Integrating technology into the preschool classroom

by Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. on July 13, 2011

in Plan for technology, Technology

I must admit that as much as I excel in the use of technology when it comes to my own professional needs, I am terrible at incorporating technology into the classroom. But lately, I have been observing and evaluating the use of technology and its importance to the preschool children of today…

My daughter has been the biggest influence on my latest revolutions about technology and young children. My daughter comes from a generation of young adults who have grown up in a technological world and I find it interesting to watch how she naturally uses technology as a new parent…

My daughter is an amazing young parent. I watch her laugh and play with her son everyday. She is always holding and loving on Kai and playing with Kai in ways that completely impress me. She tickles him, claps with him, sings with him, makes funny faces, and uses great speech and sound patterns with him. But one thing that she also does, that is representative of today’s lifestyle, is integrate technology as a part of Kai’s play…

When my nephew Wy comes over, I tend to look for anything but technology to keep him busy. We paint, play outside, read, sweep the floor, and so on but I rarely take the time to integrate technology into his day. It was extremely hot outside today and after a long day indoors and making a big mess in my house, Wy was getting stir crazy. When my daughter came over, she sat down with Wy and downloaded a few free applications on my Ipad for Wy to play with. I hadn’t even thought of doing that….

I sat and watched as Wy and my daughter read Dr. Seuss on the IPad then they switched to a different application and explored shapes, colors, letters, and more simple concepts. Wy was having fun with this different approach to play and learning. He was also enjoying the time with my daughter…

 

What I am learning by observing my daughter is that technology is a natural part of today’s early childhood experiences and today’s parenting.  I am coming to the understanding that when technology is balanced with a healthy dose of outdoor play, messy art, and other kinds of interactive, hands-on experiences, technology can be a valuable part of the early childhood experience. 

I wrote the above statement in bold print because I do believe that children need both physical and interactive types of play that do not involve technology but I am also coming to the realization that I shouldn’t ignore the world that the new generation of young children are growing up in. I too must take the time to learn the technology that influences young children as they learn and develop.

I believe my daughter’s integration of technology at home as a part of her parenting style is representative of many (if not most) parents of today. This tells me that as early childhood educators, we shouldn’t stubbornly hide our heads in the sand and reject technology as part of the classroom experience. If we want the classroom to be representative of the culture in which our students live – then we have to find a way to incorporate technology into our classrooms.

My plan for technology

My plan for technology isn’t grand – I don’t have the budget to do much. What I plan to do is to bring my IPad into the classroom and try using it during circle time and perhaps even try it out as a center for one or two children to explore on their own.  I will build on my plan as I evaluate and have the funding to do more but it is a place to start and I am excited to give it a try. I still want to give my students all the opportunities that I always have but I also want to harness the magic of technology and see what I can do to enhance the classroom experience for my students.

Do you have a plan for technology? I’d love to hear about it!

This article is being shared with you by Deborah Stewart of Teach Preschool - Promoting excellence in early childhood education at home and in the preschool classroom!

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1 Creative and Curious Kids! July 13, 2011 at 7:08 am

Great post! It is amazing what little ones can do with technology. My first grader was an amazing learner in this area. She picked up Power Point in no time and often uses a safe-search engine for researching when she is curious about something. She also uses her DSI for photography and making movies, etc. I totally agree with your statement about balance. We turn off the electronics daily- it is limited and go outside, read,or do crafts, etc. My 1 1/2 year old has been enjoying starfall- believe it or not. He loves the animation and the videos for ABCs are short, so it holds his attention span. This site might be a good learning tool for your classroom to integrate technology.

2 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 13, 2011 at 7:22 pm

Thanks for the website tip! I will have to check out Starfall. My daughter picked up technology easily too – I think it is some of us adults that struggle:)

3 Scott July 13, 2011 at 8:00 am

I’ve been thinking about this, too. Mostly I use technology to create learning resources for my kids–books, games, etc. But we’re using technology a little in my classroom. In fact, this week we had an old laptop in the room – just typing in word processing program. (I blogged about this today not knowing that you would blog about technology, too.) I think your points are key – balance between technology and other activities and including the personal interaction with an adult.

4 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 13, 2011 at 7:22 pm

So funny that we had the same idea in mind today Scott! I love it and will be off in a minute to read your post!

5 Pam July 13, 2011 at 8:26 am

I find it amazing the gap we have with young children and technology. There are so many children who are spending hours and hours in front of some sort of 2 dimensional screen. We also have many children who have no (or extremely limited) access to technology (except for passively watching the television). At the rate technology is changing, it is nearly impossible as an adult to work at the same level and have access to the same things without access to technology in some form (and I agree, it is probably not a good idea to simply pretend it doesn’t exist). In my classroom we use technology mainly to allow children with special needs access to the same level of learning as typically developing peers. But even in this area, we have struggled to stay current! I had a little guy 2 years ago with physical challenges. We spent almost a year going through trials and finding the perfect adapted mouse for a computer for him. Now with IPads, this technology is virtually unnecessary! He can access and understand a touch screen at a much greater level than he can manipulate an adapted mouse. But yet, our district is now behind! They refuse to purchase IPads or IPods with special ed. dollars because they are not compatible with the district computers! So, I guess, just like anything else we offer to young children, we need to be able to justify WHY it is being used and then we need to determine whether it is necessary for the child (if they can explore the same concept in a real world, hands on way, I will always offer that over technology). For many children with special needs though, technology opens up a whole new world of possibilities!

6 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 13, 2011 at 7:25 pm

You made some important points Pam. Cost is always a factor when it comes to bringing technology into the classroom but as you say – the benefit to children with special needs is so great. It sure is a shame that it has to be such a dilemma to meet the need adequately and timely.

7 Vicki July 13, 2011 at 8:32 am

I love using technology with my Pre-Primary class (5yos). We have an electronic whiteboard that is used as another learning centre in the room and a computer the children can use. They love using Paint on both to draw and write. We research topics we are learning about as a group on the whiteboard and we have a class website and blog to share what is happening with parents etc (which leads necely into discussions of basic cyber-safety). I use the digital camera to photograph and video constantly and each child gets an individual dvd to take home at the end of the year. I have just bought a digital microphone they are just loving singing into and listening back. I find there is a lot of learning about sharing and co-operating as we only have one microphone, one whiteboard, one mouse. This can often be the most valuable learning. The admin has promised me iPads which I think will be very exciting, fingers crossed. My collegue doesn’t see the value but watching the kids playing with these tools doesn’t really seem any different to them playing with other materials. It’s all about balance.

8 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 13, 2011 at 7:27 pm

Wow – wow! You have lots of wonderful tools for technology Vicki! I am super jealous – tell your colleague that you all can send all that my way:) I think that is one of the greatest problems with introducing technology in the classroom – those who do not view it as worthwhile. This is why I wrote this post – if (and since) technology is a part of today’s family lifestyle then we need to harness technology in a valuable way in the classroom too.

9 Clara July 13, 2011 at 9:42 am

I thought I was doing an OK job of integrating technology in my classroom as best I could with limited resources, but this school year, I had a student open my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. We just received SMART boards for our classroom and I was confident that using it as a teaching tool only was sufficient. I used it throughout my day for various things, but it was mostly me using the board, and the students used it maybe 5% of the time. One particular student who was severely developmentally delayed was in love with our classroom computers and desperately wanted to play on them. The problem was that, try as I might to help her, she could not make the connection between the mouse and the cursor on the screen, and was not successful. So, it took awhile, but she finally figured out how to make things move on the SMART board. Once she figured that out, I spent the rest of the year finding ways to make my SMART board a learning center EVERY DAY! She loved it so much, that even with her short attention span, she would spend 30 minutes at a time at the SMART board. So my goal for this upcoming school year is to keep up my daily SMART board center, and I want my kids to use the SMART board more than I do. Once I teach the basics, they will be the ones to interact with it, not me. This is a hard thing for me personally, as I’m sure for a lot of teachers, but a necessity for integrating technology.

10 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 13, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Children always have a way of teaching us about what they need and what works well for them. We just have to give them opportunity and the time to show us the way. Well done Clara on doing exactly that!

11 Sarah Combs July 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Fantastic post Deborah! This is such a great realization that (combined with other types of play and learning) technology can be a great resource for both parents and teachers.

There was an excellent study done by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center on how children’s use of digital media is going to effect the future of not only education, but our children’s lives in general.

Here’s a rundown of it, and how it applies to edtech: http://blog.famigo.com/2011/06/the-educational-value-of-mobile-devices-for-your-children/

12 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 13, 2011 at 7:30 pm

Thank you for sharing the article – I will be sure to read it!

13 rachel July 13, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Great article, nice to see that people can see the merits of technology in early education I think there is a huge amount of potential in new technologies to add a new dimension to early education.
you might be interested in my research
http://rightfromthestart.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/197/

14 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 13, 2011 at 7:30 pm

I took a quick peek and you are right on target sharing your link here. Thank you so much!

15 Katy McKay July 13, 2011 at 6:16 pm

I agree with Pam in that if there is a hands-on way to present the information, we should do it in a hands-on manner (rather than through a screen). Learning must also be relevant for young children, and I feel if they can’t feel it in their heart, it is not relevant to them. I think it would be hard to feel something in your heart when it is being filtered through a screen (this is the case in my own personal experience). Just as young children should not be rushed to learn academics, I feel that they should not be rushed to learn how to use technology – they will have plenty of time for that later. Young children need real, concrete experiences with real materials to get the most out of life. My opinion is that technology can wait and that there is no harm in keeping the classroom screen-free.

16 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 13, 2011 at 7:35 pm

I think many share your feelings Katy and in some ways I do as well. I don’t want to see concrete learning be replaced by technology and I will ensure that concrete learning is a priority in my classroom. However, my thoughts were coming from my observations about home and school and how they should be partners in education. If we refuse technology in the school then we create yet one more barrier and the ability to talk about the topic with families. I am realizing that I would rather be a source for parents on technology and set the standard rather than be telling parents that I simply know nothing about it and make them feel that they are wrong for using technology. They will use it anyway only I will have lost an opportunity to participate in some way in the process. I want to participate.

17 Leeanne A July 13, 2011 at 8:00 pm

I cannot wait to get my classroom wired this summer – there is so much that I want to explore with my toddlers. I think it will expand our world in a good way – and like it or not we have become a computer society and if our kids don’t get in the thick of things – they will be lost later on in their education!

18 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 13, 2011 at 9:14 pm

We don’t want them to be lost:)

19 Kimira July 14, 2011 at 12:35 am

Hi Deborah
A nice attempt at touching the positive side of a controversial topic. As a parent I frown at teachers who show tv shows in school saying that it is educating the children, but do we stop and make the tv an interactive experience, do we discuss the show with the children, or do we let the tv/ ipad to babysit the kids? Perhaps you should also be aware of the book alone together http://www.alonetogetherbook.com/ about the negative influence of technology on our social lives

20 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 14, 2011 at 12:47 am

Hi Kimira,
I agree that we do not want to turn technology of any kind into a babysitting or autopilot system of caring for young children. My perspective is based on first and foremost a great concern and love for educating the young child in all we do through age appropriate and interactive approaches. The troubling issue of setting children in front of a television or computer is not new to the field of early childhood and it is something that should not be taken lightly so I appreciate your concern here as well. I also think that we build fears about the issue of technology and use those fears to prevent us from finding ways to integrate technology into our programs through positive and productive planning and implementation. No, we don’t want to hand over teaching to technology but if we can integrate technology successfully and teach young children and their parents how to best use technology with competence, moderation, and wisdom – then we will have also made a difference for the children who are growing up in a technological society. Complete abandonment of technology from the classroom experience only leaves us out of the loop of education not inside the loop guiding the way.

21 renelik July 14, 2011 at 12:42 am

From a parent point of view, I actually hope that schools don’t integrate technology into their teaching simply because it’s hard to move away from the moving images and interactive features of technology once you get started. And you will find yourself always turning to technology as that’s what engaged the children the most once you introduce it.

I have seen schools having animations as part of their story telling. The kids like it a lot but I feel that it made traditional story telling boring and the kids wouldn’t sit still looking a a big book anymore.

I would still prefer a preschool to use the most traditional methods and let children explore with natural materials. The tech part can come later when they move out to preschools.

22 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 14, 2011 at 1:11 am

Thank you for sharing your parent perspective. I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that there are many parents feeling the same way you do. It is quite a dilemma to know what is best when it comes to technology but I sure hate to see us reject the possibilities because of our longing for things to stay the same. I say this and yet, I too love the feel of a book in my hands and the books lined up in my library bring me great comfort. I love reading a book with young children and this will be something I always plan to do.

This is definitely a complex and controversial topic and I didn’t realize it would be when I wrote the post. I just thought I was the one trying to sort it all out!

23 renelik July 14, 2011 at 1:26 am

Hi Deborah,

I understand where you are coming from. i think it’s great to explore all possibilities. I too love the feel of a book, being able to flip the pages but i believe it’s because we grow up with that. it’s kinda different for today’s kids when I see kids around me spending more time on an iphone or an ipad than flipping pages of a book. i hope there won’t come a day when there’s only ebooks! we got an ipad recently and the kids kept pestering us to let them play with it. they were great with the educational apps, just that they were more interested in the ipad than a reading session.

24 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 14, 2011 at 7:20 am

I wish I could click “like” on comments here:) I hope there isn’t a day where there are no real books! I would miss them!!

25 Elise July 14, 2011 at 7:40 am

It has only been in the last few weeks that my older children have been using the computer. It is now just another resource that we have on hand. Like you said, balance is the key.

26 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 17, 2011 at 12:25 am

Yes – balance is the key:) Thanks for stopping by Elise!

27 April July 14, 2011 at 12:47 pm

I don’t know if its because I am in my 20s still and therefore born in the 80s and therefore grew up with technology but I am not afraid to use technology with my kids!

We watch movies, play on the computer, and play on the iPod. There is definitely a balance that is made. I never put them in front of Baby Einstein and then ignored them for hours of course. We use Starfall.com, watch Letter Factory, read Dr. Suess on the iPod, play a spelling game from Word World on the iPod, watch videos on YouTube all the time. My daughter is not even three yet and she can find her apps and use them all by herself!

28 April July 14, 2011 at 1:08 pm

I want to clarify that what I meant by “not being afraid” is that I grew up with technology and watched a lot of tv (more than I would recommend and more than I would let my kids watch) but I still grew up to be a creative individual who loves to read books! I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that my grandma (my guardian) would do crafts and read to me and I always saw her reading. I don’t think its always worst case scenario that some people seem to make it out to be. Of course I know this might not apply to every child and there are children out there who don’t get enough hands on experiences, so I’m not making a generalization. At the same time, others shouldn’t make the generalization that technology is bad for all children.

Recently, I was reading something that said when picture books made specifically for children first appeared, there was an uproar from the masses. They thought it would destroy the imagination and brains of children! So, I think its natural for people to be afraid of change. I’m endorsing moderation here, I’m not suggesting flooding children with hours of television and video games, and I don’t believe anyone else is either :)

29 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 17, 2011 at 12:24 am

I agree April – I think that we want to hang on to what is familiar and what has meaning or has brought meaning into our lives. I think this is a part of our hesitation to bring technology into the classroom. I also think that it is the concern that children will spend too much time in a virtual world and not in the real world. this is why the balance of play and exploration with real materials is important too. I think you are right – the key is to not generalize the use of technology but to look for what will work and integrate it into a productive and responsible part of the classroom experience.

30 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 17, 2011 at 12:25 am

I have had the fortunate opportunity to watch your daughter grow up through your blog and there is one thing I don’t question is that you provide a wide array of things for your daughter to do. I am glad you also have introduced her to technology. She is a very bright little girl!

31 April July 17, 2011 at 10:10 pm

Thank you for the sweet comment! That is one thing that I love about blogging, connecting with other people. There are many kids that I have also watched grow and I feel proud and excited about their achievements. And I have appreciated every encouraging comment you have made along the way of our journey!

32 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. July 17, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Like old friends:)

33 Rachel@ Life in the Moment October 21, 2011 at 11:36 pm

I stumbled across your blog today as I was googling “ipads in the preschool classroom”. On of my families is donating an ipad to our room. I’m looking for the best/cheapest/free apps to use this amazing gift to its full potential. I teach four year olds who aren’t impressed unless it is on the SMART board or flashing at them at 100 mphs!

34 Deborah J. Stewart, M.Ed. October 22, 2011 at 12:29 am

I honestly couldn’t tell you what would be the best apps to use. I am still fairly new at this myself. I wish I could be of more help but as I explore the Ipad more I will certainly share more on my experiences.

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