The Value of Technology in Educating Young Children

Are young children well suited to the use of technology? Modern technologies are very powerful because they rely on one of the most powerful genetic biases we do have – the preference for visually presented information. The human brain has a tremendous bias for visually presented information. Television, movies, videos, and most computer programs are very visually oriented and therefore attract and maintain the attention of young children. When young children sit in front of television for hours, they fail to develop other perceptions. But the technologies that benefit young children the greatest are those that are interactive and allow the child to develop their curiosity, problem solving and independent thinking skills.

Technology plays a key role in all aspects of American life which will only increase in the future. As technology has become more easy to use, the usage of it by children has simultaneously increased. Early childhood educators have a responsibility to critically examine the impact of technology on children and be prepared to use technology to benefit children. Children educators must be more responsible in bringing a change in the lives of children and their families.

There are several issues related to the use of technology by young children:

• the essential role of teacher in evaluating in evaluating appropriate use of technology.
• the amalgamation of technology in early childhood programs
• stereotyping and violence in software
• equitable access to technology
• implication of technology for professional development
• role of teachers and parents as advocates

A teacher’s role is critical in making good decisions regarding the use of technology in order to achieve potential benefits. Choosing the correct software is quite similar to choosing the perfect set of books for a classroom. Teachers should take the advantage of computers to introduce new teaching and development strategies. Computers are intrinsically compelling for young children. The sound and graphics attract a child’s attention. An appropriate software engages children in creative play, mastery learning, problem solving, and conversation. Children control the pacing and the action. They can repeat a process or activity as often as they like and experiment with variations. They can collaborate in making decisions and share their discoveries and creations. Well-designed early childhood software grows in dimension with the child, enabling her to find new challenges as she becomes more proficient. Appropriate visual and verbal prompts designed in the software expand play themes and opportunities while leaving the child in control. Vast collections of images, sounds, and information of all kinds are placed at the child’s disposal. Software can be made age appropriate even for children as young as three or four. This shows that technology can enhance a child’s cognitive and social abilities. It provides a window to a child’s thinking.

Every classroom has its own guiding philosophies, values, themes and activities. Early childhood educators should promote equitable access to technology for all children and their families. Modern technologies are very powerful as they rely on one of the most powerful biases we have. The problem with this is that many of the modern technologies are very passive. Because of this they do not provide children with the quality and quantity of crucial emotional, social, cognitive, or physical experiences they require when they are young.

Unfortunately, technology is often used to replace social situations but it should be used to enhance human interactions. During the current decade, research has moved beyond simple questions about technology. Very young children are showing comfort and confidence in handling computers. They can turn them on, follow pictorial directions, and use situational and visual cues to understand and reason about their activity. Typing on the keyboard does not seem to cause them any trouble; in fact, it seems to be a source of pride. Thanks to recent technological developments, even children with physical and emotional disabilities can use the computer with ease. Besides enhancing their mobility and sense of control, computers can help improve self-esteem.

Thus the exclusive value of technology is no more in question. Research shows that what is solid for children is not merely what is physical but what is meaningful. Computer representations are often more manageable, flexible, and extensible. To add more there are a number of specialized programs that allow children with certain information-processing problems to get a multimedia presentation of content so that they can better understand and process the material. Even now there are a number of good software programs with a primary educational focus on mathematics or reading. These programs, which are very engaging, motivate children to read better and learn how to solve math problems. When information is presented in a fun and way, it is a lot easier than looking at a single page that has a bunch of columns of numbers you’re supposed to add up.

We are always in search for the magic wand that vanish and solve all our programs. And today the magic wand in our life is technology. It not only increases academic skill, reduce dropout rates but also diminishes the racial divide in academic performance. The danger, however, is that computers will be used only to reinforce the national trend toward earlier and more academic skill acquisition, and that other important developmental needs will be ignored. Moreover the fear will remain that developmental needs not met through technology will be ignored or radically compromised: physical play, outdoor exploration of the community and of nature; art, music and dance; learning specific social skills and moral values, and experiencing diversity in a myriad of ways.

In most of the early childhood programs and schools, technology will be part of the learning landscape of the future. To make sure this new technology is used effectively, we must assure that teachers are fully trained and supported, and that the programs and internet sites used are developmentally appropriate, non racist, non-biased against people with disabilities, and respect religious differences.

Managing Technology Within An Organization

When it comes to technology solutions for your business it is easy to get carried away with the latest-and-greatest gadgets and solutions. Everyone wants to have the latest shiny thing. In larger organizations, managing technology can become burdensome due to competing and duplicative technology requests. Left unfettered, the company technology platform can resemble a “spaghetti bowl” over time. Often is the case, new technology requests are submitted without any business case to support their investment.

I am a big proponent of having non-technology business leaders play an active role in the determination of the technology solutions utilized at an organization. While it is critical to include an IT perspective from a technical interface standpoint, having non-IT personnel drive technology solutions often lead to decisions based on thebusiness needs of the organization. As such, any technology request would require a business plan to support the investment.

Form A Technology Committee: This is the start of your technology approval process. Create a technology committee that represents various personnel from cross-functional departments. Consider selecting an operations, marketing, accounting, technology and finance member to this team. This committee is charged with creating the process for submitting technology solution requests for the organization as well as providing the prioritization and ultimately, approval of the requests.

Develop A Submittal Process: Inherent in a well-thought through technology strategy for an organization is developing a process for the submission of ideas. Following the “garbage-in, garbage-out” mindset, developing a detailed process for submission will help weed out the “nice to haves” and focus the committee on real, tangible solutions. This process should not only include the technology solution identified, but as importantly, the business case for its justification. For approved projects in the queue, a monthly communication should be sent to the organization recapping the activity of the committee.

Focus Your Projects: A technology committee creates focus throughout the organization. While it would be great to have every new iteration of technology that gets released, that is impractical and costly. The committee can help with providing a high-level perspective on the entire enterprise since it is considering all requests. All to often, departmental requests have a tendency to be created in a silo, with only the impact on that department considered.

Need To Have Vs. Nice To Have: This is a biggie. It is easy to feel that an iPhone 3 becomes obsolete as soon as the iPhone 4 is released, but when the technology is run by the committee, the “nice to haves” usually fail due to a lack of business case. The committee allows the organization to run with an unbiased interference with respect to technology. The committee is charged with improving ROI on technology solutions and since it is comprised cross-departmentally, there should be no “pet” projects.

One Project, Big Picture: I have headed a technology committee in the past and the greatest “aha” moment for me was the amount of similar technology solutions that were being presented from different departments. Had all of these requests been accepted, the organization would have overspent IT dollars as well as created duplicative solutions to the same issues. The committee allows for its members to “rise above” the fray of the organization and view the technology requests in the big picture. The committee’s goal was to ensure that any approved request was accretive to the overall company.

Create A Business Case: This is the best way to clear out the clutter. Ask employees what they need from a technology solution and the committee will be inundated with ideas. Ask them to submit in a business case (cost justification for the investment) along with their solution and ideas are significantly reduced. The business case for a technology solution not only helps in identifying whether the investment is worth it, but also forces the author to think about how this solution interfaces within the existing platform.

Post Analysis: Lastly, carefully measuring the business case proforma against the actual cost/return of the projects not only holds the submitter responsible, but also the committee. The goal with the post analysis isn’t to “call people out”, but rather provide an unbiased financial review of the project. Without this type of post analysis measurement to hold this team accountable, the committee eventually will serve no purpose.

Technology is Disruptive – And Empowering

Technology changes the way we work, live our lives, and have fun. Technology can empower businesses with improvements in productivity, faster development and production cycles, superior decision making by employees, and enhanced customer service. But deriving these benefits from incorporating new technology is not always a smooth process. Technology is often, at first, disruptive before it becomes empowering.

Although the ideas developed in this article may have general applicability, they are mainly intended to relate to the incorporation of new information and communications technologies into business processes. Information technologies involve computers and their peripheral equipment as well as the data flow across local area networks. Communications involve any voice and video activity including the telephone system and related equipment as well as the communications pathways creating the wide area networks.

Technology Changes Business Processes

Every action conducted within a business is part of one process or another. Sometimes the processes are easily defined and readily observable, as in the path of a purchase order. At other times, the process is not so clear but nevertheless it still exists even if by default.

New technologies are introduced into business to:

Speed up existing processes
Extend the capabilities of existing processes
Change the processes

In changing the processes, the new technologies will often allow new ways of conducting business that were not previously possible.

Other than simply speeding up existing processes, new technologies will be disruptive when first introduced. This results from having to change patterns of behavior and/or relationships with others. When disruption occurs, productivity often suffers at first, until such time as the new processes become as familiar as the old ones. At this point, hopefully, the goal has been achieved of reaching a higher level of productivity than the level at which it started before the introduction of the new technology.

Therefore a common cycle that occurs with the introduction of new technologies includes:

Lower productivity, and, finally,
A higher plateau of productivity than the starting point

The obvious goals for introducing new technologies are to:

Minimize the disruption
Minimize the time it takes to increase productivity
Maximize the gain in productivity

In achieving these goals it is helpful to understand the:

Context in which the processes operate, that is, who will be impacted by changes in the specific processes affected
Democratizing potential of technology
Types of people that will react in very different ways to new technologies

The processes by which a company operates and the introduction of new technologies do not exist in isolation. Both of these exist within a context that may be a part of and affect:

The social relationships within an organization and possibly with companies with whom you conduct business
Political (power) structures within an organization
How individuals view themselves and their abilities

Technology can be democratizing. If it is used to create and disseminate information useful to the mission and goals of the business, it can be a great equalizer between “levels” of management and staff. The key word is “disseminate.” If access to the information is decentralized, and easy communication of the information is allowed, then “front line” workers can improve the quantity and quality of decisions they make without having to involve layers of management.

Types of People from a Technology Perspective

From a perspective of introducing new technology into your company, you may find it helpful to understand the following four types of people:


Innovators/embracers will investigate new technologies on their own. They will sometimes be helpful to introducing new technologies that would otherwise not have been known to the company. They will sometimes be a “thorn” in pushing for new technologies they think will be useful (or just “neat” to have) but do not fit the company’s agenda or objectives. These people will embrace new technologies when introduced by others, will often be the first ones to fully incorporate and make use of it, and could help others to fully utilize new technologies.

Enthusiasts will accept new technology enthusiastically. They won’t usually seek it out but will be eager to incorporate it into their processes where appropriate. As a result of their openness, they will often readily learn how to use the new technology and may also be useful in assisting others through the learning process.

Acceptors will accept new technology because it is required. They will not seek it out. In fact, they will often try to avoid it at first until they are forced to accept it. Once they understand the new technology is here to stay, they will willingly learn how to benefit from it or, at least, live with it.

Naysayers habitually oppose new technologies and often are very vocal about their opposition. They often gripe about any changes and will often never change if they don’t have to or they quit before they are made to change “the way they do things.”

The productivity vs. time curve will look different for each of these types of people. Think of how each person in your own organization fits into these four types. Think of how that impacts deriving the full benefits that you’ve carefully targeted. Think of how that impacts your ability to discover additional benefits once the technologies are implemented. Understanding the differences can help smooth out the rough spots during and after the implementation process.

Lessen the Disruption; Increase the Empowerment

Understanding the context in which processes exist, the democratizing potential of technology, and the types of people will help you achieve the goals stated above for a more rapid payoff from a smoother introduction of new technologies.

In addition, make the new technologies transparent to the user or, at least, make them as intuitive to operate as possible. Extra time in pre-planning the introduction of new technologies and training employees in the use of the technologies can provide a return many times greater than the hours spent in planning and training. You can achieve faster increases in productivity, reduced impact on customers, and lower burdens on support staff.

With proper planning and training, the productivity curve will increase at a faster rate and to a higher level than it might otherwise have achieved

Ed Mass is President of Mass Strategic Communications, Inc., a telecommunications consulting firm since 1993. Visit [] and [] for more information. We specialize in Transforming Telecommunications from a Tactical Tool To a Strategic Business Resource. We Integrate Business Strategies with Technology Opportunities.

We act as an extension of your staff. We are business strategists to increase the performance of your company through intelligent and cost effective use of technology.

Specifically, we consult on IP Telephone System Decisions, Service Provider Decisions for Voice and Data Services, and Services Audits to Inventory All Services and Discover Unused Services. We do all this within a framework of Vendor-Neutral Consulting.