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David Jones is the proprietor of Innovation Assessments. He has been a public school teacher in New York State since 1991. He holds permanent teaching certifications for French 7-12, Social Studies 7-12, and Elementary (N-6). He taught French for thirteen years, then switched to teaching social studies in 2004. His teaching experience also includes other related subjects and computer courses elementary through college level. Since the early 1990s David has had an interest in computers and computer programming. He is a certified computer network technician (CompTIA Network+ Certified) and has taught high school and community college level computer courses.

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The Proprietor's Blog

A Report to Guide Curriculum Development in K-2

David Jones, 2018-04-14 03:51:33

First Principles in Classroom Computer Integration for Ages Five to Seven

A Report to Guide Curriculum Development

Integrating computers in secondary education already comes with a model from the post-secondary world, so developing a framework for grades three to five is easily developed based on that. However, in grades kindergarten through second, the path is less clear. Students in this age group lack keyboarding skills, hand-eye coordination to manage mouse effectively, and are in a stage of emergent literacy that nullifies the practices common in computer integration for older students. That being the case, what does computer integration look like in its “best practice” form for people aged five to seven? Of what pitfalls should we be aware? This report is an effort to synthesize the conclusions from recent literature reviews and researched articles on this subject as a first step to developing a curriculum for the youngest in our school system.

This report was written as part of a computer job coaching initiative in elementary school in 2017-2018 academic year at Schroon Lake Central School in Schroon Lake, New York.

We are in the midst of some fairly radical social changes resulting from technology. Articles on computer use published more than six years ago seem now dated and no longer refer to commonly used equipment and software. While it would be easy to scan the web for children’s computer curriculum and adopt some version of the search results from other schools wholesale, it would seem to behoove us to proceed carefully for these, our most vulnerable and impressionable. Sometimes reinventing the wheel yields better wheels. Given the relative newness of computer technology, it should not surprise us that there are not volumes of studies to peruse on children's computer use. Guidance on how to best integrate computer in youngest children’s lives will be informed both by studies of its effects but as well and more so by a solid foundation in child development rooted in decades of research.

    The eight articles serving as source material for this report were selected based on the following criteria: that they be recent within ten years (with one exception) and that they consist of a synthesis of a large number of studies, with priority given to those published by educational or government institutions. The most thorough literature review sourced for this report was The Influence of Young Children’s Use of Technology on Their Learning: A Review which appeared in Educational Technology & Society in 2014. This review synthesized the conclusions of over eighty studies pertaining to computer use in early childhood.

    Information and Communication Technology (ICT) “is not only a vehicle with which to develop literacy; it is a form of literacy.” (McAdams, 2013) This is the first rationale for integrating computer technology in early childhood. Children who develop computer literacy early on are better prepared (Lentz, C. Lorelle, Kay Kyeong-Ju Seo, and Bridget Grune, 2014). ICT literacy has educational and social benefits making it worth the investment in time and money.

“Research has shown that 3- and 5 year-old children who use computers with supporting activities that reinforce the major objectives of the programs have significantly greater

developmental gains when compared to children without computer experiences in similar classrooms--gains in intelligence, nonverbal skills, structural knowledge, long-term

memory, manual dexterity, verbal skills, problem solving, abstraction, and conceptual skills.” (Haugland, 2000)

    That said, is important to realize that the computer cannot replace the teacher. Children with reading difficulties, for example, “benefit more from a teacher’s instruction than from computer programs for reading” (Hsin et al., 2014). The best use of computers in early childhood is as an adult-mediated device that a tool and not a toy.

“[…] [A]dults’ teaching in conjunction with technology-assisted learning maximizes the effect of technology on children’s learning, whereas adults’ teaching and technology-assisted learning alone had less effect on children’s learning gains (Eagle, 2012; Segal-Drori, Korat, Shamir, & Klein, 2010). Segal-Drori et al. (2010) found that children who read electronic books and received teachers’ instruction that promoted emergent reading outperformed those children who read electronic books without adult instruction. They also outperformed those children who read printed books with adult instruction.” (Hsin et al., 2014)

    There is more to literacy now than deriving meaning from sound-symbols called letters and words. Digital content is multimodal, meaning text is accompanied by video and sound and other media. Computer literacy includes the ability to use multimodal cues to derive meaning within the contexts of digital texts. “Such multimodal cues include pictures, symbols, sound, images, and gestures, which were used across a variety of technologies, such as TV, computers, mobile tablets, mobile phones, game consoles, and touch screens.” (Hsin, C.-T., Ming-Chaun Li, and Chin-Chung Tsai, 2014)

    Humans evolved learning in a social context. Guiding the development of social skills is considered of paramount importance in young children and while there is no consensus on the issue of whether the use of technologies impedes this development, clear guidelines emerge from the research. (Hsin et al., 2014). If technology reduces a child’s interpersonal interactions, then technology will be an impediment to that development. Technology promotes social development when it is used by young children for collaborative projects with peers and when partnering with adults (Hsin et al., 2014). Many studies suggest that “educators need to ensure that children work together or in parallel play when using new technologies.” (Lentz et al., 2014) Lentz et al. note that “[r]elationships can be enhanced through the use of technology when caregiver and child work together to build something that is more substantial than either could have accomplished without each other, nor the support of the technology.” (2014) while research cited by Summers notes that too much screen time actually diminishes a child’s ability to read the emotions of others. (2014)

    The refrain is repeated throughout the literature that young children learn best from technology when it is mediated by adults (Hsin et al., 2014). This includes monitoring that to which children are exposed, since “[…] viewing of age-inappropriate content of television programs […] was related to their aggressive and hyperactive behavior problems in the classroom.” (Hsin et al., 2014) It is also “important to be aware of stereotypical images and gender-biased approaches to using technology with children. Computer games can often have extreme images of masculine and feminine stereotypes, and educators may need to talk with children about these images or make sure they are limited in the classroom.” (Lentz et al., 2014)

    Computer literacy includes such skills as internet searching, which young children can do to find what they need, though they will need supervision and guidance of adults. (Lentz et al., 2014) Children are generally not aware, for example, that there “[…] might be dangers related to people, misinformation, or in appropriate photos” (Lentz et al., 2014) online and so teachers need to be vigilant as well as educate children about the internet.

    Limiting screen time is an important consideration. Computer addiction is one risk. “[E]arly childhood educators must understand the risk of computer addiction and its effects on the emotional and social well-being of young children when deciding appropriate uses of technology with this age group.” (Lentz et al., 2014) Sedentary lifestyle and childhood obesity (Lentz et al., 2014) are connected to excessive screen time. Schools should foster healthy life habits and this includes limiting computer time. No definitive ideal screen time number arises in these papers, however 20-30 minutes a day is suggested in Handbook of language and literacy development: A Roadmap from 0 – 60 Months. (Wood, 2008)

    Adults need to mediate the interplay between children and technology by facilitating their engagement, adapting teaching, and mediating children's perceptions of technology. Adult instruction maximizes the effect of technology for young children. (Hsin et al., 2014) Over and over again, sources on early childhood introduction to computers promote the idea that “[t]he best way to use computers with young children is through shared use.” (Wood, 2008)

“Simply having access to or being ‘on the computer,’ [...] is not enough to guarantee the best outcomes for young learners. [...] to maximize children’s experiences with computers, there must be appropriate guidance and supervision, as well as selection of appropriate hardware and software.” (Wood, 2008)

    Young children should not be expected to use technology as if they were little adults. This idea not only includes content and software choices, but as well the ergonomics of workstations for children. Adults should ensure that the computer is positioned such that “[t]he screen should not be positioned in a too high level in the child’s field of view; the chair should not be positioned in too low level and the desk not in a too high level” and that screen time is limited to avoid eye problems (Kozeis, 2009) .

    Selecting software that is appropriate for young children should be done carefully. “When evaluating computer games, [… research suggests] limiting use of games with overly constrained play and instead look for important qualities such as an orientation of discovery, multiple pathways and choices of symbol use, simple backgrounds and clear directions.” (Lentz et al., 2014) Current research supports earlier findings that software selections for younger students should place a priority on exploration over drill. (Haugland, 2000; Wood 2008) “Games have unique features that place higher demands on learners’ cognitive resources than more traditional direct instruction approaches.” (Ferdig, 2009) One should be mindful of avoiding games that carry too heavy a cognitive load, since this will negate the educational benefit so “special attention must be devoted to eliminate all sources of unproductive processing of extraneous information.” (Ferdig, 2009)


    A computer integration curriculum for five to seven year olds would be grounded in the goal of fostering computer literacy as well as furthering traditional literacy and numeracy objectives. Deriving benefit from computer integration in very young children depends on how effectively this is partnered with and mediated by adults. Social interaction should guide early childhood computer use. Using computers in partnership with another student and under the guidance of an adult would be the norm and it would be unusual to imagine much individual student computer time in the early childhood classroom. The content delivered to students would be carefully managed by teachers such as to avoid age-inappropriate content. The physical space in which students work using computers would be adapted to their ergonomic needs. Computer games would be limited and carefully chosen not only for content, but for cognitive load and selected placing a priority on the criterion of exploration and collaboration over drill.


Ferdig, Richard E. (2009) Handbook of Research on Effective Electronic Gaming in Education. Vol. II. University of Florida. Retrieved from http://gel.msu.edu/winn/Winn_DPE_chapter_final.pdf

Haugland, Susan W. (2000). ERIC Clearinghouse on Elementary and Early Childhood Education Champaign IL. Retrieved from https://www.ericdigests.org/2000-4/young.htm

Hsin, C.-T., Ming-Chaun Li, and Chin-Chung Tsai. (2014). The Influence of Young Children’s Use of Technology on Their Learning: A Review. Educational Technology & Society, 17(4), 85-99 .

Kozeis, N. (2009). Impact of computer use on children's vision. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2776336/

Lentz, C. Lorelle, Kay Kyeong-Ju Seo, and Bridget Grune. (2014). Revisiting the Early Use of

Technology:  A Critical Shift  from “How Young is Too  Young?” to “How Much is ‘Just Right’?”. Dimensions of Early Childhood, vol. 42, no. 1. Retrieved from http://southernearlychildhood.org/upload/pdf/EarlyTechnology_D42_1.pdf

McAdams, Laurie. (2013). Innovate Literacy Instruction with a Classroom Computer:

A Solid Rationale for the Integration of Specific Digital Tools. Tarleton State University. Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1110821.pdf

Summers, Juana. (2014). Kids And Screen Time: What Does The Research Say? National Public Radio. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2014/08/28/343735856/kids-and-screen-time-what-does-the-research-say

Wood, E. (2008). Caregiver Narrative: Computer Use by Toddlers and Preschoolers (30 – 60 Months). In L.M. Phillips (Ed.), Handbook of language and literacy development: A Roadmap from 0 – 60 Months. [online], pp. 1 - 7. London, ON: Canadian Language and Literacy Research Network. Retrieved from http://www.theroadmap.ualberta.ca/childrenAndComputers

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