Technology in Early Childhood Education – By Viki Budik
While working towards my master’s degree at BU I became interested in the use of computers and technology in early childhood education. Due to the innovative nature of my classes my interest in the subject grew and opportunities continued to come my way. For example, in one of my classes I created a workshop for undergraduate students. In 1985, while conducting research for the workshop, I had the chance to attend Simon Papert’s workshop at MIT. Papert was the father and creator of the Lego logo and during his workshop presented the eight-year-old children that were part of his research. Attending Simon Papert’s workshop was not only a motivational experience for me but inspired me even further.
In 1985, technology had already begun to make its impact on society. It had gotten to the point where it was clear that technology would grow tremendously in the near future, but no one was entirely sure how it would do so by the change of the millennium. Due to this fact, it was extremely difficult to envision or predict how these changes could affect education, which led to challenges in my career field.
I had moved to Boston in 1985 with my Macintosh computer. At that time, I was one of the only students who wrote papers with a Mac. Realizing how technologically incredible my computer was along with the inspiration I received from Simon Papert led me to create a workshop for teachers in NAEYC. The workshop was based around how to use Macintosh computer programs in the classroom.
After two years of presenting my workshop to the public, I moved to San Francisco where I began a second masters at Berkeley. At that point in my life, I became a computer teacher at elementary schools. Once I began having children of my own, I devoted myself to making an activity center for early childhood education, which I called “Y Grow Up.” Being the owner and director of “Y Grow Up,” was extremely rewarding and I was proud to give children as well as parents a fun yet educational experience every day. Using my many years of research and experience, I offered a variety of mommy and me classes, thinking skill activities, and computer activities.
In 1985 I had a vision, that in every preschool classroom there would be a computer area where teachers could successfully integrate technology to the curriculum. I knew that one day, technology would hold the same importance as math, science, clay, paint, etc. Now that vision has become a reality, and I see that while so much has changed over the years due to technology it is important that certain ideals remain the same. If computers are going to be a part of a child’s daily education, teachers must ensure that they hold a positive attitude toward technology while realizing that it is merely a tool to enhance human knowledge and creativity; not mask it.
The question now stands: Is simply training teachers on how to correctly integrate computers into the curriculum through workshops enough or should it be a requirement on both undergraduate and graduate levels? In reality, technology is a part of life that is inevitable and not granting children with the knowledge necessary to use it correctly is holding them back from their fullest potential. The children are our future and in order for teachers to fully prepare them for that future they need to be fully educated in technology. Therefore, it should be a requirement for teachers to study technology on both the undergraduate and graduate level because technology in the classroom isn’t only important; it is inevitable.
Twenty-five years later, I went to visit colleges in Boston with my daughter. While visiting MIT, I reminisced about the workshop I had attended there and to my surprise learned that one of the eight year olds from Simon Papert’s research was now a professor in the Lego Logo Lab. At that moment I felt like a part of history, I felt amazed. The work that has been done in the past has not been diminished by technology, but kept alive and growing because of it.
It is obvious that the children of today will be the leaders of tomorrow, but how greatly they lead depends on the knowledge we instill in them from a young age. When used correctly, technology can be the greatest determining factor in how the children of today grow into who they will become tomorrow.
With that said, it is important to remember that children under two should not be exposed to iPads and tablets at all times, but parents can still use them as a learning tool after the age of three. Sometimes we see adults misuse these tools as a sort of distraction for kids, but what they do not realize is that before a certain age, these sorts of technology items are not so beneficial for the young ones. This also leads to development issues and social skills are diminished. I strongly encourage parents to simultaneously use technology as well as traditional toys, games, puzzles, puppets, art supplies, and musical instruments with children. Using toys will not only help them learn and use their imagination to build things with toys, but it will also help them develop social skills and be interactive with one another.