Should Technology Be Part of Early Childhood Education?

Technology. Electronic media. Early childhood. Literacy. Are these four concepts mutually exclusive, or do they hold the potential to interact and promote deeper connections in the education of young children? Will the use of technology and media support the developmental needs of young children, or do these tools take away from essential developmental needs and experiences?

The National Association for the Education of Young Children, in conjunction with the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College, Pennsylvania are currently working on a revised position statement, Technology in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8, which will be published in spring 2012.

Technology in early childhood education

How can technology be utilized?

The position statement takes an interesting look at technology and the early childhood setting and recognizes that new technology tools and media are changing the way information is acquired and utilized; and it also affects the way we communicate with each other. Most importantly the statement highlights that in order for experiences with technology to be appropriate for young children, technology needs to be viewed through the lens of child development theories.

So when it comes to technology and electronic media what is developmentally appropriate for young children?

  • At all ages, but especially under the age of two, it’s important to determine whether technology is supplementing or taking away from something. Is the child really benefiting from “engaging” with an interactive book on the iPad, or would the experience be greater if they were sitting close to you “reading” the book together?
  • Children between the ages of 3-5 tend to benefit from technology when they are engaged in open-ended exploration, rather than using it to create a product. Open-ended software that allows children to explore their thinking and to try different scenarios is best, rather than having the child engage in math drill sheets on the computer.
  • Children between the ages of 5-8 begin to move towards more independent interaction with technology and media. The teacher is less involved in directing and becomes more involved in monitoring children and intervenes as necessary to guide and pose questions that encourage thinking.

According to the NAEYC statement the use of technology should be used to supplement and support learning that occurs in the classroom. The more options a child has for planning and communicating with others the better prepared they will be when they interact with the real world.

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Research shows that a strong learning foundation provided for children in Early Childhood Education programs (ages 0-5 years old) lasts a lifetime. Articles and resources--ranging from where to find free math worksheets to advice on how to structure music and art lessons--in this section focus on creating an environment where the natural curiosity of this age group is fostered and where all children thrive.

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