Today’s children are growing up in a state of flux. A rapidly changing digital age means their first memorable toys are often devices like iPads and personal computers. Interactive digital technologies are here to stay, and will only become more common and deeply entrenched in our lives as time progresses.
The technology debate holds two dominant voices. One argument is that the rise of pervasive technology is ruining our children’s capacity to learn in a healthy environment. The other side of the debate determines that technology benefits learning and productivity and is the actualised foundation of the digital revolution – a progressing state of global human development.
Regardless of your stance, it’s clear that technology use in early learning is here to stay. The key is for teachers to show children how, if and when to use technological tools and digital media in a safe and monitored environment.
For children aged three and above, the use of technology is proven to act as a stimulating pathway to success and high achievement whilst helping them to become reliable and conscientious. Early childhood learning conjures up images of sandpits, glue, and playgrounds. That being said, technology should be supplementary to these activities, to stimulate the growth of early learners in a supervised educational environment.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Centre contend that new technology and interactive media are effective learning and development tools when used intentionally by early childhood educators, toward established learning goals. The benefit of using technology for early learning is that learning experiences can be tailored to each child, an approach championed by The Scots College Early Learning Centre.
Virtual- Assistants as Speech Pathologists
You may notice children interact in various ways with technology. For example, Siri – a voice-controlled virtual-assistant in Apple products – provides an interface for a child to begin building a hard and soft skills. First, the child must follow a train of thought from ideation to understanding, and then verbalise their thoughts. Only when enunciated and articulated clearly will their goal become realised. “Siri, what time is school tomorrow?” or “Siri, is it going to rain?” are nuanced, conversational sentences that can be prompted and refined by Siri in a low-risk manner that encourages assertiveness and leadership in young children.
It is a wild concept to consider that this, often touted ‘nondescript’ or ‘non-essential technology’, can have such a stimulating and reinforcing impact on the speech-pathology and development of young children. Siri also helps a child’s incorrigible ‘rabbit-hole’ curiosity of “How? Why? When? Why? Where?” — without the parental headaches.
Digital Play as Experiential Scaffolding
One of the better technologies for young learners is the touch screen. As touch screen media is hands on, an iPad gives young children direct feedback and outcome control, with responsive signals that encourage success and accomplishment in task and goal oriented activities.
An example of a touch-point app is Minecraft, a sandbox game created and designed by Markus Persson, and developed Mojang. At its core, Minecraft, is a third-person MMORPG (massive-multiplayer-online-role-playing-game) whereby players behave as an avatar that collects resources that are then combined together to create products, using labour capital – with the ends of creating a world of unmeasurable outcomes. This interactive game instils autonomy, and in structured early learning environments, can empower a non-disruptive creative learning experience when coupled with responsive and flexible schooling. Experiential schooling, as stimulated by technology, greatly boosts children’s creative juices for problem solving.
To be sure, kids will speak to their peers and collaborate as they play. As a bonus to collaboration, as stated in Let the Kids Play Minecraft for Powerful Literacy Learning, games like Minecraft give children ongoing feedback into ways that character, setting and events are linked in narratives, which in turn, links directly to the Australian Curriculum’s literature strand. Nevertheless, the key to technology being a help and not a hindrance, is to structure and monitor early learning experiences appropriately for each individual child.