In billion U.S. dollars
This op-ed is part of a series of reflections on the past decade in education technology. Chip Donohue is the founding director of the Technology in Early Child Center at Erikson Institute, and a senior fellow at the Fred Rogers Center.
As I reflect on the intersection of child development, early learning and technology over the past 10 years, I am reminded of a decade of polarizing arguments for and against young children using technology.
With the increasing number of jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields, the United States is more focused on STEM education than ever before. This focus is not exclusive to higher education and secondary schooling, but rather, it has trickled down to the very earliest learners, coalescing on the data that demonstrates that entry into the STEM pipeline should begin as early as preschool. Numerous scholars have argued that teaching technology – the “T” in STEM – to young children is vital in keeping up with 21st-century employment patterns. That is why coding,the process of assigning a set of symbols that can be interpreted by a computer or piece of software, is seen as the new modern literacy for today’s young children. Indeed, a number of digital applications (apps) that are designed to teach young children coding skills in a fun, game-like way have become popular in recent years. There’s Minecraft, Tynker, and ScratchJr, just to name a few. Heck, even Elsa and Anna from Disney’s Frozen have gotten in on the coding fun! The Hour of Code project on code.org allows users to join Anna and Elsa as they help make a winter wonderland by creating snowflakes and more through code.
This research report synthesizes the discussion, research, and practice around technology and media for young children since 2011—just prior to the release of the National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC] and Fred Rogers Center joint position statement in March, 2012—and is aligned with Fred Rogers’ ideas about television and how that technology and media could encourage and support whole child development. The framework set forth in the NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center joint position statement (2012) and Fred Rogers’ indicators of learning readiness (Rogers & Head, 1983) served as framing devices for this study and provided a core set of terms that served as a springboard for the methodology. The synthesis employed a combination of snowball sampling, systematic database searches, reverse searches, and hand searches to identify 595 entries related to early childhood education and technology/digital media published 2011-2016. These 595 entries all met two criteria specified: 1) pertaining to early childhood contexts, and 2) containing reference to technology or digital media. From these entries, we randomly sampled 165 entries for our analyses which searched for trends related to key constructs: the child; the contexts in which the technologies or digital media were utilized; the content of the digital media; and the principles of learning readiness and social and emotional learning
Responding to the growing interest in children’s e-books, Amazon has recently launched a new Kindle for kids. Yet the only story we hear about children’s reading on screen is how bad this is in comparison to reading print books. Indeed, American Paediatricians herald children’s print books as superior to digital books and an article in the New York Times advocates the view that e-books offer little value to young readers.
Portraying digital books as undesirable risks removing an important reading opportunity for children who might need such books most. The added value of digital books for children with special educational needs and language impairments is well-documented for children’s language or reading comprehension skills. Interdisciplinary research evidence shows that high-quality digital books – from e-books to story apps – can be beneficial to children’s reading experiences.