Children have many more technology options than were available to previous generations but there is no consensus between early childhood educators regarding the extent to which electronics should be used in early childhood classrooms. For example, computers and iPads are increasingly common in schools but there have been mixed reports regarding whether these devices have a positive effect on the cognitive development of young children.
For example, Stenger (2013) cited a study conducted in Auburn, Maine that showed positive gains on literacy when computers or iPads are used in classrooms. However, in a recent article, Paton (2014) concluded that if young children excessively rely on these devices, they become unable to perform simple “real world” tasks such as manipulating blocks. Swiping across the screen and pointing are very different than gripping a 3-d object and too many hours on the computer or iPad can cause young children to lose finger dexterity and fine motor skills. This is consistent with the position adopted by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers in the United Kingdom, who are not in favor of the extensive use of the iPads. As early childhood educators, a key question we should consider is: a primary goal of Early Childhood classroom practices is to promote and encourage hands on learning. Is using an iPad considered to be “hands-on?”
Ward (2013) reported that young children are becoming extremely addicted to these technological devices and become agitated if access to these gadgets are denied. Some children even require psychological treatment if parents withdraw them from their addiction to iPads or other tablets.
Additional research is required on this subject to better understand how much we should rely on computers and iPads when working with our young ones. However until we come to a consensus, educators must develop strategies to ensure that these technological innovations are used in a developmentally appropriate manner. If a program or an instructional technique is not developmentally appropriate for young children, it should not be used, regardless of how technologically advanced or appealing. Another factor to consider is whether the technology supports learning goals? For example, why is a particular computer program being used? Is it used to supplement learning or is it used to keep students “busy?” Just like excessive use of television viewing can harm a child’s social, physical and cognitive development, over use of iPads and computers should also be avoided.
As an educator, I agree that our young students should be exposed to technology, but only in a developmentally appropriate manner. In my opinion, young students learn best through interacting with their peers. As educators, we are responsible for providing our young learners a “prepared environment” that provides the most optimal conditions for learning and exploration. Educators who want to use iPads in their classrooms must ensure that children are not glued to these devices for extended periods of time consider how to rotate the children between different activities that are prepared for them so that they can benefit most from their preschool experience.
Paton, G. (2014, April 15). Infants unable to use toy building blocks’ due to iPad addiction. The Telegraph [UK]. Retrieved from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/10767878/Infants-unable-to-use-toybuilding-blocks-due-to-iPad-addiction.html
Stenger, M. (2013, March 19). Study Shows iPads Could Improve Literacy Skills in Young Children – InformED : [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://www.opencolleges.edu.au/informed/news/study-shows-ipads-could-improve-literacyskills-in-young-children-3489/