I am on the fence. I come at this question from an early childhood educator perspective and a mom who has two young children. This generation of students have been born into a world that is obsessed with technology.
Where as I grew up without computers, cell phones or the internet. Boy that makes me sound ancient! Technology was around it just wasn’t overtaking our homes and lives. There is definitely no escaping the fact that technology will be around for a while. That being said, in the last couple of years before I resigned from teaching, I noticed a worrisome trend. Young children were finding it hard to engage in play. Play is usually so innate within young children so why this change? Is it because of the overuse of technology or is it that there is a generation gap, a misunderstanding of the merits of online play? Perhaps the idea of what play consists of needs to be redefined? Could play include games and interactions online in virtual worlds? Maybe there is a place for technology in the early childhood classroom.
Last Monday, we had our first debate in EC&I 830 on this question. I heard the argument that technology helps to equip children with skills that they will need for their future professions. This may be true, but imagination and exploration are essential skills to fully engaging in a world that is always in flux. Children need to develop a love for learning, a desire to create and collaborate, an inventor mind-set in order to be world changers. As Mark and his son Jack talk about in their TED talk, children can create change in the world by building on what they love and what they know. Play and experience are important ways that children create their stories by overcoming challenges and reaching out beyond themselves. Play is the way that children figure out what they love and what interests them. I define play as children interacting with the world around them in concrete and physical ways. So where does technology fit in the world of early childhood, in the world of future change makers?
As discussed in our first debate, technology is a tool to enhance learning, to go beyond the classroom walls and dig deeper into subjects and global interactions. The use of technology in the classroom has many benefits for both teachers and students. I am not against the use of technology, I am cautious about when and how to implement it. Many of my EC&I 830 classmates mentioned that it is about balance when using technology with their students. In the past, I have felt strongly that in an early childhood classroom, technology should be used very sparingly and that the focus needs to remain on play. Perhaps a sift of perspective needs to take place for me. Children today are growing up immersed in technology. Play and learning to them can take on different forms than what I knew growing up. They may play a sport with a gaming device but then talk about it with their friends at school. They may draw a picture on their iPad that they could never do with a pencil and paper. Their learning is enhanced! I still have my doubts though. What about their physical fitness and fine motor skills (in particular pencil and paper skills)? What about their verbal communication skills?
So I remain on the fence. I see the benefits to using technology in an early childhood classroom but I worry about the affects on the holistic development of the young child.
What are your thoughts and/or experiences using technology in the early childhood classroom? I would love to hear from you!