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Technology in Early Childhood Programs



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As technology becomes more accessible to early childhood programs and computer software becomes more user-friendly, early childhood educators have a responsibility to examine its impact on children and prepare themselves to use it for all children’s benefit.

Here are some tips for professionals in evaluating computer programs, which can be used -- like any other learning tool -- in developmentally appropriate or inappropriate ways.

  1. Early childhood professionals must apply the principles of developmentally appropriate practice and appropriate curriculum and assessment when choosing technology for use in their classrooms or programs. Even technological learning tools must be appropriate for the age and experience of children in a particular group. Software that is little more than an electronic worksheet does little to increase children’s understanding of concepts.

  2. Used appropriately, technology can improve children’s thinking ability and help them develop good relationships with peers. Developmentally appropriate software engages children in conversation and creative play. It also helps develop children’s problem-solving abilities. Ideally, computer software should be designed to grow with chil-dren, offering more challenges as they learn new skills.

  3. Technology should be integrated into daily learning activities. Computers should not replace or disrupt existing program routines. This can be accomplished by locating computers in the classroom rather than in a separate lab. Teachers can choose software to further enrich the every-day curriculum, and bridge the gaps between different subjects, like music and math.

  4. Teachers should work for equity in access to technology for all children and their families. Research has found that girls use computers in and out of school less often than boys do; African American students have less access to computers than White students; and richer schools buy more equipment and more expensive equipment (Sutton, 1991). If educators do not work to provide access to technology for all children, the gaps in children’s ability and familiarity with technology will widen. Technology has many potential benefits for children with special needs, and may be essential for successful inclusion. Software may function as an "on-demand" tutor, meeting children’s individual needs, learning styles, and preferences. And, when used appropriately, it may encourage and enable all children to think and work independently.

  5. Technology has a powerful influence over children’s learning -- it must not teach them to stereotype or use violence to solve their problems. Software can reflect children’s diverse cultures, languages, and ethnic heritages; it should depict the world children live in and encourage them to appreciate diversity. Teachers and caregivers are challenged to discover software programs that promote positive social values, and encourage tolerance and exploration of the richness in their own and other cultures. Beware of violence and brutality in today’s software, which often mirrors that of movies and TV. It is even more disturbing when destruction is used as a means of solving problems in computer software, because the software allows children to cause violence themselves, rather than just witness it on the screen. Software that allows children to destroy without facing actual consequences may hinder them from learning personal responsibility.

  6. Work together with parents to promote appropriate uses of technology. Early childhood professionals and parents both have a responsibility to educate themselves on the benefits of technology for children’s education. Yet they must also make smart choices as consumers and inform software developers when they are unhappy or happy with products. Together, parents and professionals can advocate for software that encourages cooperation among children, caters to the needs of children with varying abilities, reflects productive and non-violent ways of solving problems, and offers positive representations of gender, cultural and linguistic diversity, and physical abilities.

To receive a copy of NAEYC’s position statement on "Technology and Young Children, Ages 3 through 8," see the September 1996 issue of Young Children, or send a SASE to NAEYC Public Affairs, Box #602, 1509 16th St., NW, Washington, DC 20036-1426.

For more information, contact:

National Association for the Education of Young Children
1509 16th Street, N.W.,
Washington, DC 20036-1426
Phone: (202) 232-8777 or (800) 424-2460
Fax: (202) 328-1846
Web: http://naeyc.org/naeyc/


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Copyright © 1996 by National Association for the Education of Young Children.

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