Advances in technology can be seen everywhere. From the cars we drive to the machines that wash and dry our clothes, consumers have access to more high-tech tools than ever before. And, of course, technology has trickled down to children, who are exposed at very young ages to digital cameras, interactive games, mobile devices and computers.
This familiarity with technology makes high-tech learning methods a good fit in most classrooms, and interactive technology and media are increasingly used in early learning programs for children.
How Can Technology Support the Education of Young Children?
Appropriate and wise use of technology can greatly expand and enrich a standard curriculum. In addition, technology can help teachers better meet the needs of children with diverse learning styles.
Children learn best when they are manipulating their world: playing with dolls and blocks, moving toys around or touching surfaces. That’s why interactive, rather than passive, technology is ideal for learning. For example, when children can control a computer game or lesson, they can slow it down, speed it up or repeat information as needed. In addition, controlling the sound, video and still images contained in a multimedia lesson can help certain learners better retain information.
- Interacting with computers can be very beneficial to children’s learning, but what matters most is how technology is used:
- Content should be developmentally appropriate.
- Technology should encourage social interaction.
- Multiple technologies can better support a variety of learning styles and experiences.
- Technology should be used to close the achievement gap and the digital divide.
- Educators should focus on curriculum goals and find ways to adapt them to available technologies.
What Do the Experts Say?
In 2012, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), in conjunction with the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, released a position statement after collecting information from educators and experts in the field. The goal was to help teachers and administrators make sound decisions about if, when and how to use technology in the classroom.
Here are a few excerpts from the statement:
- To be appropriate for young children, technology should be viewed in conjunction with child development theories.
- For children younger than 2 years old, it’s important to determine whether technology is adding to or taking away from the learning experience.
- Non-interactive screen media should not be used in early childhood education programs, and screen time is discouraged for infants and toddlers.
- When used appropriately, technology and media can enhance children’s cognitive and social abilities, play and creativity, and outdoor activities.
With Technology, Timing is Everything
While it’s important that educators have access to technology, it’s vital that the right technology is used at the right time and in the right way. Teachers need to control access to content that is not developmentally suitable to each child, based on age, developmental level, abilities, needs and interests.
Just as children need a variety of experiences to learn, they also need time to explore the array of technology available to them. Once children have reached the appropriate age (at least 2 years old, according to the NAEYC), educators can use computers, tablets, cameras and other technologies to enhance their learning experiences.
By Grant Webb. Published 7/18/2013
Grant writes on career training offered in association with U.S. News University Directory. With a focus on trending healthcare topics that affect healthcare costs such as medical billing and coding training, as well as in preventative care through healthcare management education.
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