Over the past week, I’ve been reflecting upon my Learning Goals and interests in relation to this course. There is much to learn and explore when it comes to digital technology itself, not to mention the potential connections to classroom learning. However, for the purpose of this course, I am narrowing down my learning journey to examine and reflect upon the relationship between digital technology and social-emotional well-being of primary-aged children, as well as the use of Apps in the primary classroom.
I am an educator of a multi-aged class (Kindergarten to grade 3) and over the years I have become more curious about the impacts, or influences, that digital technology may have on children in regards to their social-emotional learning and well-being. As I continue to think deeper about this area of learning, I wonder about screen time, supervised versus unsupervised time online or with devices, and the content of what children are viewing (e.g. music videos, advertisements, television shows, or movies), as well as the practical classroom uses such as; yoga videos, mindfulness Apps, and its use as an academic tool.
I recognize that this inquiry is currently quite broad and general in its focus, and that I have many questions. However, I feel that at this time, I need to cast a wide net in order to address and explore some of my own biases and thoughts about the use of technology. I will share that I am not opposed to the use of technology in the classroom and that I use it with my students. To begin, I want to learn more about the experiences that children have with technology outside of the classroom and how it may impact their general well-being and their learning when they come to school. As well as, what technology or Apps are available to support students in their social-emotional development and learning. I am hopeful that exploring these curiosities will help me to generate evidence-based information that I can share with colleagues and families, and influence my practice. I am also grateful and eager for this opportunity to focus my own learning, discuss with my cohort and learning community.
As I began searching for information, blog posts, and videos about digital technology and children, I came across a TEDtalk from Sara DeWitt: 3 fears about screen time for kids- and why they’re not true (2017). DeWitt stated in her TEDtalk that there are three misleading fears in relation to the use of screens with children, they are; screens as passive (not encouraging movement), playing games are a waste of time, and that screens are isolating (2017). DeWitt also posed the question of balance in her TEDtalk, “Where do screens fit among all the other things that a child needs to do to learn and grow?”. As well as acknowledging that children are growing up and learning in a technological world where screens and devices are often a part of their lives, it is our job to teach them how and why we use them. I agree that there needs to be an element of balance when we think about the role of technology and that children are growing up in a technological world. However, I believe an element that DeWitt did not clearly articulate is the importance regarding intention of why we use technology with children. I agree that there are many benefits to using technology for learning and development, but how often are those opportunities encouraged or experienced in comparison to the use of technology for “child minding”, and what are the implications of these types of purposeless relationship with technology?
In linking DeWitt’s presentation about the potential uses of technology with young children, I found an article written by researchers, Papadakis, S., Kalogiannakis, M., and Zaranis, N. The researchers (2018), stated that only 48% of marketed educational apps in Apple’s App Store could be classified as appropriate, or educationally useful. There is a mismatch, or a lack of scientific-based research, when it comes to providing educationally sound Apps that actually teach what they claim to teach. Papadakis, S., Kalogiannakis, M., and Zaranis, N., (2018), also stated that the question used to be focused on the amount of time children spent on devices, but now we must question what are children consuming when they are on devices? Is it truly educational? Is it developmentally appropriate? How do we know? I have had this experience many times, browsing through Apps, trying to find something that would be purposeful and suit the needs of my students. Often times, I don’t end up downloading anything, or sometimes I will purchase an App – only to discover that it doesn’t completely fit it’s description in what it can offer my students. Therefore, again I think that it is important to think deeply about the intention behind the use of technology when we are using it in our classrooms.
In my own practice, I recently started using the Calm App with my students during our morning routine. We begin every morning with some sort of fast-action exercise (e.g. jumping jacks, running on the spot, frog jumps, etc.), which we then move into a yoga activity using the ABCs of Yoga for Kids, ending with 2 minutes of deep breathing while standing in a “power pose” and listening to music from the Calm App. The Calm App also has visuals to support deep breathing activities. Currently, when I ask my student how the music from the app makes them feel, they say that it makes them, “Feel good”. I’m hoping that in the future, with consistent and continuous mindfulness practice, that they will be able to articulate more clearly what it is that ‘feels good’. The Calm App has also been made available to teachers for FREE in the past. Currently their website states that they are improving their Calm Schools Initiative and are not currently accepting new applications. However, to check back – visit their site here: Calm Schools Initiative – FREE for Teachers.
Moving forwards, I plan to seek out evidence-based research in regards to social-emotional learning and well-being of primary-aged children in relation to the use of technology. As well, I will be documenting the experience of the Calm App with my students and seek out other mindfulness Apps that may benefit children in their self-regulation and social-emotional learning. If there are any suggestions, thoughts, or resources that others would like to share – please post them in the comments section. Thank you!
Papadakis, S., Kalogiannakis, M., and Zaranis, N. (2018). Educational apps from the Android Google Play for Greek preschoolers: A systematic review. Computers & Education, 116, 139-160. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2017.09.007