Technology can be a great tool to assist learning even in early childhood classrooms. Not just any technology, however. The key is meaningful technology integration.
The National Association For The Education Of Young Children gives a classroom example of the use of meaningful technology. The classroom consists of 28 students ages 4 and 5. Here’s what NAYCE has to say about the classroom environment let’s peer in…
Technology Integration In An Early Childhood Classroom
Looking around the classroom, one can see evidence of technology integration to promote and document learning. Digital photographs of the children and their families line the walls. The two teachers document children’s block building throughout the year with digital photos. The children use two laptops and a desktop computer, with Internet connections, and a printer. Digital microscopes, recorders, micro- phones, headphones, and cameras are in different learning centers within children’s reach, while some centers, like the dramatic play area and the library, are free of digital tools. Technology enrichment and integration extend beyond the classroom to communication with families. The class has a Web site, with access restricted to families, that is updated frequently. Teachers’ weekly e-mails to families complement the traditional class newsletters…
…In the research center, a small group of children works with Ms. Evan to explore the differences between carnivores, omnivores, and herbivores. After consulting several books, the children want to look for more information on the Internet. Ms. Evan uses a portable interactive whiteboard, which is a touch screen and projection system connected to the computer (described on the next page.) Together she and the children decide which keywords to search for. Ms. Evan guides the children to age-appropriate Web sites on the topic. With her help, the group selects relevant information and pictures to print for the class encyclopedia.
The teacher and children decide they need to consult with an expert. They move to the communication center, where another group has been writing a thank-you note to the host of a recent field trip. Ms. Evan types as the children dictate an e-mail message to a local paleontologist who had visited their classroom. They ask him questions about the fossils they found and the eating habits of dinosaurs. ~Read The Full Description And PDF On Intergrating Technology Here via NAYCE
Sounds like a good use of technology, right? But, is technology developmentally appropriate in Early Childhood?
Most experts believe computers are not developmentally appropriate for children under the age of three (Elkind, 1998; Haugland, 1999; NAEYC, 1996). However, these same experts believe children three years old and older can begin to effectively explore and use computers. Surely, many of the factors that make computers developmentally inappropriate for children under age three are also present in older children: active learners busily manipulating a wide variety of objects…and in the process of learning about themselves and their environment” (Haugland, 1999, p. 26).
To evaluate whether computers are developmentally appropriate for children over age three, we need to determine the developmental needs of these children. Children this age are developmentally within Piaget’s preoperational stage. This means they are concrete learners who are very interested in using newly learned symbolic representation – speaking, writing, drawing (including maps and geometric figures) and using numbers. Further, children this age are extremely active and mobile. They often have difficulty sitting still; they need frequent changes in learning modalities; and they want a variety of physical experiences involving dance, physical play, climbing and sports. Preoperational children are also are continuing their mastery of language, and exploring various facets of social behavior.
Howard Gardner has shown that young children exhibit a diversity of learning styles, and that the optimum way for many children to learn is not the traditional teacher-directed, verbal approach (Gardner, 1987). We must be sensitive to these different learning approaches, especially as we serve an ever larger diversity of children. ~Earlychildhood News
Technology adds another level of opportunity for learning, but its use may need to be assessed on an individual and classroom basis.
Technology should not take over the curriculum. It should stand as an added asset along with other teaching modalities. In the classroom example that we started with books, interaction, and many other forms of learning and teaching were used along with technology. It is this seamless integration that is important.
Technological tools can support a learner-centered and play-oriented early childhood curriculum and pro- mote relationship building among children, families, and the wider community. ~NAYCE
What are your thoughts on Technology Integration in EC?