Helping Teachers Overcome Technology Barriers in Early Childhood Education


Nov 21, 2014

A teacher helps a girl use a digital tablet

Photo by MachineHeadz/iStock

When it comes to helping young children appreciate the benefits of using technology in a classroom setting, early childhood education providers play a critical role integrating that technology appropriately, intentionally, and productively.

But these educators face myriad barriers to fulfilling these roles.

In a new policy paper, “Getting Early Childhood Educators Up and Running: Creating Strong Technology Curators, Facilitators, Guides, and Users” we examine efforts that might be helpful in creating confident, knowledgeable providers of early childhood education who can help ensure appropriate, intentional, and productive use of technology among young children.

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.

Early childhood educators can play a number of roles in supporting the use of technology by young children, including curators (e.g. selecting appropriate tools), facilitators (e.g. guiding children as they use technology), models (e.g. demonstrating appropriate use for children and their families), and users (e.g. leveraging technology for communication with families).

However, providers face a range of barriers that may prevent them from providing effective supports to young children as they use technology, including:

  • Improper access to devices, software and the internet
  • Uncertainty about standards
  • Unfavorable attitudes about technology use and young children
  • A lack of time to ensure successful integration into classroom activities
  • A lack of training on appropriate, purposeful technology use with young children
  • Rapid technology development trends, and a lack of communication between developers and teachers

There are a number of things that can be done to ensure that early childhood educators have the support they need. For example, a clear set of standards with consistent messaging can help to communicate what appropriate technology use looks like. Other efforts we recommend to overcome barriers include educator learning communities, structured time for exploration, professional development, and more frequent communication between educators and technology developers.

The study is the fourth of five to be released examining five key early childhood education questions examined by the forum participants.

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.