Choosing Technology for Young Learners? Here Are Some Tips to Keep In Mind

Posted September 24, 2019 – AWE Learning Staff
Technology is widely used in our daily routines. Whether it’s learning or teaching in the classroom, checking the news online, sending an e-mail, doing research, etc., we rely on technology for many tasks. With this in mind, we must take the proper steps to ensure that the digital learning resources we put in front of our children are age-appropriate and deny access to any unwarranted information. Mark Prensky identified young learners growing up with technology, those born after 1980, as digital natives, while he refers to those that were born prior to 1980 and are learning technology later in life as digital immigrants.

Digital natives are growing up in a world with technology. Nevertheless, they must be instructed on how to navigate and properly use digital resources. Not only do teachers want technology in their classroom that is easy to use to supplement their instruction, but it is equally important that students get introduced to technology that is easy to navigate as well. Many student assessments are given on the computer. If young learners are unable to find the ‘next’ button or easily navigate the screen, they will become frustrated; this will ultimately be reflected in their assessment scores. The presentation of the content should be designed with the end user in mind.

Teachers and parents must think about the reason for putting technology in front of young learners. What educational value does the product, or the content, give to the user? Think about whether the content provides immediate feedback, reinforcement, and assessment strategies. Digital natives prefer immediacy. Whether it’s for your young learner at home, a classroom of students, or individuals at the library, does the product provide usage statistics? Tracking a student’s progress on their engagement with digital resources in the classroom will be meaningful to teachers, parents, and school administrators, while simply tracking learning time is meaningful in the library environment. This quantitative usage data at the library will help the library staff to demonstrate an ROI to the Board of Directors, Board of Trustees, or whoever provided the funds for the purchase.

Whether it’s a tablet, computer, or cell phone, young learners see their parents, siblings, and other individuals around them using technology at home, making them intrigued to use technology too. According to eSchool News, it is important to ask yourself the following questions when assessing what content you will  and will not allow them to have access to:

  • What is the educational value of the content?
  • Does the program give your child the ability to communicate with strangers?
  • Is the content age-appropriate?
  • Does the service require location settings to be enabled?
  • Does the content allow in-app purchases?
  • Can your young learners publish content (text, photos, videos) publicly?
  • Is there live streaming?
  • What information is collected about your young learner?

Introduce technology in collaborative learning environments. Help your young learner navigate a touch screen and begin introducing them to a traditional mouse and keyboard. With the introduction to technology, explore digital storytelling with your young learner. Collaborate and co-create digital books, including pictures of you and your child. Incorporate audio, with your child as the narrator. These digital storybooks will get children engaged in digital tools and will be a great keepsake as they grow up.

Remember, young learners are growing up as digital natives; technology plays an increasingly large role in our everyday lives. Digital natives are more likely to go to the internet first when seeking information or to communicate with others.  It is important to give children access to digital learning resources at an early age, so they develop the skillset for technology. However, be mindful of what digital resources are age-appropriate, safe, and educational for your early learners.


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