Managing Technology in Early Childhood

ipad with headphones

I am Sara Springer, Kindergarten teacher and Campus Innovation Connector at Cowan Elementary. I enjoy introducing our youngest learners to new tools that can help them learn in creative and inventive ways.

This year has brought us challenges, opportunities, and plenty of change! It has also brought us 1:1 devices in kindergarten. Although the ipads came in the most unexpected way and brought plenty of curve balls and new things to learn, it has also opened a door to new ways to innovate with young learners. In the past, early childhood classrooms had a few chromebooks and a few ipads for a class of 22 students. Their interaction with these devices was not daily and often entailed lots of waiting their turn. This is a great skill to learn in kinder, but it isn’t the best for learning and retaining new tech skills. They would often forget things from one time to the next and spent the majority of their tech time learning to become proficient with the device rather than using it to create or innovate beyond the basics. Now with a device available for every student, we can move beyond learning to use it and take off into using the device as a tool and learning partner.

In my classroom the technology time used is very thoughtfully curated. The devices aren’t used as a time filler or “screen time”. When students take out their device they know they have a very clear job to complete with it. When that job is complete the device is put away, just like any other classroom tool would be stored while not in use. The classroom management of this system took time and thought to build, but is very important. Just like we plan for any subject that we teach throughout the day, we must thoughtfully plan and consider the best way to use devices in the classroom. I have found that 3 important management tips have helped to make technology a success in my classroom.

1) Devices have a “home base.”

In my classroom, that is their cubby. Whenever the device isn’t in use it goes back to it’s home–their cubby. This reduces distractions and temptations to want to open their ipads at times in the day when we aren’t using them.

2) Technology use has clear, defined expectations.

Students know what their job is when they get on an ipad. It is not an open ended or free play time. They know that it is time to work in Dreambox, or it is time to record a video for a certain activity, or any other clearly defined activity.

3) Technology use has a clear, predictable, timeline.

We use our ipads at predictable times of day and for defined jobs. Students know that ipads are not used at other times in the day and know when to expect that we will have them out to work with. They also know that their time on the device will not be unlimited. They know that they must focus and complete what they need to complete, just as they would any other part of the day. There of course is some flexibility to this when an activity needs a bit more time, but it follows a predictable structure.

Kindergarteners and early childhood students thrive on routine, predictability, and organization. When students know the expectations and boundaries of their devices it allows them to safely explore and create. Teachers are able to trust that they are using technology in meaningful and valuable ways which leads to more opportunities for students to soar with these new tools.

Young student on a tablet

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