Real Benefits Technology Offers Young Children

posted Apr 10, 2009, 7:13 PM by TexasTechies .org   [ updated Apr 11, 2009, 10:34 AM ]
Learning to talk and learning to read can be such delightful experiences for young children and their families. We celebrate each babble; we thrill with the utterance of a full sentence, a paragraph, reading a page aloud. But when it comes to young kids and computers, we wonder. Should we let them use computers? A compact booklet now allays our concerns — technology has its place, say researchers.

“Language and literacy development are major strengths of technology use with young children through the opportunities and motivation it provides,” says a free By Request booklet from the Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Technology in Early Childhood Education: Finding the Balance says that instead of socially isolating a child and inhibiting language development, research shows the contrary. Looking at a variety of studies, booklet authors Judy Van Scoter, Debbie Ellis, and Jennifer Railsback report researchers' findings, among them:

  • Computer play encourages longer, more complex speech and the development of fluency.
  • Children tend to narrate what they are doing as they draw pictures or move objects and characters around on the screen.
  • Young children interacting at computers engage in high levels of spoken communication and cooperation, such as turn-taking and peer collaboration.

The authors also find that locating computers with appropriate software in the classroom, rather than in a computer lab, offers richer learning opportunities with greater developmental gains.

Along with discussing technology and child development, Technology in Early Childhood Education: Finding the Balance gives a snapshot of technology use in some preschool and primary grade classrooms in the Northwest. Each of these sites has its own approach, but all share a common philosophy: With proper use, technology enhances learning for children.

“When used appropriately by skilled teachers, technology can support and extend learning in valuable ways, and can increase educational opportunities for children,” write the authors. “The key is finding the balance, knowing how to align the elements of a healthy childhood with the unique capabilities offered by technology.”