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.
Strengthen the home-to-school connection
As teachers, you can use available technology to streamline your routine administrative tasks and to build deeper, more meaningful relationships with your families. The NAEYC recommends that “technology tools offer new opportunities for educators to build relationships, maintain ongoing communication, and exchange information and share online resources with parents and families.” The best choice for these purposes is brightwheel, an all-in-one app to manage your classroom and connect preschools and daycares with families. You’ll use brightwheel to record and track daily events and activities in the classroom, and parents get real-time updates delivered to their mobile device throughout the day. This powerful app also offers secure, digital check-in/check-out, and an automated paperless billing system. Brightwheel is a great way to keep your families looped in on daily activities, as well as save time keeping track of activities and licensing requirements.
The bottom line is that careful tech choices and management can improve the early education experience for daycares and preschools and families--but also for the kids. Technology can help with personalizing learning, engaging students, and building core skills. It can also help you stay organized and improve communication with your families. What are you waiting for?
Brightwheel is everything you need for your preschool or daycare, in one simple app. Download it today!