Clayton Early Learning

From I-Phones and GPS to ABC’s: possibilities for technology and young learners.

Rebecca Soden

Posted by Rebecca Soden


Rebecca Soden

The power of our everyday technologies was brought home for me as I sat in a café recently watching a father play with his young son. I watched the child’s eyes as they flitted between the father’s face and the screen of the I-Phone that he was cradling carefully in his sticky toddler hands. Both were smiling, laughing and completely engaged in the exchanges between the three participants (father, son and technology).

They were playing with an alphabet software program where the child can draw on the touch screen with his finger (tracing a letter) and click the letter to hear the letter sound and see pictures of common things that start with that sound. At any point the child can simply shake the screen (like the old etch-a-sketch) to wipe away his attempt and begin anew.

I thought of my own three-year old son’s insistence that he hold my GPS navigation system from his booster seat, shouting out “left mom” and “turn right” as he peers at our car traveling real-time along the map projected on the video screen. What possibilities for new and different learning do these increasingly common technologies create for young children and how are we capitalizing on the fact that children today are natives of a digital culture?

Robyn Zevenbergen (2007) argues that for digital natives entering early childhood classrooms, their exposure to technologies is often vast and has shaped them in ways that are different from other generations. She argues that children’s exposure to virtual tools can enhance understanding, but may also create new ways of thinking. Quality use of technology within early childhood classrooms can build digital “capital” which is particularly critical for students whose home environments have not exposed them to similar technologies.

As parents and early childhood teachers, how can we use technologies in ways that maximize learning and encourage curiosity? The planning and integration of technology into a quality learning environment is a critical question that needs to be addressed in our work with young children. I would ask teachers and parents to consider the following questions as they plan activities for the children in their care:

• How do I use technology to engage children’s interest?
• How do I use technology to help children stretch beyond their current developmental level?
• How do I use technology to support social interactions and play?
• How do I use technology to support children’s discovery and inquiry?
• How do I use technology to help reinforce children’s understanding of concepts (number and letter recognition, phonological and print awareness, vocabulary)?

Please share your ideas about how you've been using technology with young learners.