Technology and Pre-K: Is It a Good Idea?

The use of technology with Pre-K students is a bit of a controversial topic. Much of the conversation is about, what technology is developmentally appropriate? How do educators find the right balance of infusing technology into current best practices? Are we, as educators, using technology too early with Pre-K students?

There are two very distinct camps of thoughts when it comes to how much technology should be used, and what uses of technology are appropriate in a Pre-K classroom. One camp embraces technology for young learners, tablets having a particular draw for use with Pre-K students since children are not required to have keyboarding or mouse skills.

According to Education Week, many teachers welcome technology for young learners, however they see technology as being “not any different from a pencil, or a pen, or a glue stick.” According to Ms. Herman Pre-K teacher at Shady Lane School in Pittsburg,  “We have the iPad or the laptop out for a half an hour, and during that half hour we cycle through 13 children in the classroom. In that time, they’re not only learning from the device, but they’re also absorbing a basic comfort level with technology that will pave the way for its use later on in their schooling.” However, Susan Linn, the director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood in Boston, has strong opinion about technology use with Pre-K students and states that, “The idea that we have technology, and we have to get it to kids as early as possible, is not based on any scientific evidence.”

In 2012 the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center came out with a joint position statement on the use of the technology and interactive media. They stated that they believe, when used appropriately, technology can “enhance children’s cognitive and social abilities and can strengthen home and school connections.” They also made mention that handling technological devices is synonymous to handing books with early literacy development.

Regardless of what camp a professional belongs to, I think the inarguable point is… technology is here, and will be part of a young person’s world in some way, at some point. The questions we need to answer, through research and experience, are:

  • When is the best time to introduce technology?
  • What is the correct balance of technology in the life of a student at each age?
  • Is there such a thing as “too early” when it comes to technology?
  • As technology continues to become part of the fabric of education, what are the implications for pre-K students if technology is introduced?
  • Will pre-K students lack the abilities to relate to one another, or the motivation to play and learn?
  • Are these desires being overshadowed by technology, and is the use of such technology having harmful effects on their development?

Gaining these answers to questions, supported by research, would be very helpful to early education professionals and parents as we move forward in conversations about the developmentally appropriate education of young children.

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In October 2014, Cath Cuff joined our extended network of alumni.