Making Good on Educational Technology with Early Learners
Guest Post- Dr. Lilla Dale McManis.
There is growing recognition of the importance of incorporating technology in meaningful and authentic ways into curricula and day-to-day practices, and of the teacher’s crucial role in using technology appropriately in early childhood classrooms.
Identifying appropriate educational technology and understanding how to integrate it into early learning classrooms to impact learning outcomes will help ensure positive technology experiences for young children. Access to technology, developmentally appropriate hardware and software, and a balanced technology-inclusive learning environment are key elements of successful integration.
Active and thoughtful planning and increased child engagement should guide these efforts:
- Set specific learning goals for any technology-based activity. Check that the technology hardware and the software (which could be apps, software programs, or websites) are both a good fit for the learning goals and the ages and abilities of the children.
- Determine how you will measure progress toward these goals, paying particular attention to how goals contribute to long-term learning outcomes (these can be in any or a combination of domains or content areas).
- Build in a cycle of teaching, monitoring, adapting, and re-teaching with the technology.
- Think about how technology-based activities will promote and support the curriculum already in place and how such experiences link to the goals of that curriculum.
- Remember that the philosophy that young children learn much through play also applies to their experiences using technology.
The recent issue of the Young Children journal from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) focuses on the topic “Technology and Young Children” and includes an article I wrote with my colleague Susan Gunnewig, Finding the Education in Educational Technology with Early Learners. I invite you to read the article, which also includes a Toolkit with self-scoring criteria to assist in the technology evaluation process. You may also be interested in the new NAEYC book Spotlight on Young Children and Technology featuring this article and many others. You can preview the book and purchase the book through NAEYC by clicking Spotlight on Young Children and Technology.
Using technology in developmentally appropriate ways is an important and ongoing area of work. There are a number of places where you can learn more and actively engage in these discussions. One of these excellent resources is TEC: Technology in Early Childhood Center at Erikson Institute, led by Dr. Chip Donohue, the guest speaker for ECYD this month.
I’ve chosen to focus on open and accessible resources and forums that evolve in response to the current and future needs of educators and other invested parties:
• NAEYC Technology and Young Children Interest Forum (http://www.techandyoungchildren.org/)
• ELE: Fred Rogers Center Early Learning Environment (http://ele.fredrogerscenter.org/)
• TEC: Technology in Early Childhood Center at Erikson Institute (http://www.teccenter.erikson.edu/)
• ECETech.Net (http://www.ecetech.net/)
• Engaging Learners Using Traditional and Innovative Tools. Young Children • September 2010. (http://www.naeyc.org/files/yc/file/201009/ClusterResources0910.pdf)
• Linked In Groups: Early Childhood Technology Network and International Society for Technology in Education
- I also invite you to visit our blog where I write frequently about educational technology and other topics related to early childhood (http://blog.hatchearlychildhood.com/).
One of the foundational premises of Vygotsky’s learning theory in promoting positive child development is supporting children to become proficient and capable users of their culture’s tools. Technology is now one of the most pervasive and necessary tools for our culture. For me, this makes it essential that we make “good” on educational technology for children; and do this in ways that best meet children’s needs-including that they have fun while learning!
Bio: Lilla Dale McManis, PhD, is the Research Director for Hatch Early Learning, a leading technology development company in early childhood, and a founding member of the Early Childhood Technology Collaborative, a group of research-oriented technologists. Dr. McManis holds degrees in child development, special education, and educational psychology with a concentration in learning and cognition. Over the past 25 plus years, she has served as a public school teacher, teacher educator, evaluator, university faculty member, and researcher. She joined Hatch in 2008 following a position at the University of Texas-Houston in the Children’s Learning Institute and the State Center for Early Childhood Development. Dr. McManis focuses on the design, evaluation, and research of educational technology for early learners.