When I run professional development workshops for early childhood professionals, the first task I do is to get us to use a practice from Stanford Design School called, ‘I like, I wish, I wonder’. Participants share with each other what they like, what they wish and what they wonder when it comes to children and technology. What the typical answers demonstrate is that we all have the learning, development and wellbeing of children at the front of our minds—whether we think technology should play a role in children’s learning and development, or not.
Educators share their concerns about the rate at which technology is changing the world and whether time with technology is of the same value for learning as time spent engaging with the world in other ways. They also share an amazement at the types of information and experiences technology offers to young, developing minds and what this means for them.
This all serves as a platform to talk about the amount of judgement that exists around supporting the learning and development of young children. Many people evangelise technology as an ‘all in’, or ‘all out’ aspect of early learning environments, and we point fingers and agonize over the potential harm of the opposing position. But, how well does this serve the learning and development of children who are growing up in a world where technology is having a greater and more increased role?
My answer is: ‘We are still trying to work that out, but as the leaders in understanding children’s learning and development, we have a responsibility to find out’.
As a result, my work in the last few years has been about exploring ideas of digital play and play-based learning with technology from a practical perspective. I have worked with childcare centres and kindergartens to set up early learning environments where iPads, cameras, microscopes, apps and projections all work in conjunction with blocks, natural materials, cubby houses and musical instruments to provide play-based learning experiences that align to how children experience technology in the real world. Along with early childhood educators I observe what happens, I see where we make mistakes, I try and improve my practice and all the time I try and support children to have a healthier and improved relationship with technology.
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