What the Research Tells Us
The foundation of early childhood education is Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP), a concept that brings together knowledge of child development, the development of the individual child, and the culture of the child (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009). The importance of using DAP for digital technology in an early childhood classroom is no different than when using other types of materials and tools (Fred Rogers Center, 2012).
The Fred Rogers Center (2012) provides two principles for digital media use: a) “quality digital media should safeguard the health, well-being, and overall development of young children, and b) quality in digital media for young children should take into account the child, the content and the context of use” (p. 6). These principles support DAP through intentional use of technology in the classroom. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released new guidelines for screen time that emphasize the importance of adults working with children in researching the apps used, understanding and co-engaging in digital content.
The International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) technology standards for students begins at age four. The 2016 ISTE Standards for Pre-K-12 students emphasizes fitting technology into pedagogy rather than focusing on the technology as a tool (ISTE-S, 2016). The ISTE Student Standards (2016) and the NAEYC Technology Statement (2012) share an emphasis on appropriate pedagogy, collaboration, and understanding technology use. ISTE-S provides a framework for developing intentional and appropriate classroom interactions with digital technology for young children. Foundations are built for young children to become Technology Literate Students (ISTE, 2016) in the areas of active learning, and social outcomes through communication and collaboration. As digital technology becomes more prevalent in education settings, early education teachers need to focus on introducing and extending technology.
Selected Examples of Interactive Technology for Early Childhood Classrooms
The multi-touch table is an emerging technology in early childhood classrooms designed to foster group collaboration. The multi-touch table’s size and multi-user interface allows the young child to move and play around the table while interacting with other children, potentially answering concerns about young children, technology and decreased social engagement and physical activity. Using a multi-touch table can assist in creating foundational skills such as group collaboration around a shared goal.
Digital microscopes are another technology that encourages interactive engagement. Digital microscopes allow young children to explore materials found inside and outside the physical classroom. If you are introducing nature education into your curriculum, digital microscopes create opportunities for deeper exploration of the natural world. A great way to do this is to have the children use the digital microscope to examine outdoor items they collect, and have children make entries into a science journal to record their observations.
Tablets can also be used as an interactive tool in the classroom. We often focus on apps that can be useful for research or discipline specific knowledge building. There are tools designed for use with tablets such as Osmo which offers numerous interactive learning tools. Tablets do not need to be expensive, and inexpensive tablets can be used for many purposes including children authoring and illustrating a classroom e-books. And let’s not forget the learning resources and activities found on the web such as PBS Kids and Epic! Books.
Other examples of interactive technology include resources for coding, such as (to mention a few) Ozobot, Cubelets, Sphero, and Code-a-Pillar. Smart phones and digital cameras are multi-purpose (as all teachers know) including recording and taking pictures of the children’s interactions and work for assessment. Assistive Technology is so rich that these materials have their own blog post. This picture is an example of switches that activate the drumsticks when pushed.
Technology in early childhood classrooms needs to emphasize interaction. Teachers should always become familiar and comfortable with the technology before introducing it into the classroom. Digital technology should not be a passive means of engagement or used as a “reward”. As an early educator, you understand child development – use that knowledge when integrating digital technology into your classroom. And Have Fun!
Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (Eds.) (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice (3rd Edition). Washington, DC: NAEYC
Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College. (2012). A framework for quality in digital media for children: Considerations for parents, educators, and media creators. Latrobe, PA: Fred Rogers Center.
International Society for Technology in Education. (2016). ISTE Standards – Students. Retrieved
National Association for the Education of Young Children & Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College. (2012). Technology and interactive media as tools in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8. Retrieved from: http://www.naeyc.org/content/technology-and-young-children
Donna Karno is an Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at the University of Maine at Farmington. Donna has been active in the early childhood profession for over twenty years and works with pre-service and in-service teachers. She has worked in different capacities within the early childhood field including as a Director and lead teacher. Donna’s research and teaching passion is to aid early childhood professionals in using digital technology for parent communication, classroom practice, and professional development.