Presentation on theme: "Technology in Early Childhood Dr. Judy Donovan. The purpose of this examination of recent literature is to determine what is being researched in the area."— Presentation transcript:
The purpose of this examination of recent literature is to determine what is being researched in the area of computer use among preschool children. The basic research question revolves around a strong desire to examine what the research shows; specifically how are educators and caregivers using computers with preschoolers? What does recent research say about how to best use computers with preschoolers?
This review reports the results of research studies published in the last seven years (2001- 2007) that examine the use of computer technology in early childhood settings. Studies of children five and below were included, in an effort to confine the review to early childhood. Research reports with kindergarten children of 5-6 were not included.
Only research studies are reviewed; not articles or opinion pieces or articles which discuss research studies. The primary source of research studies comes from peer-reviewed research journals and annuals which publish work concerning research in early childhood, and/or educational technology. Results of the literature review reveal few research studies in this area, and of the ones found, many report research done in countries other than the United States.
Not included in presentation A few studies looked at computer related aspects of technology, such as the use of digital cameras and touchscreens with computers, and how (or if) the Internet is used by preschoolers. Several research reports examined the results of surveys, and a general report of media use by preschoolers had interesting information about computer use in early childhood.
Results Much of the research included in this presentation discusses the presence of social interaction at the computer. Several studies deal with academic achievement, such as numeracy, literacy, problem solving, and computer skills. A few studies attempted to correlate fine motor, gross motor and visual motor skills with computer use. Some studies fit into a broad category of how children of this age actually use computers. Several touched on the importance of how the computers in the preschool center are arranged, and gender issues in computer use.
Social Interaction One area addressed by numerous studies examined interactivity among preschoolers while using computers. This area of study is important in early childhood education because some educators and researchers have objected to computers in preschool classrooms, fearing that computer time is time spent in individual work and isolation, rather than in the social interaction which young children need to learn and develop (Kelly & Schorger, 2001).
Unique nature of interaction Heft and Swaminathan (2002) observed preschoolers working on computers, and also interviewed the children and their teachers. They conclude that even though the children in their study worked at the two available computers individually, a rich variety and frequency of interaction took place between the children and between the children and teachers. An interesting contribution by these researchers was in documenting silent reactions to comments by another child. As they point out, for communication, Children do not always have to respond with a verbal comment, gesture or action (p. 172). This was noted by Freeman and Somerindyke (2001) Teachers who observe carefully are likely to see that children who may seem to be minimally and only superficially involved with their peers and the computer are actually learning by carefully observing their peers success navigating developmentally appropriate software (p. 212).
Roles assumed Freeman and Somerindyke (2001) categorize interaction at the computer center into four categories; solitary, onlooker, associative and cooperative. The researchers identify three types of child behavior or roles; Active Navigators, Vicarious Navigators/Super- On-lookers, and Spectators. Children often shift between roles depending on the software and what happens at the computer, and teachers can encourage children to move from one role to another as they become more competent with the computer.
Interaction changed over time Gillepsie (2004) observed minority and low-income preschool children, and was able to document that most of their time using MicroWorlds was, at first, spent constructing projects either alone or with an adult, as compared to observing, demonstrating, talking, asking or other social behaviors. After using MicroWorlds for several months, childrens behavior changed to reflect more talking and listening. The Gillepsie study shows social behaviors increase as children become more comfortable and successful with the software program.
Scaffolding Many of the research studies investigating social interaction noted the support and help preschoolers offered each other (Freeman and Somerindyke (2001; Downes, Arthur and Beecher (2001); Brooker and Siraj- Blatchford, 2002) Researchers also found computer experts emerged from among the children and that other children relied on these peer experts, who were willing and able to help. An educator in the Downes, Arthur and Beecher (2001) study noted that at the computer children learn from peers and siblings more than anyone else (p. 147).
Comparison to other play centers Hutinger, Johanson, Bond, Clark, and Robinson (2003) research findings showed a high frequency of positive communication among children at the computer, compared to other classroom centers. Communication was noted 143 times during other play as compared to 471 times during computer activities. Children were observed socially interacting with each other 318 times at the computer compared to 103 times during non-computer activities (p. 63). Teachers in the Lee and ORourke (2006) report of an Australian early childhood technology project noted that the computer acted as a stimulator and center for interaction. Some children, particularly those with additional needs, were observed to speak and interact more readily with the computer than they would in other play situations (p. 52).
Kelly and Schorger (2001) studied 25 preschoolers expressive language while they were engaged at a classroom computer center and during their free play (p. 125). Their findings showed there was no significant difference in the amount of their utterances at the computer center as compared to other learning centers, such as sand and water tables, housekeeping, dramatic play, art, music, library, and blocks.
Summary While research documented interaction at the computer to be as great as or greater than at other centers, the nature of the interaction was unique, as it often consisted of silent observation and peer coaching. High levels of interaction were noted in all studies, in addition to cooperative behaviors. Recent research dismisses the fear that working at the computer is a lonely, individual activity for preschoolers, and instead paints a picture of a dynamic group of children discussing what is on the screen and assuming different roles depending on their expertise and what is happening with the computer.
Use of Computers relationship to academic achievement
Li, Atkins and Stanton (2006) designed a study to determine if accessibility and use of computers was related to cognitive development among preschoolers. They found children with computer access at home and school scored significantly higher than those children with no or less computer access on several tests measuring cognitive development (p. 257). Brooker and Siraj-Blatchford (2002) examined how computer use at home relates to use at school. These researchers found no correlation between the use of the computer at home and school performance.
There is not a clear link demonstrated by recent research between computer use and academic achievement. In other words, merely using the computer does not necessarily lead to higher levels of academic achievement, though use of the computer in preschools does seem to improve social skills.
Use of Computers relationship to motor skills development
Hutinger, et al (2003) found that the use of computers, software and teaching training in early childhood programs led to childrens improvement in fine motor skills through using the mouse. Li and Atkins (2004) published the results of a study with 122 Head Start students, showing no correlation between computer use and visual motor or gross motor skills. A follow up study published in 2006 found the data inconclusive in showing a correlation between computer use and motor skills (Li, Atkins and Stanton, 2006).
Regarding the correlation of computer use with increased motor or visual skills, the only researchers to claim a correlation were Hutinger et al, who reported that use of the mouse helped improve motor skills, but did not support this (in the research examined) with data. Li and Atkins specifically researched this connection, but their data was inconclusive or showed no correlation.
How Computers are used Using computers as effective learning tools for academic achievement appears to depend on how they are used in the center. When computer use is combined with teacher training and high quality software, researchers report gains in academic and other areas (Brooker and Siraj-Blatchford, 2002; Hutinger, et al, 2003).
Brooker and Siraj-Blatchford studied how preschoolers learn from computers. They wanted to find out how the use of computers fosters linguistic, cognitive and social development of children. One innovative finding was that, with use of explorative software, children play with the computer in a unique, symbolic way. For example, children were observed pretending to give each other and then eating screen images of fruit. The researchers concluded that learning on the computer does take place and the computer does foster the development of children. Our observations show children engaged in learning processes with identifiable benefits in a range of curriculum areas as well as in their social, cognitive and linguistic development (p. 269).
These results are shared by Hutinger, et al (2003), who found that the combined use of computers, software and teacher training in early childhood programs led to children demonstrating increased time on task, progression in sequencing, sorting, as well as cause and effect understanding (p. 61). In addition, all the teachers in the Hutinger et al study reported on gains in the confidence of the children, and also increased cooperation among each other at the computer, including turn taking. Other desirable behaviors included social interactions, and problem solving. Children problem-solved far more at the computer (223 incidents) than in other areas of the classroom (15 incidents). Lastly, turn taking at the computer was noted 79 times compared to 10 times during play activities (p. 63).
Software. Brooker and Siraj-Blatchford (2002) determined that, given appropriate software, young children are well able to construct their own learning at the computer. From a choice of four programs children had available in the center, only one, Henrys Party, offered the kinds of opportunities which prompted collaborative action and peer tutoring among the children (p. 261). The children lost interest in software that did not allow for exploration and choices.
Ellis and Blashki (2004) conducted an ethnographic study of two year old children and how they interacted with computers. Areas measured included time spent on the computer, attitudes toward using the computer, reactions to the interface, use of the mouse and adult interventions. This study was unique in that it took place in the homes of the children, and used a laptop computer with customized software. The researchers documented significant levels of two year old childrens independent interaction and self-directed learning with the computer. Software design was key, and most likely the carefully designed, age appropriate software was responsible for children spending longer amounts of time on the computer than in previous studies, and also resulted in a reduction in the need to ask for assistance in manipulating the program.
Commercial software may not deliver what it promises in terms of learning Gibbs and Roberts (2003) examined what young children actually learn from commercial software programs as compared to what the manufacturer of the program says they will learn. Two educational software programs, Leaps and Bounds and Jump Start Advanced Kindergarten were used with a Smartboard, which recorded childrens choices as they interacted with the software. The software was touted as enhancing the preschool childs learning skills such as increased concentration and improved left-right concentration, and enhancing their understanding of maths and music (p. 40-1). Results showed the children enjoyed using the software, but actually learned very little content, and in fact, performed well below their normal performance level with similar tasks completed off the computer. Some things were learned through use of the software, though not what was claimed by the software manufacturers. Significant factors influencing outcomes was the support provided by the research assistant and the quality of the software product. An adult was needed to help the child make sense of the programs and figure out what to do. The most successful program provided a structure within which a child could choose, and offered intrinsic rewards such as surprise and humor, rather than extrinsic rewards such as accumulation of goods.
Child control vs computer controlled software A fascinating study was recently conducted by Warren Buckleitner, who measured preschoolers engagement with software described as high child control or high computer control (2006, 489). The latter version, called HICOMP, was designed to simulate a teaching setting with a teacher who was helpful, encouraging, and focused on making sure the child was guided toward the correct answer (493). The HICHILD setting of the same program did not provide verbal feedback and only very brief instructions, though the same performance feedback was retained. Child engagement, in the form of mouse clicks, time on task, facial expressions, number of problems attempted and other measures, was recorded for each version of the program. The researchers found the children were more engaged with the HICHILD setting, and attempted more problems, however, their accuracy was lower than with the HICOMP setting. Children spent the same amount of time with both versions, and seemed to enjoy both versions equally. If accurate results are desired, the high computer control version should be chosen, but if experimentation is desired (more of a play or free choice option) then the teacher should choose the high child control setting.
Rivera, Galrza, Entz and Roland (2002) point out that fully self-instructing software should not be expected to meet all childrens learning needs and that the social construction of knowledge is still needed (called instructional conversation in their study), as well as individualized assistance and emotional support (p. 184).
The research indicates a need for clarification of software selection criteria. Software needs to meet and be linked to an educational purpose. Is play software best or should software help children learn more specific academic tasks? Is open ended or structured software better, under which circumstances and why? Recent research was not found which examined this area, and is needed, especially given the fact that software is continually changing.
Plowman and Stephan (2005, 2006) examined children using computers with and without teacher facilitation. Computers were available as a choice during free play in the preschools. Adults primarily interacted with children using the computers when they needed to intervene for management (ex. settle a conflict) or were asked for help. Adult guidance with children using the computer was rarely noticed. The researchers conclude computers are not being utilized as a tool for learning in these centers.
Reasons why they are not being used effectively include the low computer skill level of the adults, the difficulty of supervising computer use, and the resource intensive nature of one adult working with one or two children at the computer. In addition, the caregivers believed unsupervised computer play provided exposure to and eventually greater comfort with technology, which are important for a childs future. Also noted was the belief that child-centered translated into allowing the child to choose when and how to play with the computer with minimal adult direction
Plowman and Stephan (2006, 2007) took their findings to the next level by designing a study to measure the effect of guided interaction by the teachers. The purpose was to determine how interactions with adults can enable learning in activities mediated by technology (p.9). The results showed that adults enhance the learning with preschoolers using computers by helping them learn how to use the computer better, and by providing support in such areas as encouraging, enjoying, prompting and monitoring. The importance of this study is that it challenges the widespread belief that free play is a sufficient condition for learning and emphasizes the practitioners role (p. 9). The researchers conclude childrens learning with computers is enhanced when their caregivers use guided interaction.
Mentors A study by Primavera, Wiederlight and DiGiacomo (2001) compared the academic and social gains of 295 preschoolers trained by Mentor Mediators as compared to those who used the computer without mentors. Conditions in the mentor supported classrooms were identical, but the children were given weekly computer training sessions focused on basic computer skills and utilizing a variety of software programs. In the course of the study, mentors (undergraduate technology trainers) delivered 16 training sessions of 15-20 minutes in length. The children who spent several hours using the computers with mentors working with them displayed greater gains in academics and attitudes than those who were allowed to choose the computer as one among several learning stations, and were not given instruction by competent mentors.
Heft and Swaminathan (2002) note that the teachers in the center they studied allowed the children to work alone, unless intervention was indicated by a child asking the teacher for help or the need to resolve a conflict. They see this as positive, and cite previous studies showing that teacher monitoring can inhibit social interaction. However, the researchers criticize the hands off approach when it resulted in one child repeatedly being denied a turn on the computer, and advise that While it is worth while to let children take initiative in deciding when they want to work on the computer and for how long, teachers need to monitor and take explicit action to ensure equity of access among the children (p. 173). They also believe teachers should monitor and (it is assumed) intervene to ensure girls have equal access to the computers. While much of the interaction observed involved conflict, it is the researchers belief this resulted in volatile and fertile opportunity for teaching conflict resolution, cooperative problem-solving, and group decision-making (p. 173). Overall, the researchers view the computer as a prime environment for encouraging interaction, and note an additional implication for teachers; the finding that mixed-gender pairings at the two computers result in much more interaction than same-gender pairs, especially for the girls.
The research results reported above should come as no surprise to educators. The key component in childrens learning has always been the teacher, and computers cannot replace the need for a trained teacher. What are the implications of the research for practice? It appears as if child-centered as translated to mean hands-off by adults does not work in computer centers, the way it works in the dramatic play area. Children need guidance in using the programs, at least in the initial stages of their learning how to use computers. For more advanced users, it appears as if teacher guidance will result in higher academic gains, and it may be without teacher intervention, scaffolding, and support, little lasting academic or behavior gains will occur at all.
Internet It appears from the scant research found in this area, that few early childcare centers use the Internet with preschoolers, and very little research was found on the use of the Internet with preschool children. One of the few studies using the Internet was carried out by Pelletier, Reeve and Halewood (2006), and examined literacy development through an Internet based electronic forum called Knowledge Storm®. The researchers found a greater improvement in preschoolers literacy skills using an electronic journal as compared to use of paper-only journals.
Plowman and Stephan (2005) examined the use of computers in seven childcare centers, and found that although Internet use was generally available in the office, it was not observed used by any of the children in the preschool area (in fact, it was only available in the preschool area in two of the centers (p. 249). In the Lynch and Warner 2004 survey of Texas preschools, 88% of directors surveyed reported no Internet access available for children. The 12% that did have the Internet available used filters, one-to-one supervision, or an adult monitoring a small group of children (p. 6).
Downes, Arthur and Beecher (2001) advocate use of the Internet by moving the computer to the dramatic play center where Internet sites dealing with broken bones can support a hospital dramatic play. In the science area, the authors suggest Internet sites about whale watching, and perhaps collaboration with children in other settings. Of particular value is when children access sites which show how other children have solved problems or focus on what other children are doing (p. 147). Other educators in the study noted that the Internet allows children to pursue their individual interests and provides an open-ended learning environment.
Internet use brings its own challenges, such as the need for supervision and the dangers of children accessing inappropriate sites or people. However, the benefits appear to be worth the effort, as the few research studies which did examine Internet use found only favorable results to report.
Gender issues Researchers have long been concerned about difference in boys and girls use of computers, and this issue was addressed in several studies. Heft and Swaminathan (2002) found preschool boys used the computer more than the girls. They also noted that girls used the second computer more if a girl was at the first one, as opposed to when a boy was at the first computer. In contrast, the girls interacted with each other much less than the boys interacted with the other boys, but girl/boy interactions were the most frequent of all possibilities. No difference in quality of boys or girls work was noted, and teachers interacted with both sexes equally. Rideout, Vandewater and Wartella (2003) report no differences in how boys and girls use media before the age of four. Around the age of four however, boys begin to play video games more frequently and for longer periods of time.
Gibbs and Roberts (2003) noted several differences in boys and girls use of CD-ROMs. Boys were more adventurous and explored the software more than girls. The girls were more timid and passive in their use of the programs. Girls were concerned about the safety of the animated characters, while boys loved the fart-like sounds. Gillepsie (2004) found gender differences among Head Start children interacting with MicroWorlds, as the girls were either never interested in using the program or lost interest over time, as compared to two boys who maintained their involvement. Lynch and Warner (2004) in their survey of directors of preschools, report boys prefer Tonka construction and girls prefer art/drawing programs (p. 6).
Conclusion This literature review investigates what research has been conducted in the last five years concerning the use of computers with preschoolers. The answer to the question How are we using computers with preschoolers? is not easy to answer. In many cases, preschoolers are not using computers at all, or very minimally. Lynch and Warner (2004) surveyed over 250 preschools, and found that 21.5% do not have computers available for childrens use. Almost half of the centers offer one computer for the use by 30+ children, and nearly 40% have one computer for every 20-30 children.
In 2003, Gibbs and Roberts wrote Currently, interest has shifted from whether technology should be used with young children to how it should be used in order to provide effective learning experiences (p. 40). The research examined in this literature review shows researchers are presently addressing how computer technology should be used with young children, but also indicates a need for more research in this area.
2008 Study Preliminary findings – results still being collected and analyzed
Computer Use in EC Centers Surveyed three states (IN, MI, IL) All licensed centers Whether computers available for children How many computers Internet availability How computers used Software used Why not used
Age of use and non-users At what age do children begin to use computers in your center? under 2 years 0.7% 2-3 years 17.9% 3-4 years 48.6% 4-5 years 13.6% not available 19.3%
Non-users responses (from the 19% who do not have computers in their center) Why computers are not used in the center: Cost 24% Beliefs about DAP 19% Other7%
other (infants and toddlers only lack of funding, space and time. children are here 2.5 hours 2 or 3x per week lack of staff with computer knowledge Lack of space
Beliefs children at this age need little or no screen time and we think they get MORE than enough outside of school. Free play, particularly outside, is much healthier for their overall development. I'm afraid I'll be sad to see the results of your survey, but hopefully I'll be pleasantly surprised. Want them socializing and doing other things. Computers are fine for home use. In a Montessori environment, the child needs to be grounded in reality and be able to use periphereal vision to its fullest in order to develop socially, physically, and academically. Children from ages 3-5 have no need to be subjected to computers or a computer education! Children need to play not sit and stare at a screen. Computers are too much like television. We do not believe computers are appropriate for our age children and would prefer for them to do creative play and hands-on activities. preschool setting is difficult to use computers at.. time, space, cost. But mostly kids need to PLAY together at preschool not work alone at a computer.
How are computers placed in your center? all are located in one center 74.5% scattered among several 21.3% learning centers in the classroom in a separate room from 3.2% the classroom
How do children use the Internet at your center? with 1-1 adult supervision 5.3% with adult watching a small 9.7% group of children independently with an Internet filter 2.7% independently – no direct supervision 0.0% Internet access not available 83.2% to children
Estimated percentage of children at your center who use computers at home: 0-24% of children 19.2% 24 25-49% of children 22.4% 50-74% of children 32.0% 75-100% of children 26.4%
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