There Are Some Things an iPad Can't Replace

Funny, right?!  We love this ad because it so beautifully illustrates the dichotomy between tech adopters and tech resistors.  And perhaps more importantly, it shows that some things are best left lo-tech.  

How does this relate to early childhood?  

There are many people opposed to using technology in early childhood education because they see it as a replacement to tried-and-true, developmentally appropriate practices.  I kind of see their point.  There are some things the iPad just can't do.  If an iPad were ever used in place of clay and crayons and playhouses and swing sets, I would be sad.  I imagine the kids would be, too.  Children need to engage with people, nature, and tangible, "real-world" objects.  These things are important for development.  And they're fun.  Which is also important.

Does this mean we should be afraid of iPads and resist them entirely?  I don't think so.  Technology has become an integral part of our culture.  Young children want to feel connected to the world they live in, and touch screen devices are a form of technology that's accessible to them.  iPads are intuitive and require little dexterity to use (unlike computing devices that came before them). 

How should we use iPads with young children?

In his recent blog post for the Fred Rogers Center, children's media specialist David Kleeman says, "Don’t insert technology when the real-world experience is better."  If you have a garden full of bugs, it's better to go outside and observe the bugs than to just look at images of them on an iPad.  Later, the iPad could come in handy to deepen the learning and answer questions that can't be found in the garden, such as "Where else in the world do these bugs live?"

So, is it better to create "real-world" art or digital art on an iPad?  There's room for both.

  "Real-world" art gives kids the opportunity to interact with the art media using all of their senses (yes, even taste...ever seen a kid lick clay?  Eat paste?).  This multi-sensory learning is invaluable.   But digital art also has it's place.  An iPad gives kids the chance to create during times they normally couldn't (in transit, waiting at the doctor's office, etc.).  Quality creative apps will enhance the creative experience by giving kids tools that they can't access in their "real-world" environment.  They will also support collaboration and instant sharing with loved ones.

What should we look for in quality kids' apps?

Look for apps that:

  • Are wildly intuitive OR Include visual and audio guidance for easy navigation (this is empowering for kids!)
  • Support exploration, discovery, creativity, communication, and collaboration
  • Spark interest in new subjects or inspire deeper learning

And finally, remember the lesson in the French toilet paper ad:  Don't use an app if there is a better lo-tech solution!