Lisa Dau's Online Research Portfolio
Tricia Ryan, Instructor
Using Information Effectively in Education (ISTC 202- Honors)
May 3, 2005
Emerging Multimedia in the Early Childhood Education Classroom
THESIS: The purpose of this research paper is to investigate how the utilization of emerging multimedia in the preschool classroom enhances the overall quality of early childhood education.
INTRODUCTION: Background on the controversy of technology in the early childhood education classroom (tradition versus innovation). Definition of technological multimedia.
I. The role of the teacher- how teacher’s knowledge of technological multimedia improves the effectiveness of the use of such technologies
1. Using a variety of technological multimedia
2. Making the connection between multimedia project topics and the child’s life
a. Relate to students interests
b. Allow children to express their unique experiences
1. Specific technology “centers”- areas set aside specifically for computer use
2. Ensuring adult supervision
1. Potential dangers of technology to preschoolers (safety issues)
2. Potential benefits of technology to preschoolers
II. The role of children- how children take charge of their learning environment
1. Children become comfortable using a variety of technological multimedia in everyday life
2. Children see adults (parents, teachers, etc.) using the same technology they are using
1. Children as designers
2. Children as artists
3. Children as storytellers/authors
4. Children as mechanics
5. Children as logical thinkers
III. The role of parents/guardians- stressing concepts at home
When exposing children to a vast technological world, the potential benefits to the child’s learning may be counteracted with potential dangers. According to Haugland and Wright, the debate concerning whether or not to expose children to computers in the classroom was most prevalent in the early to mid 1980’s when computer utilization was first implemented, and is a much less prevalent issue (1997). Traditionally, children have been encouraged to engage in activities such as building with blocks and playing house or other role playing games as a means of mimicking the adult world and stimulating imagination through creative play. The introduction of computers and other technological multimedia into the preschool classroom should not replace traditional methods of teaching, but give teaching an interactive edge. The purpose of this research paper is to investigate how the proper utilization of emerging technological multimedia in the preschool classroom enhances the overall quality of early childhood education.
"It is interesting to note that during the next twenty or so years, the first generation of teachers who have never known a world without television and computers will be taking control of the educational system" (Dusewicz, 1982, p.11). This new generation of educators will need to modify their approach to teaching in order to better suit the ample technological resources available to aid in student learning. One way to meet the rising demands of educational instruction is to implement a variety of technological multimedia into the curriculum. Multimedia is defined by the ERIC (EBSCO) database as “the integration of more than one medium in a presentation or module of instruction” (2005). The first step in implementing innovative multimedia in the preschool classroom is to engage the wandering attentions of a large group of young children. One way this can be accomplished is by combining a variety of technological media such as images, sound, motion, interactivity, and text/words in such a way to communicate information (Cole, Means, Simkins, & Tavalin, 2002). Images in the form of maps, photographs, drawings, etc. have the potential to enhance student learning by implementing a visual aspect to the teaching method. Text can be in the form of simple one word expressions or detailed paragraphs rich in information. In the preschool classroom, it is most efficient to utilize text on a one word level so children can become familiar with the alphabet. This is the first step in building a foundation for recognizing the connection between objects or concepts and written words. To further personalize multimedia through technological resources, a variety of fonts and word art are available on computer programs such as basic word processors. Sound is a multimedia element that is frequently neglected in teacher presentations (Cole et al., 2002). Sounds such as music and voice have the potential to evoke strong emotion when used in the appropriate contexts. Motion is a multimedia element that keeps the mind especially active. Video clips, animation, and even dance movements can bring energy to the classroom. Lastly, interactivity is an effective way to hold the attention of preschoolers "by allowing users to shape their own paths through the media" (Cole et al., 2002, p.27). Interactivity can be as simple as a slide show with advancing frames that the user controls or as complex as a sophisticated computer game (Cole et al., 2002). Another example of interactivity is Microsoft Power Point, a graphic presentation program that utilizes "enhanced multimedia capabilities to deliver presentations with more impact" (2003, Overview, para. 1). Although each media element is individually important, learning occurs most successfully when these elements are assembled into a unified presentation.
Another important role of teachers is to ensure that a connection is made between the multimedia project topics and the lives of the individual children by relating the projects to the student’s interests and giving the children an opportunity to express their unique experiences through learning. According to Cole et al., "In creating a real-world connection, you are embedding multimedia in a rich context in which students will learn and practice skills, gather and present information, and solve problems" (2002, p.33). In other words, by establishing this connection, children will find the class assignments meaningful and will therefore be motivated to put forth effort to complete the class projects and, more importantly, to learn from them. Ways to establish this connection can include connecting through project topics, connecting through interaction, and/or connecting to the future (Cole et al., 2002). In order to make this connection through the choice of project topic and interaction, the teacher can allow the students to share their unique interests and experiences with the class. A simple example of this is a Show-and-Tell activity where a student is given the opportunity to bring in a favorite toy or other object from home that relates to a current classroom topic (such as bringing in a toy cash register during a simple economics unit where the children learn about money and purchasing items). The other children in the class are given the opportunity to ask questions and make comments. This gives the activity and added interactive aspect while allowing the students to apply their personal interests and experiences to the lesson. Connecting to the future is especially relevant in the increasingly technological age these young children are beginning to experience. It is important that they are given the opportunity to imagine their individual futures and the countless options available to them. One example of this is to give preschoolers a glimpse into the vast array of occupations they can pursue as adults and role play some of these occupations. As Cole et al. states, "We don't just combine random media elements, we make multimedia that communicates something...if you have a multimedia project with a strong real world connection, you can hardly go wrong- student engagement is just about guaranteed" (2002, p.33).
The proper integration of multimedia into the classroom environment is also important. One option is setting aside an area to be the technology center of the classroom, where students can use computers. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) recommends "the integration of technology into the learning environment as one of many options to support children's social and cognitive abilities but cautions that computers should not replace other valuable learning centers, such as blocks, art, sand or water play, books, dramatic play, or exploratory areas in the classroom" (Lynch & Warner, 2004, Introduction, para. 5). It is also important that adult supervision is implemented in these areas. The executive director of NAEYC, Mark Ginsberg, developed a list of guidelines to aid in computer and Internet safety in the early childhood classroom (Lynch & Warner, 2004). These guidelines strongly encourage adult supervision, open discussion between the teacher and the child regarding the content of the viewed material, and the clear communication of rules regarding computer use and limitations (Lynch & Warner, 2004). The goal of these guidelines is to maximize student learning by ensuring that children have the opportunity to ask questions and be directed through the potentially overwhelming world of technology. The NAEYC made a position statement regarding the importance of professional judgment on the part of teachers to determine whether technology is "age appropriate, individually appropriate, and culturally appropriate for the children in their care" (Lynch & Warner, 2004, Introduction, para. 5). "Computers in the classroom are a great boost to teaching, but cannot replace teachers" (Smith, 1982, p.10). The guidance of the teacher is imperative to enhancing student learning through technological resources.
Also, before the technological multimedia is implemented in the classroom, the educator needs to evaluate its effectiveness by analyzing the potential dangers and safety issues as well as the potential benefits to the preschool students. Each educator needs to evaluate new technological innovations in the context of their particular students and learning techniques before implementing them into the curriculum (Saracho & Spodek, 2003). Challengers of computer use in preschools claim that computers will take the place of traditional activities like housekeeping and discourage developmental thinking (Haugland & Wright, 1997). Contrary to this belief, research confirms that one month after its implementation in the preschool classroom, "The computer is viewed by children as one of many resources available for exploration and discovery" (Haugland & Wright, 1997, p.6). Children are initially drawn to new and exciting additions to the classroom setting, but after a period of time, the addition is viewed as equally important to the other educational resources available in the classroom. Another issue involves the loss of important social interaction when computers are implemented into the preschool classroom. On the contrary, "When computers are placed in classrooms, however, research confirms that there are as many social interactions around the computer as in other activities or centers within the classroom" (Haugland & Wright, 1997, p.8). Others fear that the complex nature of computers deprives children of their childhoods by pressuring the children to learn skills they are not mentally prepared to learn. According to Haugland and Wright, this issue depends entirely on how computers are utilized in the preschool classroom. "If computers are used in developmentally appropriate ways they meet the young children's needs and adapt to teach young children what they are ready to learn" (1997, p.7). In order to determine whether computer software is developmentally appropriate for preschool children, the educator needs to ensure that the focus of the program is on student exploration and is open-ended, offering many options instead of simply a right or wrong answer (Haugland & Wright, 1997). Utilizing these teaching strategies will build a foundation for learning by making the crucial step of engaging the young mind to learn.
In addition to the principal role of the educator, the students also play a vital role in the learning-teaching environment. An early introduction to technology helps children become comfortable using a variety of technological multimedia in all facets of their lives. According to Fetterman, "As children grow to take their place in a complex technological society, they should be taught as early as possible how to use the tools of our culture for their own happiness, growth, and the benefit of others" (1982, p.6). Although preschoolers have the disadvantage of not being able to read and write, their primary advantage is in their nature to allow their fascination and curiosity to override their hesitation when given the opportunity to explore a new piece of technological equipment (Snelbecker, 1982). Some older students and adults who were not raised using complicated technological equipment may be intimidated by the potential implications of such equipment. "While adults struggle to keep pace with the technology, its new hardware and operating systems, children see computer technology as a normal part of their environment" (Shade & Wright, 1994, p.5). "Unaware that they should be intimidated, young children assume that they control the machine unless they are told otherwise" (Shade & Wright, 1994, p.6). It is important to stress the idea that students can take control of the machine in order to make it perform in desirable ways, and that the machine does not control the user. Another reason for the lack of intimidation among young children is that they are constantly witnessing adults, specifically role models and mentors such as parents and teachers, utilizing the same technology they are given the opportunity to use. A common household scene, illustrated by Washington Post writer, Shannon Henry, is “a four-year-old spinning circles around the toy filled living room and a four-month-old bouncing in a baby seat, while Mom and Dad peer at screens of nearly identical silver PowerBook computers” (2005, para. 1). Technology is a common scene that is prevalent in nearly all environments, further decreasing children’s fear of innovative technology.
Children are active learners who posses the potential to develop into imaginative thinkers. Through the proper utilization of technological multimedia in their learning environments, children have the ability to become anything they set their minds to whether it be a designer, an artist, a storyteller or author, a mechanic, or a logical thinker. Through the exploration of features in common computer paint programs such as the tool that allows the user to fill a space with color, children can create images that reflect their moods and feelings through overlays of color (Shade & Wright, 1994). Giving children the opportunity to create geometric shapes on such paint programs and modifying these created shapes in terms of size and color allows for the creation of their own personal visual representations of the real world. "Each child creates a unique set of images, and the observant teacher will look through this cognitive window and see the emergence of wonderful ideas” (Shade & Wright, 1994, p.15). "As facilitators of an exciting learning environment, we must consider the computer's potential for exploration and growth and select programs that will offer opportunities for children to use their multiple intelligences freely" (Shade & Wright, 1994, p.15). Enhancing the learning environment with a variety of interactive multimedia such as computer paint programs, gives children a basis to develop creativity.
While the classroom is the primary place of learning, it is also important that concepts learned in the school environment continue to be stressed at home. According to a Baltimore Sun article discussing the importance of preschool education, "a coalition of local education, child care, health, social services and other leaders has started to get the word out to parents and communities about the importance of teaching kids early" (2005, para. 4). The job of continued learning in the home environment is left to the parents and guardians of the preschool children. Similarly to the teacher evaluation of computer resources in the classroom, it is also important for parents and guardians to evaluate new technology geared toward children such as electronic games and toys before encouraging their use in the home. "Children are bombarded, even in their homes, by advertising designed to encourage them to want highly desirable electronic toys and games" (Cook & Finlayson, 1999, p.14). Based on media messages, parents are dictated the message that these computerized games and toys are an essential element to early childhood education and are imperative for the future success of their children (Banks & Graham, 2000). Toys and games such as talking picture or story books, mock computers, robots, etc. may claim to be valuable educational resources for children, but in actuality may not be beneficial to learning at all. In order for parents to determine what electronics are beneficial to their child's learning, they should utilize the same criteria as teachers. The toys and games should be open-ended and flexible for use by children (Cook & Finlayson, 1997, p.15). In other words, children should be given plenty of opportunities to practice problem-solving techniques, make decisions, and explore the world around them. With parental support in the home environment, children are better prepared to be a part of the classroom learning environment.
It should be the goal of all early childhood educators to expose their students to innovative multimedia technologies as a vital part of the curriculum. Educators across the nation are embarking on a journey to maximize the benefits of technology to the learning environment and provide young children with developmentally appropriate experiences that will serve to expand the capabilities of their developing minds (Haugland & Wright, 1997). The goal is to create a balanced relationship between teaching and learning so that students grow up developmentally prepared to face the demands of an ever-growing technological world. As stated by Chen, Ferdig, and Wood, the ultimate goal is "to combine learning theory and technology so that the effect in teaching and learning is improved" (2003, para. 1). Utilizing a variety of technological multimedia in order to convey information to a group of preschool children is a successful means of accomplishing this goal.
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Last updated by Lisa Dau on May 5, 2005