PAST FORWARD: Reflections and Visions on Young Children and Technology
In 2017, we’ve been commemorating the 5th anniversary of the release of the NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College joint position statement on Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. At Erikson Institute we’ve also been celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Technology in Early Childhood Center and more than 5 years of collaboration with the Fred Rogers Center.
Since the joint position statement was released in March of 2012, the TEC Center and the Fred Rogers Center have taken the lead in translating the principles and guidelines into research, policy, and especially practice. We’ve written articles and books and traveled the globe to deliver countless presentations about effective, appropriate, and intentional use of technology and interactive media in the early years. Throughout all these convenings and keynotes, we’ve always connected lessons learned from Fred Rogers with forward thinking approaches to help young children, parents, families and educators navigate the digital age.
As Senior Fellows at the Fred Rogers Center, Roberta Schomburg of Carlow University and I collaborated with NAEYC to develop the joint position statement. We co-chaired the working group tasked with updating the 1996 position statement on Technology and Young Children — Ages 3 through 8 — Taking the PAST FORWARD. While the technology had changed dramatically between 1996 and 2009, what remained the same was how effective technology use in the digital age needed to be grounded in the developmentally appropriate practice framework to support child development, early learning, early language and literacy, and family engagement.
At the time, the iPhone was a few years old, and the iPad had been released in 2010. Despite its infancy, there was a growing sense that the multi-touch screen was a game changer for young children who could easily swipe and tap for increasingly interactive media experiences and meaningful opportunities to move from media consumers to media creators. The process of reviewing research, conducting listening sessions, sharing drafts, and writing the final position statement took almost three years, culminating in the release of the statement in March of 2012. It’s release ignited five years of advocacy, professional development, and thought leadership by the Fred Rogers Center and TEC Center that continue today.
“Early childhood educators always should use their knowledge of child development and effective practices to carefully and intentionally select and use technology and media if and when it serves healthy development, learning, creativity, interactions with others, and relationships” (NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center, 2012, 5).
The approach that Fred Rogers took to using media to support relationships, whole child development, early learning, and family relationships also informed our work to bring the PAST FORWARD. We wrote, “Throughout the process of researching and writing this position statement, we have been guided by the legacy of Fred Rogers. By appropriately and intentionally using the technology of his day –broadcast television — to connect with each individual child and with parents and families, Fred Rogers demonstrated the positive potential of using technology and media in ways that are grounded in principles of child development” (NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center, 2012, 2).
“When used appropriately, technology and media can enhance children’s cognitive and social abilities. Interactions with technology and media should be playful and support creativity, exploration, pretend play, active play, and outdoor activities” (NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center, 2012, 2).
In 2015, I looked PAST FORWARD when I wrote these words in the introduction in my book, Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tools for Teaching and Learning in the Early Years, “Perhaps it is the blending and balancing of interactive technology and interactions with others that offers the most promise for effective and appropriate uses of technology in the early years — closely connecting Fred Rogers’ approach with our emerging understanding of appropriate and intentional use of digital media to support early learning” (Donohue, 2015, p. 3).
In hundreds of presentations since the position statement was released, I have always concluded my remarks with a quote from Fred Rogers to give him the final PAST FORWARD moment to remind us that relationships matter most.
“No matter how helpful computers are as tools (and of course they can be very helpful tools), they don’t begin to compare in significance to the teacher-child relationship, which is human and mutual. A computer can help you learn to spell ‘HUG,’ but it can never know the risk or the joy of actually giving or receiving one” (Rogers, 1994, 89).
For it is through healthy relationships that the young and the young at heart learn and grow best.
Donohue, C. & Schomburg, R. (2017). Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs: What We’ve Learned from Five Years of Research, Practice and Observing Children. Young Children, 72(4), pp. 72-78.
Paciga, K., & Donohue, C. (2017) Technology and Interactive Media for Young Children: A Whole Child Approach Connecting the Vision of Fred Rogers with Research and Practice. Latrobe, PA: Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College and Chicago, IL: Technology and Early Childhood Center at Erikson Institute.
Donohue, C. Ed. (2015). Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tools for Teaching and Learning in the Early Years. New York: Routledge and Washington, DC: NAEYC.
NAEYC & the 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. Joint position statement. Washington, DC: NAEYC; Latrobe, PA: Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College.
Rogers, F. (1994). You Are Special: Words of Wisdom from America’s Most Beloved Neighbor. New York: Penquin Books, p. 89.
About the Author
Chip Donohue, Ph.D., is internationally recognized as a leader in distance learning and online education, particularly for early childhood professionals. He is Dean of Distance Learning and Continuing Education, and Director of Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center at Erikson Institute.