It can be said that play is a fundamental part to being a child. An article on environmental education stated that “open-ended play is important for young children because it provides opportunities for exploration and discovery, which are necessary for supporting learning.” (Cutter-Mackenzie, A., & Edwards, S., 2013). Children learn by a range of things from playing in the mud to putting together a puzzle. Even the most mundane play can encourage development. Although play comes in many forms, it seems that in many cases technology use is criticized as being a separate entity from play.

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“The historical positioning of play in early childhood education is one of the reasons why play is most often described as a basis for learning, and yet continues to be separated from digital technologies.” (Edwards, S.,2013, p.203)

Some people just do not consider playing a video game or using a camera a form of constructive play. I can agree that in some ways digital technology may be nonconstructive when used poorly. If a child is passively watching Call of Duty YouTube videos for hours on end, then they are not expanding their brains and exploring their talents. Although this happens, technology offers so much more and should not be separated from play. Digital technology is ingrained in our present day culture and can be interacted with in much the same way as building blocks or puzzles.

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Lets have a look at what digital play can teach children:

Our previous look at play stated that play involves EXPLORATION and DISCOVERY. How is it not exploration and discovery when a child figures out how to interact with a touchscreen or to solve a puzzle on a computer game. An article on digital play in the early years found that, “A child playing with an avatar is likely to have a fairly sophisticated grasp of how to separate meaning from object because she needs to know that ‘symbolically’ she herself is represented on the screen by the digital image.”(Edwards, S., 2013, p.204). Video games do not have to be mindless and time wasting, they require a lot of cognitive processing and problem solving.

Here are some other benefits to digital technology in play.

Active video games can actually encourage exercise.

Games and technology can be a social experience. it today’s world, we are actually more connected than we have every been in our lives. Students can even connect to each other in the classroom via Skype.

Enhance tinkering and STEAM experiences.

Bonding time! If it is something a caregiver enjoys or has a digital hobby, they can share that experience with a child.

Technology use is the play of tomorrow and has many positive outcomes”From a DCC perspective, play (according to the cultural historical tradition) continues to be culturally and temporally adaptive and so does not need to be thought of as separate from children’s technology use.” (Edwards, S., 2013, p.208-209). Let’s try to encourage quality technology play and create play experiences that are meaningful and fun using things such as iPads, SMART boards or computers.

Remember, everything in moderation! Happy playing 🙂

BONUS: a few good places to begin constructive technology play

MinecraftEdu – a version of Minecraft that can be used within the classroom

Camera – go out, explore and document!

Starfall app – lots of games with curriculum focus

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References

Cutter-Mackenzie, A., & Edwards, S. (2013). Toward a model for early childhood environmental education: Foregrounding, developing, and connecting knowledge through play-based learning. The Journal of Environmental Education, 44(3), 195-213. doi:10.1080/00958964.2012.751892

Edwards, S. (2013). Digital play in the early years: A contextual response to the problem of integrating technologies and play-based pedagogies in the early childhood curriculum. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 21(2), 199-212. doi:10.1080/1350293X.2013.789190

(all photographs used come from Pixabay a non-copyright, free image user)

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