Technology in Early Childhood Education
Is it harmful or helpful?
One often comes across these common remarks from parents across India, “My child can say abc and he is only 2” or “My son is just 3, and he is a whiz with the I-pad”.
We often ask the parents what real use it will be in the immediate days to come. He needs to take time to understand that each letter represents a sound, and by joining these sounds words are formed. If he stops at learning abc with both the parent and the child feeling that this is the end in itself, then there is an end to learning to a large extent.
Similarly, technology skills are something that today seem to be inherent in every child. So it is not the child’s competence in usage of technology which matters, but the long term impact on the child’s learning that really counts. We MUST understand that using technology is not an end in itself, using technology to further one’s learning is what is more important.
Technology comes from the Greek root of Tekhne which means art/craft. It also means systematic treatment. The human species’ use of technology began with the conversion of natural resources into simple tools.
The biggest fears of using technology as a learning tool is that it mostly leads to:
- Passive learning
- Eliminating decision making
- Dulling the thinking process
- Instant gratification
- Shortcuts/ Laziness to do real work
- Inability to get some real satisfaction out of work done
Typical examples of technology that can hinder the child’s learning in school are the television, CD’s (audio-visuals), smart-classes, tablets that have games loaded on them. This does not mean that technology as a whole is harmful to the child’s education at this stage.
In Early years we try to make the children independent and technically competent. We do not need to use any gadgets as a tool for learning. However any tools/ devices that may add on to the technical competence of the child by keeping them actively engaged without affecting their true learning experiences can be used. This definitely means limited time access. It is critical that technology does not replace learning tools, but only adds on making it a reinforcement tool and not a learning tool.
Children who are used to working with learning aids, and materials often have a rude shock when they see technology in a school. They ask disbelievingly, “So are we now going to have computer games in school” implying obviously that – Is this no longer a workplace?
It would be a real shame to take away from children the joy of real work, discovering new facets of materials, messing around with paint/colours, putting things back in their places, cleaning up and replacing all this fun with a predictable boring gadget.
However if there is a limited time access to a gadget that has worksheets/ apps that are directly related to the work they do, it would be effective in giving the abstraction that will complement their already learnt concrete experiences. This way today’s demands for “technology” are catered to without hindering the child’s learning process. It will also serve as an effective assessment tool for us to plan the next lessons for the child.
Having worked with this with children across various ages between 2 and 6, we have come to the conclusion that technology CANNOT be a learning tool for this age. However it can be effectively used as an assessment tool/ reinforcement for already experienced lessons.