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The future of early childhood education in the digital era

Shabnam Doctor– Shabnam Doctor, Pre-Primary Teacher at Bloomingdales Pre-primary

The use of technology in the digital era has influenced many factors including education. Educationists all over the world are implementing Digi-based learning from the youngest to the senior most classes with the help of tablets and computers. The use of technology to support education is mostly done using tablets and personal computers. Tablets equipped with appropriate software and a supportive environment are beneficial for the students.

While perhaps this is a global trend, educationists have seen the ill effects of excessive use of Digi-teaching and e-learning. Technology has consequences on the health and development of children especially, because of the decline in physical activity. Many school-going children are introduced to technological devices as toddlers, so they tend to associate laptops, tablets and other similar devices with fun and excitement. Contrary to popular belief, technology in the classroom has been shown to not only help harness attention and excitement but also invigorate traditional learning experiences too.

With the global population becoming more reliant on technology,  having a good understanding of common electronic devices and their uses is critical to prepare children for success in primary and secondary education. It is never too early for young children to begin building skills and knowledge that they can carry throughout their educational and professional careers. In this sense, exposure to technology in early education is a great way to begin building a foundation for success.

Access to technology facilitates children to investigate any topic of their interest. In the past, information was not as readily available and traditional resources like books, research papers and journals were required for in-depth information on a subject. Today, however, children have a wide array of information right at their fingertips. An appropriate and monitored use of technology supplements learning in and outside the classroom by providing an outlet for children to research their topic of interest —a lesson about dinosaurs, for example, could be supplemented by a YouTube video, or a virtual field trip to a natural history museum.

Despite its many merits, there is also a flip side to the new era of digitisation. With Computers, young children can also access inappropriate content or information if the proper security measures are not taken beforehand. Website blockers, internet filters and close supervision can help to prevent children from being exposed to inappropriate content and lessons in “netiquettes,” or proper use of the internet can instil good web judgement and habits from an early age.

Studies have suggested that an increasing number of individuals are becoming disconnected and isolated from society because of technology and the various links it provides through social networks. Young children who spend more time on their devices may not spend as much time interacting with their peers —which can affect their social and emotional growth. In mitigating this risk, it is important to control “screen time” and allow children to interact socially with family and friends.

Many technology-based games and activities are “pre-made,” allowing children to complete activities without having to problem-solve in creative and imaginative ways. However, there are equally as many games that promote creative development and problem-solving skills, while serving as a fun solo or group activity. Choosing the latter, and providing a wide range of other learning tools, like manipulatives or art supplies, will ensure that children are benefitting from their playtime safely and constructively.

In the words of Queen Rania of Jordan – “In education, technology can be a life changer, a game changer for kids who are both in school and out of school. Technology can bring textbooks to life. The internet can connect students to their peers in other parts of the world. It can bridge the quality gaps.”

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