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Digital Media in the Classroom

Like K12, the experts at the Fred Rogers Center often discuss the potential of digital media to support early learning and development. We’re clearly on the same proverbial page when it comes to digital media in the classroom.

Our experts at K12 continually develop award-winning curriculum and supporting educational apps in order to drive the most innovative education to students worldwide. We also pay attention to various digital media on the market, such as apps and video games as well as TV and movies, and what might actually offer some educational value alongside entertainment.

The Fred Rogers Center has devoted a lot of time to exploring the topic of digital media and young children. Amid the cluttered conversation about kids and media that often includes skepticism about its value or even concerns about potential damage, here’s what FRC has found:

Media can help young children learn. Technology and interactive media can be effective tools for learning in early childhood programs, in libraries, museums, and other informal education settings, and at home with parents. This is particularly true when these tools are used intentionally and in ways that are appropriate for each child’s age, stage of development, and personal interests and needs.

Media should be used in developmentally appropriate ways. Children under age two should be using media with an adult. Babies ages 9 to 18 months, for example, may be engaged by very simple stories: a video or app that shows an animal walking through a field or a baby picking up a flower. Children over age two are more likely to learn from more complex narratives or apps that show cause and effect.

Don’t insert technology when a real-world experience will do. Kids need to dig in the dirt, experience the natural world, and read actual books. Technology should be used to enhance what’s already going on in kids’ lives and in their classrooms, not supplant it.

Time with adults still matters most. Learning is most likely to occur when children are having warm, language-rich interaction with their adult caregivers. When using media with children, parents and educators should always ask themselves whether this kind of interaction is also happening.

Promote Creativity. Developmental psychologists tell us that creative play helps children learn to understand themselves and other people, and the world and their place in it. With children exposed to digital tools at younger ages, parents and caregivers need to ensure that digital tools enhance and don’t detract from this critical creative exploration. Digital cameras, touch-screen mobile devices, projectors, and document cameras, when integrated with the traditional classroom materials, can open doors to other meaningful and authentic experiences in early childhood classrooms.

Diversity matters. Diversity means more than just race or gender. Adults should be choosing media for their children that show characters who act, talk, and communicate in a diversity of ways and whose lives reflect their real experiences.

Pay attention to context. Parents should pay attention to what’s going on in the home and family while the child is using media. Media scholar Daniel Anderson says having a television on in the background can interfere with babies’ and toddlers’ natural play. “The TV sports program may distract the child from constructive toy play,” he writes. “The parent updating Facebook may be unresponsive to the child’s social bids, and the teen game player is unavailable to read to his younger sibling.” He says when it comes to a healthy media diet for young children, content and context matter.

Finally, seek guidance from experts. Luckily there are many places to turn, such as Common Sense Media, which has online ratings and reviews for parents and educators, as well as app-organizing systems like Yogi Play that prod parents and educators to become critical thinkers about how to use and choose digital media for young children.

We invite parents to explore K12’s rich selection of educational games and activities and mobile apps as well as our new Pre-K learning program to find out how children can benefit from these innovative learning tools that can serve as digital in the classroom or at home.

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Deanna Glick

Deanna Glick

Deanna Glick has spent two decades as a writer and editor, covering education policy, adoption, and other issues of interest to children and families. Deanna has also worked and volunteered for youth-focused nonprofits, including Students Run LA and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. A California native, Deanna loves to hike sections of the Appalachian Trail and spend time on the Shenandoah River near her Northern Virginia home. She often finds writing inspiration through her 8-year-old daughter, who loves to read, paint, play sports, and learn.

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