It was very interesting to read this article from Stuff.co.nz today about early childhood education providers using Nintendo Wii and Skype in their centres. This was especially interesting after reading a blog post from Educational Origami about what age was appropriate for children to be using social networking.
In the article we are seeing technology being used in early childhood centres in a way that promotes both education and exercise. The Nintendo Wii is a very useful piece of technology that can get kids moving, especially in the wet winter days that we are getting at the moment. My sister, who lives in Australia, bought a Nintendo Wii for her children for this reason – keeping her kids active during the very hot summer days where it is sometimes better to stay inside an air-conditioned room. I must admit, that right now I would love for our family to have a Wii, as our kids are getting a bit crazy with all this rain! Of course the other good aspect of the Nintendo Wii at this age is that it helps build motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
The kids were using Skype also to video call other kindergarten children around the world! Well, in my view that is absolutely fantastic! The kids are getting a grasp of technology, able to learn about other cultures, countries and possibly languages. They get to meet new and different people and getting to make at least a little sense of the world!
All of this interaction is being closely monitored and it needs to be. As the article suggests there are critics of these schemes however we really do need to look at both sides of the situation. There is some good teaching and learning to be done with this technology. I would certainly be happy for my children to be experiencing this sort of learning at kindergarten or school. And just like everything, it needs to be balanced. It should not totally replace other activities.
One bonus for educators in primary and secondary schools is that the students themselves will already have started to learn about cyber safety and privacy.