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Pre-K often has the reputation of largely introducing children to socialization and collaboration through play. Yet, it can be a vital formative experience in children’s lives. Pre-K helps to prepare young kids to navigate the outside world and in their transition to more structured K-12 learning situations.
As such, many parents and teachers are looking toward resources that can help kids get the most from their pre-K schooling. The rise of the digital landscape has become instrumental in offering tools to meet and exceed these needs. However, it is not just the presence of technology that makes a difference, but also how these elements are used.
We’re going to take a closer look at the subject. How is pre-K utilizing children’s edtech?
Trends in Pre-K EdTech
The edtech field is ever-expanding with some big changes expected in the near future. Much of the focus thus far has been on K-12 student resources. However, more developers are starting to target the pre-K market. This can be great for parents, teachers, and young children alike. While it’s still early days, it’s worth looking at what tools are currently trending in pre-K edtech and how these are being used.
Some key examples here include:
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
Over the past decade or so, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) technology have become more affordable and accessible for schools. As such, developers have begun creating more immersive and interactive experiences to help younger children learn. Tools such as Google Expeditions are being used to take younger kids on virtual field trips to build their curiosity and connect in-class learning to the outside world. There are even pop-up books that include VR and AR elements to develop kids’ enthusiasm for literacy.
Edutainment has long been a staple of pre-K learning. It helps get kids more engaged with topics through song, fun, and physical activities. Increasingly, gamified edtech is being used in classrooms to leverage this connection between recreation and learning. This is usually through the use of preschool applications accessed through tablets and other handheld devices. However, many teachers are making learning video games a more collaborative classroom effort through the use of smart projectors.
Programming skills are quickly being recognized as an essential ability for all digital natives. Starting coding early means kids are likely to have a more intimate and practical relationship with the tools that will form a key part of their lives moving forward. As such, coding platforms have become an important part of the pre-K edtech landscape. This includes games like Code-a-pillar that teach kids the fundamentals of coding utilizing both the digital and physical environments.
Meeting Practical Needs
Pre-K edtech is certainly an intriguing and exciting prospect. However, it’s also important to recognize that technology for technology’s sake isn’t especially helpful in any educational circumstance. However, the use of edtech in pre-K is usually geared toward providing children with early practical experiences with digital tools. At its most effective, it helps enhance the sense that technology can make children more capable and functional contributors to the non-digital world.
Many gamified applications help kids to better understand contemporary life so they can navigate it more effectively. This is vital as pre-K kids are confronted with many situations that are new for them. For instance, from around 3 years old your kid will likely need to start annual well-child examinations. This involves close interactions with a physician and vaccines, which they may find a little anxiety-inducing. They may need to take bus rides around strangers or adapt to a new school structure.
A key example of a pre-K app that helps address these challenges in a practical way is Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. It uses a character many kids are familiar with to introduce them to everyday scenarios. This includes hygiene routines and going to the doctor. Not only does this provide an element of tech fun, it also opens up practical discussions between preschool kids, their parents, and teachers.
Maintaining a Healthy Balance
For all the advantages technology can provide, it is not without its challenges. One of the clear difficulties with utilizing edtech in pre-K environments is achieving a healthy physical-digital balance. While preparation for tech is important, it’s equally vital to ensure that kids aren’t reliant on technology to thrive. This needs to influence how teachers and parents utilize these tools in educating preschoolers.
Pre-K is perhaps the main time in which screens should start to become a part of children’s lives. After all, research shows that it is unwise to introduce children to screen time before the age of 2. Your kids may have already had some introductions through video calls with relatives and streaming TV, but experts in the field assert that it's important not to just utilize these tools as babysitters. Rather, parents and pre-K teachers must emphasize an active rather than passive relationship with screens.
For instance, utilize games, streaming shows, and online media to inform kids' understanding of the community. Show them examples of other cultures and respectful interactions. Find applications to spur kids’ curiosity and enthusiasm for the outside world and can act as a transition into physical experiences. Adopt creative platforms to show children that tech is not the be-all and end-all of the world, but a tool to express their ideas and talents.
Pre-K edtech is an expanding field, currently incorporating relatively advanced activities like virtual reality and coding. At its most valuable, this technology helps to safely introduce kids to the challenges of contemporary life and give them the technical and psychological tools to navigate these. However, it remains vital for parents and teachers to ensure kids develop an active and balanced relationship with these tools. As more edtech is likely to be present in the future of pre-K, developing responsible attitudes now ensures everyone can get the most out of it.