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5 steps to better early childhood tech use

Report identifies best practices in closing early digital divide

early-education [1]Closing the digital divide has been a constant challenge as technology tools and use become more prevalent in schools. Now, research shows that developing early technology skills can help close the digital divide.

Though technology use has expanded in schools, students’ at-home technology and internet access isn’t necessarily reliable.

According to a RAND Corporation report, Using Early Childhood Education to Bridge the Digital Divide [2], this means that children from families without access to digital technology “have fewer opportunities to learn, explore, and communicate digitally, and fewer chances to develop the workforce skills they will need to succeed in later life.”

Early childhood education access to technology will help ensure that students begin to develop tech skills and learn how to use tools that they are likely to use once they enter elementary school.

(Next page: The report’s findings on early childhood technology exposure)

Early childhood education helps children prepare for school and also gives low-income students and other disadvantaged groups an opportunity to begin kindergarten on equal ground. It helps children build foundational skills in core academic areas and, the report suggests, may do the same for technology skills and literacy.

Research has proven that people with technology skills have more workforce potential and tend to earn more, and much emphasis has been placed on the fact that today’s students will be competing for technology-centered jobs that don’t even exist today.

Debates also exist over how much technology use and screen time are appropriate for young children and in early education settings.

And while technology access, supported by high-speed internet and appropriate software and apps, is important, what is most important is that a highly-trained educator is able to help young students use technology as a tool to develop their early learning.

The report includes five questions that educators should ask when it comes to integrating technology in early education settings:

  1. What is the goal for information and communication technology in early childhood education?
  2. How do we define appropriate use of technology in early childhood education?
  3. Once defined, how do we support effective use through devices, connectivity, software, and other components of ICT infrastructure?
  4. How do we ensure that ECE providers are prepared to address the digital divide?
  5. What relationship should parents and families have to the integration of technology into early childhood education?