Unfortunately, computers are used all too often in ways that are developmentally
inappropriate. One study (U.S. Congress, 1995) found that while "schools are steadily
increasing their access to new technologies . . . most teachers use these technologies
in traditional ways, including drills in basic skills and instructional games" (p. 103).
Clements (1994) makes a similar point, noting, "What we as early childhood educators
are presently doing most often with computers is what research and NAEYC guidelines
say we should be doing least often" (p. 33).
Papert (1998) stresses that computers have an impact on children when the computer
provides concrete experiences, children have free access and control the learning
experience, children and teachers learn together, teachers encourage peer tutoring, and
teachers use computers to teach powerful ideas.
Developmentally appropriate ways to use computers with 3- and 4-year-olds are
different from the ways we use computers in kindergarten and the primary grades.
COMPUTERS AND PRESCHOOLERS. Children 3 and 4 years of age are
developmentally ready to explore computers, and most early childhood educators see
the computer center as a valuable activity center for learning. Timing is crucial. Children
need plenty of time to experiment and explore. Young children are comfortable clicking
various options to see what is going to happen next. Teachers may want to intervene
when children appear frustrated or when nothing seems to be happening. Frequently,
just a quick word or two, even from across the room, reminds children what they need to
do next to reach their desired goal. Providing children with minimal help teaches them
they can operate the computer successfully. In addition, by observing what children are
doing, the teacher can ask probing questions or propose problems to enhance and
expand children's computer experiences