Using Technology in Early Childhood Education
One thing the COVID-19 pandemic taught us is the value of technology when it comes to educating children. School-age children received laptops and experienced months of virtual education. Even the littlest learners were at home with their parents, occupied by tablets when their child care programs closed.
Technology can be a valuable tool if used to enhance education efforts. From virtual field trips to gamified learning, classroom technology is a great way to boost student excitement and enrich learning environments.
The U.S. Department of Education has four guidelines for using technology in early learning environments. These guidelines encourage key skills such as play, self-expression and problem-solving skills.
Technology—when used appropriately—can be a tool for learning.
When families and early educators incorporate developmentally appropriate technology, children can use those tools to learn and grow in new ways.
In Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center state that “appropriate experiences with technology and media allow children to control the medium and the outcome of the experience, to explore the functionality of these tools, and pretend how they might be used in real life.”
Active versus passive use is a key factor in identifying an appropriate use of technology for learning. When a child is only consuming content without participation, this is a passive use of technology and is not recommended. An active use prompts engagement in the form of verbal or physical responses.
Technology should be used to increase access to learning opportunities for all children.
When technology is used appropriately and with guidance from adults, technology allows for learning opportunities that may not be achieved otherwise. Direct exposure to other communities and cultures in interactive ways is an opportunity many children may never get without technology.
With the use of technology, learning in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields can be greatly enhanced. From observing cause and effect through online simulations to observing the Panda Cams at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park, these free, at-home opportunities are the perfect combination of educational and interactive.
Technology may be used to strengthen relationships among parents, families, early educators and young children.
Most high-quality early learning programs utilize technology to communicate with parents and families. For example, classroom staff can share information on diaper changes, feeding schedules or art projects directly with families via an app or website portal. These updates can come in the form of text, photos or videos.
Along with updates throughout the day, technology is a common way for providers to share appropriate resources with families. Upcoming events, meal calendars and community resources can be shared directly with all families or to specific families when appropriate. This allows providers to cater a specific experience to each family.
Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children.
Children learn best when engaging with parents, family members or other trusted adults. Learning also increases when children are surrounded by their peers who are all learning together.
Active participation is increases when an adult participates in the learning activities with young children. Adults who help guide children to engage, communicate, learn and create will create more effective learning environments for young children.
One research study of maternal interaction with 15-month-olds found that the infants are 22 times more likely to transfer learning from a touchscreen to a real object, but only if the activity included high levels of maternal input and emotional responsiveness.
Utilizing technology in a classroom or learning environment provides increased opportunities to teach and engage with our youngest learners. Now that you know those advantages, try to flex your creative muscles and find new ways to shape curriculum and teaching strategies.