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.
As a CDA with CLASS facilitator, I now recognize that CLASS also helps us think about how we can be present and responsive in supporting the curiosity, engagement, and persistence of adult learners.
I am blessed to be able to support CDA learners, many of whom are returning to formal education for the first time in many years. Some of these learners come from previous educational experiences that were not supportive, that left them feeling that they weren’t good at school or weren’t competent students. But with the right support, these learners can grow their persistence as well as their sense of competence and confidence.
Data from the National Survey of Students’ Health (NSCH) indicates that almost half of the students in the United States have experienced one or more forms of serious trauma, such as poverty, homelessness, or abuse and neglect. This means that an estimated 35,000,00 students, from infancy through age 17 are at risk for not only school failure, but for a number of social-emotional and physical complications (e.g., PTSD, heart disease, etc.) that may have life-long consequences to their health and well-being. The effect of COVID-19 has surely increased the percentage of young people who are experiencing trauma. And while people of all races and socioeconomic statuses have been affected by COVID-19, poor communities of color have been disproportionately impacted, adding an additional level of trauma to a population already traumatized by systemic racism.
Calvary City Academy & Preschool closed on March 13, along with most programs in Florida. While closed, we had much to prepare for reopening. While children were home, we prepared packets to send home, met with children virtually, and even hosted things like field day, spirit week, and graduation virtually! Even with those successes, we were so happy to be able to return to being in-person when we reopened in June. Since June, we’ve learned a lot. Here’s what’s working for us:
Jess Pablo is an early childhood coach and grade level chair at The Primary School, a non-profit school in East Palo Alto, California, that serves children aged pre-K through grade 3, bringing together education, health, and family support services to support children’s holistic growth. Below are some of the ideas, concerns, and suggestions she shared as her program resumes this year in a mostly virtual learning environment.