According to a 2015 survey done by Northwestern University, more than half of preschool teachers use tablet computers in the classroom, a number that doubled from a survey done just two years prior. This is an incredible statistic, considering that experts have long cautioned against the use of digital media with little ones. The American Academy of Pediatrics still warns against screen time for kids under 2, and recommends a limit for older kids to an hour per day of high-quality interactive media.
If you are using devices in your daycare or preschool setting with children over the age of 2, the National Association for the Education of Young Children has a few key recommendations.
Build a base of tech-handling skills.
Are kids these days born with the innate knowledge of how to use a mouse or how to swipe an iPhone screen? Sometimes it seems that way. The littlest of learners should be exposed to basic tech skills once they reach an appropriate age, and both parents and pediatrician are on board. We teach children how to handle books, use scissors, and stack blocks, and tech skills shouldn’t be treated any differently. The International Society for Technology in Education recommends that by age 5, children have basic skills in technology operations and concepts. By the time they reach kindergarten, your little ones should be very comfortable using computers and tablets, with a strong understanding of how to navigate apps and menus, and the ability to use the mouse and keyboard. As much as possible, let your students explore and learn-by-doing when introducing new technology--with plenty of support from you, of course.
Knowing how to turn off technology is a critical part of tech skills. Screen time should always be limited at school and home, and kids should never become reliant on - or addicted to - their technology. Hands-on learning, outside learning, and general exploration still must take priority at this age. A young child’s developing mind benefits the most from real life, face-to-face interactions, not from a screen. And don’t forget to be a good role model when it comes to device use, as well.
Make high-quality choices.
While there is a great deal of terrific technology on the market these days, there is also a lot of garbage. You want the best for your students, so give them high-quality choices of tools and learning experiences. The best classroom tech for students is highly interactive and engaging, and puts the child in control. For example, Agnitus is an immersive curriculum covering a bevy of topics including math, reading, and writing. Kids build basic skills, working their way through a series of books, activities, and interactive games. Report cards track their progress and the reporting tools give you valuable learning insights. Or on a smaller scale, the Little Writer iPad app is great for developing fine motor control while practicing letters, numbers, and shapes.
The bottom line is that technology will play a role in children’s lives, whether we like it or not. Making careful, informed choices and following the recommended guidelines are the keys to using tech wisely and safely with kids.