I have a love/hate relationship with technology in early childhood education. On one hand—I believe that children construct knowledge through play, and I don’t believe that technology is as useful in that way. On the other hand—technology is becoming more and more of a necessity in our society. So, should children have opportunities to explore technology in our ECE classrooms? As children advance to kindergarten and beyond, using technology in the classroom is mandatory. Some children have the opportunity and resources to be introduced to technology in their homes—through gaming systems, computers, iPods/iPads and their parents’ smart phones. Let’s face it; some would even argue that technology/televisions are becoming our children’s playmates at home.
Since many children have all this exposure to technology at home, why would we need to incorporate it in our preschool classrooms? Something to consider: this exposure doesn’t occur in every home. Some children do not have the opportunity or resources to be introduced to technology at home or it might be something that is off limits. For example, when my son was younger, he was not allowed to play on the computer. Since it was not something I could easily replace at the drop of a dime, I could not take the chance of it breaking. I saw my computer as being a necessity for survival and my family’s future, to be used only for work and to continue my education; it was not toy. Some may say he was at a disadvantage entering kindergarten due to his lack of technology experience at home.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s all about balance. As educators, we know children learn through play, hands-on experiences, interacting with their peers and conversations with their teachers/adults. I personally would love to see more teachers using technology as an opportunity to enhance development through investigation and exploration with children. Too often I see children plopped down at the computer playing some kind of “interactive” game in silence. These children are typically isolating themselves—escaping social interactions with their peers and teacher. They sit and watch the screen, clicking the mouse occasionally. Instead, I would love to observe teachers becoming co-researchers with their children! Incorporate technology to follow the child’s lead and expand knowledge. Teachers can use technology to take advantage of teachable moments with children, for example, when a child asks questions about where an animal lives or what they eat, that’s the perfect opportunity to pull out technology to further their knowledge. As educators we want to encourage children to be curious, thirsty for more knowledge, and lifelong learners.
Ask yourself these questions before implementing technology in your classroom:
- What is the purpose?
- How will the children use it?
- What will the children gain from it?
Even though children who don’t get early exposure to technology may be at a disadvantage in that area when they begin school, they do catch on quickly! Since my son started kindergarten, he hasn’t missed a beat with technology. In fact, he’s even taught me a thing or two. My son had been equipped for future learning in his early years because of the quality of engagement from his teachers. If technology is not an option for your early childhood program, remember that the most important thing that we can do for children is to offer them opportunities to gain knowledge through meaningful interactions and engagement.