Posted in education, literacy, reading

Tablet PCs in pre-school: the benefits

This week, Kirstie Marie Moss, early years specialist, provides a guest blog exploring the educational value of tablets for early years.

In the modern world we live in, technology can seem to grasp hold of us from every angle.

According to YouGov, it is estimated that almost half of UK households will have access to a tablet PC by the end of 2014.

With there being over 64 million people living in the UK, it is not surprising that children are taking an interest in technology.

An online survey of 1,028 parents of three- to five-year-olds revealed that three-quarters of children aged between three and five have access to tablets or smartphone technology at home.

Is this a bad thing? With children as young as three being able to access these powerful machines, should tablet PCs be introduced to children at a later date?

John Siraj-Blatchford states that: “I am keen to promote the use of mobile touch screen technologies in early childhood because all the evidence points to it being the most appropriate for young children in terms of accessibility, and even more importantly in terms of play based pedagogy.”

Working in an early years setting with children aged 2-5, I personally feel that tablet PCs are incredibly beneficial for children at this age and should be used on a daily basis.

Looking at results from a separate online study, produced primarily for early years practitioners, most were extremely optimistic about children using different touch screen devices. The majority also felt that it was incredibly important for children to learn how to use technology from an early age.

If tablet computers are used and presented in the correct way, there are many advantages. For example:

  1. Fine motor skills: Being able to swipe your finger across a screen may not seem like an landmark achievement, but a child being able to do this is developmentally important. In order for children to acquire consistent and legible handwriting, they need to develop fine motor control. Fine motor control is achieved through small-scale movement activities, usually involving the fingers and hands.
  2. Portability: Throughout the UK, great emphasis is placed upon the significance of the outdoor learning environment for young children. One of the most appealing attributes of tablet PCs is that they are portable; they can be used in any setting.
  3. Variety: According to statista, as of July this year, Android users were able to choose between 3 million apps. Apple’s Store remained the second-largest app store with 1.2 million available apps with around 75,000 of them being educational.

 One of the learning goals presented in the ‘Development Matters in the Early Years Foundation Stage’ highlights that children should be able to recognize that a range of technology is used (and needed) in places such as school and home.

The use of technology is also highlighted under ‘Understanding the world’ as it states that a child aged between 40-60 months should be able to:

  • Complete a simple programme on a computer.
  • Use ICT hardware to interact with age-appropriate computer software.

Taking all of this into account, technology can be so valuable when used correctly! It can offer children so much by challenging their minds and offering a vast amount of resources to enhance their learning.

The study by the National Literacy Trust reveals that children from lower socio-economic backgrounds are less likely to have access to tablet PCs at home. However, those that do are more likely than their peers to use them to look at or read books.

The study also revealed that across all social groups, children that read on tablets as well as print enjoyed reading more than children who read print only.

So, what does this tell us? It suggests that tablet PCs can support children’s literacy development, thus, highlighting that they are beneficial to have within the classroom setting.

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