Technology Benefit Young Children’s Education

As parents, we have all been at war with our children because they have been absorbed into video games or movies on iPad, tablets or smartphones. We have a better chance of getting Tom Cruise’s attention walking on the red carpet than our children.

Today, it’s common for two-year-olds to be using iPads, elementary schoolers hooked up to video games, and we all suffer (or live with) the challenge of prying your middle-schooler away from the computer long enough to eat a decent meal.

Technology is everywhere and its draw on kids is obvious, but is technology helping our kids learn? Technology is becoming more social, adaptive, and customized, and as a result, it can be a fantastic teaching tool. That stated, as parents, we need to establish boundaries.

Today, software is connecting
kids to online learning communities, tracking kids’ progress through
lessons and games, and customizing each students’ experience.

By the time your child is in elementary school, they will probably well-versed in technology.

Learning with Technology at School

Schools are investing more and more in technology. Whether your
child’s class uses an interactive Smartboard, laptops, or another
device, here are three ways to make sure that technology is used
effectively.

Young children love playing with technology, from
iPads to digital cameras. What do early childhood practitioners – and
parents, too – need to think about before handing kids these gadgets?

Let’s start at the beginning: what is technology in early childhood?

Technology can be as simple as a camera, audio recorder, music
player, TV, DVD player, or more recent technology like iPads, tablets,
and smartphones used in child care centers, classrooms, or at home.

More
than once, I’ve had teachers tell me, “I don’t do technology.” I ask
them if they’ve ever taken a digital photo of their students, played a
record, tape, or DVD, or give kids headphones to listen to a story.

Teachers
have always used technology. The difference is that now teachers are
using really powerful tools like iPads and iPhones in their personal and
professional lives.

Technology is just a tool.

It shouldn’t be used in classrooms or child care centers because
it’s cool, but because teachers can do activities that support the
healthy development of children.

Teachers are using digital
cameras – a less flashy technology than iPads – in really creative ways
to engage children in learning. That may be all they need.

At the
same time, teachers need to be able to integrate technology into the
classroom or child care center as a social justice matter.

We can’t assume that all children have technology at home.

A
lack of exposure could widen the digital divide – that is, the gap
between those with and without access to digital technology – and limit
some children’s school readiness and early success.

Just as all
children need to learn how to handle a book in early literacy, they need
to be taught how to use technology, including how to open it, how it
works, and how to take care of it.

Experts worry that technology is bad for children.

There
are serious concerns about children spending too much time in front of
screens, especially given the many screens in children’s lives.

Today,
very young children are sitting in front of TVs, playing on iPads and
iPhones, and watching their parents take photos on a digital camera,
which has its own screen.

There used to be only the TV screen.

That was the screen we worried about and researched for 30 years.

We
as a field know a whole lot about the impact of TV on children’s
behavior and learning, but we know very little about all the new digital
devices.

The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages screen
time for children under two years old, but the NAEYC/Fred Rogers
position statement takes a slightly different stance.

It says that technology and media should be limited, but what matters most is how it is used.

What is the content?

Is it being used in an intentional manner?

Is it developmentally appropriate?

As
parents, we need to be aware of the drawbacks of technology and its
impact on eyesight, vocabulary and physical development. We also need to
be cognizant of our kids overall development,

My advice to
teachers and parents is to trust your instincts. You know your child and
if you think they have been watching the screen too long, turn it off.

It’s
up to us, as parents, to notice that your child’s computer time is
reducing or limiting interactions and playtime with other kids and nudge
them in new directions. To encourage them to be physically active, to
get outside and play.

It’s also up to the adult to understand the
child’s personality and disposition and to figure out if a technology is
one of the ways the child chooses to interact with the world.

At the same time, cut yourself some slack.

We
all know that there are better things to do with children’s time than
to plop them in front of a TV, but we also know that child care
providers have to make lunch, and parents need time to take a shower.

In
situations like that, it is the adult’s job to make the technology time
more valuable and interactive by asking questions and connecting a
child’s virtual experience on the screen with real-life experiences in
her world.

Learning with Technology at Home

Whether you’re giving your child your smart screen phone to
entertain them, or it’s your toddlers’ preferred playtime is on an iPad
or tablet, here are eight ways to make sure your child’s experiences
with technology are educational and fun.

Focus on Active Engagement

Any
time your child is engaged with a screen, stop a program, or mute the
commercials, and ask engaging questions. What was that character
thinking? Why did the main character do that? What would you have done
in that situation?

Allow for Repetition DVDs and YouTube videos
add an essential ingredient for young minds which is repetition. Let
your young child to watch the same video over and over, and ask him what
he noticed after each viewing.

Make it Tactile Unlike computers
that require a mouse to manipulate objects on the screen, iPads, tablets
and smartphones allow kids manipulate “physical” objects with their
fingers.

Practice Problem Solving An emerging category of games
will force your child to solve problems as they play, potentially
building concentration and analytical skills in the process; although
the jury is still out on this. There is no clinical data that supports
the marketing message of app makers.

Encourage Creation Use
technology for creation, not just entertainment. Have your child record a
story on your iPod, or sing a song into your video game system. Then,
create an entirely new sound using the playback options, slow down and
speed up their voice and add different backgrounds and beats until
they’ve created something uniquely theirs.

Show Him How to Use It
Many computer games have different levels and young children may not
know how to move up or change levels. If your child is stuck on one
level that’s become too easy, ask if he knows how to move up and help
him if he wants more of a challenge.

Ask Why If your child is
using an app or game the “wrong” way, always pressing the incorrect
button, for example, ask them why. It may be that they like hearing the
noise the game makes when they get the question wrong, or they might be
stuck and can’t figure out which group of objects match number four.

Focus
on Play Young kids should be exploring and playing with technology.
This should be considered play, and not a focus on drilling skills.

Ask
For Your Own Log-In Often, school programs come with a parent log-in
that will allow you to see your child’s progress. If it doesn’t, ask to
see the reports that a teacher has access to. Then, check his progress
every few weeks. It’s a great way for you and your child to be on the
same page about their progress.

Ask About Teacher Training
Technology is often implemented in classrooms without appropriate
professional development. If your child’s classroom is using a
whole-class system, such as Clickers or an Interactive Smartboard, ask
how it’s used in class and what training the teacher has had. “As a
parent, you want to know if teachers feel well trained and they’re
putting [new technologies] to good use.

Find Parent Resources One of the best ways that technology can help your child is by helping you learn more about learning.

Computers,
smartphones, and tablets aren’t going away, but with a few tweaks and
consideration, you can make your child’s technology-time productive,
educational, and fun!

Let’s be honest. Most children can use a
mouse, open and close apps, and even search the internet by the time
they are three years old.

Once they have the cognitive ability, it’s time to talk with your child about internet safety.

Set
clear guidelines and internet safety rules about what types of media
are acceptable and carefully support and monitor your child’s technology
use.

Tell your child to never share her name, address, or personal information online or on social media.

Talk
with your child about what to do if he comes across inappropriate
content (close the screen and alert you), and make sure you have a
high-quality web filter and security system in place.

Wrapping it Up
Help your child understand that technology is only one of many tools for learning. Download educational games, read books, and do research. When your child asks a question, do an internet search to find the answer.