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Technology can help young learners when used correctly

Technology is increasingly prevalent in 21st century classrooms, even those filled with our nation’s youngest students. While elementary math learners are no strangers to technology – many have been using tablets, video games and computers for as long as they can remember – the question remains whether or not employing forms of virtual learning in the classroom will be helpful or detrimental.

The consensus among educators and education experts seems to be that technology is, in fact, quite helpful when used appropriately – particularly in the case of young learners who have come to expect their information to be delivered digitally. In an effort to ensure that early childhood learning uses media and technology effectively, the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning have released a position statement to guide school districts in the right direction.

Tremendous Potential
“We believe that when used appropriately, technology and interactive media have tremendous potential to nurture early learning and development,” Rita Catalano, executive director for the Fred Rogers Center, said in a statement. “The position statement is intended to support all those who care for and about young children in making informed, child-centered decisions about these news tools.”

According to NAEYC, research has shown that the use of computers in classrooms can improve children’s elementary math skills, as well as their social, cognitive, language, literacy and writing abilities. The question is how to best integrate computer use into classrooms and curricula.

Lorah Neville, executive director of curriculum and learning services in Tempe, Ariz., believes technology that has been intelligently designed will give students the most benefits academically.

“We need to be very clear about how and why we’re using it,” she told Education Week. “We don’t want to replicate core instruction in a digital format. We want to enhance it.”

Interactive Software
Adaptive learning software is particularly adept at supplementing teacher instruction. Many of these programs are specifically designed to tailor instruction to the needs of each individual student while simultaneously collecting data and feedback that teachers can use to personalize the learning experience of their students and help them be academically successful.

According to Education Week, experts agree that young students respond best to technology that is interactive, has lots of animation, and is connected to situations that they may encounter in everyday life. The bottom line is that teachers should be incorporating technology into their lesson plans in an engaging way.

Technology in the Classroom
“[Kids] have access to technology at home, so they expect it at school,” Jacinta Sorgel, one of the Tempe school district’s educational technology specialists, told Education Week. “They’re able to stay motivated because it’s something they do all the time.”

While some parents may be concerned that technology is receiving too much emphasis in classrooms, the joint position statement from NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning emphasizes the fact that engaging technology and interactive media can be extremely effective when used appropriately.

Educators that employ technology in a measured way and use it to supplement their teaching and engage elementary students will be able to have a positive impact on young learners.

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Jessie Woolley-Wilson