Why do we use technology in the Early Years?
Children are exposed to technology from a very early age and they quickly get used to it being all around them; from toy phones, tvs, mobile phones and music centres to many toys that imitate things that babies see their special care givers using in their everyday lives. Simple electronic toys show babies how their actions can have an effect, for example by pressing buttons music will play or lights will flash. Out and about, they see traffic crossings, supermarket tills, digital screens - basically technology is everywhere!
We use 'sensitive' technology at Saplings and incorporate it into many aspects of our play. We use metal detectors, walkie-talkies (a firm favourite of the children!), microscopes and stopwatches. I have even shown the children the digital heart monitor I wear so they can see the effects of chasing me around the woodland does to my heart!
We also guide children to use the tablet to take photographs and for research purposes of the many interesting things they find in the woodland (something I have felt nervous about doing in the past, but why? Perhaps because there seems to be a stigma attached to children and screen time/play?). The children are always effectively safeguarded by members of staff and supervised at all times when using the tablet as we find they learn so much using this technology.
As Early Years professionals, we value reflective practice highly and how we can look at things differently - as such, I am looking at children's use of technology in the woodland and in particular, screen use, from a different angle too; a positive one!
We assess how children access and use technology but we don't actually celebrate how some technology can positively influence areas of children's learning and development!
Findings from a study by B.Huber in 2016 found that children who had access to age appropriate activities on a tablet showed improvements in problem solving and planning ability when solving digital and physical puzzle games such as blind stable structures (towers etc). I have also used tablets as an aid to communicate with older children who were unable to use their voices because of various reasons. Without the tablet, those children would have had no voice! The tablet empowered and enriched their lives considerably!
As with everything in life, it's all about balance...
There are of course negatives to the use of tablets, iPads and screen time, such as the amount of time we allow our children to have access to this type of technology as well as the type of content we allow them to access. As longs as adults remain in control over this type of technology, our children can hopefully continue to benefit from the wealth of positives they can gain within their early years of development.
For more information on how to keep children safe when using tablets, the following provides a wealth of guidance, advice and information:
www.internetmatters.org (Early Years Parental Pack available).