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The New Sandbox

I recently presented at our state-wide Early Childhood Conference in Gatlinburg, TN. One of the topics I presented on was about using technology with preschoolers.

I recognize there is quite a bit of push back against technology in the early years, and I understand where it comes from. Ask most teachers what they think about using technology with children, and they tend to envision plopping children down in front of a screen of some sort.

But what if we brought technology to children as a tool for them to use to express themselves or solve problems? After all, isn’t that what adults want from our technology? To make tasks easier or more accessible?

In my presentation, we talked about the benefits of using technology with young children, the difference between passive use and active use, and the types of interactions that are indicative of active engagement with technology. I also shared several ideas on ways to use various programs, apps, and devices with preschoolers.

For the hands-on component of my workshop (because we all know we need to play some) I set up experiences that provided participants with an opportunity to engage directly with some simple apps and tools.

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has ever worked with technology and tried to demonstrate it that I ran into a few kinks.

First of all, my computer didn’t want to talk to the conference’s projection system. Or their speakers. I could have sound, or I could have projection.

Secondly, the apps I’d chosen to use during the hands-on portion were not necessarily compatible with older devices—especially phones (which is what most people brought with them.)

Thirdly, there were several more people in the workshop than I had planned for, thus the “small” groups morphed into groups of up to ten people.


Here’s the thing though: this happens all the time. Technology is fickle and picky at the same time. Although it was frustrating to have so many glitches, I hope it reassured folks that they aren’t alone in being frustrated occasionally by technology. But we don’t give up. We keep trying.

Technology is a language we all use more and more every day; it’s not going away. We can choose to ignore and avoid using it in the early years or we can lean in to it, embrace it, and make it work for us and for the children we care for.

I choose the latter.

Here are just a few of the apps and program ideas I shared with workshop participants.

Lapse-It (time-lapse photography app)

can be used by children or teachers to capture images of the process of a longer experience and turn them into a short video.

Animoto (web-based video composer)

can be used to compose a video from multiple images in a variety of styles.

Photoshop Elements or Gimp (photo-editing software)

can be used to manipulate images (including original photographs and artwork) in multiple ways and to layer images to create original compositions

iMovie or Filmora (video-editing software)

can be used to create original videos and combine images and video snippets with music, voice recordings etc.

Audacity (sound-editing software)

can be used to manipulate sound recordings and to view wave forms of various sounds

Screencastify for Chrome (web-based screen recorder)

can be used to record a story to go along with a drawing in process or QRStuff (web-based QR code generator)

can be used to generate a QR code that directly links to multiple things

What's your classroom relationship with technology? What and how do you use technology with young children?


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