In a recent article published in Education Week, experts shared their ideas about the “right fit for ed tech” in the first years of a child’s life. Recent rapid growth of digital media for young children has flooded the market with a variety of products, including apps, electronic games, and software. Most would agree that educational technology is here to stay, but what works best for early learning in the digital world? Although research on this topic is in short supply, leaders in the field point to several important principles that contribute to high-quality learning for preschoolers.
According to a position paper from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC, 2012), “Effective uses of technology and media are active, hands-on, engaging, and empowering; give the child control; provide adaptive scaffolds to ease the accomplishment of tasks; and are used as one of many options to support children’s learning.” And in the words of Michael H. Levine, executive director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop, optimal use of technology is like a “ping-pong match,” with plenty of interaction among children and adults. He also claims that best uses of technology encourage children to make their own discoveries.
Chip Donohue, recognized expert and editor of Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years (2014), believes that the key is intentional use of technology in developmentally appropriate ways. That’s the approach developers of EmbarK12 Comprehensive embraced when they designed dynamic multimedia for this new Pre-K program. So, how does Embark echo the principles noted above? First of all, it’s a blended program that delivers a thoughtful balance of both online and offline engagement. Digital interactivity involves the child responding to a touchscreen that comes alive with stimulating animation, audio narration, colorful graphics, and age-appropriate vocabulary. Embark is a thematic, multidisciplinary solution that scaffolds concepts across core subjects (language arts, math, science, social studies) and the fine arts for meaningful learning.
The Embark website portal was built for easy navigation with one-click features, putting children in the driver’s seat as they experience learning activities that invite them to make choices, interact physically and linguistically, and create original content. Throughout, young learners receive timely feedback, so they can reflect on their answers and adjust their own thinking accordingly. A wide variety of cool tools and bite-sized activities sustain their attention, while relevant topics and real-life scenarios keep kids focused and on task.
What sets Embark apart from the vast array of other pre-K products? The “comprehensive” nature of this kindergarten readiness package, blended engagement with exciting content-rich experiences, and carefully integrated skills and concepts connected across the curriculum make it a unique offering for 21st century preschoolers. Embark does just what Kyle Snow, research director at the National Association for the Education of Young Children, recommends, encouraging children to “explore the real world, interact more closely with adults, and create their own magic.”