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Technology in the Field of Early Childhood Education

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Technology is a growing field all over the world, especially with children. Children are learning how to unlock the iPhone and tablets before learning to walk and talk. Is this a good thing or a bad one? As children, we grew up with minimal TV time and more time playing outside until the sunset and the reason for that was that technology wasn’t as advanced as it is now. I believe that technology in the field of early childhood education is here whether we think it’s right or wrong, it’s finding the balance between how much of it to use and when within the classroom that is important. This isn’t to say that technology for children special needs is into question. These advancements in helping children communicate and interact with peers in the class is a necessity for the development of the child both intellectually and socially. When it comes to standard classrooms and having smart boards, tablets, computers, and other additional forms of screen time, I think that relying on it for everything from lessons to playtime will take away the one belief we all strive for as educators of young children and that is that they do their most learning by playing and doing. This paper will look at how much technology is good for young children and if they are losing their primary way of learning from playing by using technology, and can we find a balance to help merge both views into one.

How much is too much? I’m not here to fight the evolution of technology and its use with young children. Phones and tablets are always so accessible to children either at home, the car, and even school that a balance needs to be drawn. Allowing children to use it once in a while won’t harm their development but what about on a regular basis daily? In 2017, the Pediatric Societies Meeting found that children as young as 18 months were receiving 30 minutes of screen time daily. This wasn’t a problem, but once the amount of technology increased, researchers saw that children were developing speech delays. Since children from the age of three and under learn primary by watching others and imitating them, they are losing the ability to develop in many areas beyond speech. Children are also losing much of their Vitamin D from having barely any exposure outside because they are spending too much time in front of a screen rather than playing outdoors. This can affect children physically as Vitamin D is important in helping to fight infections and regulate their sleeping pattern. Another issue from over usage of technology is the blue light that comes from phones and tablets screen which can cause headaches and strain their eyes. Some points were made about what is happening to children that are overly using technology except one, that is what is happening to them from losing their play time?

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Children are being affected socially, emotionally, and physically by not interacting in the world that surrounds them. Playing is a major part of any child’s development, since 1836, when Fredrick Froebel first introduced kindergarten we have known that play-based learning is the main framework for any early childhood education program. Children need play to help them stay active and healthy, children should have about 90 minutes of active play daily but many children are spending too much time on tablets, phones, and computers that it is creating a negative impact in their lives. Through play, children are able to demonstrate what they are learning, what their interests are, and what they are concerned about. As educators, we can observe children through play and gain the knowledge of which skills they have mastered and those that need more practice. Through materials and interactions, we can also help make connections to previously learned skills, this is called guided-play. By building on these moments and interest through lessons and activity that are grounded in their likes, learning new skills will stick because it is meaningful and relevant to the child. This is why allowing technology to completely take over in the class is the wrong idea. Children will lose how to act in a three-dimensional world with others and not know how to self-regulate their feelings. Peer play is also important in building a complete child when in the context of learning because children will learn limits, imitate, and build on what they have observed from others. Their social and emotional skills are constructed by creating games and coordinate activities amongst themselves as a group along with listening, following, and doing with others. This is the time to help children make connections to the world that is ever-changing around them with technology being the biggest change but is there a way we can find a balance to merge both worlds for today’s children?

Combining both worlds is new in the field of early childhood education, but studies have all said that technology must always be monitored and used appropriately. Technology will always be appealing in today’s day and age but learning to use it wisely is the key to successfully merging both worlds together. “Technology handling” is a new skill that is being associated with early digital literacy, this gives children an opportunity to develop both literacy and technological skills through appropriate lessons and activities. Children that are five and above should have basic skills in technology according to The International Society for Technology which believes that by this age, early childhood programs should provide opportunities to incorporate it by exploring digital camera, audio and video recorders, printers, and other technologies they may not have at home or access to. Technology can support cogitative and social abilities when used in lessons that expose children to animals, objects, people, landscapes, activities, and places they have never experienced before. Worlds can be joined as children all over the world can connect online while learning from each other’s cultures and countries. By being informed and exercising proper ways to use technology in the classroom, teachers can use interactive media as a tool to enrich the learning environment. These tools can be used to support activities, teach learning goals, and meet developmentally appropriate skills that are child-centered and play-orientated which is the core of any learning experience.

In the end, technology is here and as a future educator, I believe that finding a balance is important to help merge the past with the future. Children come to us knowing already so much about technology from what they see at their home and out in the world. As the educator, I would minimize the amount of smart board usage but use it when it benefits the overall outcome of any lesson. Children that sit in front of the board are losing time to play and interact with their peers. Time can be spent reading, acting, counting, coloring, and singing with other children as they explore their fundamental needs to connect with others. This is while finding a time in the day to allocate tablets and interactive lessons are important, by adding it to the daily schedule and routine but limiting it with time and educational programs. As long as time is used wisely, children can receive an overall well-balanced experience through play and technology during their early childhood years.

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