When you think of the early childhood classroom, what comes to mind? If you are like most people, you think of a fun, colorful space where students learn their letters and numbers while having plenty of time to play. Does a computer or tablet come to mind when you picture this space? Likely it does not, but that is changing. Today’s early childhood classrooms are providing more play-based hands-on learning opportunities as well as incorporating technology. Educational technology is becoming commonplace in many classrooms, including early childhood learning spaces. Suppose you are planning to teach young children. In that case, you will have to understand the connection between technology and children and how you can effectively implement tech into even the youngest classrooms.
How Technology Has Evolved in Education
Technology has always been part of education, but over the past few decades, it has changed from being supplemental to integral to the education experience. Because technology is a vital part of the modern world, today’s students must learn digital citizenship as part of their education. Even in early childhood development programs, implementing tech and media literacy into educational experiences is vital.
In 1989 the World Wide Web was invented. Within the next decade, schools started to embrace the idea of connectedness and information accessibility. By 1990, the interactive whiteboard had been invented, and schools were moving from overhead projectors and VHS movies to touchscreen systems and computers in every classroom. From 2000 to 2010, technology continued to move into the classroom setting, with real-time polls, e-readers, and tablets becoming commonplace. In the following decade, artificial intelligence (AI) became a focus as software companies sought to analyze student performance, and Google Classroom promised to save teachers time.
Then the pandemic hit, and schools went remote. Even though there were challenges with technology and broadband access in some communities, this move solidified the place of technology in classrooms. Even early childhood educators must now decide how to embrace technology because it is here to stay.
Today, teachers of all age groups have embraced technology to handle remote learning. As of the summer of 2020, 93% of teachers had conducted at least some online teaching. This statistic includes early childhood educators. Technology is changing the face of the modern classroom, and early childhood educators must understand its impact so they can implement tech well in their classrooms.
Positive Impacts of Technology in Early Childhood Classrooms
You may think that young students do not need tech in the classroom, but this is not true. In fact, if used well, technology can have a positive effect on preschool students. Technology has many perks in early childhood classrooms. Here are some reasons it makes sense to embrace tech with your young students:
Can Improve Social and Emotional Development
Students in the preschool age group may not develop their fine motor skills simultaneously. When one child is still developmentally appropriate in this area but seems behind other students in the class, they may feel frustrated. Touchscreen devices can allow all students to complete the same educational activities without demands on fine motor coordination. In this scenario, technology can help support better social and emotional development. In addition, online platforms can allow students to share ideas with each other without the need to write them down, which also adds to this development.
Can Improve Basic Academic Skills
With a computer or tablet, you can give students games to play that reinforce the alphabet or number skills you are learning in the classroom. These activities can fit each student where they are in their development. If one needs additional help with counting, let them practice with a fun game. If another is more advanced than their classmates, you can give them an advanced module to challenge them. Students can improve their basic academic skills when using tech in this way.
Embracing Universal Design for Learning
Similarly, technology allows you to embrace the universal design for learning model. This model encourages teaching that accommodates the needs of all learners and removes unnecessary hurdles. Technology can make some information or skills accessible to students who otherwise would struggle, which fits within the universal design for learning.
Increased Engagement with Learning
Kids like technology. While we might want to fight this fact, it is the reality, and embracing it in the classroom could make learning more enjoyable. Engaging all children in the learning process requires creativity, and using technology may be part of the creative ideas you embrace in your learning environment.
Challenges with Educational Technology
No educational strategy is perfect, and adding technology to the early childhood classroom is not without its challenges. While the obvious challenge of distracted students or access to inappropriate materials through tech is always a concern for educators, some specific challenges are unique to the early childhood learning experience.
Challenges with Dual-Language Learners
Educational technology can be challenging for dual-language learners in the early childhood years. These students are already working on learning two languages simultaneously, and adding technology to the mix can add to their burden. Also, not all educational software is available in multi-lingual platforms. That said, this can also be a perk, as some programs are designed specifically to help in dual-language classrooms, so you simply need to choose your program wisely.
Unfavorable Attitudes About Tech
Some parents and even fellow educators have unfavorable attitudes about technology use with young children. Problems with “screen time” in the home can make them fear using it in the classroom. Teachers who want to implement tech in their early childhood classrooms will need to provide education to these adults to overcome this concern.
Accessibility for Disabled Students
Students with disabilities need to learn media literacy, but they may struggle to use tech the same way as other students. Early childhood teachers must be proactive in giving these students the same opportunities as their peers. However, teaching students with disabilities can also be a benefit of technology. A student who struggles to hear can use technology to amplify sounds, while a student who struggles with verbal communication can use a tablet and a speech aid program to “talk” with teachers and peers.
Remote Learning Challenges
The presence of tech in the classroom means many teachers can use remote learning educational technology when they cannot have their students in class. Early childhood educators face unique challenges in keeping their students engaged when they need to go remote.
Technology Considerations for Early Childhood Educators
Early childhood educators have unique considerations when it comes to technology. They are shaping the educational experiences of the youngest students. Since technology is here to stay, teachers of the youngest students must make important considerations as they weave it into their classroom experiences.
Learning design is the framework used to promote learning through technology. If an early childhood educator is going to implement tech in the classroom, they need to find programs that craft a meaningful learning experience. This requires learning design.
Learning design with technology requires the collaboration of subject matter experts, experienced teachers, software designers, and user-experience designers. This process can be complicated, but when done well, it can create software to help teachers in the instructional process.
Post University offers a graduate certificate program in Learning Design and Technology. If you want to be part of helping create learning experiences for young children, consider adding this certificate to your toolbox.
Teacher Education and Training
The best software program that uses learning design well is only as good as the teacher that implements it. Many educators need further education on how to use technology effectively in the classroom. When new tech arrives, schools need to be proactive in instructing their teachers on how to use it.
Today’s early childhood studies programs are embracing the role of technology. For example, the Bachelor of Science in Child Studies degree from Post University covers STEM education in the classroom, including tech use. If you already have an undergraduate degree but want to extend your knowledge of the latest educational technology, consider an online Master of Education degree, available 100 percent online from Post.
Technology is changing the face of the modern classroom. If you want to be an early childhood educator that can help children and technology work together to embrace learning, then check out the training programs from Post University. Reach out to our admissions team to learn more about these programs.
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