You don’t need to look far to find a wide range of stories in the media about whether it is is appropriate for very young children to use technology.There are probably about as many stories warning against the use of technology as there are describing the potential benefits. This dichotomy is evident in research literature too.
I presented at a couple of early years conferences recently and used the table below to challenge the audiences to think about the reasons to use technology with young children as opposed to the reasons not to. You may want to think about where you would put each of the different items.
For me the answer is:
It depends… on the device, the activity, the support…..
Most reasons can be put on both sides.
Fool’s Gold, a report published in 2000 by Cordes and Miller, is referred to extensively and is highly critical of young children using technology. The concerns they identified included:
- a lack of social interaction
- the stunting of creativity and imagination
- learning problems
- missing out on exercise
- exposure to inappropriate content
However, a literature review published in 2007 by McCarrick & Li identified as much positive evidence for using technology as negative.
While children can sit at devices on their own, focused solely on what they are doing, technology can also be used by groups of children working together leading to many social interactions with peers and teachers. Similarly while technology can be used in unimaginative ways, such as drill and practice tasks, modern devices can be used very creatively. It is important to recognise that early studies tended to focus specifically on the use of computers. Technology is now seen to be much broader than that.
Of course it is possible to use any technology badly and it is important to start with your priorities and what you want children to do or learn. For me the question needs to move from:
“Is technology appropriate in early years teaching and learning?”
“I want to provide activities that support … collaboration… creativity…how can technology help me achieve this?”
Cordes, C., & Miller, E. (2000). Fool’s Gold: A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood – link to pdf of Fool’s Gold
McCarrick, K., & Li, X. (2007). Buried Treasure: The Impact of Computer Use on Young Children’s Social, Cognitive, Language Development and Motivation. AACE Journal, 15(1), 73 – link to pdf of Buried Treasure