young learners

DoE compiles new report on using tech with young learners

Policy brief offers suggestions for educators, researchers, and tech developers

When it comes to using technology with the youngest learners, educators have tried for years to strike a balance between what kinds, if any, and how much.

Now the federal departments of Education and Health and Human Services are throwing in their two cents with the release of a new policy brief on the subject, which advocates active, meaningful, and socially interactive learning for kids up to eight years old.

The brief is intended as a helpful resource for educators and others caring for young children, but is also directed at researchers and technology developers, highlighting topics for further research and encouraging the development of research-based products.

Recommendations might not differ too much (except in specific applications) from those aimed at older students. Technology that aids in strengthening critical thinking and creativity skills, such as designing something new, is considered superior to passive use, such as watching video or playing simple games. In one cited example, preschoolers created an app that served as a blueprint on building a new habitat for their class pets, guinea pigs.

“The early learning community has been wisely cautious about using technology with our youngest children,” said Libby Doggett, deputy assistant secretary for Policy and Early Learning in a statement. “But technology, when used appropriately with caring adults, can help children learn in new ways — and lessen the growing inequity in our country. This brief helps early educators think about developmentally appropriate ways to use technology in their classrooms.”

Also featured: 4 guiding principles for families and early childhood educators on the use of technology with young children:

  • Technology, when used properly, can be a tool for learning.
  • Technology should be used to increase access to learning opportunities for all children.
  • Technology may be used to strengthen relationships among parents, families, early educators, and young children.
  • Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children.

“For early learners, technology can provide opportunities to connect, create, and engage in meaningful learning experiences,” said Joseph South, director of the Office of Educational Technology. “But this will only happen if families and early educators consider whether children are using technology in active, imaginative ways as opposed to just passively watching a screen. Active learning with technology is best when an adult is guiding and participating side-by-side with the child.”

“The brain science is clear – in the earliest years, learning is dependent on adult-child interaction and on healthy relationships between children and their caregivers,” said Linda Smith, deputy assistant secretary for HHS’ Early Childhood Development. “We are excited about the new learning opportunities that technology can offer young children when parents and early childhood educators use it appropriately to support and supplement one on one interactions between children and their caregivers, both in the classroom and at home.”

Material from a press release was used in this report.

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