Posted by: Roseann Murphy | June 4, 2012

Early Introduction to Technology – Too Much Too Soon?

 I came across a number of important articles that speak to many of the concerns I have regarding the march to integrate technology into ECE curriculum.  Lisa Sunbury of Regarding Baby posted an interesting article asing  the question, print book or digital books for early readers. (http://blogs.kqed.org/mindshift/2012/05/for-young-readers-print-or-digital-books/)  Comments and responses to Lisa’s FB page indicated that parents/educators are still leaning toward print book.  I was grateful to see the thoughtful responses.

A few hours later, while rereading segments  from Dr. Jane Healy’s”Endangered Minds” I came across one of her timeless passages.  This passage applies to children in the 90’s, today and in the future:   “Nevertheless, since these electronic developers are lining up to stake out a claim in the brains of today’s children, I believe we should try to figure out a few more questions to ask before we sign the contract.  We have already witnessed clear changes in children’s habits of mind:  declining verbal skills, changing patterns of attention, a less reflective approach to problem solving.  How might they fit with our conjectures about the future?  Are human brains about to get caught in the experiential fragmentation of machine technology, or will they gain broader abilities to stand back and understand what is happening?” (Chapter 15. page 332).
After reading her work I decided to continue to search the web to find additional responses to the recent movement to integrate technology into the early early childhood curriculum.

It was my good fortune to come across Lisa Murphy’s draft/letter (http://msooey.tumblr.com/post/24176924383/my-response-to-the-draft-naeyc-technology-use-in-ece) to the NAEYC’s recent statement advocating a movement  to integrating more technology into our young student’s lives.

I felt invigorated and wanted to share the letter with our readers in case you haven’t had an opportunity to find it amongst the wealth of information on the Internet.

June 1, 2012
My Response to the (draft) NAEYC Technology Use in ECE Position Statement

Sent electronically as a PDF to TechandYC@naeyc.org on Thursday May 26, 2011

OF IMPORTANT NOTE: I am posting this here on tumblr for archive purposes.  Since I wrote it, NAEYC has adopted a final position which was adopted in January 2012.  Point being, I don’t have a link to the actual verbiage that this was written in response to.  If someone still knows of one, please send it along!  (I searched before posting this here on the tumblr to see if I could find a link to the draft, but to no avail)

To whom it may concern:

Discussions around the topic of technology use with children often turn into debates between the camps of “pro” and “con.”   I recently wrote an article that offered a modified definition of technology that stretched beyond consumer based electronics (TVs, computers, iPhones, etc.) attempting to show educators and parents that technology is not limited to things that get plugged in or need to be charged up.  The new NAEYC position statement, however, is not so broad.  By limiting the definition of technology to electronic and screen-based tools the divide between the camps of pro and con will continue to grow.  It has also encouraged many of us in the con camp to find our collective voice.

This being said, I am thankful for the opportunity to provide feedback on the (draft) position statement regarding technology use in early childhood programs:

I appreciate that in the new position statement NAEYC calls on teachers to have a solid understanding of child development and DAP which would allow them to “make good choices” when it comes to technology use, but the reality is that too many states allow 18 year olds with only a high school diploma to be responsible for the daily care and development of our children; as sad as it is to admit, NAEYC cannot assume that all early childhood educators ARE grounded in solid theories of child development or DAP.

This position statement relies heavily on the importance of the role of the teacher in choosing DAP tech materials when the reality is that many materials are purchased by someone else and teachers are simply told to use them.  We cannot assume that ece teachers will “know better” because the embarrassing reality is that due to inconsistent (often substandard) initial employment qualifications and (lack of) ongoing training requirements, in many instances, they unfortunately don’t.

This position statement appears disconnected from the reality of how technology IS being used in many ece environments.  It often IS being used in such a way that decreases the prevalence of real, hands-on experiences.   Touch screens DO replace crayons and markers; in some places because they are “cleaner” and not as messy.

More of a question than a comment, I would like to ask what prompted the decision for a revision to the original position statement?  I remain curious as to the potential influence of the “Rationale Statement” authored by Donohue and Schomberg, which was included in the references.

Additionally, when a “Center for Children’s Media” is co-authoring a position statement on technology use it can be perceived as being a bit biased.  I was left wondering as to the nature of the relationship between NAEYC, the Fred Rogers Center and the various authors of the document (who all appear to be affiliated with tech-based institutions).

It is rather unsettling that the appropriate age for  “technology use” has been expanded to include infants and toddlers; flying smack in the face of the recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The position statement indicates that children without early exposure to tech will be at a disadvantage and their ability to compete in a 21st century workplace will be impeded.  This argument is completely asinine.  The tech tools currently being used by three year olds will be obsolete by the time they are old enough to be hunting for a job and “competing in the workforce.”  Additionally, the jobs they will be hunting for have not even been invented yet.  The “at a disadvantage myth” preys on consumer guilt, is not grounded in any research and does nothing but increase sales of tech driven products.

This position statement grants permission to tech manufacturers and sales staff to ramp up their already relentless and aggressive marketing techniques.  The vendor halls at most conferences already border on inappropriate, it is only going to get worse with the ability to now pitch products as being, “In line with NAEYC’s position statement.”

In true developmentally appropriate early childhood programs you will witness children busy creating, moving their bodies, running, climbing, singing, problem solving, discussing, using their hands, observing, reading and playing; and quite frankly, we don’t have the time, desire or need for flat, solitary, sterile, passive, tech-based media experiences that keep children sitting still and getting fat.

I will remind all who are involved with the creation of this document that no screen can replace the feel of water dripping down your arm as you pour it and measure it in the sensory table, no program or app can capture the tickle of a caterpillar crawling across your hand, no software can transmit the coldness of the ice and snow as you work with peers to make a winter shelter and nothing you plug in can replicate the experience of molding and squeezing clay with your fingers.

“If you want it in their head, it must first be in their hands.”  Why we would ever take a position that states otherwise, thus appearing to undermine the importance of children touching and manipulating real objects in the crucial years of early childhood, is beyond me.

Respectfully,

Lisa Murphy

B.S., CEO, Founder

Ooey Gooey, Inc.

http://www.ooeygooey.com

Author, lecturer, and current NAEYC, New York AEYC and Rochester (NY) AEYC member, former student member of Chicago Metro (student) AEYC, and former member of both California and San Diego AEYC

Filed under naeyc technology position statement response draft”

As a parent, child advocate, early childhood educator and clear thinking individual, I believe we must think long and hard before we make the decision to use even more technology in early childhood centers.   Theodore White eloquently said:  “To go against the dominant  thinking of most of the people you are in contact with everyday  is perhaps the most difficult act of heroism you can perform.”  In the case of early introduction to technology I think we need a bit of heroism when it come to saving our youth from too much too soon.

Post by Roseann Murphy

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