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Technology in Early Childhood Education

How to use technology to promote children’s growth and development.

Technology in Early Childhood Education

Technology in Early Childhood Education

As technology advances, so does the classroom. Technology in early childhood education was very different 10-20 years ago; teachers would interact with the tech and children would observe. Now, toddlers and preschoolers can interact with technology. Interactive media, used on smart devices—smart phones and TVs, tablets, and gaming systems—give young children the ability to participate and guide themselves through learning. 

Technology isn’t only a staple in life, but also in education. It can be a beneficial tool that allows you to educate, engage, and interact with young learners.

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Technology in early childhood education

Technology in early childhood education has transformed over the last 50 years. TVs were used to strengthen lessons and capture the interest of students. Televisions would graduate to computers and smart technology through phones, tablets, and apps. 

In early childhood education, technology can be a tool to facilitate learning. In conjunction with interactive media, it plays a large role in guiding the development of young children. It enables them to play, express themselves, and cultivate their skills in a safe, engaging way.

Still, concerns are typically raised regarding technology, interactive media, and early childhood education. Some public health organizations and child advocacy groups concerned with child development and health issues, such as obesity, have recommended that passive, non-interactive technology and screen media not be used in early childhood programs. 

With parents and guardians playing a significant role in early childhood education, there are additional concerns with the passive use of screen media in the home. An example is keeping the television on and playing in the background. It can cause irregular sleep patterns, focus and attention problems, and an increase in screen time. However, the findings on the value of technology in children’s development can be confusing as they’re divided.

While many are likely to agree that too much screen time—the amount of time spent using a device with a screen—can be detrimental, technology, when used right, can be helpful to the educational and developmental success of young children.

Why is technology important in early childhood education

In your experience as an educator, you’ve likely learned that there is rarely just one way to do something; technology is a clear example of this. In the past, teachers had very few resources at their disposal. They didn’t have access to much more than textbooks and props. Now, technology offers more for educators and children. Technology can give you access to more resources, innovative teaching methods, and variety as you create an active learning environment for your children.

Incorporating technology into your children's development and education plan also enables you to create lessons for multiple learning styles. Visual learners can use smart boards or tablets to draw pictures and look at other visual aids, while reading/writing learners can use the same media to absorb information or write down ideas. Music streaming platforms or audiotapes can be helpful for auditory learners. As for tactile learners, these young children can learn by acting out a scene they saw in a video or using interactive media on smart technology devices.

The importance of technology in early childhood education doesn’t end there. There are many associated benefits. Technology can:

  • Support the development of fine motor skills
  • Strengthen coordination and reaction time
  • Improve social and emotional development 
  • Promote collaboration and relationships
  • Build cultural awareness
  • Help language development
  • Offer opportunities for information processing

Again, technology is a tool to facilitate learning, and when used appropriately, it can have remarkable effects on early childhood education.

young boy sits playing on smart phone while young girl looks at laptop screen

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How to incorporate technology in the classroom

When introducing technology to the classroom, you have many options. You now have access to smart devices that feature apps, digital books, games, and more. With the abundance of technology, how can you manage it? How do you decide when, how much, and how often to use it?

The Department of Education lists four guiding principles for using technology:

  • Technology—when used appropriately—can be a tool for learning.
  • Technology should be used to increase access to learning opportunities for all children.
  • Technology may be used to strengthen relationships among parents, families, early educators, and young children.
  • Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children.

Technology—when used appropriately—can be a tool for learning

Technology isn’t always used for learning, but it can be. Author Lisa Guernsey of Screen Time: How Electronic Media—From Baby Videos to Educational Software—Affects Your Young Child provides guidance on how early childhood educators can determine technology use for young children. You can use the Three C’s—the content, the context, and the needs of the individual child—to create parameters. 

You might ask: How does this help children learn, engage, express, imagine, or explore? What kinds of social interactions (such as conversations with parents or peers) happen before, during, and after using the technology? What does this child need right now to enhance their growth and development? 

Technology allows young children to engage and explore. When used appropriately, it allows them to participate actively in their education through playing and problem-solving.

Technology should be used to increase access to learning opportunities for all children

It’s no secret that the learning materials of the past were limited. Depending on when you went through early childhood education and development, you likely had access to textbooks, library books, and possibly a few videos. With technology, the resources for today’s children are virtually limitless. The learning opportunities go beyond the words in a textbook and can introduce children to information and cultures beyond their classroom and community. Technology allows you to present diversity to young learners, for example, by exposing them to different types of people, music, and family structures.

Technology may be used to strengthen relationships among parents, families, early educators, and young children

The COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on education demonstrated how important technology is in the classroom. If the pandemic had occurred before the turn of the century, it’s impossible to guess how millions of children and early educators would have kept up with lessons. Fortunately, with greater access to technology—computers, smartphones, tablets—teachers could still teach, connect, and strengthen their relationships with children through video-chat interactions.

Additionally, technology also allows families to strengthen their relationship with their children and with you. Digital portfolios and progress reports allow you to share what lessons the children are learning, but it also allows families to be more active participants in their child’s education by tracking their progress. It enables you, the educator, and families to work collaboratively to strengthen and reinforce what they learn in the classroom.

A child’s education is not solely left up to educators and administrators. With the help of technology, all parties—teachers, parents, and administrators—can be actively aware of the child’s progress and use technology and interactive media to work towards their success.

Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children

Many technological devices are designed for singular use. Computers, smartphones, and tablets are typically meant to be used by one person at a time; however, the Department of Education explains that children learn more from content when parents or early educators watch and interact with children.

Engaging with and encouraging children during and after a lesson can help solidify the information and lead to more effective learning.

It’s up to you to determine how you use technology in the classroom. As long as you plan active, engaging activities, focus on content, monitor screen time, and work together, you should be able to use technology to create a successful educational and developmental learning environment for young children.

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Examples of technology in early childhood education

Depending on their age, young children have different exposure to technology. For infants and toddlers, their experience is almost exclusively guided by their teachers, parents, and families. As they grow to preschool age, they develop more autonomy and independence. This can lead to technology acting as a creative outlet and learning resource.

There are many ways in which technology such as televisions, smartphones, and computers, and interactive media like apps and games, can create a successful classroom environment.

  • Use technology to introduce young children to diverse images of people and things.
  • Explore digital materials through shared technology time. Through shared book reading, you can create opportunities to engage with young children by talking to them and introducing new vocabulary.
  • Incorporate technology activities to teach digital literacy skills. 
  • Create progress reports using audio or visual files to share digital updates with families.
  • Use video-chat software to communicate with children and families outside the classroom.
  • Document children’s drawings and create digital books with photos to explore digital storytelling.
  • Expose children to concepts like science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) by including STEAM activities in your lesson plans.

Technology creates an abundance of learning opportunities in the classroom. With its vast capabilities and your creativity, you can create countless lessons for your children.

To further support your children’s growth and development, download our free list of activity ideas across developmental domains.

Activities Across Developmental Domains - brightwheel

Download our free list of activities across developmental domains!

Technology is best when it brings people together

Technology is many things. It’s a video demonstrating the leaves changing from season to season. It’s an interactive lesson about the difference between the letters “b” and “d”. It’s an opportunity to connect with children and families outside the classroom. 

Technology is a bridge that fills in the gaps of the past. Children, teachers, families, and administrators are now equipped with tools that promote safe, active learning in the classroom and beyond. As an educator, you take the lead in shaping the early childhood education and development of young learners. With technology acting as your tool, you can educate, engage, and interact with your children in new, innovative ways.

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