Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Using Interactive Media in Preschool

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?

Evaluating Media

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.

Using Media

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.

Friday, 18 July 2014

What Makes for a Good Day Care Facility

The numbers of children in childcare are increasing every day. The main reason for this is that as the economy continues to revive, both parents are now working. In some cases, children are placed in childcare because the parents feel that it will provide a better development environment than being exclusively at home. Whatever the reason is, parents are very particular about the type of childcare facility that they put their children into – nothing is more precious to them and they will take no avoidable chances with the child’s safety and development. The types of questions that parents ask can be anything from “Will my child be happy here” to “What system of pedagogy and psychological development and evaluation do you use?” There are a few general assumptions and concerns about childcare that those involved in the field must be aware of so as to address the common parental concerns.

Children Cared for at Home Develop Faster – A Myth

There is a common perception that the dedicated care of a mother at home is the best environment for a child. However, study conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) found firstly that there is no difference in the development of children who are exclusively cared for by their mothers and those who are in the care of other. Secondly, the study found that parental and family characteristics have a stronger effect on child development than the type of childcare provided. In other words, parents who are concerned about how “right” it is to leave a child in childcare can be told that there is no difference between home and professional child care in terms of the child’s development. Additionally, the influence of the family is what molds the child, irrespective of whether care is given and home or outside.

Childcare Offers a Better Cognitive and Social Development Environment

This is another widely held belief that parents often want reassurance about. What they are asking is if taking the child out of the home helps him or her to learn faster and develop social skills rapidly. The answer to this is both yes and no. According to the NICHD study, when compared to children in home care, those in childcare:
  • Are a little better in language and cognitive development
  • Are better at letter and numbers
  • Have fewer behavioral problems up to the age of 3
  • Have more problems, like aggression and disobedience from the age of 4 ½ onwards
It is the responsibility of the childcare professional to inform parents that while childcare offers significant benefits for the child, the active involvement of the parents in behavioral and other issues is very important.

What Makes one Childcare Facility Better than Another?

Most childcare settings provide a warm, supportive and safe environment for the children who go there. This does not translate into promoting and stimulating development. For this to happen, the NICHD study has listed various imperatives. These require that caregivers and / or teachers to:
  • Always display a positive attitude
  • Respond to the vocalizations of the children in their care
  • Maintain positive physical contact with the children
  • Encourage children to do more
  • Ask and interact with the children
  • Read books and sing songs with them
  • Encourage positive behavior
  • Discourage negative behavior and interactions
When dealing with unsure or nervous parents, it is not enough for the childcare professional to offer assurances and platitudes. Parents want the best for their children and they will be reassured by facts and reputable studies and research. Being aware of the current research on the subject and staying abreast of news from the NICHD and other such organizations will prove that the organization and the people in it are dedicated professionals with detailed knowledge of what they need to do and why.