For a variety of reasons, the early childhood community has been slower to catch when it comes to technology. A recent survey of early childhood professionals by Child Care Information Exchange revealed that among child care centers, most that use technology only do so for administrative purposes such as accounting or record-keeping; and classroom use is often limited to educational software. But technology has the potential to positively impact three areas of our profession: 1) classroom practices and curriculum; and 2) communication and marketing; and 3) networking and professional development.
Not only can teachers use the web to find endless lesson plan ideas, recipes, and classroom themes, but technology can also be used in the classroom even by preschool students! We must first get away from the concept that “educational software” is the only way to use technology with our youngest students. Frankly, some of this "educational" software is nothing more than electronic dittos. Some educators use the term "edutainment" to describe things that are promoted as educational, but really are more entertainment than educational. When using educational software, we must choose carefully!
We also have to open our eyes to the fact that there are many other ways of using technology in our classrooms. Children can use photographs that they (or a teacher) have taken and create slideshows or stories. Websites such as Slideshare and Voicethread can be used to enhance literacy in the early childhood classroom. There are e-pal sites where classrooms can communicate with other classrooms across the state, across the country, or even across the world! Teachers can also scan student artwork or work samples and create electronic portfolios. Word-processing and desktop publishing software can be used with students to creates student books, classroom labels, signs, and much more! My kindergartners were able to type "Do not touch" signs, print them out, and label their block creations. They could also type and print "Wet paint" signs to put near their art projects. While traditional methods should not be abandoned, technology can be used to enhance teaching strategies that we already know are effective.
Technology also provides early childhood teachers with unique opportunities to communicate with parents. Imagine a new parent has just dropped their screaming three year old off at your child care center. Now, imagine how relieved that parent will feel if she is at work and gets an email photo with a digital picture of her smiling child playing with blocks! Sending digital pictures is a great way for child care owners and directors to connect with their families! Creating newsletters, emailing parents, publishing information online (such a menus, calendar of events, etc) are other ways technology can enhance your early childhood program! Having a good website can also help market your program. Providing information about your philosophy, themes, classroom schedules, and photographs can go a long way with potential families.
Social networking sites are new and exciting territories for early childhood educators. Networking is a part of our industry where we often thrive! I’ve been to conferences where I walk in not knowing a soul but you connect with others over your common interests in children and families. Now, you don’t have to leave those conferences with a stack of business cards that you’ve exchanged but may never really use. Instead, you can connect with these same professionals on social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo Groups, Ning, and other discussion groups, advocacy organizations, and professional societies.
In addition to networking with professionals, technology can help us improve our professional development. Many colleges, universities, and training agencies offer classes and/or workshop hours online. In our profession, where the last child may not leave your Center until 6:00 p.m., it is sometimes difficult to take a workshop or continue our college education. Technology can help us overcome that roadblock.
I would love to create a blog or website about how early childhood educators use technology in their programs. So please share with me...how do YOU use technology in your preschool, childcare center, or Kindergarten program?
Early Childhood Technology Resources
Meaningful Technology Integration in Early Learning Environments
NAEYC Position Statement on Technology and Young Children
Early Childhood Courses at E-Learners (link removed at request of E-Learners)
*There are many online training opportunities. Please check your state/local regulations before taking any workshops to be sure that they meet established guidelines for continued training.