According to a 2015 survey done by Northwestern University, more than half of preschool teachers use tablet computers in the classroom, a number which doubled from a survey done 2 years ago. This is an incredible statistic, considering that experts have long cautioned against the use of digital media with little ones. The American Academy of Pediatrics still warns against screen time for kids under 2, and recommends a limit for older kids to an hour a day of high-quality interactive media. Even so, there is a place for tech in early childhood settings – both for teachers and kids. As technology pervades every corner of our lives, there is a need to figure out how to harness its power in ways that benefit teachers and young children alike. The great news is that if used wisely, everyone wins: your students, your families, and your school. For children specifically, the National Association for the Education of Young Children has a few key recommendations when considering the use of technology in your daycare or preschool setting.
Make high-quality choices.
While there is a great deal of terrific technology on the market these days, there is also a lot of garbage. You want the best for your teachers and your students, so give them high-quality choices of tools and learning experiences. The best classroom tech for students is highly interactive and engaging, and puts the child in control, providing a sense of empowerment (See 4th paragraph below for best classroom tech for teachers.) For example, Agnitus is an immersive curriculum covering a bevy of topics including math, reading, and writing. Kids build basic skills, working their way through a series of books, activities, and interactive games. Report cards track their progress and the reporting tools give you valuable learning insights. Or on a smaller scale, the Little Writer iPad app is great for developing fine motor control while practicing letters, numbers, and shapes.
Build a base of tech-handling skills.
Are kids these days born with the innate knowledge of how to use a mouse or how to swipe an iPhone screen? Sometimes it seems that way. The littlest of learners should be exposed to these basic tech skills among many others. We teach children how to handle books, use scissors, stack blocks, hold a pencil, etc., and tech skills shouldn’t be treated any differently. The International Society for Technology in Education recommends that by age 5, children have basic skills in technology operations and concepts. By the time they reach kindergarten, your little ones should be very comfortable using computers and tablets, with a strong understanding of how to navigate apps and menus, and the ability to use the mouse and keyboard. As much as possible, let your students explore and learn-by-doing when introducing new technology–with plenty of support from you, of course.
Strengthen the home-school connection.
As teachers, you can use available technology to streamline your routine administrative tasks and to build deeper, more meaningful relationships with your families. The NAEYC recommends that “technology tools offer new opportunities for educators to build relationships, maintain ongoing communication, and exchange information and share online resources with parents and families.” The best choice for these purposes is brightwheel, an all-in-one app to manage your classroom and connect preschools and daycares with families. You’ll use brightwheel to record and track daily events and activities in the classroom, and parents get real-time updates delivered to their mobile device throughout the day. This powerful app also offers secure, digital check-in/check-out, and an automated paperless billing system. Brightwheel is a great way to keep your families looped in on daily activities, as well as save time keeping track of activities and licensing requirements.
The bottom line is that careful tech choices and management can improve the early education experience for daycares and preschools and families–but also for the kids. Technology can help with personalizing learning, engaging students, and building core skills. It can also help you stay organized and improve communication with your families. What are you waiting for?