Thursday, January 20, 2011

toddlers and technology: the iPad and early literacy development

This is the post where I confuse you about my background.

You all know that I'm an educational technologist. My 'official' job title is Manager of Educational Services... which is a rather nondescript description when you think about it. What either term may mean to you probably means something completely different to someone else.

But my master's degree is NOT in technology - - it's in literacy development. Watching the intersection of the two has been a wild ride as the Bug has developed into a full-fledged, card carrying toddler and started developing language skills.

In my opinion, there is a place for purposeful technology in all of our lives and tuning out the technology completely does a disservice to our kids. My personal parenting philosophy is everything in moderation. While we need to give our kids freedom to develop their creativity and imagination through play, we also have to teach them how to use technology in meaningful ways.

You've all read the debates about exposing our children to technology at an early age. For example, last October ABC News ran a piece titled Toddlers & Tech: Are All Screens Created Equal? Parents, Pediatricians Debate Over Technology Use Among Young Children. The story examines the difference between television/key-based cell phones and touch screen devices like iPads and iPhones. The American Academy of Pediatrics argues that screen time is passive viewing and not developmentally appropriate for toddlers who need stimulation through play. Warren Buckleitner, editor of the Children's Technology Review and one of several advisors to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, argues that touch screens are developmentally appropriate for sensory-motor learners, and can let kids simulate everything from cooking to popping bubblewrap to finger painting.

I don't believe there is not enough evidence-based data to support a household ban on touch screen time for toddlers. Touch screens and apps have literally saved my sanity some days. {{Admit it! You've handed over the iPhone to your about-to-have-a-meltdown kiddo in the grocery store to avoid produce aisle scene, too!}} But no, we don't let the Bug play on the iPad for hours on end. Hello, moderation!

While there may not be enough data supporting a ban, there ARE plenty of anecdotes supporting exposure. (Again, in moderation).

Here's a snippet of Lila interacting with the First Words: Animals app developed for the iPad by Learning Touch. Note that I did not download the app for her - I was reviewing it for a job-related project. Her curiosity must of gotten the better of her one day and she simply launched the app while browsing the iPad. I spotted what she was doing, had easy access to my iPhone and could capture her first encounter with the app.

You all know I'm not about killing and drilling with flashcards. This is pretty much a digital version of flash cards. But watch how she's interacting with it and constructing knowledge of pattern (letter) matching. It's pretty amazing.

So what does this tell us about how our kids - - the true digital natives - - learn? And how do we balance technology with the critical play our kids need?


Jen C said...

So happy you're tackling technology and childhood!! I completely agree with needing to expose our kids to technology. My family has had at least 1 'PC' in the house since 1980. (I put PC in quotes because when I think back to how HEAVY that... thing was and that it only ran BASIC, well it's a far cry from today's PCs)

So I grew up very comfortable on computers. I had a kids' programming book and everything. All that said, today, I'm a serious advocate for making sure kids get unplugged play. But how do I deliver that message? Via the internet. Ironic? Maybe. Effective? Yes.

The point here, I think, is that we use technology thoughtfully. You captured that in this piece. Thank you!

ipad application development said...

Great blog about ipad application development The device provides a platform for productivity rather than a way to use a larger type of support system.

Go Learning said...

yes i like it, thanks for this post

Joshua Smith said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.