Tablets & Tots?

About two years ago, I worked at a pre-school for a “post-school, pre-camp” program. I was an assistant to a general education teacher and worked with about ten 5-year-olds. One period of the day was labeled, “iPads,” and I always thought it was odd. I thought back to when I was 5 years old and knew that I would have had no idea how to use an iPad at that age. These students, however, shocked me in their abilities to maneuver and play with a variety of educational apps. They would sit in a large circle and remain completely silent, starring at their screens for the thirty-minute period.

Discussions about the use of technology in the classroom sparked my interest to research more about my discoveries teaching at that pre-school. I found a research article entitled, “Using Technology Appropriately in the Preschool Classroom.” The author did note that the use of technology with young children offers several opportunities for early learning; however, educators must use caution especially in deciding what types of technology are appropriate for their students. The researcher found that selecting appropriate programs or applications goes hand in hand with this. Teachers must be mindful to pick applications that “emphasize interactive, open-ended learning, not drill and practice. They should introduce a program or application to a few children at a time, as a small-group activity, before making it available at work time.” What does this mean for students who use apps to focus on letter writing? My 4-year-old cousin, Charlotte, uses the “Little Writer” app, where she focuses on constantly tracing all of the letters in the alphabet. This app is like a drill and practice, but my cousin does get a lot out of it. While the app can be boring and repetitive, her letter writing has improved. Charlotte thinks it is more fun than trying to hold a pencil and trace on a piece of paper. I am wondering if the types of applications used on technology devices, such as iPads, vary from student to student.

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