Using Interactive Technology To Engage Children In Early Years

Children using tech devices is a hot topic.  How much is too much?  How young is too young? Today, guest blogger, Rob James gives a perspective on the use of tech in the early years.  We would love to hear your opinions on the topic!  ~EMP

Interactive technology can play a significant role in helping children learn in early years. Given the range of easy to use devices available, which include iPads and interactive whiteboards, and the increasingly early digital literacy that children achieve, making technology part of the classroom can mean that children can learn in different ways. While there have been some arguments against the over use of technology in the classroom, its benefits and the need to match up home and school based learning mean that all teachers and schools should consider testing it for pre-school classes.

Early Years Benefits

Children that count as being in Early Years education are generally those up to the age of five. These children are not in full time education, and attend school as part of nursery and reception classes, as well as play-schools that contain some degree of basic literacy and numeracy instruction.  The early years is often a difficult area for schoolteachers and parents to  agree on. On the one hand, many believe that early years education should be about play and developing social skills outside of the home, while developing literacy and numeracy skills. Others, however, support structured forms of learning that create a clear progression between infant care and primary school activities.

Interactive technologies are being positioned as a crucial way to engage children through a combination of play and structured programs. Technologies can be defined through touchscreen iPads, interactive whiteboards, and online portfolios where children can play, and reports can be filed. Educational games that teach children about letters, numbers, and music, can be used to focus children’s attention during the day. These programs can also be extended to home use, with parents and teachers able to chart early development, and any problems that might require special support.

Examples

Recent Early Years projects in East Sussex have targeted the extensive use of interactive technology to build up early skills, and to engage young children with programs that can encourage them to be creative. These programs can, then, be developed into e-portfolios that children can access with their parents. As they move from Early Years into more structured primary school classes, these skills and online platforms can be expanded and used for record keeping.

This use of technology can allow for specialist forms of support, and provide ways for children with special needs to experience alternative forms of learning. Some schools have pushed for 3G pay-as-you-go Netbooks that can be provided for parents with low incomes. Having these tablets can mean that children are able to receive, in theory, a consistent education in the home and at school. Maintaining this access provides a way by which children already familiar with digital technologies can make it part of their everyday learning as they move through different school years.

Awareness and Caution

There have been some criticisms of the use of technology in Early Years learning. Most of this criticism has been focused on the dangers that children dependent on technology will become antisocial, and less likely to build confidence through group work. There is also a fear that the over use of technology will make it harder for children to focus on the hard work of learning to read and write. However, given the ubiquity of digital and interactive devices in the home, not making them at least a part of Early Years education would be a short sighted approach.

 

Rob James is a secondary school teacher. He found his current post using GSL English teaching job vacancies, and enjoys inspiring young minds, and the challenges his job presents. In his spare time Rob can be found blogging about his experiences and what they have taught him.

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