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Should hands-on technology be kept out of early grades? When is it okay to introduce technology?


Looking for reader feedback on this controversial issue.

Do you think it's okay to introduce technology use to students in Kindergarten? If not, how about first grade, or second? When is the right time to bring technology into the classroom, and at what grade levels should students not be using tech tools?

This New York Times article from last fall, “A Silicon Valley School That Doesn’t Compute”, discusses how many Silicon Valley executives are sending their kids to a successful school where they keep technology out of the classrooms. It got me thinking. I agree that for our youngest students, it is very much worth considering when technology use should not be required. I think it makes a lot of sense to focus on socialization and human interaction in the first years of education.

Naturally, as a staunch advocate of finding the best ways to leverage technology to aid student learning (and to facilitate instructional and administrative processes), I am clearly in favor of student use of technology at appropriate grade levels. High School – absolutely, Middle School – I think it makes sense there too, Elementary Grades – this is where the question comes in. I really think the first few years are better devoted to a more pure human, personal touch. I'm just not so sure at what age/grade hands-on technology use is best introduced.

I'd love to hear what readers have to say about this. What do you think? When is it okay to introduce technology in the classroom, and when is really too young? Please offer a comment and share your thoughts on this important question, even if you just mention a grade level/range you think is best. Of course, if you have more elaborate ideas to share, like why you think tech use at certain grade is or is not appropriate, we'd love to hear about it. I look forward to hearing your feedback. Thanks!

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  1. I think it is great to use technology to reinforce what a child is learning from their books, for example in science, and social science. I do not support technology for art classes or math. They kill the creativity in children and the ability to put teachers to work their brain to work at a and make things a little more complex. Creates a lazy adult. Especially in the early grades.

  2. Amy, I totally recommend you to try Nearpod with ipads… you have assessment tools, you can create content and launch it as presentations, drawing activities and quizzes. You also have the choice of using pre-made presentations that come in the app when you download it. Look for it on the app store, it’s free! good luck 🙂

  3. I think it’s wonderful to introduce technology as long as it is used correctly. You must be very careful when choosing apps or tools to work in class. By the way, I’m trying an app for ipads and it’s working really well with my lower grade students. Has anyone tried Nearpod too? it lets you share content through devices and include questions, drawing activities, etc.
    With the right tools we can make the difference and HELP, not replace, teachers.

  4. Rhiannon,

    I can share your concern to sustain a healthy and clean environment. I am a fourth grade teacher and my students are currently researching the causes and effects of global warming (or climate change). In addition, they are assigned a global warming “solution”, to research. We explain to the students that there are many ways that we can slow down the effects of global warming. Such “solution” topics include; solar power, wind power, water power, and reduce, reuse, recycle. Through this research project, myself, our computer teacher, and our librarian teach the students how to safely search the internet for information. In what ways, specifically, do you incorporate technology in the classroom?

  5. I am all for incorporating technology into life at an early as possible age. We must also teach the fundimentals of our world we live in on a microscale and never forget that life is precious and cannot be sustained without learning about it and caring for it.
    Technology can bring about a cleaner way of living and sustain our planet forever. We must push to bring technology into the classroom with everything we have. It is only up to us teachers to nurture the seeds of our gardens if we wish to recieve lushious fruits..

  6. K-

    In a world that is so immersed in technology, I believe that it would be appropriate to bring tech tools into the classroom at the elementary level. More specifically, I feel it would be best suited for upper elementary students (grades 3-5). As a fourth grade teacher I have seen first hand the amount of technology “know-how” that students bring into the classroom. I currently work in an affluent school district where many of the students are fortunate enough to have access to the newest technology tools. My current students, most born in the year 2000, are unable to recall a time before computers, portable game players, cell phones, and Ipods.

    Looking at the big picture, many 21 century skills revolve around the use of technology. Students will need these skills in order to achieve success outside of the classroom. I agree with John, in that not all things need to be taught using technology, and some elements need to be taught the old fashioned way. Teachers can use their discretion when implementing technology, applying technology where they see fit.

    I myself am looking towards incorporating additional technology into my fourth grade classroom. Next year a colleague and I will be piloting the use of I-pads in our classrooms. We each will be issued 10 I-pads, and are hoping to utilize them across multiple subject areas. Furthermore, our school is looking into a safe way to make use of Twitter as a means of communication between the school and home.

    In addition to teaching, I am currently working towards a Masters degree in Integrating Technology in Education grades k-12. I have recently begun my first official technology course. Already, I have learned how technology, when used effectively, can transform a classroom. Through my current graduate course I have learned that there are two ways to technology can be incorporated. The first is to “do things differently” and the second is to “do different things.” I am learning that it is more effective for educators to use technology to “do different things.” Using resources such as wikis, blogs, and podcasts allows students and teachers to stretch the boundaries of a classroom outside its physical walls. Under appropriate supervision, students can begin to network with peers all over the world.

    From my perspective, technology can most definitely be incorporated into daily learning at the elementary school level.

  7. Technology is only getting more important these days. Keeping it away from kids in school isn’t necessarily going to do them any favors. I’m not suggesting that we use tech for everything in Elementary Schools — or even in Middle/High Schools. Rather: you use the best tools for the job. If something is best done with tech, then use it and teach students to use it. If something is best done “the old fashioned” way, then teach students how to do that too.

    You wouldn’t ask an inexperienced carpenter not to use a hammer for the first year, would you?

  8. My answer is it depends what the technology is and how it is being used. From a mathematical viewpoint, I think you should start with physical models and help students develop a conceptual understanding of math concepts, which can be expanded using technology. I am NOT talking drill and practice or calculators, but technology that allows for virtual manipulation of mathematical concepts beyond what hands-on tools can provide.

    I just did a presentation at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics for elementary math, “From Physical to Virtual: Elementary Math with The Geometer’s Sketchpad”. Elementary should be focusing on hands-on manipulation to get a feel and sense of numbers (i.e. grouping, fractions, etc.), shapes, collecting data and measuring and constructing the concepts from their manipulations. Virtual tools such as The Geometer’s Sketchpad and TinkerPlots allow for them to expand those understandings, still in a very conceptual, dynamic way, but where they can compare fractions both visually and numerically, like 13/29 and 14/31 or create a 30-sided polygon and look at it’s area and see what happens if one side is taken away, or quickly make a line plot from data they have collected using TinkerPlots and test out conjectures in minutes and if they make mistakes, quickly start over. The technology is NOT a crutch to replace learning to multiply or other concepts, if used correctly and if using the right technology, it becomes a tool for deepening understanding, discovering more, and really solidifying concepts BEFORE we force an algorithm on them. Deep conceptual understanding can develop a love of mathematics that should begin in elementary school.


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