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Do technology tools and interactive media like iPads, cameras, or e-readers, belong in the early childhood classroom? If so, how should educators be using them?
At the Fred Rogers Center, we believe technology and interactive media do have the potential to help children learn in the early years, but only if they are used in intentional, developmentally appropriate ways. Here are some important questions for early childhood educators to consider when using technology or interactive media with young children:
Does the media support my learning goals? Have I identified a curricular need first and then selected an appropriate media tool to meet that need, and not vice versa?
Are the interactive media I selected developmentally appropriate? Are they age-appropriate and free of stereotypes? Do they provide clear instructions and prompts? Are they free of commercial messaging?
Do they take into account the cognitive abilities, motor skills, social-emotional needs, and interests of the child?Does the media I've selected support my learning goals? Are they age-appropriate? Are they free of commercial messaging?
Is the technology I’ve selected playful and open-ended? Does it encourage creativity, pretend play, active play, and outdoor activities?
Is the physical environment configured to accommodate the specific technology tool? Is it set up to accommodate small or whole group instruction? Is the technology part of multiple learning areas in the classroom, alongside traditional materials?
Does it offer kids opportunities for joint engagement or collaboration? In other words, does it encourage kids to share information and have conversations with peers, teachers, parents, or other caregivers?
In what ways does the tool encourage kids to connect with the nondigital world?
Does it encourage kids to explore real-world issues or to learn new content?
Is the technology cost effective? Is it durable for active use by young kids?
How will I evaluate its use? Do teachers have appropriate supports and professional development in place to assist them in using it effectively?
These questions are based on a checklist put together by The Pennsylvania Digital Media Literacy Project, a partnership between the Fred Rogers Center, the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children, the Pennsylvania Office of Child Development and Early Learning, and Carlow University.
You can find the full checklist here. And for more information, read the NAEYC-Fred Rogers Center position statement on Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.