When is Technology Developmentally Appropriate for Young Children? – Part 4

In the first three parts of this series, I wrote about three important ideas that parents and teachers must consider when deciding whether technology use is developmentally appropriate for young children: define learning goals, give students worthy problems to solve, and understand that all problems are not created equal recognize that not all problems are created equal.  It’s important for young children to think critically in meaningful situations rather than experience apps or programs that merely require them to “sit and get” or ask them to parrot back things they’ve been told or shown.  In this final part of the series, I’ll share a few thoughts about how technology should also be personalized for young children in order to meet them right where they are and help them develop and learn at their own pace using their own ideas and prior knowledge.

4. Empower Personalization

All parents want a preschool teacher who gets to know their child and treats her as an individual. Great early childhood professionals spend more time listening to children’s thinking than telling children what and how to think. Learning is intensely personal, and master teachers personalize learning for students by meeting them where they are, by considering their prior knowledge, and by adapting to their unique needs. We should expect the same of learning technologies.

Even if the software has great learning goals, empowers exploration, and has meaningful problems for students to solve, students deserve technologies that meet them right where they are, and adapt to them. We wouldn’t expect a preschool teacher to ask every student the same questions in the same order on the same day and give every student the same feedback. Parents expect early childhood educators to consider what their child is thinking, how their child is solving problems, and provide useful feedback tailored specifically to their child. Parents and teachers should expect the same from digital learning tools. I came to DreamBox because it’s the only software that can truly personalize learning in these ways for preschool students—thanks to its Intelligent Adaptive Learning (IAL) technology. We design tools for exploration and respond to students’ ideas as they interact with our technology, similar to how the best teachers do.

Technology can certainly be developmentally appropriate for young children, but all programs and apps are not of equal quality. Parents and educators shouldn’t eliminate all technology usage by default, nor should they embrace it thoughtlessly. When viewed through the lenses I’ve described—Goals, Meaningful Questions, Challenging Problems, and Personalization—it should be possible to make sure that a young child’s “screen time” is used wisely to support his or her unique cognitive development.

Tim Hudson

Tim Hudson

VP of Learning for DreamBox Learning, Inc., Hudson is a learning innovator and education leader who frequently writes and speaks about learning, education, and technology. Prior to joining DreamBox, Hudson spent more than 10 years working in public education, first as a high school mathematics teacher and then as the K–12 Math Curriculum Coordinator for the Parkway School District, a K–12 district of over 17,000 students in suburban St. Louis. While at Parkway, Hudson helped facilitate the district’s long-range strategic planning efforts and was responsible for new teacher induction, curriculum writing, and the evaluation of both print and digital educational resources. Hudson has spoken at national conferences such as ASCD, SXSWedu, and iNACOL.
Tim Hudson