[caption id="attachment_1205" align="alignleft" width="199" caption="Image courtesy of Ambro"][/caption] We are all aware of how much certain media tools, such as iPads and smart phones, have come to dominate out adult lives over the past decade. Even while typing this very blog my smart phone is sitting next to me, pinging away updates from my email, social media contacts and other various applications. As a professional working primarily in the digital market, I understand the importance of these media to my daily life, but how does that reflect on my children? Many parents and early educators are likely stuck asking that same question: In the age of heightened digital media at every juncture, where and when is it appropriate to include (or exclude) our children? In order to help educators answer these questions, the National Association for the Education of Young Children has partnered with the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College. The two organizations have recently published a guide called “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8” which seeks to aid educators in regards to the integration of digital technology and interactive media in the classroom for both educational and recreational purposes. Emphasis on “Technology-Handling” The report, which spans about a dozen pages, goes into great detail in terms of direct recommendations for daily media use and so-called screen time that can be used to guide parents of children from birth through age eight. One emphasis is on the inclusion of smart phone, tablet, and computer time as part of a child’s total “screen time” for the day. However, one of the most important elements of the report focuses on what its authors term “technology-handling.” Akin to the idea of “book-handling” when attempting to develop early literacy skills, these guidelines specifically mention the benefits of exposing children from less-affluent backgrounds, as well as those with special needs and English Language Learners, to developmentally-appropriate digital technology from early on such that basic skills and operations are acquired by age 5. According to the authors: “When educators appropriately integrate technology and interactive media into their classrooms, equity and access are addressed by providing opportunities for all children to participate and learn” (pg. 4) Training Is Essential Along with the emphasis on access, this report also stresses the importance of training and educating early childhood educators on the proper use of technology in their instruction. While this too relies heavily on access in and out of the classroom, an additional point is made about the “effective uses of technology and media” as an educational tool. The report contends that this use must be “active, hands-on, engaging, and empowering; [giving] the child control; [providing] adaptive scaffolds to ease the accomplishment of tasks; and [used] as one of many options to support children’s learning” (pg. 6) While much of the information in this report regarding developmentally appropriate apps as well as the use of technology as a supplement to, rather than a replacement for, traditional learning methods should seem self-evident, the whole of its message is an important one for all educators, administrators and parents to receive. Its ultimate message, that we must be proactive in our use of technology to aid education, blends nicely with the practical and concrete advice it offers and is a must-read for all early childhood educators and parents of young children alike.
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