Incorporating STEM instruction is a growing focus in early education classrooms, although, STEM-related concepts have long been part of a young child’s learning experience. Blowing soapy bubbles - science. Using a tablet or interactive display to play a learning game - technology. Stacking blocks – engineering. Counting to 10 – math. What may have been seen as simply creative play, the focus on STEM instruction has led to more refined planning on the approach, activities, and tools used.
Walk into an early education classroom and you might see children exploring sensory-focused items (blocks, sand, water), hear singing with repetitive words and lines, and you will feel the joy and wonder that these young ones experience as they discover something new. You might also see technology playing a larger role in their learning environment. From tablets and robotics to interactive displays and 3D printers, educational technology is transforming how our youngest students learn new skills.
What do you remember doing when you were 4 years old? Maybe it was playing with blocks, sorting shapes, coloring inside and outside of the lines, or making mud pies. This was certainly my experience! But for my daughter and many children like her, technology played an influential role in their early development. In fact, it is not uncommon to see toddlers walking using smartphones to watch videos or play games. As we progress through the 21st century, there is a significant focus on integrating more technology to maximize the teaching and learning experience, including for our youngest learners (i.e., pre-K, ages 4 and up). But does concentrated use of educational technology benefit their learning development?