Back in 2010 when iPads and other comparable tablets first appeared, their potential to change the way children were educated was revolutionary.

There are three noticeable features which have the potential to make a positive difference to early education: portable and lightweight, they eliminate the need for separate input devices (such as having an extra mouse or keyboard) and lastly, they are designed to house large numbers of applications, many of which are designed specifically for children.

Unlike previous technologies, iPads give the user the opportunity to create their own content, simultaneously using texts, pictures and sounds, to create dynamic and engaging learning environments.

A recent survey by Randstad Education found schools and colleges are adopting the latest technology, such as iPads, to improve teaching and make lessons more interactive and engaging.

Victoria Short, managing director of Randstad Public Services, said:

“Teaching tools have come a long way since the days teachers used to write on chalkboards and present using an overhead projector.

“By introducing the use of iPads into early education has facilitated the social aspect of the classroom. An article found in The International Journal of Education in Mathematics, Science and Technology states ‘…using the iPad frequently becomes a social activity for young children as they often talk and work together while using the tool. It is possible that the mobility of the iPad contributes to the socialization that takes place, because children can see the screens of other children easily and can manipulate the touchscreen in groups.’ ”

Clearly, iPads can be used as great learning tools in Early Years. But how can we ensure the safe use of such devices?

In this case, prevention really is better than cure. It is important to talk to children about potential online dangers and how they can stay safe online. Educating children so they feel comfortable alerting an adult when something unusual happens. For example, do they know how to deal with an unexpected pop-up? In this instance, the child should tell an adult who can remove it and never click on it.

It is imperative these rules are reminded regularly and are in place to keep them safe, as children are naturally inquisitive. Displaying posters around online safety can act as a visual reminder, but early years providers should ensure they verbally remind children on a regular basis.

Parents should always be aware of what children are doing/accessing online. Social networking, chat rooms and unsuitable websites should be off limits and specialist software should be installed to ensure children are blocked access to inappropriate sites. Start by setting boundaries around online use. For example, time limits on how long they can use an internet-enabled device each day. Download a child-friendly browser like Kiddle and ensure children only have access to apps or online games you have authorised.

These boundaries should be consistent, so share these with anyone, such as friends and family who look after or spend time with your child.

Learning through technology, although growing, is just one small part of a child’s early years education. When used alongside a varied curriculum, technology can complement a child’s development. Technology must be used safely; both early years providers and parents must protect children by educating them on potential online dangers.

Victoria Short added: “Technology has arrived, and the teachers and classrooms of tomorrow are here today.”





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