Technology and Learning: A Delicate Balance

With technology becoming more integral to a child’s education, how do we find the balance? How do we create the opportunity for students to develop social-emotional skills when they are staring at a screen? Is my child really learning, or are they becoming passive? These are incredible questions, and the answers are actually not that difficult to answer!

Let’s start with the easiest question first. Is my child really learning, or are they becoming passive?

It’s easy to be entertained, but it’s hard work for little minds to know what they should be learning. The way to know if your child or student is learning a concept is by asking them questions, especially with young learners.

For example, in school, the child could be learning letter recognition. To teach this concept, many of the eBooks on the Genius PreK app have words associated with each letter. “C is for Circle,” “T is for Tiger,” and so on. Ask the child to tell you, “What starts with the letter C?” Then have them list off the words from the eBook they read. Most of the eBooks have three to four vocabulary words starting with the designated letter. Write down each word and ask the child to “show you the letter C,” or prompt them with, “Can you find the letter C?”

Another way to test their knowledge is to find objects in the classroom or at home that start with the letter C. Also show examples that don’t start with the letter C. The child will correct YOU and feel empowered that they know something you “don’t.”

Let’s use a math concept as an example, too. If a child is learning to identify “how many objects in a group of 10,” find ten objects and have them practice counting. If you’re testing their knowledge at home, you can say, “We’re going to have a tea party with ten of your stuffed toys. Can you bring ten toys to the table?” This will prompt them to grab ten toys. Then have them count off the number of toys they brought. Next, ask them to grab ten spoons, ten cups, and so on. This is a great visual for “how many,” as well as reinforcing counting to ten.

Let’s move onto the next question. How do we create the opportunity for students to develop social-emotional skills when they are staring at a screen?

The way to develop social-emotional skills is through interactions. The Genius PreK app has videos about sharing, manners, etc., but the best way to learn these skills is with other people. You can use the app as motivation to promote sharing by asking to take turns holding the tablet, or taking turns choosing the next resource to use (if you’re browsing through the app home page and not doing the lessons in order). You can also act out different scenarios with your class or your little genius at home. Remember that tea party setup? Use it as a lesson for manners, too!

Now, the last question. How do we find the balance?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends one hour of screen time per day for children under six. That doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but you can accomplish a lot in an hour of screen time. Most eBooks for Genius PreK are eight pages, games are six questions, and videos are no more than two minutes long. Using the examples I provided above, you can do a lot of learning with minimal screen time.

Young children are hands-on learners, so it’s better to provide tactile things to really develop learning concepts. If you’re really struggling with “light box vs. face-to-face time,” there are settings and apps that set a timer to turn off the device after a period of time. I recommend using that as a last resort, but it’s an option, if necessary. You can even make it a game to see how much they can learn on the app before the timer runs out, then provide them objects to reinforce what they just learned.

Let us know in the comments if you have tips or tricks that you’ve tried with your little geniuses!