This week we are discussing Chapter 21: Should We Teach Handwriting in the Digital Age?, Chapter 22: Just Say No to Keyboarding in Kindergarten, and Chapter 23: iPads or Playdoh. Tamara Kaldor and Blakely Bundy will provide insight and lead our discussion this week. Just joining us? Get all the book study details HERE.
Chapter 21: Should We Teach Handwriting in the Digital Age? Chapter 22: Just Say No to Keyboarding in Kindergarten
Commentary from Tamara Kaldor
Chapters 21 and 22 of What if Everybody Understood Child Development? by Rae Pica raises issues around handwriting and keyboarding that I look at everyday as a child development expert who utilizes technology in my work with families and educators to help children with developmental differences communicate and relate so they can be included and be active participants in their school, home, and community. I certainly understand the author’s concerns about fine motor skills and the issues that surround keyboarding for young children. However, 21st century teachers need to closely examine their toolboxes and see what tools each child they work with needs to be able to communicate and relate their ideas, feelings, and creativity. In the age of personalized learning, educators need to look at all of their options to help children become successful learners, players, and contributors.
In our role as media mentors to young children, we want to model and teach children how to find the tools that will best help that individual child communicate their thoughts and ideas to their peers. Young children need opportunities to experiment and play with communication tools, including keyboards, voice recorders, styluses, paintbrushes, markers, and pen/pencil to learn how to best get out their ideas quickly and effectively. Too frequently, I see children with diagnosed and undiagnosed learning disabilities or communication disorders stop writing stories or contributing ideas to the group discussion because the traditional tools, including using their own voice, are not usable to them or takes so much energy to master that they give up. They are spending too much time having to focus on mastering the tool (such as handwriting with pencil/pen or keyboarding) that they lose their ideas, give up on the writing process, and feel frustrated, disappointed, and angry.
When a child is provided a wide variety and opportunities to discover what tools help them tell their story or share their idea, you can immediately see the child’s confidence grow and their love for creating and learning strengthens as they focus on the ideas, not the output process. What if we stopped questioning the validity of all of these communication tools and instead started focusing on helping children identify and understand why they find certain tools more effective than others? We could set up children up from a young age to be curators of their learning and study tools for a lifetime of success.
I argue that helping children curate their own learning tools is what will help them prepare them to be successful as life long learners and help them keep their passion for learning, creating, communicating, collaborating, and critical thinking. Instead of spending time putting limits down on what communication tools to teach children to use, invest more time in helping children to learn how to use and evaluate all of the tools available to them, including handwriting and keyboarding.
- How can you teach young children to evaluate communication tools such as handwriting, keyboarding, voice recording, etc.?
- How can you teach young children to use these tools appropriately and intentionally?
- How can you create learning and playing environments that value the 4cs of 21st century skills-communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking?
- How do you create inclusive lesson plans so ALL of the children in your classroom are active participants?
Tamara Kaldor, M.S. is the consulting Program Coordinator at the TEC Center at Erikson Institute and developmental therapist and owner of PLAY is work. Tamara is a child development specialist with over a decade of experience teaching parents, educators, and administrators how to integrate technology to support the social-emotional and learning needs of ALL children. She has seen how technology helps kids of all abilities share their voice and what they know in order to advance in their development. Her goal is to help educators and therapists thoughtfully integrate technology into their classrooms and children’s programs so that all children are active participants and learners. She does this by finding creative ways to include technology meaningfully to help children play, relate and learn. This has made Tamara a sought-after speaker in the area of tech integration. She has been invited to deliver workshops on digital citizenship, integrating technology into the classroom and lesson plans, and navigating the digital world responsibly throughout Chicago, the U.S. and internationally. Tamara has collaborated with such organizations as UNICEF, UNESCO, International Society for Technology and Education (ISTE), NAEYC, the Interdisciplinary Council on Development and Learning (ICDL), and Common Sense Media.
Chapter 23: iPads or Playdoh
Commentary by Blakely Bundy
Should technology be part of early childhood classrooms? Should iPads replace playdough for preschoolers? The debate goes on, with people feeling strongly on both sides. However, I was delighted to see Rae Pica coming down firmly on the less technology side and that’s where I am, too. Her questions at the end of the chapter say it all: “Is there danger to children from too little use of technology? Is there danger to children from too much technology use?” Few people would consider too little technology a “danger,” but too much technology raises all kinds of red flags, such as the ones that Rae lists, including ocular lock, lack of physical activity contributing to obesity, the impact on fine motor development, and so on.
The argument on the pro-technology side is that since technology will most definitely be part of every child’s life eventually, they need to get an early start on it. It’s Piaget’s “American question” all over again – pushing children to do things earlier and faster. However, if I ever had any doubts about that position, they were put to rest by my twin granddaughters’ experiences. Probably because I’m their grandmother who feels pretty strongly about screen usage for young children, the girls had very little contact with computers or iPads at home as preschoolers and in the early elementary years. They fortunately attend the Winnetka (IL) schools which have a progressive, child-centered philosophy and there were no computers or other screens in their classrooms either. However, in third grade, some keyboarding was introduced in their school’s resource center and the girls quickly realized that their keyboarding skills were far behind those of their classmates who had spent hours as young children on computers and iPads at home. For a couple of weeks, they struggled with the keyboarding assignments but–guess what?–they soon caught up with their more experienced classmates. Then, in fifth grade, their middle school gave every student an iPad to be used for both classwork and homework. Once again, the girls were less skilled at using that device than the classmates who had been using one for years but, once more, they soon learned the needed skills, caught up with their peers, and are now as proficient as anyone in their class. The best part is that they didn’t have to sacrifice the hours and hours of screen-free, child-directed play that they had enjoyed as young children, instead of spending those hours on screen-based devices.
The moral of the story? I think that it refutes the argument about the importance of young children getting a head start on computer skills. That is just not a good reason to introduce those screens at a young age or to keep computers in the classroom because kids will pick up the computer skills that they need in no time, when they are older and those skills are needed for school work. More importantly, additional screen time in early childhood classrooms is bound to take the place of hands on, child-directed play and real-world, three- dimensional experiences that lead to and support authentic learning. Add to that the fact that young children are apt to experience less time for child-directed play out of school these days. Instead, their out-of-school time is more likely filled with the distractions from screen-based entertainment and over-scheduling with adult-supervised “enrichment” classes. They also may spend much less time playing out of doors, not only because there are fewer neighborhood children available for spontaneous play, but also because of parents’ fears for their children’s safety. Finally, busy parents are often less focused on and less engaged with their children, often themselves distracted by their own screen-based devices. And, of course, those darned screens can be found everywhere – from the grocery store and the gas pump, to blaring in elevators, in cars and taxis, and even in the doctor’s waiting room!
To paraphrase McDonalds’, “Kids deserve a break today!”
I agree with Rae – wouldn’t it be wonderful if young children could at least have a break from all screens in their early childhood classrooms, a break from those ubiquitous screens that surround them in the rest of their lives. In fact, those early childhood classrooms may be the only place where young children can have an opportunity not only to play, but also to capture an adult’s – their teacher’s – undivided attention. If those hours in school are taken up by screen-time, the children will have been robbed twice.
So just remember Rae’s questions when discussing this topic with others, especially those who are arguing for more technology – “Is there danger to children from too little use of technology? Is there danger to children from too much technology use?” I think that these questions say it all.
Blakely Bundy M.Ed., served as Executive Director for The Alliance for Early Childhood (www.TheAllianceForEC.org) for 25 years and she is currently its Executive Director Emeritus and Senior Advisor. As a committed advocate for young children, she is currently on the National Advisory Board of Defending the Early Years http://www.deyproject.org, on the National Steering Committee of TRUCE (Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment) (www.truceteachers.org) , and on the Board of Directors of the Chicago Children’s Museum (www.chicagochildrensmuseum.org).
Please share/retweet this post! Let us know that you’re participating in this study. We’d love to hear from you about your thoughts regarding Chapters 21, 22, and 23 and the commentary that Tamara and Blakely have provided. Your voice matters – participate in the dialogue and share your ideas here! (Comment below) If you’ve chosen to blog about what you’ve read on your own site, link back and share your post with us here. Perhaps you have a burning question about something that you read in one of these chapters… we have a feature for that – Ask The Author! That’s right, Rae Pica will be available throughout this live study to answer your questions. #AskAuthor
What to read next: Chapter 25: In Defense of the Arts (11/23/15).
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