Two articles (links provided at the end of this post) have stirred my reflective attention toward the use of an iPod or iPod Touch with Kindergarten students. I have tended to venture away from discussing the use of mobile devices for learning for children of pre-school or Kindergarten age. Despite the countless number of videos on Youtube of children as young as 1 or 2 using an iPhone or iPod Touch with ease, I am still unsure of where digital technology fits in the molding of young minds at those foundational times in their lives.
As this blog obviously demonstrates, I am very much a proponent of using mobile and digital devices to help students learn. I firmly believe that these devices help students learn in ways that are difficult or impossible without them. I see these devices as ways to add complexity to learning and to allow more flexibility in terms of time and location. However, as with everything in life, there are limits to the effectiveness of the tools we use. When it comes to using digital tools for abstract learning and for collaborative communication, I’m all for it. However, I’m unsure when it comes to using digital technology for children who are still learning to develop basic brain and body function.
Here is my concern: digital technology, for all it’s attempts to incorporate the use of multiple senses, is invariably a visual tool. Over-stimulating visual perception and awareness on a screen while under-stimulating other form sensory development make me a bit uneasy. Humans are very much visual creature but we are also physical creatures as well. This issue reminds me of the John Wyndham novel The Day of the Triffids. That novel depicts the dire concequences to humanity when the cultivation of a potentially deadly crop (a form of plant creature) and an unknown cosmic event combine to rob humanity of it one evolutionary advantage – sight. When humans can no longer see, they become victim to this plant creature who now have the evolutionary advantage over humans.
While it is true that it is better to have a child actively engaged with an iPod that passively watching TV (whether at home or in an automobile), and while it is also true that there are many apps available that can begin to teach children at an early age, what is also true is that the devices cannot provide the experiences necessary for socialization or teach gross motor skills that physical activity can.
Therefore, when it comes to very young children, the use of an iPod can be very useful as these devices are easy to use, they are resource heavy and they are engaging. Any video of a child playing with an iPhone/iPod Touch demonstrates this fact. However, they need to be used carefully and in combination with other tools of learning. While an iPod can do a better job than traditional tools with the parts of learning that involve access to information and collaborative communication, these forms of learning are best used after the foundational development has already taken place. I’m not sure an iPod can replace blocks, balls and crayons when it comes to the physical development of the child or the experiences of physical social interaction. Nor, I think, was it designed for this.
Please share your thoughts in the comments below. I am interested to know what others think about this topic.
“An iPhone in Every Crib, An App for Every Toddler” – The Globe and Mail
“iTouch and Kindergarten – An Intro” – Blog post @ Edu-(Tech)niques