We all share the responsibility to make sure young children’s engagement with technology supports early learning and whole-child development. Whether in early childhood classrooms, at home, or in informal learning environments like libraries, museums, and zoos, technology is here to stay for these digital natives. Below is some research-based guidance for educators and families who want to responsibly select and integrate technology into children’s lives.
Using Technology in Preschool
Educators know that children learn best in the context of positive interactions with responsive and caring adults. Technology should support and strengthen adult-child relationships through co-play and conversation, allowing adults to share the experience with children. For example, when playing with technology in the classroom educators should be present, involved, and engaged with children. They can observe, play with children, provide feedback, scaffold, or ask critical thinking questions before, during, and after play. Products like Hot Dots Jr. Card Sets with Pen make these interactions fun and easy for busy educators!
For screen-based media, the content on the screen truly matters. What children watch or interact with is more important than how long they watch the screen. Content considerations should include pro-social characters that children can build relationships with, engaging stories, elements that encourage learning, and avoidance of distractions. The essential question for educators is how does this technology help children express, explore, or imagine? Moving to Math is a strong example of using media to build foundational skills that align with developmental sequences and engage with children’s interests.
Early childhood educators understand that meaningful, interactive, and social contexts are important for learning. This finding transfers to the digital age with multi-touch screens and apps. Context also includes an understanding of the family, including children’s media use at home. Educators should consider technology use in the context of the child’s home environment, community, language, and prior technology experiences. This could include using technology that broadens children’s horizons and addresses Learning About the World through multi-media. The essential question for educators is how does this technology complement, and not disrupt, children’s natural play and learning?
In the 21st century, it will no longer be enough to know how to use technology. Educators who can transition from media consumers to media creators will be better prepared to guide young learners. Children need to learn how to create and express themselves through technology – whether through writing their own digital stories, creating their own digital artwork, or designing their own interactive games!
As an educator, you come prepared with a wealth of knowledge and resources to help children navigate the world of technology.
- Apply what you already know about young children, child development, and best practices.
- Refer to published technology guidelines, such as the NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center Joint Position Statement and the Fred Rogers Center Framework for Quality.
- Remember what matters: co-play, content, context, creating – and, of course, children!
- Encourage healthy media habits for young children:
- Use media with traditional materials and activities in the classroom.
- Place limits on passive technology use.
- Look for educational media that encourages interaction and gives children some control over their learning.
What creative ways do you implement technology in your classroom? How has technology enhanced children’s learning and engagement? Share with us in the comments section below or on the Really Good Teachers Forums!