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

What made them so attractive was that they had three noticeable features which had the potential to make a positive difference to education: 

 

  • They are portable and lightweight
  • They eliminate the need for separate input devices (such as having an extra mouse or keyboard)
  • They are designed to house large numbers of applications, many of which are designed specifically for children.
Unlike previous technologies, electronic devices give the user the opportunity to create their own content, simultaneously using texts, pictures and sounds, to create dynamic and engaging learning environments.

It’s common practice now that schools and colleges are using the latest technology, to improve teaching and make lessons more interactive and engaging. That extends to the early years sector, too.

 

Victoria Short, managing director of Randstad Public Services, who have, over the years, conducted research into the use of technology in early years education, said:

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

“The introduction of the use of electronic devices 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 electronic devices like 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 socialisation that takes place, because children can see the screens of other children easily and can manipulate the touchscreen in groups’.”

 

Clearly, electronic devices can be used as great learning tools in early years. But how can we ensure the safe use of such devices? Clearly, electronic devices 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 should 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 your setting about 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.
  • 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.

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