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What is developmentally appropriate technology (for early learning classrooms)?

Written By: Jenne Parks

Publish Date: Sep 22, 2016

From my perspective, before earning a 'gold star' for being, "developmentally appropriate" technology has to hit several marks:

  • Easy to use
  • Appropriate for non-readers
  • Has meaningful context
  • Is informative and provides positive feedback
  • Ensures multiple opportunities for success
  • Allows for independent choice, control and access
  • Has intentional focus on cognitive development
  • Is set in a relatable context and holds interest
  • Actively seeks to normalize representation of underrepresented groups

In addition, it is imperative that teachers recognize (and practice) that technology is only effective when teachers mediate its use with the same developmentally appropriate practices they apply to any other type of learning experience (Plowman & Stephen, 2005; 2007).


That said, I continually meet teachers struggling to find a balance between the appropriate integration of technology and a lack of the technology they need in order to reinforce key technical and cognitive skills that children need in order to thrive in the 21st century!


Granted, over the last few years conversations have progressed from why technology in early childhood is valuable (see the below, founded gems provided by various experts), to how many devices every classrooms needs:

  • "Active, appropriate use of technology and media can support and extend traditional materials in valuable ways... both cognitive and social" (NAEYC & The Fred Rogers Center, 2012, p. 7).
  • "Computers allow young children to manipulate shapes (mathematics) with greater dexterity than they can manage by hand and often promote collaborative (social) problem solving" (Clements, 2002).
  • "Early childhood ed tech can help to shrink the educational and digital divides that plague many children from low-income families" (Machado, 2016).
  • "Experiences with technology in early childhood can help children become "responsible digital citizens" by gaining an understanding of how technology should and shouldn't be used" (NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center 2012).


Technology is one of many tools young children use to carry out their play ideas, acquire knowledge & skills, and solve problems and teachers who have access to 3-4 devices in one classroom (versus one computer or tablet/iPad) that pack that much punch are able to provide more students with more access and more opportunities to success!


Plowman, L., & Stephen, C. (2005). Children, play, and computers in preschool settings. British Journal of Educational Technology, 36(2), 145-157.

Clements, D. H. (2002). Computers in early childhood mathematics. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 3(2), 160-181. doi:10.2304/ciec.2002.3.2.2


Machado, M. (2016). 3 Benefits of Technology in Early Childhood Education.




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