JU­DI­CIOUS USE OF TECH­NOL­OGY IN EARLY CHILD­HOOD PRO­GRAMS

The Jakarta Post - Magazine - - Education - (Cindee Spies PGDE, MEd)

Mod­ern tech­nol­ogy like TV, com­put­ers, the In­ter­net and video games are now con­sid­ered es­sen­tial for com­mu­ni­ca­tion, so­cial net­work­ing, partnerships, en­ter­tain­ment and man­ag­ing daily life. There­fore, mod­ern tech­nol­ogy is also pro­duc­ing a new gen­er­a­tion of cog­ni­tive skills. Th­ese skills in­volve the de­vel­op­ment of vis­ual-spa­tial skills, such as iconic rep­re­sen­ta­tion and spa­tial vi­su­al­iza­tion.

Young chil­dren in par­tic­u­lar are in­creas­ingly com­fort­able liv­ing in a world of dig­i­tal me­dia. They are grow­ing up with dig­i­tal de­vices that are rapidly be­com­ing the in­stru­ments of cul­ture at home, at school, at work and in the com­mu­nity (NAEYC, 2012). Con­se­quently, schools must adapt to th­ese changes, tak­ing ad­van­tage of new strengths in vis­ual-spa­tial in­tel­li­gence and cog­ni­tive pro­cesses: prob­lem-solv­ing, crit­i­cal think­ing and imag­i­na­tion (Green­field, 2009). In ad­di­tion, tech­nol­ogy and dig­i­tal me­dia can sup­port learn­ing and in­ter­ac­tions.

The power of mod­ern tech­nolo­gies re­lies on the pref­er­ence for vis­ually pre­sented in­for­ma­tion. All vi­su­al­ly­ori­ented dig­i­tal me­dia pro­grams are able to at­tract and main­tain the at­ten­tion of chil­dren (Perry, 2009). They al­low chil­dren to in­ter­act with great amounts of in­for­ma­tion from within their class­rooms and homes, and con­nect chil­dren from all over the world (Riel, 1994).

How­ever, many of the mod­ern tech­nolo­gies are very pas­sive (non­in­ter­ac­tive) me­dia – for ex­am­ple, tele­vi­sion, DVDs and stream­ing me­dia like YouTube. They do not pro­vide chil­dren with qual­ity so­cial, emo­tional, cog­ni­tive or phys­i­cal ex­pe­ri­ences.

Chil­dren need so­cial in­ter­ac­tion and re­al­life ex­pe­ri­ences with real peo­ple to truly ben­e­fit from mod­ern tech­nolo­gies in their class­rooms and homes. This can­not hap­pen if the child is sit­ting for hours pas­sively in front of the screen. The de­sign of the cur­ricu­lum and so­cial set­ting are crit­i­cal. Chil­dren need to have an in­te­grated

and well-bal­anced set of ex­pe­ri­ences that can han­dle so­cial-emo­tional de­vel­op­ment as well as de­velop their in­tel­lec­tual abil­ity.

The Amer­i­can Academy of Pediatrics (2009,2010, 2011a, 2011b) and the White House Task Force on Child­hood Obe­sity (2010) dis­cour­age any amount of screen time for chil­dren un­der 2 years old and rec­om­mend lim­it­ing screen time to 1-2 hours per day for chil­dren above 2 years old. The rec­om­men­da­tions above are also re­lated to fac­tors that con­trib­ute to child­hood obe­sity.

On the con­trary, there are many pos­i­tive qual­i­ties to mod­ern tech­nol­ogy that are in­ter­ac­tive and ben­e­fi­cial for young chil­dren. In­ter­ac­tive me­dia such as com­put­ers, smart boards, touch screen pads and any other in­ter­ac­tive dig­i­tal de­vices al­low the child to de­velop their cu­riosi­ties, prob­lem-solv­ing and in­de­pen­dent think­ing skills. Chil­dren are nat­u­ral “ma­nip­u­la­tors” of the world (Perry, 2009); they learn through con­trol­ling the move­ment and in­ter­ac­tions of ob­jects in their world.

With dig­i­tal de­vices that al­low in­ter­ac­tion, chil­dren can con­trol pace and ac­tiv­ity, solve prob­lems and make things hap­pen on screen. Fur­ther­more, they are able to do any of those ac­tiv­i­ties re­peat­edly with no limit.

To an­swer con­cerns about the im­pact of tech­nol­ogy on chil­dren’s so­cial in­ter­ac­tion, Prof Su­gata Mi­tra (2015) ar­gued that chil­dren work­ing side-by-side on one com­puter can en­cour­age pos­i­tive so­cial in­ter­ac­tion among them. Ask­ing chil­dren to share when work­ing with one com­puter can fa­cil­i­tate the shar­ing of ideas, prob­lem solv­ing and

In con­clu­sion, bal­ance and proper tim­ing are the keys to healthy early child­hood pro­grams. Par­ents and teach­ers must act as the fa­cil­i­ta­tors of chil­dren’s learn­ing (Perry, 1997). Nat­u­rally, they pos­sess the abil­ity to pro­vide the right kinds of ex­pe­ri­ence at the right time for chil­dren.

Be­fore the dig­i­tal age, chil­dren en­hanced their cog­ni­tive ex­pe­ri­ence by sit­ting to­gether with their fam­i­lies to play cards, Jenga, Mo­nop­oly, The Mon­key on The Tree, etc. In this in­ter­ac­tion, chil­dren use an ex­ter­nal­iz­ing ob­ject, which is the game; this can also hap­pen with the emerg­ing mod­ern tech­nolo­gies.

Par­ents and teach­ers should take ad­van­tage of the in­ter­ac­tive qual­i­ties of mod­ern tech­nol­ogy to pro­mote valu­able ex­pe­ri­ences to young chil­dren. The key to a healthy mod­ern ex­pe­ri­ence for early child­hood is to en­sure that we use tech­nol­ogy to im­prove young chil­dren’s so­cial in­ter­ac­tions and holis­tic de­vel­op­ment and ex­pand their view of the world.

Pho­tos cour­tesy of Tu­tor­time

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