Tuesday, January 24, 2017

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Technology for Preschoolers (Perfect for STEM Planning!!)

When I think about technology for preschoolers, I tend to divide it into two groups: Electronic Technology and Non-Electronic Technology. In this post I'm going to share technology ideas and ways to introduce your preschoolers to technology in both categories.

Before we get started, let's begin with a brief introduction to technology. What is technology? I know this has been a conversation in a lot of groups I've been in! According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, it can be

1- a practical application of knowledge (so, doing something with knowledge) OR
2- a manner of accomplishing something using a specific process, method, or knowledge

Other dictionaries add the following definitions for technology too:

3- the application of scientific knowledge for a practical purpose (very similar to #1 above) OR
4- machinery and/or equipment developed with scientific knowledge (so, any tool) OR
5- anything in engineering, applied sciences, or electronics

Clearly, technology is a HUGE field!

Technology Fun Fact: the world "technology" comes from Greek words meaning a "systematic treatment of the study of an art or craft!"

So what does technology look like for preschoolers?

Remember how I like to look at two types of technology? Let's start out by looking at examples of both types, and then we'll look at ways to integrate it into different preschool activities!

Examples of Electronic Technology for Preschoolers:

(scroll to the end of this article for Amazon affiliate links)
* Computers/laptops
* Cameras
* Tablets
* Electronic sets like Snap Circuits or Squishy Circuits
* Electric pianos
* Electronic scales cales
* Hot glue gun
* Stopwatch
* Game systems like Leap Frog, X-box, Playstation, and others
* Electronic toys like LeapFrog's Word Whammer; battery-powered guitars, keyboard mats, electric musical instruments; "kid" computers, electric globes, and so many more!

Examples of Non-Electronic Technology for Preschoolers:

(scroll to the end of this article for Amazon affiliate links)
* Pipettes
* Scissors
* Measuring Cups
* Building sets like gear sets, Magformers, wooden blocks
* Balance beam scale
* Paperclips
* Markers, pencils, crayons, paintbrushes, and other writing utensils
* Paper towel tubes
* Turkey basters
* Funnels
* Rulers
* Hole-punch
* Spray bottle
* Stapler
* Wooden planks
* Tape
* Glue

Technology Fun Fact: Pivoted "cross-bladed" scissors were probably invented by the Romans about 100 AD. A simpler bronze version had been used by the Egyptians some time before that. The modern scissor design was first mass-produced in England in 1761 by Robert Hinchliffe.

Preschool is full of different activities, so let's look at three separate types of activities, and ways to integrate technology into each of them: free play, guided "organized" activities, and activities that target STEM learning. You can integrate technology into each of these areas!

Technology for Preschoolers ~ Free Play 

Free play is a vital part of every preschooler's day! It gives them a chance to choose their own play/learning, investigate what they're interested in, and experiment with whatever strikes their fancy. It is independent learning at its finest! (Click here to read more about how young children's brains work.)  They will use technology that is accessible to them during free play! My favorite way to facilitate this is to make technology available in Montessori-style bins.

We have the following bins available during free play: Magnet Bin, Electronics/Circuitry Bin, Snap Circuits Set, LEGO bin, Wooden Blocks Bin, and a Plastic Tracks Bin.

I also have the following items "out" and available at any time to our preschoolers: a full-size electronic keyboard and an art table (with drawing materials, tape, glue, rulers, stickers, stamps, and paper).

The following items are "put away," but our kids know where they are and can get them with permission whenever they need to use them: blankets, tools, dress up clothes.

Using Technology with Preschoolers in Guided, Organized Activities:

Guided activities are important because they introduce preschoolers to new technology (tools) and how to use it safely. Once they know more about them, you may want to move them to a more accessible location during free play...or you may want to keep them put away for supervision. For example, my kiddos are all competent and happy to use a hot glue gun (we use a "low temperature" hot glue gun) when they're four years old, but I still keep it in a location that requires my supervision. However, if they ask to use it during free play time, I usually get it out and supervise them while they create whatever they need to.

We use techology in guided preschool activities in two ways: 1- as a whole group and 2- during center rotations.

I like to do at least one whole group activity every day. Our needs are unique because we homeschool with our preschoolers, so this whole group activity needs to appeal to children 3-9 years old. Using technologies in a group setting like this lets older children have more independence while you supervise younger children more. These activities can be art, history, science, STEM, geography, a foreign language, or anything else! Here are a couple examples:

Penguin Art Project (technologies include paintbrushes and the process of applying salt and letting the water evaporate to create a cool textured background)

Ancient Roman Roads (technologies include making concrete and the process of making a Roman road)

Nuts & Bolts Sculptures (technologies include hot glue guns)

Introducing technology during center rotations is my favorite way to use computers and tablets with my preschoolers. They are growing up in an age where knowledge of electronic technology is vital for their adjusting to our society, and they seem pre-programmed for it! They figure out technology very quickly, and they love it. I like to load learning games on our tablets (my favorite tablet is LeapFrog's Epic...and I would say that even if I were not a "Leap Frog Mom Ambassador!") or let them use ABC Mouse on the computer for 20-minute rotations while I take turns working one-on-one with children who are not on the computer or tablet. They love the electronic time and end up reviewing important early literacy, math, and science skills while mastering important basic technology skills (like mouse operation, "power keys" on a keyboard {like "enter" and "backspace"}, and how to navigate screens, windows, and tabs.

Technology for Preschoolers ~ STEM Activities

Many times, as your preschoolers play with each other during free play they will create STEM projects for themselves! Just yesterday I watched our kids go outside, "build" businesses for each other using chairs, wood, brooms, and other objects they could find, create a currency system using rocks and sticks, and proceed to buy and sell each other's goods and services. It was fantastic! Without any prompting, they managed to integrate every aspect of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) that we often spend so much time planning for! Sometimes, the best way to target STEM learning and plan for STEM activities is to just let your kiddos play!

On the other hand, if you're reading this you're probably hoping for projects that you can plug into your lesson plan that will meet STEM activity guidelines or requirements. And that's okay...I have lots of them! I've heard from a lot of preschool and kindergarten teachers who tell me that their district is requiring them to include STEM in their curriculum, and they don't know how to do that. The easiest way is simply to include a STEM project once a week. Make it part of your "Friday Fun Day!" (As a side note, you probably include a lot of STEM learning already...remember all the examples of non-electronic technology above?! If you ever want to chat about it, feel free to send me an email.) Anyway, here are six projects that use all four aspects of STEM, including technology. I'll highlight the technology aspect in a note under the pictures.  ;)

Penguin Feathers STEM: the playdough is a tool and an exploration into jacket technology is suggested.

Polar Bear STEM: the baggies (and any other barriers you test) are tools/technology.

Eiffel Towers STEM: the glue gun is technology.

Electricity With Preschoolers: electricity is electronic technology!

Dinosaur Eggs STEM: Any tools your child chooses to use are technology!

5 Fabulous Websites: These websites have activities that use science, math, and engineering, but just the computer or tablet you use to access them is technology!

Now we've covered what technology is, examples of techology, and easy ways to integrate it into your day. What are you working on? If you have any questions, feel free to send me an email or leave a comment!

And if this has been helpful for you, you should totally stop by my posts on Engineering for Kids (especially preschoolers), Measurement & STEM for Preschoolers, Bridge STEM Activities, and How to Design a STEM Curriculum (especially for homeschoolers)! Lots of great ideas on similar topics! I also have a HUGE collection of STEM activities for preschoolers here!

This post is part of a HUGE series of STEM Activities & Information hosted by Little Bins for Little Hands...pop on over by clicking HERE and check out all the great ideas!

Amazon Affiliate Links for Technology Products for Young Children (that I love!):

Happy Educating,

I may share at any of these parties!

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