The availability of digital technology for young children continues to increase, with the question of usage shifting from ‘should we’ to ‘how should we’. It’s important to understand how we as teachers and educators can achieve high-quality pedagogy and integration with digital tools.

What are the Biggest Concerns about technology and young children? 

The concerns that people might have as a parent or educator about children’s use of screens vary to include:

  • Addiction (and associated behaviours) and general psychological effects
  • Reduced social skills
  • Physical effects of lack of exercise, poor eating, lack of vitamin D, poor sleep
  • Online bullying
  • Online predators

Simply turning off the screens or banning your kids from using them isn’t the answer, however, management and moderation are.  

What technology tools are most suitable for young children?

STEM is everywhere in early childhood, and for good reason. Knowledge and skills developed in the four key areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics support creative and analytical thinking, and help children trial, test and understand their world.

One of the key ideas is to think beyond screens.

Technology in early childhood can take many exciting forms, including robotics, photography, electronics (for tinkering) and virtual reality apps. When using screens, be purposeful and educational: share technology with children to research and explore. Technology should be used to enhance existing practices, not as a replacement.

For example, imagine taking children’s interests in insects to a whole new level by exploring names and species online, creating slideshows together and designing and 3D printing your own insects to take home. This would combine art and craft activities, real ‘pet’ insects in the early learning environment, tactile resources for free play and reading books.

Interactive Whiteboards are also a key piece of technology found in most primary schools & ELC today. Exposure and familiarity with the use of SMART devices can support children’s transition to school and set them on a pathway to success from the very beginning.

A balancing Act: traditional methods with new multimedia approaches

Screen time and the use of technology is a normal part if most children’s lives.  We need to ensure children participate in both digital and non-digital activities to build fine motor skills and that screen-based digital technology use while sitting is only for short periods and does not replace periods of active physical movement.

It is also important to acknowledge children’s sense of agency. We should seek their perspectives regarding the role and use of digital technologies in their own lives, play, and learning. Model active decision making regarding digital technology use with, by and for young children that provides a balance of digital and non-digital experiences and activities in early childhood education and care settings.

In June 2018 SMART released a white paper addressing the 22 Ed Tech capabilities vital to effective technology integration in education. One of these key capabilities focused on Student participation in technology planning. To read more about the white paper, click here

Accept that in this day and age, some screen time is inevitable. Especially as children transition to formal schooling.  One of the key concepts to demonstrate to families is to model self-regulated digital technology use that recognises the importance of sustained social interactions between children and adults. Families can establish guidelines together, so their children also agree to them. Grown-ups have to stick to the rules too! 

Educators can help create a shared understanding with families about digital technology use, by adults, in front of children. We can also support families to understand that exposure to screens in the hour before sleep time decreases the length and quality of children’s sleep. Explore different options, like reading a book, drawing or colouring in and imaginary play together. 

Positive Technology Behaviours 

Ask yourself: Why do we use digital technology for behaviour management? For example, why is the iPad the first ‘toy’ to go on the fridge when something goes astray? What are we teaching our young children in this instance? Aim to foster digital literacy skills from an early age in order to help minimise risk in the future.

Children’s self-regulation can be challenged by apps due to their design and aim to be addictive. But while behaviour can be challenged, content and context can actually help. Place parameters around those challenging games to help with self-regulation. This is where co-viewing and interaction becomes important to foster positive digital literacy skills.

How to Make an Informed Decision around Digital Technology

Love it or loathe it, technology is a part of children’s everyday lives. ECA’s Statement on young children and digital technologies can provide educators with guidance when using technology in early childhood settings and speaking with families about technology use. The release of this statement was in response to educators and parents wanting further guidance on how to effectively integrate technology into the lives of young children. Click to download a copy of the guide

 

 

iPads and Young Children: How to get the most out of apps?

There are close to 2 million apps available to download on mobile tablets, and the marketing and design behind these apps can be very confusing. App developers are able to self-identify their target audience, meaning that filtering apps by age or category do not always yield positive results.

The best way to assess the suitability of an app for children is to use it yourself, keeping in mind the following criteria: 

  1. Engages children in pretend or imaginary situations
  2. Are spontaneous, self-initiated and self-regulated
  3. Are not goal-oriented
  4. Are relatively risk-free
  5. Children should be intrinsically motivated to play (not for reward) and be in control of their digital play

TOP TIPS or Tricks for High-Quality Technology Integration with young children

  1. Use digital technologies in early childhood education and care settings to promote social interactions between children, peers, and adults. Foster children’s peer-to-peer interactions as opportunities for co-learning about and with digital technologies
  2. Model internet use with children for learning purposes and provide opportunities for assessing the quality and relevance of information. Make use of government and/or not-for-profit organisations for advice on the selection of digital media, content, apps and games that are appropriate for use by young children.
  3. Provide opportunities for children to explore and experiment with the functions of a diverse range of digital technologies alongside adult modeling and instruction in digital technology use.
  4. Promote play involving children in digital technology use with digital and non-digital tools and materials to build knowledge about the use of technologies for communication, collaboration and information sharing.

Best Preschool Apps 2019

Check out the fun and engaging best preschool apps at the links below. These apps are used by millions of parents and teachers to help educate and entertain young kids according to the online site Educational App Store. 

The following are a couple of FREE games that we liked. Click the link to download.

ABCya Games

Teachers Overview: Versatile is one word to describe the ABCya learning games included in this app.  They work across every mainstream device, they cover multiple educational topics, and deliver a broad range of game styles to test and develop children’s learning.  Excellent would be another word.

 

Reading Eggs – Learn to Read

Teachers Overview: Reading Eggs is the multi-award winning learning programme that helps children learn to read. They will learn how to read using interactive reading games, guided reading lessons, fun activities and over 2,000 digital storybooks. It is recommended as one of the best reading apps for kids by our parents and teachers.

 

Todo Math

Teacher Overview: Kids can learn numbers, counting, and addition and subtraction to 99 as well as multiplication using the Todo Math app. They can learn 1-to-1 correspondence and practice correctly writing numerals by tracing.

 

 

Final Thoughts

Living and working

Establish good habits early and ensure that technology is a good fit before diving in. While the latest technology and apps can look great on the surface, ensure it is of value to the educational context. What is it adding to an experience? How could the experience be done without technology?

Finally, don’t be afraid to try new things – use an iPad as a camera rather than an educational toy. Explore robotics with young children to learn about position words they may have read in a book. Create and explore rather than consume.  

Think beyond the screen.  

 

Useful Links

Visionext has created the Visionext Academy, a learning portal to help you to make your life easier. It is a work in progress and contains resources for SMART Boards, Displays and SMART Software Training, Courses and Support.

SMART Boards also provide Free classroom resources at the SMART Exchange – activities, games and SMART Notebook lessons created by teachers for teachers.

Jocelyn Brewer created Digital Nutrition in 2013 – it’s a framework to guide parents and consumers to understand the virtual nutritional values of the online media content we consume via apps and games on tablets and screen technology.  Digital Nutrition is one of the earliest frameworks using the analogy with food to conceptualise a ‘healthy digital diet’ (preceded mainly by Daniel Sieberg’s The Digital Diet in 2011) – an analogy which is increasingly popular with those working in the space as we come to understand that screen time is not an effective way to consider the impacts of digital device

Early Childhood Australia is an advocacy organisation, acting in the interests of young children, their families and those in the early childhood field.

Common Sense is a US leading nonprofit organisation dedicated to improving the lives of kids and families by providing the trustworthy information, education, and independent voice they need to thrive in the 21st century.

 

About the AuthorMichelle Gregory is a Digital Pedagogical Coach / Early Childhood at Visionext. She is an Early Childhood Educator who is passionate about creating enriching and innovative experiences and opportunities for young children using digital technology. She is a member of Early Childhood Australia. Michelle has a B. Teaching (Early Childhood), M. Phil (Education) & is Smart Certified Trainer
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