This past week, we had our first live chat with a group of readers from the Early Childhood Technology Network Booknet and Digital Decisions authors Fran Simon and Karen Nemeth. It was a great to opportunity to expand on our online discussion forms for the book and use another set of mediums (phone/VOIP/chat) to bring together people who have an interest in early childhood technologies. In addition to getting to hear more about each reader and their experiences in the field (ranging from a director who oversees 100+ teachers, to early intervention and STEM consultants, to early childhood professors), we had a chance to talk about their questions and experiences with technology and young children.
A number of interesting discussions arose as participants shared different stories but two key issues remained highlighted throughout the chat. The first was the issue of “where to start?” in regards to learning, teaching (staff/teachers), and integrating interactive technologies into the early childhood classroom. We discussed the importance of creating a plan and trying to have a mix of formal and informal opportunities for professional development, as first steps towards becoming more digital. A number of great resources were also shared to support administrators, (pre-service) teachers, and teacher educators in learning the huge number of new technologies that are currently being used in education: Cyberwise, TeacherTube, Symbaloo mixes and Pinterest boards. These sites provide instruction (e.g., Cyberwise) or serve as tools to curate information and resources that can be used in the classroom (e.g., Pinterest).
The value of sharing resources and the value of helping teachers to learn how to find and share these tools as professionals connects well with the second key issue of the night: being a critical user instead of a consumer. Some of the professors who were on the call shared how surprising it is at times to find students who either are uncomfortable and inexperienced with technology or are primarily consumers who struggle to see the difference between personal and professional tech usage. We discussed the idea that while many young students today may be considered “digital natives,” we cannot assume that everyone is inherently a native or critical user of digital technologies. Learning how to use social networking tools for professional purposes or interactive technologies as tools to enhance learning goals, is a skill and one that still needs to be learned by many students. In addition to overcoming a more passive use of technology, some pre-service teachers also have to overcome socially constructed assumptions about specific tools (e.g., Twitter is only for celebrities or Skype is only to chat with friends that are studying abroad).
An exciting turning point arose at this point in our conversation as we discussed the idea that not only do (pre-service) teachers need to examine their ideas about tools and become critical users who question the purpose and goal(s) behind using specific tools, but our young children should learn this too. While children today might be more native to using certain technologies in more interactive ways (e.g., Tweeting with classrooms around the globe or using QR codes to hear a book in another language) they could still easily become accustomed to that sole use of those tools. Therefore, as educators, we need to help one another, and our students, learn to be actively engage in (re)thinking how and why we use interactive technologies and ways to use them appropriately, as digital citizens. Hopefully, over time, we can build a community of educators and students who are not only native to digital technologies, but also to seeing technology as a tool for creation, exploration, discovery, and expression instead of passive entertainment or another subject area to master.
How Much Time Do Young Children Spend Using Technology in School?
Technology use in preschool classrooms is hotly debated. But, how much time are children really spending with different kinds of technology in early childhood classrooms?
We delved into this question in our recent *survey and discovered that close to 2/3 of teachers reported their children used desktops/laptops, tablets, and handheld devices for less than thirty minutes per day. In contrast, teachers were more likely to spend over 30 minutes per day using interactive white boards and smart tables. About half of respondents who use technology say their children use it every day in school. Most of the remaining respondents say they use technology with children a few days a week, with only 7% of teachers and 3% of administrators saying the children used technology less than once each week.
Do our results surprise you? Tell us what’s happening in your class. How often are children using interactive technologies in your program? Share your experiences with us! Complete the second questionnaire in our series, and sign up to receive more of these tantalizing Technology Tidbits by email! The survey is brief and signing up for Technology Tidbits from the Early Childhood Today Survey Series is optional!
* You can read more about the data collected in this survey here.
What is this Site?
A membership commmunity for realiable information about technology in early education.
Who We Are
Karen Nemeth, Ed.M. and Fran Simon, M.Ed. - early learning experts with a passion for helping educators use technology to achieve their goals.
We designed ECETech.net to give early childhood educators an easy online resource for reliable information about technology implementation.