I subscribe to a parenting website and receive weekly email alerts about developmental milestones and topics relevant to my child’s age. Recently, I read a post: Your 3 3/4-year-old: Computer Ready?
Perhaps, it’s my profession, or better yet, maybe, it’s my experiences and the topics presented during #ETMOOC that had me scratching my head and pondering some of the statements.
Here are a few quotes that really jumped off the screen at me:
‘Computers can be great learning tools, and software for preschoolers is plentiful — but this kind of play is by no means necessary at 3.’
We have so many interactive books apps for my son on our iPad. I constantly am downloading these same apps for the preschool teacher who consults with me in my district, too. Recently, we had a conversation about how a few parents in her classroom that is piloting an iPad initiative do not want their children using these devices at all. She respects their wishes; however, she feels that these students are missing out. Children love to listen to stories. Even though there are four adults in her classroom, it’s still hard to read all of the various stories that they each individual child wants in a block of time. As we know, some children also like to hear the same story over and over and over again. She finds the interactive book apps to be almost a miracle in meeting these demands. Of course, the apps can not replace the conversations and rich discussions that can take place with a good book shared with another person. Therefore, these iPad apps are a great rotating center choice that complements the other areas of the classroom such as blocks, sensory table, and dramatic play. Could this classroom function without these apps? Absolutely. However, advancing academics, such as literacy, is not the only reason to use these tools.
‘But scientists say that the best way to develop a young mind is hands-on exploration and interacting with people.’
My son Skypes almost every night with his grandmother. She reads him stories. They talk about their days. This daily interaction is an opportunity for my son to practice manners, courtesies and listening & conversational skills. He has a chance to interact with a family role model who he otherwise would only see in person a couple of hours twice a month due to distance. This type of interaction is one of the wonders of what technology can do: bring people together. I know that my son’s future will be filled with this mode of communication in both his personal and professional life. While this should not be the only way to interact with people, it certainly needs to be practiced and developed. These guided sessions with Grandma are laying a solid foundation.
‘Above all, don’t be overeager to introduce computer play. All too soon you’ll be looking for ways to actively discourage your school-ager from the addictive computer screen.’
My biggest aversion is the sense that computers are only for play. I know that children, especially preschoolers, learn through play. However, I think so many more skills beyond reading, writing and arithmetic are being acquired when a young child uses technology. It’s an occasion to guide and establish practices for safety and ethical situations. Young children learn about their worlds from watching what the adults and other people in their lives do. They mimic our behaviors. While a preschooler (or any child) most certainly should not be given free reign on computers and devices, withholding all access reminds me of friends I knew growing up who were not allowed to watch T.V. The minute they were at someone else’s house, that’s all the friends wanted to do. Teaching moderation and self-control is a better alternative. I also want my son to know that there is a balance in this age of technology. We always can be plugged in and connected. Yet, we need to know when face-to-face may be the better option.
It used to be that our families and small communities where we grew up were the only influences that shaped our adult lives. Today, family and community still are primary influences, but not the only ones due to the accessibility of the world through electronic devices. If Mom and Dad do not know or give a satisfactory answer, a child can take the matter into his/her own hands via a Google or YouTube search. That is very powerful and scary at the same time since the volume of information available can be astounding and overwhelming at the same time. The Internet used to be “read only” for most. Only a select few controlled the content available. Now, we all can be contributors. In preparation for this, I want to seize the opportunity now at a young age to model and discuss good digital citizenship before issues arise. Be proactive.
Therefore, a take away from #ETMOOC for me is that a preschooler needs to start becoming aware of his rights as well as the responsibilities that come with this citizenship, and I am the first teacher of this topic in the curriculum of life.