Monday, May 14, 2012

Children and Technology

Tech skills in children can have a positive application in the classroom
This guest post is from Melissa Crossman. You can find her @melcrossman3.
As personal tech tools and toys have trickled down into the smallest of hands, technology literacy rates among children are higher than they've ever been before. A recent poll of 2,200 mothers found that 58 percent of children between age two and five were able to play a simple computer game. By contrast, only 43 percent of children ages two and three knew how to ride a bike. And young children are more likely to know how to open a Web browser (25 percent) than how to swim unaided (20 percent).
That might strike fear into the hearts of parents at first blush, but a second glance reveals that things aren't as bad as they might initially seem. Yes, children are more tech-savvy than ever, but technology is a part of our society that isn't about to disappear anytime soon. Although it can have negative applications, in many cases technology exists to make our lives simpler or to empower us to do more than we could without it.
The same can be said about technology in the classroom: with children understanding technology at a younger age, elementary school classrooms have an unprecedented opportunity to utilize those tech skills as a means of providing new learning tools and strategies to children. But successfully implementing these new approaches requires teacher preparation and a commitment to professional development that emphasizes tech literacy.
Managing technology use at home
Granted, not every child grows up with personal electronic devices like a cell phone or music player. And many parents still make an effort to minimize their young children's exposure to computers, televisions, or anything with a glowing screen. While that may be admirable and is every parent's right, any child growing up in American culture will be heavily exposed to technology once they enter school.
The positive by-product is that evolving technologies continue to create more applications for education. Parents may want to keep their children from becoming addicted to or dependent on technology, but they might find it advantageous to give their children some exposure to certain electronic devices—particularly those that can aid in childhood development while acclimating kids to the kinds of products they'll be handling for the rest of their lives.
Teaching through technology
Getting a commitment from teachers is paramount, and sometimes the toughest task—older teachers who have resisted advances in computers and personal technology may actually be less tech literate than the grade school students they are educating. That can be intimidating to teachers and make them less likely to incorporate technology as a learning tool.
But if teachers are willing to put traditional methods aside in favor of a new teaching model, the results could revolutionize how children are taught. Rather than force-feeding technology at the elementary school level, schools can capitalize on pre-existing tech skills to incorporate computer programs, learning modules, and interactive games and programs that educate students in an environment they recognize, understand and enjoy.
These interactive tech programs can even enhance the student experience by providing direct and immediate feedback to a classroom full of children simultaneously, providing customized direction and assistance on a scale no individual teacher could ever match. Far from disenfranchising teachers, technology can improve classroom efficiency and make life easier for both the teachers and their students.
About the author: Melissa Crossman earned her Master of Education while living and working in the Indianapolis area. She blogs on behalf of