iPads bridge kindy generation gap

By Amelia Wade

Four-year-olds (from left) Harry Ward, Alice Egerton, Emma Dickson and Ted Henderson all use iPads at the Kelburn Little School in Wellington. Photo / Marty Melville
Four-year-olds (from left) Harry Ward, Alice Egerton, Emma Dickson and Ted Henderson all use iPads at the Kelburn Little School in Wellington. Photo / Marty Melville

Preschool pupils outclass teachers with their grasp of new technology.

Kristiana Denford-Deck is meant to be the one teaching preschoolers, but these days she often finds the roles reversed, with her young pupils showing her how to use her centre's iPads.

"They're the new generation and they know more about them than I do - they tutor me," the Little School teacher said.

"Because touch and feel is something so important in those early years, it's something they pick up really quickly. It's something that's practical and easy for them to do."

Tablets are becoming increasingly common in early childhood centres as learning tools that help teach kids maths, literacy, sharing and motor skills.

At four of the five Little School centres around New Zealand, the iPads are used as tools for learning rather than play. (The fifth, in Auckland, doesn't have them yet.)

The private preschool chain decided to purchase five iPads for each centre because the owners said children were surrounded by technology so it made sense to incorporate it into their education.

The children have been using the iPads for six weeks and the results are already apparent.

Throughout the day, the young students are taken into a separate room in small groups and use the tablets in pairs, playing interactive games that help their mathematics and language skills.

Children are also taught the tools' value as well as how to look after and use the iPads.

"You get amazing amounts of communication and lots of teamwork happening," Ms Denford-Deck said.

A Christchurch centre for preschool-aged children with disabilities has also been using iPads as a tool to assist learning and help children's cognitive development.

Champion Centre director Susan Foster-Cohen said the staff were amazed at some of the barriers the children had broken through with the help of the technology.

"We're finding that with some children, they're able to tell us what they know through an iPad in a way that they're not able to tell us through verbal language," Dr Foster-Cohen said.

"For example, if they've got to make a choice between items or they've got to show us that they understand the difference between same and different."

The centre doesn't own any of its own iPads - but a staff member and a number of parents have the gadgets.

Dr Foster-Cohen said staff at the centre made sure the children knew the tablets were used as one of many tools to help them learn and didn't replace physical and verbal interaction.

iPads were particularly helpful for children with cerebral palsy, Down syndrome and autism.

"Because it's a machine it's sometimes easier for [the children on the autistic spectrum] to engage with.

"They can often find interacting with humans overwhelming," she said.

"It's an exciting new addition to our tool kit."

But not all parents are pleased about iPads creeping into early childcare education - one Nelson mother said she would be concerned if her 4-year-old son came home singing the tablet's praises.

Angela Cox, a kindergarten teacher herself at a different centre, said it was important for youngsters to be exposed to technology, but that was a parent's responsibility not the school's.

"I send my son to kindergarten so he can develop social skills and I don't think an iPad does that ... . I don't think they have a place in early childhood centres."

- NZ Herald

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