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I have learned in my older years not to be too quick to rule out a category of learning materials or to be too critical of a branch of technology that everyone is exposed to and almost everyone has in their possession. Perhaps we need to urge researchers to investigate carefully the proliferating apps for young children, and to advise every ECE teacher and parent to observe why it is that very young children adore iPhones and their relatives. Ms. Guernsey is an excellent reporter and writer about ECE; how about an interview with her on just this important topic?! The ones I would watch out for are the researchers who think only print literacy is important and their tendency to rule out play, recess, art, music and nature experience among the ECE community.
Nothing like the real thing in the hands of children (or anyone for that matter) and just some basic materials. Martin Selig, a well known developer in Seattle, said that he got his start by playing with blocks - just good ol' unit blocks.
Just because something is new doesn't make it better. Ditch any of those electronics and put natural materials in the hands of the kids; rocks and tree blocks and sand and water. Children learn so much from playing with these things, have fun in the process and even if they cannot be outside, they can be moving their bodies and developing muscles as well as working their brains.
While Lisa's article focuses on the role of technology in the lives of families, I think it is important for early childhood educators to be prepared with knowledge and guidance to offer to parents...and teachers too! My co-author, Fran Simon, and I wrote that the quality of an app is as much about how it is used as it is about the features of the app. When technology is used as busywork at home or at school, even the best app is not the best thing for a child. But, when an app is used to engage children and adults together to learn, explore, create AND discuss, great things can happen even with a simple app. We all love blocks in preschool - but if the teacher never talks to the children in the block area or if the blocks get used as weapons - they are not as valuable. Similarly, apps can be used in inappropriate ways or in wonderful ways. The key is for educators to learn better strategies and to share them with parents. There is a burgeoning field of websites and services to help early childhood educators and parents learn these new strategies, including pages on Facebook and LinkedIn as well as a twitter group you can follow at #ecetech .
If we look at ourselves, many among us have almost forgotten how to write with a pen. A time or situation may come up when this practice may become crucial if we don't have any other option than writing manually. It is ok that a speedboat may take me to the other side of the river within a blink of my eyes, but that doesn't devalue the importance of learning swimming. I am not against technology or any kind of modern science; rather I prefer to add the importance learning how the technology works. And this is very important for children as we want them to be a researcher, scholar, and a scientist in future!
Apps serve a purpose as do all supplemental tools. However to think that you are going to plop your preschool down in front of an iPad with not intentional objective is just as detrimental as setting up a learning environment that does not align with the child's cognitive/developmental level or interests. Technology is awesome for introducing, reinforcing or extending a concept however, it is not a one size fits all remedy.