How can we tell our children not to take candy from strangers and to only interact with people we trust, but then turn around and educate them with un-tested technology apps, media and content that are not based on evidence, created by experts and not running on hardware developed for schools?
Last week, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College released “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs,” a landmark, comprehensive position statement and review of research on the role of educational technology in early learning.
Both of these organizations are nationally recognized thought leaders in early learning research. Their principles and policies set the standards for quality education practices. Hatch is proud to stand firmly in support of this much-needed position statement that will guide educators in making educated technology purchases for many years.
Six over-arching guidelines for using technology and interactive media as tools to promote effective learning and development stood out as I read this statement. These principles have been used by Hatch Product Development since 1984 to create our entire line of 21st Century educational technology solutions.
- Age and developmental status are used to individualize learning opportunities for children. Identifying learning goals for each child and what strategies will be used to achieve these goals can determine a child’s success in school and life. The same principles used to define traditional best practices remain true when defining best-in-class technology content and media. Effective content and design help each child progress developmentally in a way that takes into account individual age, development, needs, interests, language, culture and abilities.
- We now have an evidence-based list of what constitutes effective, appropriate technology and media.
- Cost – effective– Initial, ongoing and replacement costs are within budget. Hardware includes a warranty or warranty options.
- Durable – Hardware holds up to active use by young children, such as dropping or throwing.
- Research-based – Research-based technology and media solutions developed around current research findings that define how children learn successfully are the most reliable, dependable content sources.
- Independent use – The child has control and is empowered to use technology independently.
- Fun – If it’s not fun and engaging, children will lose interest. Effective technology and media captures and maintains their attention so that they return to it again, eager to learn.
- Integrated – The focus of the classroom should not be the technology. The technology should enhance the focus of the lesson. Technology and media complement appropriate traditional classroom materials.
- Scaffolded – Appropriate technology automatically scaffolds lessons. When a child learns one skill he is moved automatically to learning the next skill. Adaptive technology determines his ability level. As a child progresses in development she will not be faced with a lesson above or below her cognitive level, or with a lesson that she has already mastered.
- Limit screen time by seamlessly integrating technology with traditional activities such as creative play, class science experiments, active play, read aloud and social interactions. At Hatch we offer “Beyond the Screen” extension activities that provide expert guidance and ideas for combining screen time with class time. Keep in mind the amount of screen time a child may be exposed to at home. Send books home from a Lending Library so that parents can interact with their children away from the screen. Choose solutions that promote interaction between students and adults or students and peers.
- Educational-quality technology and media is only as strong as the research on which it was based. Developers must use current research findings to create technology and media, and they should be able to provide evidence that it works to improve learning outcomes.
- Effective technology provides multiple tools that make the classroom experience easier and richer for students, parents and teachers:
- Home-School Connections– New digital portfolios present opportunities for parents to share in their child’s school day. Videos and images strengthen parental support and parent-teacher relationships.
- Reporting and Measurement – Effective technology automatically generates up-to-the minute reports that detail a child’s progression on the developmental scale at the push of a button. Educators spend more time interacting and less time observing.
- Assistive Technology – Technology tools are proven to empower students with special needs, enabling them to participate in activities in which they would have previously been excluded.
- Dual Language Learners – Technology tools include appropriate activities for every child regardless of background and native language. All children should be able to actively practice speaking, listening, writing and reading skills.
- Professional training for educators must be accessible so that they know how and when to make informed, intentional and appropriate technology and media choices. Digital literacy for educators is imperative. Training must be provided upon installation and ongoing support must be accessible for proper integration, use and upgrades. Educators should be able to easily and quickly demonstrate a technology’s ROI and successful improvement of learning outcomes.
The new position statement puts forth a powerful call to action for digital citizenship. Adults must model appropriate, active use of digital communication and media in safe, healthy, acceptable, responsible and socially positive ways. Children must experience technology from a young age so that they can differentiate between what is appropriate and what is not. They must understand the consequences of inappropriate or unsafe use. Digital citizenship begins to emerge at a very young age and should be proactively influenced by positive experiences with effective, developmentally-appropriate, research-based technology and media in early learning.
How are educators instilling a strong sense of digital citizenship in children by showing them how to choose and use technology and media wisely and safely?