Published in the ‘Suns’ newspaper in October 2016.
TEACHING MUST BE ABOUT BALANCE
An Early Childhood Conference in Darwin in early October dealt with the issue of educational priorities. An emphasis offered by presenters was to restate the importance technology plays in the development of young children. The use of technology by students enhances and reinforces learning was the ‘catch-cry’. Many applications have been developed which promote children’s understandings in the areas of basic literacy and numeracy.
One of the inferences that could be drawn from the conference was the need for greater attention to this aspect of learning. The idea of teachers and children involved in old-fashioned interaction was somewhat downplayed.
Without doubt, technology can be used to enhance learning outcomes and understanding. However, the idea that young children should be more engaged with devices and less preoccupied with the “old-fashioned” ways of learning is unfortunate.
Children can do drawings on computers and smart-board screens. They can construct two and three dimensional objects by using their fingers to push buttons and manipulate screen controls. However this approach cannot stand in place of drawing, cutting, and constructions using paper, pencils, crayons and scissors. It’s important that the manipulative abilities of children be learned and enhanced through activities that are many decades old. Total replacement of traditional approaches with new age technology is not wise.
Similarly physical and mental agility needs to be developed through running, skipping, playing, and moving about outside. It’s physical activities in these contexts that develops social awareness and spatial understanding.
Technological devices have a place within early learning contexts. However, I believe it important that teachers primarily engage with children where the major focus is conversational. Their relationship ought not to be about micro management that records and reports their every move. Personal engagement between teachers and children must remain paramount.