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Early childhood is regarded as foundational, and researchers believe that these years decide a child's proper growth and commitment to the betterment of society later in life. Children learn about the environment through experimentation and discovery in the early stages of growth. Because of the pervasiveness of technology today, children are well introduced to both non-digital and digital technology. In addition, children have more ways to use digital technology. In as much as technology and interactive media are significant instruments to learn, these aspects should be employed at appropriate ages and in the correct way. This paper analyses the suitable use of technology and interactive media in early childhood education. The article discusses the meaning of ‘appropriate use’ and shows the need for the development of a framework to help non-educators such as parents and caregivers.
Types of Technology and Interactive Media use in Early Childhood
There are numerous types of technology and interactive media instruments utilized during early infancy. The ones chosen for this age are those that stimulate the child physically and visually so as to maintain their memory. Digital resources or technology selected for this age include tools that require active participation such as singing, coloring, drawing, and even dancing. There are those that are passive such as watching educative DVD’s. Interactive media fall in the same category, and they include tools like video games and animations. All these instruments are aimed at helping the child gain vocabulary, communication abilities, and comprehension. In this case, the child gains oral language skills, speaking abilities, and word formation. They are particularly effective during this stage, considering that the child is learning through exploration. At this stage, it is important to ensure that all types of tools are utilized, as they have varied impacts on the child. It is always vital to make sure that the child has an opportunity to explore using a variety of instruments.
The Meaning of Appropriate Use of Technology and Interactive Media
The appropriate usage of something is synonymous to its deployment in meeting certain goals. When using technology and interactive media in the learning process, they should be utilized in meeting particular goals and objectives. For this reason, technology and interactive media are only useful when utilized to meet the goals of the various milestones of growth and development. Several scholars, including Alper (2013), Bergen, Hutchinson, Nolan, and Weber, (2010) stress the need for the identification of suitable technology during early learning and its application in meeting the developmental outcomes in a child. This implies that technology and interactive media should only be used if it meets the developmental goals.
Children develop in milestones, and thus, it is important to ensure that interactive media and technology provided help the child in meeting the goals of various milestones. For example, between the ages of 0 and 2 years, unstructured playtime is of more significance. Unstructured playtime gives the child an opportunity to explore using their hands, and they develop social skills (DeLoache et al., 2010). At this age, a child should not watch television or use technology exclusively. As children grow, they develop cognition, and this allows them to make sense of interactive play. At this stage, a child can engage in games, and they also understand rules. Both interactive media and technology are effective.
The appropriate use of learning devices also implies that they will not be distractive or displace other knowledge. This definition is congruent to the idea presented by Bergen and his colleagues (2010), who confirm that technology-related toys should not be overused, as they may lead to degeneration of movement in young children. In some instances, the toy may even interfere with the interaction between the child and the teacher. In his study, Alper (2013) confirms that it is the work of a teacher or caregiver to determine the developmental goals during various milestones. They can then make a comparison on whether interactive media or technology will cause the degeneration or development of a child. Technology and interactive media should not be utilized in instances where they distract learning, cause degeneration, or interfere with student-teacher interaction.
The appropriate use of technology involves both active and passive consumption and this is an important part of development. In their study, Bergen et al. (2010) make it very clear that a child should be given an opportunity to actively and passively participate in play so as to meet the various developmental goals. During active use of technology and interactive media, a child takes part in actions that help them meet certain goals. For example, they would color a picture or draw. Passive use involves the consumption of information such as watching television programs or listening to stories. It is always important to engage a child deeply in both instances so as to help them learn.
The usage of technology and interactive media should be limited in such a way that there is a balance between the two. In a research done by Couse and Chen (2010), the scholars confirm that parents tend to overestimate how much a child learns from watching DVD’s in their everyday activity. The researchers make it clear that in as much as interactive media and technology are essential parts of learning, it is necessary to ensure that the child is also involved in other activities. This research recommends the use of both technology and non-technology related activities. In fact, the researchers say that the control group learnt more than the other participants subjected to watching DVD’s.
As Alper (2013) explains, technology and interactive media are efficient in supporting proper ability to learn and develop, especially when used appropriately. It is also important to utilize these tools intentionally so that they act as resources that contribute to the proper growth and development of a child. Bergen et al. (2010) stress the need for knowing the limitations of these tools. The researchers state that understanding the goals of various milestones goes a long way in using these tools appropriately. In this case, professional development is essential. Caregivers and parents require a lot of guidance, when it comes to understanding the meaning of a milestone and its application.
The Need for the Development of a Guideline/ Framework
Considering that parents and caregivers may not be knowledgeable on the developmental goals of a child, it is necessary to develop a framework that will help in the relevant usage of technology and interactive media. In a process of utilizing technology and interactive media in learning, it is always necessary to integrate it into a program that is in correspondence to the developmental goals (Couse & Chen, 2010). It is also necessary to utilize these items in rotation with other learning materials (Saracho, 2014). For this to take place successfully, it is always important to have a framework and work within certain guidelines. In this way, young children are given opportunities for self-expression without necessarily interfering with any other program.
In their research, Bergen et al. (2010) stress the need for the use of technology, as it helps in strengthening the relationships between educators and parents or caregivers. However, the researchers make it very clear that such a relationship is only forged successfully if both the educator and caregivers are knowledgeable on the developmental goals for different milestones. In this case, the parents and caregivers can be provided with knowhow through the traditional conferences based in schools. Through this approach, parents and caregivers have information on developmental milestones. Consequently, they are better suited to provide their children with the necessary technology and interactive media for learning. Additionally, they are in a position to track the growth of their child and this contributes to the proper development of that child.
Alper (2013) makes it very clear that technology and interactive media have highly effective impact only at the time parents/caregivers can interact with children. Apparently, children learn more from these tools when the parent and caregiver is part of the process (Saracho, 2014; DeLoache et al., 2010). During interaction, parents and caregivers help children apply what they are learning to the real world. This takes place during the lesson and afterwards. In fact, Alper (2013) says that children learn more by observing the people they are already familiar with such as parents and caregivers. When the parent or caregiver imitates or is part of what is shown in a television program, the child finds the session more interesting. It is, thus, important to equip non-educators with knowledge relating to developmental milestones. This way, they provide the child with the correct technology and interactive media learning tools.
As a social field, education keeps changing, as better research methods are unearthed. For this reason, it is important to remain updated, especially on any changes and improvements on certain policies and guidelines. Most of the time, these improvements are aimed at helping the child learn better. According to Couse and Chen (2010), the research on tablet use among children has been enhancing over the years. The knowledge obtained from this research was used to develop the child friendly tablets that are aimed at helping the child gain knowledge. However, understanding these changes requires the use of a guidance tool or a framework. While educators are provided with this information, parents and caregivers may need additional training and education on the necessities of implementing these changes.
Interactive media and technology are common tools used in helping children learn. Their appropriate use means that they are not applied alone in learning, they allow interaction between the parent or teachers and the child, and they are used to meet developmental goals. However, it will only happen when there is a guiding framework in place. Educators have firsthand knowledge on how to utilize these tools. Contrariwise, caregivers and parents have little knowledge on the guiding tool and framework. As a result, they fail to use technology and interactive media appropriately. Education workers are to ensure parents and caregivers are well equipped with this knowledge so as to help the child benefit from these helpful tools.
Alper, M. (2013). Developmentally appropriate new media literacies: Supporting cultural competencies and social skills in early childhood education. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 13(2), 175–196. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1468798411430101
Bergen, D., Hutchinson, K., Nolan, J. T., & Weber, D. (2010). Effects of infant-parent play with a technology-enhanced toy: Affordance related actions and communicative interactions. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 24, 1-17.
Couse, L. J., & Chen, D. W. (2010). A tablet computer for young children? Exploring its viability for early childhood education. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 43(1), 75–98. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610384145
DeLoache, J. S., Chiong, C., Sherman, K., Islam, N., Vanderborght, M., Troseth, G. L., …, & O’Doherty, K. (2010). Do babies learn from baby media? Psychological Science, 21(11), 1570–1574.
Saracho, O. N. (2014). Developmentally appropriate use of technology and interactive media with young children. Early Childhood Education, 42(1), 12-19. DOI: 10.1007/978-94-017-9184-7_11
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