Access to Technology Is Key to Early Childhood Education


Nov 4, 2014

Three preschool children using a tablet on the floor

Photo by boggy22/iStock

Young children can benefit from the proper use of technology in early childhood education. But to realize these potential benefits for children from all income classes, education providers, families, and young children themselves must have access to an adequate technology infrastructure.

Technology infrastructure consists of three key components: devices, connectivity, and software.

In a new policy brief, “How Much and What Kind? Identifying an Adequate Technology Infrastructure for Early Childhood Education,” we examine how stakeholders might collaborate to define what constitutes an adequate technology infrastructure and help ensure it is realized.

The findings are from a one-day forum in Pittsburgh last May, convened by RAND and PNC Grow Up Great, about technology use in early childhood education.

Among the key findings:

  • The government could set infrastructure standards, and might have a role to play in making connectivity affordable.
  • Researchers, supported by foundations, and working closely with device developers, are the stakeholders best positioned to identify the affordances and features of appropriate needed devices.
  • Software challenges should be addressed by an agglomeration of stakeholders: Governments and nonprofit funding bodies, such as private foundations, could consider and rate the content of software in the context of identifying effective curricula and practices; software designers and ECE providers should collaborate directly in the development of applications.
  • Government agencies may be well-positioned to help address discrepancies in availability and cost of connectivity.

The policy brief is the third of five to be released over the next four weeks examining key questions related to technology use in early childhood education.

Lindsay Daugherty is a policy researcher at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation. Rafiq Dossani is a senior policy researcher and director of the Center for Asia Pacific Policy at RAND.