Technology in Early Childhood Education

Children in the 21st century are growing up in the most technologically advanced era to date. Kids can pick up almost any piece of technology and learn the ins and outs within minutes. From TV screens to iPads to learning tablets, some kids had technology in their hands before they were a year old.

While it’s important for children to have multiple mediums of learning, some of which should not include technology, there is an abundance of technology that is super useful in the classroom to help students thrive.

At ChildCare Education Institute, we’re dedicated to providing teachers like you with the highest-quality training resources available to help you become the best possible educator. And, because we have a number of courses focused on the best ways to use technology in early childhood education, we’re sharing our insights on how best to use technology to your advantage to help your students reach their full potential.

When was technology in education introduced?

According to Purdue University, it was the introduction of the radio, which made it possible for students to listen to on-air classes, in the 1920s that started it all and sparked a brand new wave of learning in the classroom, showcasing the advantages of technology in early childhood education.

Here’s a list of what came next:

  • 1930: The overhead projector which let  teachers showcase work to the entire class at one time creating comradery and group learning in the classroom.
  • 1950: Headphones for listening to music and on-air classes on the radio for children.
  • 1951: Videotapes which brought the magic of the big screen into the classroom introducing an incredible new way for children to learn. From instructional videos to historical movies, videos opened a different avenue for teachers.
  • 1959: The photocopier allowed for mass production of instructional materials.
  • 1972: Handheld calculators appeared making quick mathematical calculations the norm.
  • 1972: The Scantron system, by Michael Sokolski, let teachers grade tests quickly and efficiently.

Finally, the personal computer was introduced in the 1980s. At the time, there was around one computer for every 125 students in the classroom. Now, when students enter the classroom, it’s expected that there is one computer for every three students, and sometimes, one computer for each student in well funded schools. Now, computers are in the classroom starting at preschool.

What are the advantages of technology in early childhood education?

There are a ton of advantages to all the assistive technology in early childhood education. From computers to e-learning tablets, video players, projectors and more, technology plays an important role in today’s early childhood classroom. Here are several advantages of technology in early childhood education:

  • Students become more engaged: Students, even at a young age, can interact with content on a new level thanks to the entertaining graphics, speed and capabilities of technology. Students can create fun presentations and computer graphics to showcase their work. Computers and iPads in the classroom can also be used for digital art which can help with fine motor skills and expressing creativity. As an added bonus, digital art saves paper which saves trees!
  • Access to more information: The days of printing out endless copies of book excerpts and photos to show students continue to dwindle. Teachers spending their own funds to find multiple copies of the same assignment or book now have the saving grace of technology. Technology allows for an unlimited amount of access to information. Now, students can all read the same book or complete the same assignment via computer or e-learning tablet without the physical copy in their hands. The internet expands what is available to children and widens their horizon with every search.
  • Promotes digital literacy: Assistive technology in early childhood education can be a powerful tool for promoting digital literacy. Using technology in early childhood education allows children to use items like computers and tablets for reading games and constructive learning activities rather than for passive entertainment. Technology is going to be a big part of their lives throughout their childhood and adulthood, so getting them used to operating a computer will be a huge advantage.
  • Easily keeping track of student progress: When work, even at a young age, is completed with technology, it can be easily logged and saved. Teachers can keep a file of the child’s tasks throughout the school year and seamlessly track their progress and compare their work as they go. Using technology to record videos and stories provides a helpful visual into the child’s progress. Additionally, sharing this work with parents or caregivers becomes easier than ever. Long gone are the days of keeping stacks of papers in folders when technology makes it that much more simple.

What are the disadvantages of technology in early childhood education?

  • Added element of teaching: Students might be at different levels of knowing how to operate  technology in early childhood education so this can create an added element for teachers. On top of having students at various levels, teachers also have to monitor how each student interacts with the technology so they don’t struggle with learning the machines on top of the lessons. It may take some extra time with students during school hours or after class to make sure children feel comfortable with technology. Teaching how to use each piece of assistive technology in early childhood education may also require an additional lesson to the curriculum, purely for teaching the ins and outs of each device.
  • Increased screen time: There is no shortage of screen time already for children which is certainly not one of the advantages of technology in early childhood education. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry suggests the following guidelines for screen time as it pertains to children:

○ Before 18 months, screen time should be limited to video chatting with an adult, e.g. a parent or caregiver who is traveling.

○ Between 18 and 24 months screen time should be limited to educational programming (with an adult present).

○ For children 2-5, non-educational screen time should be limited to about one hour per weekday and three hours on Saturday and Sunday.

With these guidelines, teachers must be cognizant of how much of the assistive technology in early childhood education is being used per day.

  • Social interactions with other children: Technology can be quite isolating for youth (and adults) so it’s important there’s always a balance. Creating group projects in the classroom, without technology, where children must work together and interact is an important skill for them to learn at a young age. Technology can sometimes fill a void of interacting with other people, so it’s important to instill these “people” skills in your classroom.

How can teachers create balance between using technology and not using it in the classroom? 

There are a number of ways teachers can balance using assistive technology in early childhood education and providing instruction without technology. Firstly, after using technology in the classroom for a specific lesson, teachers can offer the students a short recess. In our blog, “How Does Recess Help Students?,” we discuss the importance of this technology-free time where youngsters have the opportunity to blow off steam, develop social skills and keep active, which is crucial in a society that is becoming increasingly sedentary.

Teachers can also make sure they are precise with how much screen time they’re incorporating into their lesson plans, making sure they are aligned with the recommendations from the The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. For instance, they can ensure they don’t have back to back activities that include screens.

Stay informed

Still interested in more insights on technology in early childhood education? Staying in-the-know about the latest disadvantages and advantages of technology in early childhood education is a great way to position you as a trusted educator for families and other staff.

CCEI offers a number of courses on technology in the classroom, including The Child’s Digital Universe: Technology and Digital Media in Early Childhood. This course presents the latest research and recommendations regarding children’s use of technology and digital media and the ways in which digital devices are reshaping early childhood education. CCEI also offers Technology and Social Media Policy in the Early Care and Education Environment, which examines the impact of digital technologies, the Internet and social media on the early care and education environment and offers recommended strategies and best practices for using various technological tools.

Click here to learn more about these courses, as well as CCEI’s entire catalog of offerings.