Tech in the classroom: it’s been a hotly debated topic in the education sphere for years. Parents worry that kids are already spending too much time in front of a screen, and teachers worry that devices such as tablets and computers make it too difficult to keep young students on task. Fortunately, recent developments in the EdTech field offer a solution to both problems. Here, we’ll take a look at what these developments mean, and how they can help kids to reach their full educational potential.
So What Is a Tech Toy?
Tech toys are very new to the market, and are primarily focused on helping kids gain early exposure to STEM fundamentals. Unlike computers and other smart devices, tech toys are designed just for kids. That means they’re often screen-free, and they have inbuilt limitations to prevent activities such as surfing the web. The CogniToys Dino, for example, is a Wi-Fi enabled toy that can answer questions on topics such as history, geography, and math — offering a similar interface pattern to personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa. Whereas Alexa is meant for adults, however, the Dino is meant for kids. That means that it never answers questions that aren’t age-appropriate, and doesn’t give young users unfettered access to the Internet. Other tech toys can help to instill early coding skills, preparing students for later careers in the technology field.
But Don’t Kids Already Have These Toys at Home?
A lot of educators feel that tech in the classroom is not strictly necessary, arguing that kids already have more than enough technology at home. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for every student. Many kids from lower income families don’t have access to these early learning tools, putting them at a significant disadvantage should they be interested in pursuing a career in, for example, IT, engineering, or technology later in life. Introducing tech in the elementary classroom gives these kids a chance to start out on a more level playing field — ensuring that they have the same opportunities as their peers.
What If I Want to Bring Tech Toys into My Classroom, but I Don’t Have the Funding?
Tech tools are, unfortunately, notoriously underfunded at the elementary level — with school districts often arguing that these learning devices are nonessential at such an early age. EdTech proponents, however, feel that early exposure to technology functions in a very similar way to early exposure to language. The earlier kids start to learn, the more likely they are to become fluent in later life. If you want to bring tech toys into your classroom, but don’t have the funding, try pursuing grant and donation opportunities. Some of these are government-funded, and others use crowdfunding methods to help garner fiscal community support.
What Role Do Tech Toys Play in the Classroom?
Tech toys have many different applications in a classroom setting. Some educators prefer to use them directly as a teaching tool — taking advantage of their educational features to help make learning fun. Others prefer to simply offer them as an option during indoor recess or activity time, giving kids the opportunity to explore the technology for themselves. Many tech toys can even be used in pre-K classrooms, enabling teachers to introduce students to EdTech fundamentals at an earlier age than ever before.
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