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Technology: It’s Role, Requisites & Recourse in Early Childhood Education

Two small children in a classroom playing on a tablet, while lying on a mat.
"Technology is not the enemy of early childhood education. When used purposefully and thoughtfully, it can enrich children's learning experiences, spark their creativity, and foster a lifelong love of learning."

Over the course of the last twenty years, technology has taken the world by storm. The ECE field is no exception. Access to technology and digital content has become a prerequisite for children and educators today. It’s no longer apart of the future, it’s a staple in our everyday lives. More so, it’s uses will only increase in the coming years as gadgets/apps continue to infiltrate our everyday contributions in kindergarten classes, daycares, preschools, and childcare centers. The new ways technology can adapt to children’s individual needs and highlight specific gifts or translate languages to help communication barriers gives us a glimpse into how much potential is still on the table.

Overall, technology was a blessing to ECE. It has and continue to bridge many gaps; bring together generations, facilitated more parent-child engagement, help develop cognitive skills, skillsets and much more. The benefits technology has and continue to provide is immeasurable to the future leaders we nurture. Children are learning skillsets through STEM and other similar programs that never existed in my generation. To deny them access to the internet and technology in today’s world, is to potentially stagnate their progress. Technology has been the largest grossing industry in America four consecutive decades, and it shows no sign of slowing down.

It’s unfathomable to me have far we’ve advanced in just the one generation I’ve spent in the ECE field. We began with tape recorders, large tv’s wheeled on carts from room to room, no social media, internet, tablets or even e-mail. Now, you can purchase a smart device that can educate children, allow parents to see live video, alert authorities and control the thermostat. A generation from now, our currents technological marvels will seem old school. Do we have a handle on technologies current role in early childhood education, and if not, how unprepared are we for the unforeseen changes coming and AI integration?  

As much as I can gloat about it, I can also admit it also has brought many challenges. With its huge influence over our kids, the way they learn, entertain and more; problems were inevitable. These problems, though seemingly isolated and trivial, has slowly grown into formidable force that collectively, we have yet to fight head on. There is no common consensus in our approach, application, or balance of tech in ECE settings. It has, with little regulation, engulfed our educational settings and forced us all to individually improvise in its integration. While everyone is slow to have a concise understanding of how to regulate it, it continues to cause confusion and misunderstandings in everyday ECE interactions.


This problem exposes the rough areas in high quality early education and childcare that requires serious buffing. Due to grappling stances on questions like, what is high quality educational technology, points of contention are increasing on every level. Preschools, daycares, childcare centers, and kindergarten classes nationwide, though educating children in the same age groups; do not have a common understanding of regulating technology in their programs, all while it gains more and more influence into their curriculums and teaching mediums.

In addition to this, without national standards; anyone can produce content, games, or entertainment and can call itself educational. This leaves even nefarious individuals and predatory proprietors able to self-regulate, promote, and market their misleading products into our children's devices legally. Parents often misled by these educational tags, unfortunately allow children to interact with this content. Technology’s benefits, although abundant, aren’t and shouldn’t be impervious to rules in regard to its access to our children’s influential minds. 

A young girl in a early childhood education class playing on a tablet.

"The potential possibilities of any child are the most intriguing and stimulating in all creation." - Ray L. Wilbur

With much at stake, who should expect to make these ECE issues to take precedence? Reviewing recommendations from trusted sources such as the American academy of pediatrics, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) , The Federal, State, and city/municipal governments, there’s no definitive answer. Not amongst these sources. The National Association for the Education of Young Children, the National Childcare Association, Zero to Three organization; like those previously mentioned, same. Great information but mostly recommendations. Parents, and guardians voice diverse views and opinions on the subject as well but often lack outlets to have those voices heard. This has led to more confusion.

To be clear, I’m only advocating for a clear path to defining high quality educational content and uniform ways to regulate/integrate technology within the ECE field. I am not advocating the federal government to overtake the industry, a private organization to monetize this moment or for us to prolong this argument with a heated discussion. I’m advocating a solution. One that first benefits the kids long-term, but also improves quality of ECE programs and weeds out those preying on our children curious minds. A system where parents, teachers, directors, doctors, and educators all agree to some kind of common standards when it comes to technology.

“You don’t want parents and educators arguing because the rules are completely different when they change centers or schools.”

Examples of confusion on amongst trusted sources and authorities in this field, are in abundance. There are endless articles, written by a plethora of people who are making suggestions or recommendations. Educators, Doctors, Specialist, Teachers and parents all weigh in and the recommendations vary dramatically. Almost every part of ECE comes with some type of laws, rules, or regulation we must adhere to, abide by, or operate under. Technology, having a huge influence on children’s lives, should as well. Apps and high-quality educational material aside; how do we regulate the use of, the duration and limits of technology, along with its integration and use early childhood educational settings?

The National Early Childhood Program Accreditation, Inc., an organization that provides early education accreditation has a standard regarding media that if media is used, such as television, computers, and other high forms of technology, suggest:

A) Limited to 30 minutes per week for educational materials/activities that are suitable to the developmental level of the children?

B) Used interactively with the children through teacher-initiated conversations and the use of open-ended questions?

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics has recommendations for children’s use of screen “media” that opposes what is recommended from the national accreditation standard.

Birth through 18 months.

Avoid all screen media—phones, tablets, TVs and computers. (It’s OK to video chat with grandparents and far-away friends.)

18 months to 2 years

It is OK to introduce young children to high-quality children’s media if you watch it with them and help them understand what they’re seeing.

2 to 5 years

Limit screen use to one hour a day of high-quality programs designed for children. Watch with your children; explain what they’re seeing and how it applies to the world around them.

Two young boys in an early childhood education classroom is playing on a tablet together.

Diving deeper, let’s discuss the important role and variables between the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) and the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation, Inc. (NECPA) The AAP is woven into 3 standards that must be verified to become nationally accredited through NECPA for early education and childcare programs. The AAP is also cited several times as references used by NECPA, though there is a stark difference in the usage of technology. As early childhood educators, for the benefit of children in our care, I prescribe to the national accreditation standard set by the National Early Childhood Program Accreditation, Inc. (NECPA) for children in our programs.

Per the standard from NECPA, we can leverage digital tools responsibly to support young learners. As professionals with creation of lesson plans, developmental goals, and individualized educational plans we can ensure that our classrooms are intentional, and purpose led. This can be infused with teacher training on technology and ensuring that the classroom is adaptive to the environment that motivates the classroom being the canvas of learning.

It was inevitable for technology to change over the years and simultaneously, alter educational settings. As previously mentioned, we used record players and cassette tapes that had audio books. Quickly, we progressed into music pods, CD, phones and the smart tv’s that plaster the walls in rooms, becoming the norm.

Most of the disparities are because of the vast recommendations on media across states but we must not forget the importance of balance. Quality screen time, combined with hands-on experiences and outdoor play, can offer a well-rounded learning environment for young children. How do you strike the right balance in your classroom, while chasing children and staying actively engaged.

Technology requires a conversation and understanding, amongst everyone because when most children leave our care, the phone or iPad is already in the car waiting on them. We are the balance to having a sacred space for children to activate their executive brain functioning. For them to not just watch others have fun but creating it themselves. 

 National Early Childhood Program Accreditation, Inc., Self Assessment Instrument

"Technology can become the 'wings' that will allow the educational world to fly farther and faster than ever before—if we will allow it." - Jenny Arledge

One effective use of technology that deserves deeper exploration is the pivotal role of adaptive learning and robust teacher training in enhancing the educational landscape for young minds. Adaptive learning platforms, powered by sophisticated algorithms, personalize learning experiences to cater to each child's unique strengths and areas for growth. Imagine a scenario where a preschool teacher employs an adaptive math program, tailoring challenges and support based on individual student progress. This personalized approach fosters continuous learning and nurtures a sense of achievement among all students.

Effective teacher training programs are instrumental in empowering educators to seamlessly integrate technology into their pedagogical practices. These programs equip teachers with the pedagogical strategies and digital tool proficiency needed to create dynamic and engaging lessons.

Moreover, they instill essential skills in data analysis, enabling educators to leverage real-time data to inform instructional decisions and provide targeted interventions. This is where technology is our ally. Where we should move past its use as entertainment and more so for its endless benefits to shaping a brighter future. This also requires us to move as a collective. 

Reflecting on technology’s evolution in early childhood education, the transformation from record players to digital media has been profound and something I’m grateful to witness. Through meticulous training and vigilant monitoring, classrooms have transitioned from passive media consumption to interactive and engaging digital experiences. As we continue these advancements, it's vital to be mindful of providing a harmonious balance between digital engagement and hands-on learning.

Technology should enhance, not replace human skillsets. Our children require it regardless of our individual opinions. We can choose to regulate it or have some consensus on how to be in front of it; verses everyone scrambling in every direction, ad-libbing its integration and having constant inconsequential problems as a result. Technology is not designed to replace us but to assist and improve our quality of life.

Everything, good or bad, has a potential for problems but our children are worth coming together and solving these discrepancies. If you advocate for early childhood education, we’re on the same team and I hope you realize I’m advocating for less predatory access to our children, less confusion between programs, less time improvising and for more time educating.


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