Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Technology in Early Education

Touch-screen technologies, on-demand multimedia, and mobile devices are prompting a rethinking of education. In a world of increasing fiscal constraints, state leaders are under pressure to capitalize on these new technologies to improve productivity and help students excel. The task is daunting across the education spectrum, but for those in early education (birth through 3rd grade), it is harder still. Until recently, most educators envisioned early learning as story time and hands-on activities with no technology in sight. Yet electronic media use among young children is growing, as are new digital divides between rich and poor, rural, and urban. Tech-savvy educators are incorporating technology in early learning lessons and experimenting with new channels of communication between parents and colleagues.

A red-hot ed-tech marketplace is also creating a feeling of urgency among decisionmakers in state agencies and local school districts who are at risk of spending public dollars on products that sit unused, lock districts into specific brands or platforms, or get in the way of promoting the positive, face-to-face interactions with adults that young children need.

How to ensure thoughtful adoption? State leaders will need to encourage collaboration across many sectors that typically sit in silos, including school districts, early learning programs, libraries, museums, afterschool programs, adult education, and health services. Research centers and post-secondary institutions will need to provide insights and expertise to support this collaboration while also preparing a next-generation workforce to execute it. This report looks at technology and how it has an essential role to play as a connector and content disseminator in the service of these collaborations—and ultimately in service of the families who are setting the foundation for their children’s success in school and life.