“Should your PreK-5 student be using that technology?” It’s a question that pops up in my head every time I’m out eating and see a device babysitting a child. Since I had a different point of view many years ago, it’s clear I had another think coming.

Arguing with Your Boss To Be

I had a longstanding argument with a colleague in a large urban school district. We had started out as directors together (she later became my boss). We were both raising young children. Since my kids were a bit older, I felt quite wise as a father to impart advice (sigh).

Her young son loved to play video games, use technology, but she tightly controlled his time spent on this endeavor. At the time, I argued that learning to use technology was quite important, as important as other activities he might engage in as a young person. I found myself wondering, “What IS the evidence on this topic?”

Note: About AI Usage in this Blog

Hey, can we agree that unless I say otherwise, my summaries are coming from Perplexity.ai Pro? If it’s ChatGPT, Claude, Gemini, or whatever, I’ll say so. Also, citations appear at the end of a blog entry. AI results will be marked off in their section unless included as a blockquote.

The Evidence is In

A brief AI-powered summary via Perplexity.AI:

The scientific consensus on students in PreK-5 using technology emphasizes the importance of mindful and appropriate use of technology to support learning and development. Research highlights the need for adults to actively curate children’s screen activities by prioritizing educational content, avoiding commercial programs, and combining touch screen use with creative or active play[2].

Additionally, the Department of Education emphasizes that technology, when used appropriately, can be a tool for learning, helping young children explore new worlds, engage in fun activities, and learn problem-solving skills[4]. The guidance stresses that technology should be used to enhance learning opportunities for all children, strengthen relationships among parents, families, educators, and children, and is most effective when adults and peers interact or co-view with young children[4].

This consensus underscores the significance of integrating technology thoughtfully to support early childhood development and learning experiences.

Some of the risks (per AI) include the following:

The potential risks of using technology in PreK-5 education encompass various aspects that educators and parents should be mindful of.

  1. Exposure to Inappropriate Content: Technology can provide access to unsuitable content, potentially distracting students and exposing them to harmful information. Implementing security measures like website blockers, internet filters, and close supervision can mitigate this risk[1].

  2. Socialization Challenges: Excessive use of technology may lead to reduced social interactions among children, impacting their social development. Balancing technology time with opportunities for face-to-face interactions is crucial to ensure healthy social growth[2].

  3. Health and Accessibility Concerns: Prolonged screen time can contribute to vision issues in developing eyes. Teachers and parents should monitor signs of eye strain and limit screen time or use blue light filters to protect children’s eyesight. Additionally, ensuring that technology tools are accessible to all students, including those with disabilities, is essential[3].

  4. Privacy and Cybersecurity Issues: Technology integration raises concerns about privacy and cybersecurity risks for students. It is important for educators and parents to be vigilant about protecting students' privacy online and educating them about safe internet practices[4].

  5. Impact on Mental Health: Excessive technology use has been linked to mental health issues such as depression, increased risk of cyberbullying, and reduced physical activity leading to obesity. Monitoring children’s media consumption and promoting a healthy balance between technology use and other activities is crucial[4].

Of these risks, I suspect schools spend a lot of time focused on #s 3 and 4, leaving parents to focus on #1, #2, #5, and #6. We already know that time spent on technology IN school can affect academic performance. See below:

Screen time hurts kids brains…the impact of screen time was negative, significant, and came with specific consequences, including deficits in attention, impulse control, executive functioning, and overall cognitive functioning. Some studies included in the meta-analysis indicated that screen time can lead to lower levels of brain connectivity and even hinder brain growth. (Source: Fatherly, 2023)

With that research in mind, I thought I’d mention I’m presenting this summer at the TCEA Elementary Technology Conference (ETC).

Last Day to Submit Presentations is March 4, 2024 (today)

Time is short to submit your presentation for the Elementary Technology Conference in Galveston, Tx June 9-11, 2024. Don’t miss this awesome opportunity.

If you’re wondering if I’ll be there, well, yes, they are letting me present a few sessions. Here’s a short list of the working titles and descriptions, all subject to change:

  • Build Vocabulary Skills with Videos. Do your students struggle learning new vocabulary words? If so, come learn how to make those words come alive through video. You bring a device with a camera and I will bring the paper. You will be working in groups to create awesome content, whether it’s a vocabulary video or animated GIF.
  • AI-Powered Activities and Tools. Want to create exciting learning activity templates for use in other programs like Seesaw or Kami? Need to craft a memo or newsletter for staff or parents? Explore how Canva’s Magic Studio (including AI apps), their extensive template library, can make your creative process easier.
  • Creating Classroom eBooks. Get your students more engaged with your content by having them become authors. Learn how to use tools like Book Creator, Canva, and Google Workspace to create digital ebooks. Join us for tips, tricks, and the how-to’s of creating eBooks with Google Workspace for Education.
  • Design Thinking in the Classroom. Learn the methodology that designers use as a creative way to develop solutions for specific problems.You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to use in your classroom.
  • Teaching with Claim Evidence and Reasoning (CER) and AI. Explore engaging activities and even learn how to incorporate artificial intelligence (AI) into your CER lessons. Get ready to ignite your students' love for science and witness their incredible creations through CER.

I’m also facilitating a three hour pre-conference session:

Enhancing Young Learners' Literacy and Learning: Digital and Evidence-Based Strategies for Accelerating Academic Growth. Dive into a comprehensive, three-hour workshop designed to empower K-12 teachers with advanced strategies for fostering literacy and accelerating academic growth among students. This engaging session combines the power of evidence-based literacy strategies, digital tools for outlining and summarizing, and the effective use of concept mapping to transform your teaching approach.

Some specific areas of interest:

  • Discover a wide array of proven techniques aimed at enhancing literacy across K-12 settings, focusing on the integration of specific tools that have shown significant positive impacts on student learning. We’ll explore how the act of summarizing, not only as a digital skill but also as a self-regulation strategy, can have a dramatic effect on students' ability to control their own learning, mirroring the benefits of reciprocal teaching with an effect size of .74.
  • Moreover, learn how outlining and summarizing, alongside concept mapping, are not just critical skills but are also capable of accelerating academic growth by 1.5 years within a single school year. By adopting these strategies, teachers can facilitate a more engaging and effective learning environment, enabling students to identify main ideas, articulate them in their own words, and use digital tools to enhance their understanding and retention of material.

I still have a lot of work to do to put these sessions together, but I’m looking forward to reflecting a lot of the research and evidence-based practices. In the meantime, I hope you’ll consider submitting a presentation and drop by to say “Hello!”

A Parting Thought

My colleague in that large urban district was right, of course, to limit her child’s access to technology. It’s important for all of us working in schools to read up on the latest research. Like me, you may have another think coming about the best uses of technology in the classroom with young children. While tech can open doors, demolish classroom walls that impede collaboration at a distance, increase productivity, it can also pose serious risks. Risks that schools aren’t as well-prepared to manage or handle.

Citations for…

Scientific Consensus Quote

Potential Risks