Science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM) are all important subjects in education – but what about in early education? While parents can easily imagine their preschooler learning to count or using finger paints, it’s often harder for them to picture their little one engaging with other STEAM concepts at such a young age.
Technology, in particular, can seem out of place in an early education classroom. After all, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has long recommended limiting the time young children spend engaging with digital content and screens.
While there are limits to how young children should engage with technology, the truth is that we as early educators and child care providers can help children learn about technology and develop the digital literacy skills they will need later in life earlier than you may think. In fact, the U.S. Department of Education and Department of Health and Human Services say that when used appropriately, technology can be an effective tool for learning that can even increase access to learning opportunities for children.
Here are four tips and guidelines for incorporating technology into your classroom in age-appropriate ways:
1. Follow AAP guidelines for screen media. When you incorporate tablets, computers or videos into your classroom routine, be mindful of the guidelines for screen media set by the AAP. The guidelines suggest limiting screen time for children ages 2 to 5 to one hour per day and restricting all screen media other than video chatting for children younger than 18 months.
2. Remember technology means more than screens. It’s important to introduce children to computers and tablets, but technology also refers to tools like crayons, rulers, and microscopes. Reading a thermometer while discussing the weather or using magnifying glasses during a science lesson are both ways to introduce young children to technological tools.
3. Don’t just introduce technology – use it to extend learning. Beyond teaching children how to use devices like tablets and microscopes, use technology as a resource to extend and support learning. For example, if children are learning about plants, have them use tablets to research plant life and record their findings through writing, drawing or taking photos, and allow them to explore the elegant structures and patterns in leaves by using a microscope. Children will develop digital literacy skills and further their learning in other subjects, too.
4. Leverage age-appropriate mobile apps. There are a variety of educational mobile apps that can be used to extend learning. For example, preschoolers can use MoMA Art Lab to develop art skills and Book Creator to build a strong vocabulary.
By following these tips and guidelines, you can use technology in your classroom as a tool to help children build the foundation they need to succeed in our connected, tech-savvy world.
As vice president of education and professional development, Dr. Gloria Julius oversees training initiatives and curriculum development for Primrose Schools, a premier early education and care provider with more than 350 schools across the United States. She has more than 30 years of experience in education administration and holds a doctoral degree in educational policy, planning, and administration from the University of Maryland College Park, as well as a master’s degree from Towson University and a bachelor’s degree from Elizabethtown College. In her spare time, Gloria likes to play piano, read and spend time with her granddaughter.
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