Technology in Early Childhood: Advice For Parents and Teachers From A Trusted Source | Spotlight on Digital Media and Learning
“The first question should be: ‘Is this the best choice for accomplishing a particular set of developmental goals or not?’” she said. “Knowing the child, his or her interests, developmental stage, cultural and linguistic background, individual abilities, all contribute to the decision-making process.”
The statement urges educators to explore technology use within a framework of “developmentally appropriate practice.” By that they mean that all decisions about what takes place in the classroom should be guided by what we know from research about how kids learn and develop, and what’s optimal for that learning. They recommend that in the early childhood years, children’s use of technology should be “active, hands-on, engaging, and empowering” and, importantly, should give the child control and “help children progress in skills development at their individual rates; and are used as one of many options to support children’s learning.”
Photo by Barnaby Wasson.
Specific examples include expanding young children’s access to new content – like finding pictures online of polar bears, for example, or Skype chatting with relatives who live far away. Technology should not be an isolated activity, but should instead become part of the daily classroom routine, enhancing and expanding lessons.
“We use technology as means to play, not supplanting play, but extending and supporting play,” Mark Bailey, director of the Early Learning Community in Portland, Ore., told me last year. Bailey and his colleagues use technology with children between the ages of 3 and 6 to explore and document their experiences; they use a digital ProScope to view a butterfly wing close-up, for example, digital cameras to photograph their latest block creations, and classroom computers to dictate stories. These are the kinds of optimal experiences the NAEYC researchers are talking about.
The statement makes an important distinction between interactive, participatory media such as apps, e-books, or interactive white boards, and non-interactive media, including some television programs and videos that encourage more passive viewing.
The authors also recommend using media that directly supports building relationships between students and caregivers or teachers. Dynamic interactions are especially important for very young learners, who learn best with encouragement and feedback. Some critics have raised concerns that time with technology is taking the place of the time children spend talking and interacting with the adults in their lives.