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Exchange Focus: Using Technology Appropriately in the Preschool Classroom

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  • Encourage children to verbalize their thinking as they solve technology problems. Help children reflect on their solutions (e.g., How do I make it louder? How can I turn the puzzle piece to fit?). Be available so they do not get frustrated or discouraged when something is not working. Acknowledge their attempts to solve problems (including with humor), as in this example:
  • At work time in the book area, when the computer program stops working, Avalon calls to Christine [her teacher] for help and says, "Maybe we can put a curse on it." She waves her hands over the computer and laughs. Christine laughs with her and observes, "That doesn't seem to be working." Avalon says, "Maybe if I turn it off and on again." Christine encourages her to try her idea. Avalon does and when the program reboots, Avalon says "That did it!!" Christine responds, "You solved the problem."

    The use of technology with young children offers many opportunities for early learning, but we must proceed with caution as a slowly growing body of research helps us to make wise choices. Even as we discover the types of emerging interactive media and teaching strategies that work well in preschool and beyond, we should not forget the enduring truth that young children learn best through direct interaction with people and materials, in activities they choose and shape themselves, and which spur them to reflect on what they are doing and learning. Technology is one, but only one, piece of the early childhood curriculum. Use it with balance and with creativity.

    About the Author

    Dr. Ann S. Epstein is the Senior Director of Curriculum Development at HighScope Educational Research Foundation in Ypsilanti, Michigan, where she has worked since 1975. Her areas of expertise include curriculum development, professional development, research and program evaluation, and instrument development. Dr. Epstein has published numerous books and articles for professional and practitioner audiences, including The Intentional Teacher; The HighScope Preschool Curriculum; Essentials of Active Learning in Preschool; Tender Care and EarlyLearning; Me, You, Us: Social-Emotional Learning in Preschool; and Numbers Plus Preschool Mathematics Curriculum.


    Terms Used in this Article

      Note: The following definitions are a composite of those offered by the American Academy of Pediatrics (2011), National Association for the Education of Young Children and Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media (2012), Levin (2013), and others.They are meant purely to describe, not to prescribe (recommend) or proscribe (criticize) their use.
    Technology The tools, digital devices, and other electronic machines or equipment that deliver media. These currently include, but are not limited to, televisions, computers, smartphones, tablets, videogame consoles, DVD and music players, web-based programming, and eReaders.

    Screen media Technology that delivers visual and auditory content to users via a screen.

    Interactive media Technology that allows users to control the content that the device delivers. Choices made by the user (input) affect the information provided by the technology (output).


    References

    Almond, S. (2013, June 21). My kids are obsessed with technology, and it's all my fault. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/magazine/ my-kids-are-obsessed-with-technology-and-its-all-my-fault.html?pagewanted=all

    American Academy of Pediatrics Council on Communications and Media. (2011). Policy statement: Media use by children younger than 2 years. Pediatrics, 128(5), 10401045. doi: 10.1542/peds.2011-1753.

    Clements, D. H. (2002). Computers in early childhood mathematics. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 3(2), 160181. doi:10.2304/ciec.2002.3.2.2

    Corporation for Public Broadcasting. (2011). Findings from Ready to Learn 20052010. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved from www.cpb.org/rtl/FindingsFromReadyToLearn2005-2010.pdf

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