Friday, July 7, 2017

Does Technology Have a Place in the Early Childhood Classroom?

You know the saying Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater? Well, it can be applied to the use of technology in the early childhood classroom. With all the fancy, new-fangled gadgets available to us, we are often swift to toss the old tried-and-true technologies to the side. There is another common idiom that we can apply to this train of thought. It goes: All that glitters is not gold. 

Filling the classroom with technological tools seems to be primarily an American preoccupation. Lines of yearly classroom budgets are dedicated solely to adding newer and better tech toys and gizmos to the classroom. Strangely enough, the countries that rank the highest in education, that greatly outrank the United States,tend to have less technology in their classrooms.  

In the United States, there are very few schools that do not integrate some sort of technology. However, according to an article in the New York Times, there is a school in Silicon Valley, the very birthplace of most things high-tech, that does not use computers, or any screen-time for that matter. The educators at this particular school, the Waldorf School of the Peninsula, call into question the developmental appropriateness of technology in the classroom, especially at the elementary level.  

So, you can imagine that at the early childhood level, educators and parents wonder if digital technology is developmentally appropriate for the classroom. At the early childhood level, at all levels, in fact, the most appropriate use of technology is to expand, enrich, implement, individualize, differentiate, and extend the overall curriculum. We must ensure that technology is being used purposefully; it cannot simply be for fun and games, because without an educational component, technology cannot reach its full potential for supporting children’s learning and development. We have to establish learning goals for the children. These goals might include, but are not limited to, fostering children’s literacy and math or social-emotional development. 

I'm sure the tech tools and toys we already have at our disposal are enough to get the job done. The only thing we need to figure out: What exactly is the job we want done? Is our goal to teach our student the social skills, such as collaboration and problem-solving, that they will need to be competent 21st-century citizens, or is it to ensure certain academic skills are taught? Once we have our goals in place, it should be easy to find ways to align what technology you already have with what you want to accomplish. 

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