Its 5:50pm on a Monday and I am sat in the school office trying to get one of our fancy new printers to print… anything! I’ve had to use two different computers to access the correct network drive and I’m getting a little frustrated. The deputy comes out of her office to tell me about a 2-year-old who had better command of her phone than her. We have a chat and a laugh about how able these children are whilst all the time I am trying to get a photograph out of the jamming printer.
This is the future – a world where children have the knowhow about technology and adults are left scratching their heads. A world where technology has outpaced the capacity in most schools. Where new computers, tablets and wearables are yesterday’s news by the day they arrive. Consumerist technology is now the drive for tech companies and schools with a limited budget are no more. This leaves us, as practitioners, in a tight spot racing to catch up.
In our setting technology is pretty basic. Its not because our budget is small or because we don’t know what would work. Its because we know that at home, most of our children are immersed in the world of chrome and Wi-Fi. Time in Nursery is time to experience the world around them by using all of their senses and not just sitting with a tablet.
As an early years teacher I both love and loathe technology. I think a (working) interactive white board is a wonder. I think a camera or iPod is a boon to any play because children can photograph their achievements and share them with those around them. However, I also appreciate that in the real world much of this wonderful technology is less enhancing than it is distracting. Too often we attend home visits where children are sat in front of an iPad, or given a phone to play with to keep them ‘entertained.’
Children have an innate capacity to use technology because tech giants have (very successfully) created simplistic interfaces which follow strict rules. E.g. swipe to view photos, press the middle button at the bottom to wake up a phone etc. So, as teachers we are presented on day one with a child who has a good understanding (sometimes more than ourselves) of technology, but very few skills around it. Their attention has been focussed for so long on screens that they have been missing out on other, probably more important skills.
A teacher’s battle starts in the app store. There are now sections for baby and toddler apps for phones. These apps tend to suggest a ‘learning’ aspect yet completely neglect the sensory experience that children of this age need. Studies tend to crop up every few years about the detrimental affects of technology on our young children and the ‘starting age’ for tech seems to move about from year to year but yet these app stores swell with these educational programs.
Saying all this, I don’t want to be seen as a technophobe. I actually think technology is vital to our lifestyle. As a blogger, perhaps I am biased, but the internet is a wonderful educational and social tool. People, including children, are less lonely and better connected than ever. There are apps, tools and websites available now that astonish even the most savvy techie chappy out there. Its lovely to walk past our ‘Computing extraordinaire’ in our school and see what he has his children doing today. These children are programming the future at 6 and 7.
I firmly believe that children have a natural instinct to be inquisitive about the world around them. This inquisitive nature is difficult to ‘limit’ with early children and sometimes parents will try to distract their children with technology. Equally, teachers in early years settings will sometimes use technology believing that it will enhance their teaching. Sometimes it does, but I increasingly see technology being the focus on an activity rather than something that enriches it.
As early years professionals we need to be aware that the balance of technology at home and further up school is vastly different from the one we should be striving for in our setting. We are there to work in partnership with parents to create a well rounded and happy child with skills and knowledge of the world around them. Technology is a tiny snippet of the Development Matters framework (1 of 17 sections) and perhaps it deserves more attention.
To read more interesting content on this subject look-out for the next edition of Teaching and Technology, or visit the Nursery Nook website to read more from this author.