A kindergartener uses a digital microscope to reveal a spider web up close, while another focuses in on the wings of a butterfly. The wireless microscope digitally records the findings to be displayed on a tablet for everyone to see.
Every day the Early Learning Community, ELC, at Pacific University utilizes technology in a beneficial way for their preschoolers and kindergarteners.
“Students are capable and empowered by carefully selected technological tools,” lead ELC kindergarten teacher Aja Appel said. “Technology can supplement, support and extend the learning that already occurs in early childhood programs across the globe.”
In today’s society, technology is prevalent in everyday life.
Although negative uses of technology occur all the time through many mediums, technology can be very beneficial when used appropriately. Digital microscopes, interactive whiteboards, video footage, and tablets, often provide great technological use for early childhood learning.
“The use of technology by children should never be ruled out,” Mark Bailey, Professor and Director of the Child Learning and Development Center said. “In the ELC you will find every manner of technology that you could imagine, and every child is engaged.”
Bailey has been working with technology since
he can remember. He was the kind of child who would tinker with electronics and take them apart.
Bailey was born in the age before digital computers were invented so as he grew, technology grew rapidly with him.
When he began teaching 37 years ago, he learned how to merge his knowledge of computers with the understanding of good practice. Bailey learned how to facilitate students to create a modern technological learning environment.
It’s not about my teaching, it’s about their learning,” Bailey adds.
Currently hot off the press, Bailey wrote a chapter in a new book titled, “Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years.” In his chapter he dealt with new opportunities among new technologies, using this to innovate, educate and empower. 20,000 copies have already been distributed to all early childhood educators across the country.
While Bailey has been nationally recognized for his work, he maintains a great technological learning environment at Pacific run by his three “C” words: child, content and context.
“Digital media should take into account who the child is, what the content is that you’re trying to help them learn, and the context for learning,” Bailey said.
Bailey sees that technology, when used right, does not cause harm to the child’s brain or eyes.
He believes the critical difference between good and bad use of technology is whether or not certain technology or applications can support the child’s work and not supplant the work the child is doing. If
the technology is able to support the child, then it can have powerful and positive effects.
“You may observe individual children in our classroom community choosing different, but equally valuable ways of experiencing literature,” Appel said. “One child may reach for a traditional book, while another curls up to listen to stories written by classmates on an iPad. We also use an interactive whiteboard daily for literacy, numeracy, and scientific explorations.”
Another positive way Appel has students use technology is through the application, Story Kit. This application helps students who have difficulty with fine motor skills to orally record the details of a picture they drew, while giving them a chance to practice physical writing as well.
“Technology for young children can be destructive when teachers are not intentional in its use and students become passive recipients for long periods of time at the cost of other important childhood activities,” Appel said.
When looking ahead, Bailey sees how unique the ELC is in terms of technology and their students. But what he really wants to see is more widespread use of appropriate integration of technological devices.
“I would like to continuously see people start with what children need, to think about the kinds of learning experiences that are important and developmentally appropriate for young children,” Bailey said. “Listen to children, empower them to learn, to go deeply into what they want to learn because it’s not just the technology, it’s how you use it.”