Computers in the Preschool Classroom

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By: J. Glenn Hopkins, President/CEO

Children today are surrounded by technology, from televisions in every room, smartphones to smart homes, and iPods to iPads. They are part of the new digital universe.  For some educators, technology is the cure for all that ails us.  That is, technology will increase academic skills, improve test scores, and eliminate the racial divide in academic performance. But, are these new fangled gadgets good for young children?  The answer isn’t as clear as you might think.

 

Most experts believe computers are developmentally appropriate for children over the age of three.  Children this age or older are "concrete learners," says Professor Francis Wardle of the University of Phoenix, "very interested in using newly acquired symbolic representation — speaking, writing, drawing, and numbers — in a variety of new, creative ways."

 

Icons are a key feature of today’s computers and digital gadgets. These pictures and visual symbols, say experts, are central to early literacy development, speech, and writing.  For young children struggling with reading, this technology can be a very helpful tool in the classroom.

 

Children vary in their learning styles and, as such, say experts, educators should employ a variety of tools, including technology, to help them learn about and understand their world.

 

But, there is the fear in some corners that skills not learned through technology will be neglected or ignored. For example, music, dance, physical activity, play (i.e. dressing up and building blocks), social interaction, and outdoor exploration may be lost in the rush to use the latest apps and gadgets.

 

There is concern as well about the ability of educators to integrate technology into coherent learning.  Preschool educators are often ill-equipped or lack the necessary knowledge to fully use technology meaningfully in the classroom. The training to understand and use the technology may not be readily available, along with the resources to update and maintain the equipment and software.

 

And, what of digital media — e-books and television shows — is there an appropriate role for this technology in the preschool classroom?

 

Researchers at a recent roundtable on "The Science of Digital Media and Early Learning"  argued that it is important to distinguish between "mindless" and "mindful" use of digital media. When digital media are used intentionally and designed with children's learning in mind, they can promote cognitive development.  But when used mindlessly, cautioned Lisa Guernsey, Director of the New America Foundation’s Early Education Initiative, digital media can "distract children from important play patterns and social interactions that help them develop social-emotional, cognitive skills, and habits of mind." 

 

At Hopkins House, we feel that technology can and should be meaningfully used in the preschool classroom, if the goal is to prepare children for the 21st century.

 

"There are ways that technology can be wisely put to use in the preschool classroom," says Raymel Menefee, Hopkins House Chief Academic Officer.  "As part of the literacy curriculum, computers and digital cameras, even recorders, can be used to teach children how to write personal journals, create stories, and express themselves."

 

Computers and other technology are found at all of the Hopkins House preschool academies.  Each academy has a dedicated computer/technology center where children spend a portion of their day.  Even infants are given keyboards and mouses to play with, to help them develop their motor skills.

 

"Technology is simply a tool," says Menefee.  "One tool among many that our preschool educators can use to teach a broad range of skills and concepts to the 21st century Young Scholars at our academy."

 

What do you think about computers in preschool classrooms?

 

COMMENTS (2 Comments)

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J. Glenn Hopkins
Mr. Craig, thank you for your comments. Hopkins House is among the top preschools in the region, in large part due to our commitment to identifying ways to help our students achieve their highest potential. Thank you for your encouragement and support.
12:03 AM Mar 28th | Report abuse
 

Craig Pat
This blog is very interesting and makes me think about what is good for my son who turns 2 this month. He is in daycare where they do not have computers. I think they should. Thank you for this food for thought.
10:35 PM Jan 27th | Report abuse