In a joint statement between NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College, the groups noted that “When used appropriately, technology and media can enhance children’s cognitive and social abilities,” “technology tools can help educators make and strengthen home–school connections,” and “technology and media can enhance early childhood practice when integrated into the environment, curriculum, and daily routines.”
In March 2013, EnCompass Academy procured 54 VINCI tablets that came pre-loaded with math programming mapped to the school’s existing curriculum. After 12 weeks, teachers reported observing significant changes in their young students’ behavior and learning habits, including a positive change and increase in students’ ability to focus, and offered anecdotal evidence that students understand their math lessons more easily. Teachers also said they were able to differentiate teaching and learning more.
“We need to truly live in the 21st century so that our kids aren’t just playing catch-up,” said Minh-Tram Nguyen, founding principal at EnCompass Academy. EnCompass Academy faces a number of challenges, including having resources and infrastructure to meet the technology needs of its students, as well as its location in a large, urban, high-poverty area.
“I can’t increase the budget,” Nguyen said, “but I can figure out ways [to make teachers’] unit of time more impactful.”
This includes “using technology to synthesize and integrate learning,” she added. “It’s much more at their developmental level, so they’re able to learn at their own rate.”
Using VINCI’s blended model, Nguyen said she is able to make sure that teachers’ classroom instruction is more effective for young students. The tablets are targeted directly to a pre-k and kindergarten developmental level, and students learn at their own pace, moving forward to more advanced content when they are ready.
The choice of games and other activities help young students take ownership of their learning, said Malayphet Insixiengmay, a kindergarten teacher at EnCompass. Math comprehension is much quicker and students are more confident in their math learning, she added.
“We can’t avoid technology in our daily lives, so I don’t see why we should avoid technology in education,” said Dan Yang, VINCI creator. “Children are probably more capable than we think they are. We need to trust them; we need to give them the tools to help them learn, but we don’t want to control their learning.”
(Next page: Hatch introduces a tablet for young learners)