Technology (ECT) Graduate Certificate Program at Tufts University’s Eliot-Pearson Department of Child Study and Human Development. She holds a Master’s and Ph.D. in Child Study and Human Development, which she earned while working at the DevTech Research Group. She has contributed to the research and development of several technologies for children including the ScratchJr programming app, the KIBO robotics kit, the Early Childhood Makerspace at Tufts, and most recently the CRISPEE bioengineering kit.

She is a two-time winner of the Eliot-Pearson Research-Practice Integration Award, and was a speaker with TEDxYouth@BeaconStreet. Her work involves teaching, developing curricula, and professional development on EdTech, and she is passionate about innovating ways to empower children to express themselves and explore the world through new technologies. Connect with Amanda on Twitter: @ALStrawhacker and visit her website: