I let my daughter watch TV. This is my 2-year old glued to (part of) an episode of Mr. Rogers (or as she calls him, Ra-Ra).
I know about the research. Children learn best from free play with creative and/or natural materials and through interactions with adults. Too much screen time can lead to poor sleep, poor learning performance, poor social skills, and poor health outcomes for children (and adults too). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for children before age 2, and no more than 1-2 hours a day for older children.
Nevertheless, teachers and children are inundated with technology. Children are immediately drawn to technology and often have access to smart phones and tablets. Teachers use apps for planning, assessment, and professional development. Websites, apps, videos, and TV programs are created specifically to engage children and teach them various social and academic skills. Education standards include phrases such as “technology literacy” and “21st century skills.”
It is easy to get confused about how technology fits in a child’s life and within the classroom. What programs support children’s learning? How do we know what are appropriate limits for children? Does interaction with devices count as hands-on learning? How can we intentionally plan for effective “tech” moments?
I think Jane Brody with the NY Times said it best: “Technology is a poor substitute for personal interaction”. To me, this means that technology in and of itself is not evil and some interaction with devices (within developmentally appropriate limits) can be fun, engaging, and even meaningful for children**. However, it is not a substitute for actual teacher-child interaction. In fact, experts on children’s media maintain that children learn little from interacting with devices on their own, but can gain content and skills when an adult participates with them.
So what does all of this mean for teachers?
What about your classroom? How do you ensure that effective interactions are included with technology use?
**Of course, some adaptive technologies and devices are necessary for children with special needs and may not be subject to the same limitations as other technology use.
Do you have fond childhood memories of sitting with a special adult and listening to them read one of your favorite stories? I vividly remember my dad reading The Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling to me and how we laughed together at the funny voices he used. As an educator, you know how important those moments are for building warm connections, enjoying time together, and learning about many things. So, even if you missed out on those moments as a child, you want to create those moments for the children in your classroom. With careful planning, you can be confident that your read-alouds will be exciting, effective learning opportunities.
The majority of early childhood classrooms have at least one child who is a dual language learner (DLL) and this population is growing. One in three children from birth to age six speak a language besides English at home. Consequently, the majority of teachers need strategies on how to best support this group of students. We reached out to Veronica Fernandez, Developmental Psychologist and Research Scientist at the University of Miami for strategies she’s found most successful.
As part of our Teacher Spotlight series, we recently asked the CLASS Community to nominate a teacher whose high-quality classroom interactions are making a difference for their dual language learners. Our winner, Kim Schoell, has been teaching for 20 years and is currently a Pre-K teacher in Frederick County, VA. 67% of her students are Hispanic and many of the children are dual language learners.
When COVID-19 hit and schools shut down, many of us were certain that it would not impact the 2020-21 school year. But with the pandemic surging and some schools opening up - only to shut down again, it’s clear that COVID is still with us. The length of the pandemic has only heightened concern about COVID related learning loss - especially among underserved populations.