Children use technology to send messages

Child's drawing on a magnetized board Children like to share their work and tell their families what they do at school or at other times when they are not together. While babysitting for a friend, I appreciated her 2-year-old child’s excitement when she discovered that a toy firetruck had a button to push to turn on (and off) a siren. “Tell Mommy, fire engine has a siren!” she exclaimed several times. I asked her if she would like to write a message to her mother telling her about this and she immediately went to her art shelf and came back with an erasable magnetic drawing board. First she drew the firetruck, then “Me” and then “Mommy,” naming each illustration as she drew it. I took a photo, before the message was erased, to share the moment with my friend when she returned (see it labeled it here). These two technologies, the magnetic drawing board and camera, allowed a child to communicate with her parent, and her parent to be part of her child’s developing understanding of symbols.

Photographs helped me share another child’s work with his parents. As a child care provider in my home I often had water color paint sets available for the four-year-olds. One child was very interested in layering paint colors to mix and blend. Beginning with one color he would add more and more colors to the page until it was a solid page of rich black with no shapes or lines to show how the work progressed. After several days of sending home all black paintings I took a series of photos as the child worked to show his parents what he was working on so they could also enjoy the process.

Cover of January 2017 issue of Science and Children.In the January 2017 issue of Science and Children, I wrote about using technologies available in your program for children to create a message about their interests and work to send, or carry, home. In the Editor’s Note, Linda Froschauer talks about the “selection dilemma” as educators  look for “technology that provides the best opportunities for students to access knowledge, build science and engineering skills, and function within a framework of scientific investigation.”  

It will be some time before the 2-year-old becomes the “Empowered Learner,” “Digital Citizen,” or “Global Collaborator” envisioned in the International Society for Technology Education’s (ISTE) National Educational Technology Standards for Students but she is already a “Knowledge Constructor,” “Innovative Designer,” and “Creative Communicator” using tools that preceded digital tools. There is still much to learn about young children’s use of technology and the impact it can have on their education. 

In a recent episode of ‘black•ish, “Their Eyes Were Watching Screens,” parents were confronted with the fact that they didn’t really know how their children were using technology and what they were viewing. After an initial feeling of panic they found a way to “make technology your family time friend!”  Educators’ and parents’ questions about children’s use of media technologies are of interest to researchers at institutions such as The Center on Media and Human Development at Northwestern University, The Erikson Institute’s Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center, and The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, and pediatric doctors (Kabali and all 2015). Continuing research will help us be intentional in our choices of technology–old school paper and crayons or digital technology–to help young children create learning moments and document it.

Here are a few additional resources to help early childhood educators and families “make technology our friend” and an appropriate, effective tool for young children.

Lisa Guernsey’s and Michael Levin’s website for their book, Tap, Click, Read: Growing Readers in a World of Screens, has videos about programs supporting young readers and links to app reviewers to help families and educators choose effective tools.

Tech in the Early Years, edited by Chip Donohue and published by Routledge and the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), is “a thought-provoking guide to effective, appropriate and intentional use of technology with young children.” I love their statement about Mr. Rogers and the use of his quote: Fred Rogers serves as a reminder of what is most important and a perfect stepping off point for your reading, learning and teaching.

“Computers can be useful machines, especially when they help people communicate in caring ways with each other…” Fred Rogers, 1996.

The key messages in Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8NAEYC’s joint position statement with The Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College, are:

  • When used intentionally and appropriately, technology and interactive media are effective tools to support learning and development.
  • Intentional use requires early childhood teachers and administrators to have information and resources regarding the nature of these tools and the implications of their use with children.
  • Limitations on the use of technology and media are important.
  • Special considerations must be given to the use of technology with infants and toddlers.
  • Attention to digital citizenship and equitable access is essential.
  • Ongoing research and professional development are needed.

Learn more about these key messages and explore “Selected Resources on Technology in Early Childhood Education” provided by NAEYC.

Communities and education systems must find a way to provide paid hours for early childhood educators who are already in the workforce to be as intentional about the use of technology and interactive media as we are with any choice we make in scheduling young children’s day. The education of the developing minds and abilities of young children are too important for us to, as Froschauer observed, feel that technology is “simply be happening to [us] rather than being carefully considered and selected.”

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3 Comments

  1. Patty
    Posted January 8, 2017 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    This is a wonderful article. May I use it in my class on early childhood STEM?

    • Peggy Ashbrook
      Posted January 8, 2017 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

      Thank you, Patty, yes, please do share it!

  2. Sarah
    Posted January 9, 2017 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Great article! I have been looking for more resources about integrating technology to support my science instruction. Thanks! I just received my January 2017 Science & Children issue and look forward to reading your article.

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