It goes almost without saying that our early educational experiences play a distinct role in how we approach future learning opportunities. This is one of the reasons why many childhood development specialists are such enthusiastic advocates of play-driven learning. When kids embrace new concepts and ideas through play, they are more likely to react to the increasingly challenging nature of their lessons with positivity. So what does this have to do with tech? For kids today, tech is an inescapable part of the learning process. Even if they don’t have access to a lot of tech at home, they will be using it in school, at friends’ houses, and—ultimately—at work. With the right encouragement, this early exposure can quickly translate into a familiarity with tech that opens the doors to scholastic achievement and an affinity for STEM learning.
Laying the Building Blocks for a Positive Tech Relationship
According to educational researcher Robert J. Marzano, without positive attitudes and perceptions, students have little chance of learning proficiently, if at all. This observation applies to tech relationships as it applies to every facet of the scholastic journey, and it means that you don’t have to be a tech savant to teach your kids about tech. In fact, they’ll do most of the learning themselves—all you have to do is provide encouragement, support, and the occasional nugget of wisdom. Of course, that’s not to say that you need to endlessly praise the wonders of tech. Teaching proper sense and caution is as important in the digital age as anything else, but these teachings should be applied as part of a positive introduction to the almost limitless potential of modern ingenuity.
Speaking the “Language” of Technology
We’ve known for a long time that kids learn new languages with greater ease than adults. According to oncology nurse Suzanne Robin, this is because young children are hard-wired to learn language in the first few years of life. When frequently exposed to two languages, they unconsciously acquire the second language naturally. So if, as tech moguls like Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, and Meg Whitman assert, coding, programming, and computer science can be considered amongst the core languages of the 21st-century, shouldn’t we be introducing those languages to kids at an age during which they are the most capable of acquiring fluency?
Preparing for the Digital Age
Research has shown that STEM education at an early age nurtures essential critical thinking skills, regardless of future career paths and education plans. But these educational fundamentals also help to prepare kids for a future in which the need for tech-related skills is exploding. Jobs in computer science, programming, and coding are growing exponentially, and many of today’s early learners will ultimately be pursuing career paths in those fields. To help prepare your kids for this digital future, try introducing them to toys that incorporate STEM fundamentals. Coding toys like the CogniToys STEMosaur, for example, give kids the opportunity to learn early coding basics — all while having fun. If you are unable to offer your kids access to these tools at home, try enrolling them in a STEM learning group. Programs like TechBridge offer resources and instruction that can be invaluable to young learners. Check in with the Afterschool Alliance to see what’s available and your area.
Other resources you might find helpful include: