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Exchange Focus: Using Technology Appropriately in the Preschool Classroom

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HighScope believes technology, when appropriately designed for young children over age two and used with the guidance of supportive adults, can promote early learning and development. To use technology as one of many effective teaching tools, apply the following principles and ideas:

    1. Incorporating technology in the classroom is a choice, not a necessity. While familiarity with technology is important in today's world, and access to technology is an equity issue, early learning primarily occurs through interactions with other materials, people, events, and ideas.

    2. Technology is one of many tools that young children can use to carry out their play ideas, acquire knowledge and skills, and solve problems. Using technology is an interesting end in itself (discovering how it works), as well as a means to an end (extending role play, solving problems).

    3. Technology should be used in moderation to supplement, not replace, hands-on learning with real materials that provide a full range of physical, sensory, intellectual, and social experiences.

    4. Technology should be interactive and open-ended, and it should promote discovery learning, not emphasize drill and practice. Software should encourage creativity, problem solving, and reflection.

    5. Technology should serve as a catalyst for social interaction. It should allow children to use equipment and programs together, share observations and discoveries,and assist one another.

    6. Adults should act as partners when children choose to use technology, just as they partner and interact with children during other types of play.

    7. Choose hardware that is safe and sturdy enough for children to use independently. If concerns about equipment costs or damages are overriding, it will restrict children's use of the technology and limit the potential benefits.

    8. Because new technologies are being developed all the time, their appropriateness for young children's physical, cognitive, and social development must be evaluated on an ongoing basis.

Use of Technology in the Classroom

The overriding message is that computers and other electronic equipment should take a back seat to children's hands-on learning with manipulatives and direct social interaction. It is noteworthy that in reviewing anecdotes from the Child Observation Record (COR) and COR Advantage (HighScope & Red-e Set Grow, 2013) to illustrate this article, the author found very few in which children used technology in their play. Whether this reflects their choices about what to play with and/or teacher choices about what to record, it suggests that even when technology is readily available in the classroom, children and adults gravitate toward real, hands-on materials.

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