Using technology in early learning classrooms can be a hotly debated issue. Some people believe that children get enough “screen time” at home, so technology does not have a place in the classroom. But it’s important to remember that not all screen time is created equal—a child sitting in front of the tv for three hours is very different than a teacher showing a group of kids a video about snow and having a conversation about what snow looks like, feels like, etc. Some prefer the term “interactive media” because it leaves no room for the passive viewing that we often associate with screen time. When used effectively, interactive media and technology can be a powerful tool for learning.
So much of our time as teachers is spent teaching kids how to interact with each other, working on those social-emotional skills. How could technology be used to foster relationships between the child and others in the classroom (either adults or peers)? Think about how you see kids using technology. They might be playing a game by themselves, or with a friend. They might be playing by themselves, but showing an adult or peer what they made. One child might be playing while others are gathered around watching. Children might be working together to create something or beat a level. What themes do you see here? Either kids are using it in ISOLATION, or COOPERATION.
Take advantage of the opportunities for COOPERATION that technology provides. When kids are using it in your classroom, encourage them to get others involved. Sit with them when they are using it and talk about what they’re doing. Kids build relationships with each other and their caregivers when they engage in interactive media together—just like they do in other areas of the classroom during free play. Technology is a TOOL for learning, and you should treat it like any other classroom material.
So, if you are considering using technology in your classroom or looking for better ways to use it, ask yourself these questions:
- How can I make it interactive?
- How can I encourage cooperation among children?
- How can I use it with my children to build relationship with them?
A great resource to evaluate games and apps for classroom use is Common Sense Media (www.commonsensemedia.org). You can search for apps that area appropriate for specific ages and it provides reviews with information about educational content, ease of play, consumerism/ads, and more. They also have recommendation lists for age groups and categories. They also have information about movies, shows, websites, books…all types of media. They also have a multitude of articles around topics relating to technology and digital media. A great resource for teachers, but share it with your families as well!
*Just a note: The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend screen time under 18 months of age while the Environment Rating Scale used by many states as a part of their Quality Rating and Improvement Systems (QRIS) to rate child care centers and in-home childcare notes that screen time should not be used under 2 years of age.