Ipads in early childhood education? YES or NO?
A while back, I read that three kindergartens in Queensland are taking part in this new study to examine the ‘educational benefits’ of ipad use, particularly concerning the development of literacy and numeracy in preschool children. I nearly choked on my cup of tea! ipads in early childhood education. let me think about that for a minute…
Why I applaud the researchers for their bold investigation, (and research is a must in these matters or else we have no way to compare the benefits or disadvantages), I’m not sure how they will determine the long-term effects of more technology at such a young age. (Or for that matter, how they judge the ‘educational value’ of a particular app or program as being suitable for learning and engagement of the child at school?)
More importantly, I wonder where (or if) the equivalent study into the benefits of movement, and less screen time for the young child is happening?
For me, the most important question they seem to be missing concerns the fairly recent developments into brain plasticity. Neuroscientists are beginning to gain a much deeper understanding of the brain, and how the brain works, especially with regard to the growth and development of synapse pathways in the brain and the impact of those on learning; early learning in particular.
What we know from their research is that MOVEMENT – in all shapes and forms- is CRUCIAL. Specifically, this is bodily movement, not EYE movement such as watching a screen, but whole body, gross and fine motor capacities developing through things such as movement games, dancing, skipping, climbing, running, making shapes and patterns with your limbs, following specific sequences using your feet or limbs (eg folk dances, yoga, riding bikes around cycle tracks) AND fine motor, real-life activities such as writing, sewing, drawing, painting, sorting things (beads, seeds, shapes, blocks) into patterns or groups, building using blocks or boxes, cooking, gardening, digging in the sandpit, pretend play, cleaning, and sweeping.
This is the crux of my concern. All screen time, no matter how ‘educational’ we make it, RESTRICTS MOVEMENT OPPORTUNITIES. When the children don’t move their bodies in all ways, shapes and forms, the development of the synapse pathways is also restricted or limited. And we haven’t even touched upon the impact of the lack of movement and the global trend towards obesity… Healthy children, especially preschoolers, need to move. It is their birth right. And I’m not sure any kind of ‘educational trend’ that encourages or demands 4 or 5 year olds to be still, contained, ordered, or quiet is quite right either. These children are exuberant by nature and we need to work WITH THAT, encouraging their love of life and ensuring engagement with the curricula by providing activities that actually meet their developmental stage.
But in the end, it must all be about a balanced view, surely. In that case, I’d be advocating a stance against ipad technology in the early childhood space space. Because if what I’m seeing in the general population is any indication, (and yes, it happens in my home too), children are already spending plenty of time with these ipad or iphone gadgets- in cafes, on the couch, in the car…
Do they really, really need MORE interactions with a screen?
I’d also be thinking that human interaction is the thing that supports the development of literacy and numeracy for the majority of children- face to face learning, and group times, and singing, and working in small peer groups with tactile objects, writing stories, making up real-life puppet shows for their friends, inviting puppeteers to the classroom to present their works, listening to a teacher reading, or telling oral stories, making crafty responses to the stories they hear, and interpreting the world through their hands and bodies- these things are perhaps the most important way to ensure children develop a love of learning (which surely precedes the development and retention of literacy and numerical skills.)
Human interaction would surely be the way to bring balance back into the equation.
I’d like to advocate for a technology-free preschool space where children can learn all the necessary skills, habits, and attributes for a successful and fruitful life through play, human relationships, and movement opportunities. Technology comes soon enough…
What do YOU think about ipads
in the early childhood space space?
Yes, or No? and why?