A Tablet Computer for Young Children? Exploring Its Viability for Early Childhood Education
Leslie J. Couse and Dora W. Chen
University of New Hampshire
Abstract This study explored the viability of tablet computers in early education byinvestigating preschool children’s ease in acclimating to tablet technology and its effectiveness in engaging them to draw. A total of 41 three- to six-yearold children were videotaped while they used the tablets. The study found significant differences in level of tablet use between sessions, and engagement increased with age. Teachers reported high child interest and drawings as typical to aboveexpectation. Children quickly developed ease with the stylus for drawing. Although technical issues in learning this new technology were encountered, children were interested and persisted without frustration. What seems to matter for children’s learning is the ways teachers choose to implement this technology. (Keywords: technology and young children, tablet computers, computers and earlyeducation, pentop computing)
echnology is increasingly recognized as an integral learning tool for promoting the social, linguistic, and cognitive development of young children (Gimbert & Cristol, 2004; Information Society for Technology in Education [ISTE], 2007; National Association for the Education of Young Children [NAEYC], 1996). Today, the question that educators ask is no longer aboutwhether and to what extent technology should be used with young children in the classroom, but rather how it should be used (Clements & Sarama, 2003). Keeping up with new technologies for the classroom presents an ongoing challenge for educators (Clements & Sarama, 2002) as they recognize the ever developing potential of technologies to enhance the ability of children to learn, problem solve, andconvey their ideas. One of the key questions for teachers to consider is the role of new technology in the curriculum (Swaminathan & Wright, 2003). We explored the question: Can stylus-interfaced technology in tablet computers be used with young children to implement preschool curriculum? The Context of Technology in Early Childhood Early childhood is the period of life from birth through age 8years (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009), when growth and development is rapid. During that
Volume 43 Number 1 | Journal of Research on Technology in Education | 75
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Couse & Chen
time, many children attend preschool, wherethey have access to technology as a learning tool. Accrediting bodies in teacher education (National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education [NCATE], 2008), as well as researchers and educators in the field of early childhood education (ISTE, 2007; NAEYC, 1996), highlight the importance of the children’s active use of technology in making decisions, technology resources in writing anddrawing, and logical thinking programs to solve problems and illustrate ideas. Children’s active use of computers in the classroom means that they must not be in control only of the operation of the computer, but also of the software they are using. Swaminathan and Wright (2003) indicate that a key question in evaluating technology is: Who does the thinking? Technology that encourages children’sthinking affords them opportunities for active control and problem solving while providing teachers with a window into children’s development. In their review of the literature, Vernadakis, Avgerinos, Tsitskari, and Zachopoulou (2005) indicated that computer-assisted instruction (CAI) in preschool holds much promise as the technology becomes more accessible. CAI offers pictures and sounds to support...