Technology in Early Childhood Education


Consensus exists among critics and advocates regarding the critical significance of the early years in a child’s education, the physical, social-emotional, language, and cognitive growth. The ongoing debate primarily centres on determining the specific requirements of young children and assessing whether technology can effectively support these needs or potentially detract from crucial developmental experiences.

Informed decision-making in this context relies on a deep understanding of children’s development and insights gained from studies on children and their engagement with technology. Recent research, particularly on brain development, has directed attention towards understanding the capabilities of young children, exploring various learning stages and styles, delving into social-emotional development, and identifying successful educational practices.

The rapid advancement of emerging technologies is reshaping the educational landscape. Embracing and honing skills in these technologies is essential for active participation in the evolving early childhood learning and teaching environments. Leveraging the capabilities of technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI), biotechnology, robots, virtual reality (VR), intelligent tutoring systems, STEM digital tools, and next-generation learning management systems, holds immense potential for creating innovative and enriching learning experiences.

Approaches To Learning

Children exhibit diverse ways of learning, and success can be achieved through various strategies. Adults can effectively encourage and enhance engagement by comprehending a child’s predispositions and learning styles that influence their response to learning opportunities.

Diverse Forms Of Technology

Digital technology encompasses a range of forms beyond traditional screens, including interactive toys, programmable robots, digital cameras, and other innovative tools. This diversity allows for a rich and varied approach to incorporating technology into learning experiences.

The acknowledgment of imaginary technology, as highlighted by Johnston, Highfield, and Hadley, underscores the significance of considering children’s perspectives and the role of play in shaping their understanding of digital tools. It emphasizes the value of playfulness, creativity, and exploration in early childhood education, aligning with contemporary pedagogical approaches that view technology as a versatile and dynamic resource for learning and development.

Technology in Early Childhood Education

Early Childhood Education And Technology

Young children’s developmental needs differ from those of older children and adolescents. From birth to age eight, children learn rapidly, utilizing all their senses and bodies to absorb sensations and explore the world around them. Throughout this crucial phase, they acquire knowledge through play and exploration, encompassing five fundamental developmental dimensions.

Fostering Children’s Sense Of Wonder In Their World

From infancy to eight years old, children embark on a profound journey of discovery, exploration, and inquiry that lays the foundation for a lifelong pursuit of knowledge. This expedition commences with a child’s initial interactions with people and objects, expanding rapidly to encompass a broader community beyond the confines of family and home. Although each child’s early learning experiences are inherently unique, there are crucial experiences that are not universally shared.

The emergence and widening of skill gaps during a child’s initial years of schooling highlight disparities in experiences. Efforts from the education, research, and policy communities have begun to address this issue, yet many questions persist regarding how to reshape the trajectory of technology in early childhood education.

The recognition of digital technology extends beyond a narrow definition that confines it to computers or screens. A broader perspective acknowledges that digital technology encompasses a variety of tools and resources, including those that facilitate imaginative, creative, and collaborative activities. This expanded view considers the diverse ways technology can be integrated into early childhood education.

Some key points related to the broader definition of digital technology in early childhood education include:

Imaginative and Creative Activities:

Digital technology is not limited to passive screen-based activities. It includes tools and resources that engage children in imaginative and creative endeavours. It can involve digital storytelling, creative art applications, and collaborative projects.

Collaboration and Social Interaction:

Digital technology can serve as a platform for collaborative activities, encouraging social interaction among children. Interactive digital tools can facilitate joint projects, group discussions, and shared learning experiences.

Inclusion Of Imaginary Technology:

The definition of digital technology extends to include imaginary or pretend technologies that children incorporate into their play. It recognizes the importance of imaginative play and the role of non-functioning keyboards, toy phones, and similar items in fostering creativity.

Play-Based Learning:

Digital technology is integrated into play-based learning experiences, allowing children to explore, experiment, and learn through hands-on activities. Play is considered a valuable context for introducing digital tools in an age-appropriate and developmentally suitable manner.

Holistic Development:

A broader perspective on digital technology in early childhood education aligns to support holistic development. It recognizes that when used purposefully and thoughtfully, technology can be a tool for cognitive, social, emotional, and physical development.

Social And Emotional Development

While technology should not replace human interaction or vital activities like reading stories together, it can play a complementary role. Properly utilized, computers and software can catalyze social interaction and discussions related to children’s work. A well-designed classroom that encourages interaction and appropriate technology use can enhance, rather than hinder, language and literacy development. Strategies include:

  • Placing two seats in front of the computer to promote collaboration.
  • Situating computers close to each other to facilitate idea sharing.
  • Locating computers centrally to invite other children to participate in the activity.

Research Findings On Technology And Child Development

Extensive research has been conducted on using technology with young children, mainly focusing on the role of computers in enhancing social, language, and cognitive skills. Studies emphasize the opportunities for language use, social interaction, and heightened motivation that technology provides. Computers also enable experiences and representations not feasible in the real world, offering novel insights and improved understanding. 

 Here are some general findings based on research

  1. Language Development: Language is a powerful tool enabling children to engage in the educational program’s cognitive and affective aspects. Exposure to written and oral language equips children with the means to interact with others and express their thoughts, emotions, and experiences.
  2. Physical Well-being And Motor Development: A child’s health is intrinsically linked to preparedness for and performance in learning activities. Healthy children can focus and actively participate in experiences essential to the learning process.
  3. Cognition And General Knowledge: Children need opportunities to interact with people and objects, learning from their surroundings. Interactions with peers and adults enable children to construct knowledge, understand patterns, discern relationships between things or events, and develop problem-solving skills.

The capacity to form and maintain relationships imparts significance to learning experiences. Responsive interactions are indispensable in establishing a sense of well-being, allowing children to forge attachments with others and actively participate in educational activities.

Technology Deployed to Expanding Learning Opportunities:

Technology provides additional avenues for learning and showcasing acquired knowledge. For children with distinct learning styles, computers can unveil hidden strengths. In computers, children can approach learning from diverse perspectives and chart various paths toward a goal. Addressing issues like poor concentration and attention involves managing screen time, guiding children to focus on tasks, and selecting software that avoids excessively stimulating noises or constantly moving graphics.

Mitigating Concerns About Pace And Childhood Impact

Worries about technology accelerating learning and impinging on childhood experiences can be alleviated by including unstructured playtime as an integral part of a child’s daily routine, including any technology use. Technology must be recognized as a crucial component of intellectual development and must be integrated into early childhood education. When used judiciously, computers can become a positive element in children’s play and learning, allowing them to explore and experiment effectively.

Integration of Technology in the Curriculum

Incorporating technology into the Curriculum is contingent upon the specific needs of the children, the Curriculum’s focal points, and whether technology contributes to enhancing educational opportunities and experiences.

Consideration of Child’s Age and Developmental Stage

When contemplating the introduction of computers, it is imperative to consider the child’s age and developmental stage. Two pivotal questions must be addressed when introducing anything new, including technology, to young children:

  1. Is it developmentally appropriate, aligning with how a child develops and learns and with their current developmental stage?
  2. Will the activity genuinely benefit the child?

For children under age three, the answers to these questions are typically “no,” as computer use may lack meaning for the child at this early stage.

Integrating Technology with Early Childhood Education

Research emphasizes a clear need for enhanced professional development in utilizing tablets to support technology in early childhood education. The attitudes and beliefs of educators toward technology use are influenced by various factors, including their training and education, socioeconomic status, and age.

Many early childhood educators may need more preparation for incorporating technology into their teaching practices. This lack of preparation can make it challenging for educators to effectively integrate technology into their pedagogical approaches. Consequently, this gap in technological proficiency among educators has downstream effects on the children under their care, as “children’s access to technology is contingent upon teachers’ skills in using and integrating technology.”

Recognizing the pivotal role of early childhood educators, there is a pressing need for targeted professional development initiatives to empower them with the knowledge and skills required for incorporating tablets and other technological tools to support STEM education. Addressing this gap in training can positively impact the quality of early childhood education, ensuring that young learners have access to technology that enriches their educational experiences and prepares them for a technology-driven world.

Key questions include

Technological tools, such as software and apps, are often considered cost-effective to address these questions and challenges. Technology offers adults access to relevant content and provides children with information and interactive opportunities, accessible in homes, schools, and other locations where extended families or peers may join in digital activities.

However, realizing these possibilities for technology requires substantial planning and support to be effective and relevant to young children, their families, and the communities where they live, play, and learn. It is a multifaceted endeavour that involves aligning technological interventions with the developmental needs of children, ensuring accessibility, and fostering collaboration among educators, parents, and the broader community to create a holistic and enriching learning environment.

The Transformative Role of Technology in Early Childhood Education

When thoughtfully integrated, digital resources encompassing narrative-rich videos, mobile apps, and online games with built-in assessments hold significant potential for enhancing preschool teaching and learning. However, it is crucial to recognize that, even with the best-designed technology tools, they can never replace the essential elements of human interaction and effective teaching. Particularly for young children, the guidance of caring and knowledgeable adults is indispensable in navigating and understanding the world, including digital technologies.

Digital tools serve as powerful conduits to information that might otherwise remain unseen, offering insights into processes like seed germination, the dynamics of shadows, or global wind patterns. Additionally, these tools can model practical approaches to questioning the world, conducting experiments, and explaining phenomena based on collected data. Technology can illustrate how adults and children can engage in meaningful discourse about science and their surroundings through visual and audio mediums.

In particular, technology can enhance early childhood learning and teaching by:

  1. Providing Models Of Real Engagement: Demonstrating authentic engagement for educators, parents, and children, serving as examples of effective interactions.
  2. Connecting Educators To A Learning Community: Facilitating access to professional development opportunities that support content and skills suitable for early learning settings, creating a community of fellow learners.
  3. Offering Access To Teacher Training Resources: Providing educators with ready access to teaching guides, adaptable student activities, and diverse modalities for professional development.
  4. Exposing Children And Adults To Unseen Phenomena: Granting access to visual and auditory information that may be challenging to observe in traditional classroom settings, encouraging data recording and review.
  5. Promoting Early Science Skills/Practices: Creating opportunities for children to develop early science skills and practices through engaging tasks.
  6. Encouraging Sharing, Collaborating, And Discussing: Engaging children in tasks using technology that invites sharing, collaboration, and discussion, such as playing digital games.
  7. Providing Tailored Learning Opportunities: Offering personalized learning experiences that align with an educator’s prior knowledge or experience.
  8. Fostering Social Interactions And Joint Engagement: Promoting social interactions and collaborative engagement among children and adults.

By strategically integrating technology with these principles, early STEM learning becomes an enriched, dynamic, and collaborative experience that extends children’s knowledge and curiosity.

Employing Technology with Genuine Purpose:

Integrating technology into educational settings is most impactful when aligned with authentic purposes. Rather than incorporating technology for its own sake, educators should focus on how it can serve real and meaningful objectives within the learning environment.

By utilizing technology for a genuine purpose, students can experience a more profound connection between their learning and the real world. This approach encourages the development of practical skills, problem-solving abilities, and critical thinking. Whether it involves research, collaboration, or creative expression, technology becomes a tool that enhances the learning process and equips students with valuable competencies for their future endeavours.

Teachers play a crucial role in guiding students to use technology purposefully, ensuring that it aligns with the curriculum objectives and provides opportunities for meaningful exploration. This approach enhances engagement and prepares students to navigate the digital landscape with intention and competence. Ultimately, integrating technology for a real purpose enriches the educational experience and equips students with skills relevant to their personal and professional lives.

Propelled by the most modern technologies, early childhood education necessitates that students develop new knowledge and skills to address contemporary real-world problems. Integrating technologies transforms the modes of interaction and collaboration and presents opportunities for revolutionary changes in educational practices. However, it’s crucial to recognize that these changes may also pose challenges and have the potential to either ameliorate or exacerbate existing social and historical inequities.

Numerous questions persist across various dimensions of the learning and teaching process with the incorporation of these technologies. Student engagement, the learning process, interest levels, outcomes, and instructional design demand a thorough investigation. It calls for extensive research efforts to tap into the untapped potential of emerging technologies and ensure their successful integration into early childhood education.

Through research reviews and empirical studies, with a particular focus on AI and immersive technologies like VR, these articles contribute to the ongoing discourse on optimizing the use of emerging technologies for advancing STEM education effectively.

In conclusion, integrating technology with early childhood education is a complex but promising endeavour that demands careful attention to the professional development of educators. As highlighted in our exploration, the attitudes and proficiency of teachers significantly influence children’s access to and benefit from technology in the classroom.

The call for targeted professional development initiatives is resounding. Educators need the knowledge and skills to navigate the evolving educational technology landscape. By addressing this gap, we can empower early childhood educators to effectively harness the potential of tablets and other technological tools.

However, it is essential to emphasize that integrating technology should not be pursued merely for its own sake. The genuine purpose behind incorporating technology into the learning environment is paramount. When employed with intention and aligned with authentic educational objectives, technology becomes a powerful tool that enhances the learning experience.

Moreover, teachers are critical in guiding students to use technology purposefully. By meaningfully incorporating technology into the Curriculum, educators can foster critical thinking, problem-solving, and practical application skills—indispensable skills in the digital era.

Looking ahead, the transformative potential of technology in early childhood education is vast. It opens doors to new modes of interaction, collaboration, and learning. However, it is imperative to approach these changes with a critical lens, recognizing the potential challenges and ensuring that technology integration does not exacerbate existing inequities.

By delving into the untapped potential of emerging technologies, such as AI and virtual reality, we can contribute to optimizing STEM education and ensure that these tools enhance, rather than hinder, the educational journey of our youngest learners.

Harnessing the possibilities while remaining mindful of the challenges, we pave the way for a future where technology seamlessly enriches the early childhood education experience, preparing our students for a world increasingly shaped by innovation and digital literacy.