This post was written by Chip Donohue, PhD, Director, Technology in Early Childhood Center at Erikson Institute.
Over the past few months the TEC Center team has been putting the spotlight on two notable five-year-olds. The NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center joint position statement on Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8 that was released in March of 2012. Earlier that year the Technology in Early Childhood (TEC) Center was launched at Erikson Institute with the support of the Boeing Company. These two have grown up side-by-side, like siblings, in a reciprocal relationship with the principles and guidelines from the joint position statement informing the activities, influence and impact of the TEC Center, and the TEC Center’s leadership role, in partnership with the Fred Rogers Center, in helping educators connect the principles of developmentally appropriate practice and early learning with the statement.
As one of the co-authors of the joint position statement, with Roberta Schomburg from Carlow University, I’ve been feeling a bit like the proud father lately as I reflect back on where we were in 2012, where we are in 2017, and where we are headed in 2022 and beyond. We’ve gone from worrying about if we should allow technology in early childhood classrooms to deeper conversations about: appropriate and intentional use; tech integration; addressing issues of access, equity and diversity; connections between formal and informal learning; new tools for family engagement; and the role of educators as media mentors. Along the way the joint position statement has provided guidance and stood the test of time. Grounded in developmentally-appropriate practice it offers early childhood educators guidelines for selecting, using, integrating and evaluating technology tools for learning in the early years.
Digitally literate educators who are grounded in child development theory and developmentally appropriate practices have the knowledge, skills, and experience to select and use technology tools and interactive media that suit the ages and developmental levels of the children in their care, and they know when and how to integrate technology into the program effectively. NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center (2012), p. 4
Along the way other leading early childhood organizations have added to our understanding of what are appropriate uses of technology in the early years, including: Zero to Three (2014); RAND Corporation (2014); High/Scope (2015); Institute of Medicine/National Academy of Science (2015); US DOE and US DHHS (2016); American Academy of Pediatrics (2016) ISTE (2015, 2016),most recently, the report from the Fred Rogers Center and the TEC Center at Erikson Institute. You can learn more about these guidelines in a recent article in Young Children I wrote with Roberta Schomburg, Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs: What We’ve Learned from Five Years of Research, Practice and Observing Children (Donohue & Schomburg, 2017).
In the article, we describe the growing consensus in the field about what matters most for appropriate and intentional technology use with young children. While there are points of difference between the organizations, there is widespread agreement that the “active ingredients” include relationships, coviewing and active parent engagement, social and emotional learning, Lisa Guernsey’s 3Cs – content, context and the individual child; media creation; parent empowerment and family engagement; adult media habits; teacher preparation; and media mentors (Donohue & Schomburg, 2017).
In 2015-2017, Dr. Katie Paciga of Columbia College Chicago, served as the first Early Career Research Fellow for the Fred Rogers Center and the TEC Center, funded by the Grable Foundation in Pittsburgh. We asked Katie to review the literature to help us understand what we’ve learned about technology and interactive media with young children since the 2012. We were especially interested in how technology tools were being used to support social emotional learning and relationships. One of the key findings from Technology and Interactive Media for Young Children: A Whole Child Approach Connecting the Vision of Fred Rogers with Research and Practice (Paciga & Donohue, 2017), is that relationships are essential when considering technology and media use for young children, 0-8 years. A child’s interactions with technology and media often involve other people in the child’s social world (peers, siblings, parents, caregivers, teachers, etc.) so when adults co-engage they should provide support for, and talk with children about the technologies and media present in children’s lives (Paciga & Donohue, 2017).
When used wisely, technology and media can support learning and relationships. Enjoyable and engaging shared experiences that optimize the potential for children’s learning and development can support children’s relationships both with adults and their peers. NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center (2012), p. 1
Earlier this year, the TEC Center asked early childhood educators, librarians, museum educators, family child care providers, parents, and children’s media developers to share stories about their best practices. Visit our website to read five stories from educators who are integrating technology in appropriate, intentional and meaningful ways inspired by the principles and guidelines of the joint position statement.
Fred Rogers reminds us that, “We have to help give children tools, building blocks for active play. And the computer is one of those building blocks. No computer will ever take the place of wooden toys or building blocks. But that doesn’t mean they have to be mutually exclusive.” (Fred Rogers, 1985, as quoted by David Kleeman in Beyond Screen Time, February 14, 2013).
I’ve shared this quote from Fred in countless presentations since 2012 because it reminds us that our choices to use (or not use) technology with young children don’t have to be either/or. Technology shouldn’t displace those things we know to be developmentally essential like imaginative play, outdoor time and interactions with others. When used well, technology tools can enhance learning by providing children with new means of inquiry and expression, to document their learning and show what they know, to communicate and collaborate. Powerful tools for learning by digital age learners.
The keywords from the joint position statement about technology use that have guided our work at the TEC Center for the past five years include: tools, intentional, appropriate, integrated, balanced, interactive with interactions and relationships. These ideas will continue to guide our way as we begin the next five years of the journey we have been on with you since 2012.
The celebration of these two five-year-olds will continue with a number of activities in the weeks ahead:
Join us at the NAEYC annual conference for these two sessions:
- Final report of the study on technology and interactive media for young children: A whole-child approach connecting the vision of Fred Rogers to research and practice. Thursday, November 16, 10:00-11:30, GWCC A408, with Katie Paciga, Columbia College Chicago, Chip Donohue, TEC Center at Erikson Institute and Rick Fernandes, Fred Rogers Center
- Featured Session – The NAEYC and Fred Rogers Center joint position statement on technology and interactive media as tools in early childhood programs turns 5: Guiding educators in the digital age. Friday, November 17, from 8:00-9:30am in GWCC A411 with Chip Donohue, Erikson Institute; Susan Friedman, NAEYC; Rick Fernandes, Fred Rogers Center; and Kathleen Paciga, Columbia College Chicago
Learn more about the NAEYC/Fred Rogers Center joint position statement:
Read our recent publications:
Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs: What We’ve Learned from Five Years of Research, Practice and Observing Children. Chip Donohue & Roberta Schomburg (2017)
Technology and Interactive Media for Young Children: A Whole Child Approach Connecting the Vision of Fred Rogers with Research and Practice. Katie Paciga and Chip Donohue (2017)
Donohue, C. & Schomburg, R. (2017). Technology and Interactive Media in Early Childhood Programs: What We’ve Learned from Five Years of Research, Practice and Observing Children
NAEYC & the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College. (2012). Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. Joint position statement. Washington, DC: NAEYC; Latrobe, PA: Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College.
Paciga, K., & Donohue, C. (2017) Technology and Interactive Media for Young Children: A Whole Child Approach Connecting the Vision of Fred Rogers with Research and Practice. Latrobe, PA: Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College and Chicago, IL: Technology and Early Childhood Center at Erikson Institute.