Children and Computers
Whether we use technology with young children--and if so, how-are critical issues facing early childhood educators and parents. This Digest discusses questions about when children should start using computers; developmentally appropriate computer activities in preschool, kindergarten, and early primary classrooms; benefits of computer use; integration of computers into classrooms; and teacher training.
When to Introduce Children to Computers
Many researchers do not recommend that children under 3 years old use computers (e.g., Hohman, 1998). Computers simply do not match their learning style. Children younger than 3 learn through their bodies: their eyes, ears, mouths, hands, and legs. Although they may return over and over again to an activity, they are full of movement, changing focus frequently. Computers are not a good choice for the developmental skills these children are learning to master: crawling, walking, talking, and making friends.
Developmentally Appropriate Computer Activities
Unfortunately, computers are used all too often in ways that are developmentally inappropriate. One study (U.S. Congress, 1995) found that while "schools are steadily increasing their access to new technologies . . . most teachers use these technologies in traditional ways, including drills in basic skills and instructional games" (p. 103). Clements (1994) makes a similar point, noting, "What we as early childhood educators are presently doing most often with computers is what research and NAEYC guidelines say we should be doing least often" (p. 33).
Papert (1998) stresses that computers have an impact on children when the computer provides concrete experiences, children have free access and control the learning experience, children and teachers learn together, teachers encourage peer tutoring, and teachers use computers to teach powerful ideas.
Developmentally appropriate ways to use computers with 3- and 4-year-olds are different from the ways we use computers in kindergarten and the primary grades.
Reprinted with the permission of the Education Resources Information Center.
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