For the 50 plus generation, computers and the internet are things they must learn. For those between 20 and 50, these are things they have grown up with, so using them comes easily. For the preschoolers of today, computers and the internet are integral parts of the world they are born into and using them comes as naturally as watching TV and eating cookies. With this in mind, using interactive media in preschool is more than just a good idea. For many preschool teachers and administrators, it is essential.
The old saying that “The medium is the message” holds very true here. Everyone accepts that the more comfortable a student is with the method of, and tools used for instruction, the easier is the learning process and the greater is the internalization. Why not use interactive media for instruction when preschoolers find it as natural as turning a light switch?
Obviously, the media used must be designed for this age group. That means not just that the content must be age appropriate but, the manner of presentation must be that which is easily accepted and understood by preschoolers. Evaluating the media used for teaching is an important part of a preschooler teacher’s job. Here are a few parameters that are commonly used when selecting media for preschool use.
- Content: What is the basic aim of the media? Is it designed for the target age group? Does it have the repetition that preschool learning requires? Is the repetition over done to the extent of being boring? Are new ideas and concepts properly introduced and highlighted to provide the needed emphasis?
- Context: Who is interacting with the children? Is it being done in a manner that the children will easily accept? Are the children going to learn things from the media experience that can be applied in other activities? Are the children talking about the experience and what they have learned from it?
- Child: Is the level of stimulation being offered appropriate? Or is it too little and boring or too much and leading to over excitement? Is the experience triggering interest and curiosity in the children’s minds?
These are just a few broad parameters. It is important that each school and each teacher use their own evaluation systems based on their understanding of the children they are teaching and their learning needs.
Interactive media is a powerful tool; but, it is not a magic bullet. It cannot replace the value of human teacher – student interaction. The information that interactive media presents to children is something that they will accept gladly. But, guiding the interpretation of the information they have been given with and helping them in internalizing what they have learned is something that requires the teacher.
The teacher’s role begins once the interactive experience is over. As far as possible, the teacher should not be an interface between the children and the ongoing media experience. As already said, this is something that comes naturally to the children and any interaction by the teacher during the experience will be a distraction. The teacher steps into the picture once the interaction is over to discuss about the experience, clarify any doubts and spur the innate curiosity that the children have so as to encourage further interactive media ‘adventures.’ That is what the interactive media experience should be – an adventure that is engaging and fun.