In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Technology Education in Early Childhood

  • Introduction
  • Foundational/Survey Publications
  • Young Children Learning About Technology
  • Games and Play
  • Equitable Access
  • Accessibility Issues
  • Influence of Culture
  • Evaluating Technology
  • Teachers’ Professional Development
  • Large-Scale Research Studies/ Research Reviews

Education Technology Education in Early Childhood
Kathy-ann Daniel-Gittens
  • LAST REVIEWED: 31 March 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 31 March 2016
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0144


Technology in early education emerged as a discrete research area following the publication of Seymour Papert’s 1980 seminal text, Mindstorms: Children, Computers and Powerful Ideas. In this work, Papert encouraged the idea that computers should be used as creative tools to spark children’s imaginations and drive their cognitive development. Notably, he made a distinction between computers and older technologies such as television and radio. There are several researchers who have continued this line of inquiry, focusing their investigative work exclusively on computer technology use by very young children; specifically the age group birth–eight years. This research area has not developed as quickly as the study of technology use among older children and adolescents, however. One reason for this has been ethical conflicts expressed by educational and pediatric researchers who question the benefits and dangers of integrating technology into the education of children this young. Despite a slow start, there has been an accumulating body of work led by researchers and child-focused agencies that believe there should be research-based evidence to guide technology education practices for very young learners. Researchers such as Douglas Clements with his 1999 publication “Young Children and Technology” have been influential in this field. Susan Haugland has also been a pioneer with her 1999 and 2000 publications in which she asked—and answered—What Role Should Technology Play in Young Children’s Learning? Currently, a rapidly increasing array of Internet-connected computer devices such as tablets, smartphones and technology-enabled toys and games are being marketed for young learners. Because this trend is expected to grow, issues of how educators and parents can integrate these technology devices into young children’s lives and education, in productive ways, become even more significant. The headings for this topic are derived from a consideration of how technology is currently used in early education as well as critical issues that surround its use. The headings include topics such as Games and Play, the evaluation of technology, Teachers’ Professional Development, and Accessibility Issues for learners with disabilities. The citations selected represent the most influential writings and researchers as well as the most recent research on the topics. Included also are citations that survey the status of the field internationally and outlying research studies that appear to confound established thinking in the topic area. Large-scale research studies by child-focused agencies are also included.

Foundational/Survey Publications

This section introduces a representative sample of the more influential works that have guided current thinking and research on technology in early education. It includes Papert 1980, Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas, and studies by researchers such as, Haugland (Haugland 2000: “What Role Should Technology Play in Young Children’s Learning? Part 2”) and Clements (Clements 1999, “Young Children and Technology”). It also includes the most recent survey publications: Donohue 2015, Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tools for Teaching and Learning, and Plowman, et al. 2010, “Growing Up with Technology: Young Children Learning in a Digital World. Plowman, et al. 2010 is based on their research in the United Kingdom. In addition to individual researchers, national and international organizations focused on early childhood education and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in education have published on the topic. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute for Information Technologies in Education, in 2012, published a policy brief on ICTs in early childhood. The policy document, “ICTs in Early Childhood Care and Education,” looks at several areas of ICT implementation in early education and provides recommendations for policy and practice. Two influential organizations in early childhood education in the United States, the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media regularly publish position and policy papers that provide guidelines for practice in the area of technology education in early childhood. Their most up-to-date position paper is, “Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.” One opponent, which is countering advocacy for technology education for young children, is an international, nonprofit organization, The Alliance for Childhood. This organization is steadfastly opposed to technology education for young children on the grounds that it is both developmentally inappropriate and poses serious health risks. In 1999, this group published an influential report, “Fool’s Gold: A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood” (Cordes and Miller 1999), in which the authors developed their case against the use of computers in early childhood education and listed their alternative recommendations. In concert with other international organizations, they continue to publish research reports, guidelines, and position papers advocating against technology education for young children. The edited publications, policy documents, and position papers in this section represent the advancement of thinking and practice in technology education in early childhood education.

  • Clements, Douglas. 1999. Young children and technology. In Dialogue on early childhood science, mathematics, and technology education. By Project 2061. Papers commissioned for the Forum on Early Childhood Science, Mathematics, and Technology Education, 6–8 February 1998, Washington, DC. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    Provides a thorough overview of state-of-the-art with technology and young children at the time. It presents the accumulated, empirically validated knowledge about young children’s technology use in concise form. This work became part of a baseline platform of knowledge, establishing directions for further research in the area.

  • Cordes, C., and E. Miller. 1999. Fool’s gold: A critical look at computers in childhood. College Park, MD: Alliance for Childhood.

    An online edited report that uses child development research to lay out the developmental changes that take place in early childhood. The report goes on to list perceived hazards and risks to these developmental changes caused by computers. Hazards include risks to children’s physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and moral development.

  • Donohue, Chip, ed. 2015. Technology and digital media in the early years: Tools for teaching and learning. New York: Routledge.

    Using established theoretical principles for young children’s education as guiding frameworks, this survey text examines present-day technology use in early childhood education settings. The book also reviews models for how technology can connect home, school, and community to the benefit of young children. Book was updated to a 2015 edition.

  • Haugland, Susan W. 2000. What role should technology play in young children’s learning? Part 2: Early childhood classrooms in the 21st century: Using computers to maximize learning. Young Children 55:12–18.

    Discusses the ways in which computers can be used to promote learning in young children in early education. The paper also discusses two models for integrating computers into the education of young learners that were presented in Part 1 of this paper. It also presents models for teachers’ professional development for integrating computers into classroom curricula. Includes suggestions for evaluating hardware technology, software, and interventions.

  • National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. 2012. Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8.

    A position paper by two influential organizations in the field of early childhood education. The position paper sets out the current issues as identified by the organizations and presents the principles and guidelines they advocate as developmentally appropriate for addressing the issues and working with young children.

  • Papert, Seymour. 1980. Mindstorms: Children, computers, and powerful ideas. New York: Basic Books.

    Considered the most influential text by one of the early and major researchers into children’s use of computers. Based on his research into the use of computers to promote children’s problem-solving skills, Papert advocates for the idea that computers should be used as tools to promote children’s general cognitive development.

  • Plowman, Lydia, Christine Stephen, and Joanna McPake. 2010. Growing up with technology: Young children learning in a digital world. London: Routledge.

    Text provides a thorough research-based survey of issues related to different technologies and young children’s learning at home and in school. Also examines the theoretical foundations that guide work and study in this area.

  • UNESCO Institute for Information Technologies in Education. 2012. ICTs in early childhood care and education.

    A policy brief on implementing ICTs in early childhood. Identifies layers of perspectives on the implementation process. Also highlights risks and proposes recommendations in support of the implementation process.

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