Technology for Our Youngest…Should We or Shouldn’t We?

Technology for Our Youngest…Should We or Shouldn't We?

Often, when I am facilitating MAP Foundation Series and Children’s Progress Academic Assessment workshops with early childhood teachers, I am faced with a barrage of questions regarding the use of technology with kindergarten and preschool children. While I find the debate to have valid support on both sides, I find myself reflecting on the recommendations for developmentally appropriate practices (DAP) that have been made by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

NAEYC describes “DAP, [as] an approach to teaching, grounded in the research on how young children develop and learn, and in what is known about effective early education.”  According to the NAEYC findings, there are three core considerations that must be taken into account when determining a DAP curriculum: 1) knowing about child development and learning, 2) knowing what is individually appropriate, and 3) knowing what is culturally important.

Professional Development is key to understanding child development and learning.

The first consideration in creating a DAP curriculum is to know about child development and learning. For me, this means that I must stay current with my professional development because what we know about child development is changing each day. For example, we now have the technological capability of sustaining life for babies born earlier and earlier. As these children develop, we are learning more and more about their developmental cycles and the way they learn. This is an important consideration for teachers, because these children are now sitting in classrooms across the nation. (learn more) Teachers that are not involved in ongoing professional development are often at a disadvantage because they do not understand these new developmental learning cycles. Children’s technological capabilities and the impact that technology has on early development is an area that is currently being explored, thus we have a need to continue to learn.

Assessment that Informs Instruction –to understand what children are ready to learn.

According to NAEYC, the second important factor in creating a DAP curriculum, is to understand what is individually appropriate. As a teacher, that means that I must understand what it is that children know and what it is that they still need to learn. We can do this by meeting children where they are and teaching them the things that they are ready to learn. In order to do this, we must first know where students are in their learning. We can establish this information through a process of assessment.  Assessment tools, such as Children’s Progress Academic Assessment and MAP for Primary Grades, allow me to understand each child’s current achievement level in the subjects tested and to provide them with the instruction that they need. As a teacher, this ensures that I do not waste a child’s time with activities and instruction on skills that they have already mastered. This also ensures that I am able to challenge each child using the Goldilocks methodology of “just right” instruction.

Understanding culture includes the job and communication skills for tomorrow’s workforce.

Finally, in order to have a DAP curriculum, we must consider what is culturally important for each child. For me, understanding what is culturally important is more than just understanding the traditional perceptions of “culture”. Yes, each of us have traditions that we adhere to because they are the expectations and traditions set forth by our family heritage, and these are important for teachers to understand, but there are also cultural considerations that are linked to our future society that must be taken into account when we educate children. These cultural considerations are linked to the jobs that children will have available to them as adults, and the expected norms for interacting with peers and colleagues that will occur on a day-to-day basis.

Tomorrow’s children need to be digitally literate citizens.

As today’s students grow, they will interact with peers and colleagues through technology.  Tomorrow’s job market will be steeped in technology – most of it unknown today. (Just imagine trying to explain the job of “web developer” to a personnel director from 1980.) For educators, this means that we should not only expose our students to technology, we have an obligation to directly teach them the skills that they will need to survive and become digitally literate citizens. So, my answer to the technology questions are often questions about the children in the classrooms.

Ten Technology Questions for Educators

  1. Which technology skills do the children have?
  2. How do you know that they have those skills?
  3. Which technology skills do they need to learn?
  4. What is the district/classroom philosophy in regards to technology skills?
  5. Which technology tools are available in your school/classroom?
  6. Which technology are children exposed to at home?
  7. How do parents feel about their children using technology?
  8. As a teacher, which technology are you comfortable with?
  9. When was your last technology professional development?
  10. As the teacher, how is your technology proficiency impacting your expectations for your students?

What are your observations regarding technology and young children? I welcome your thoughts and comments.

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