Technology for Tots – or – Is that Drool on my iPad?

I LOVE gadgets of the technological variety. I love my phone, my computer, my iPad, my Kindle, my DSL Camera.  I also love our Wii, my kids iPod Touch, and their Nintendo DS’s. Over the last ten years of my marriage my husband has always gotten me gadgets over bling, and not left me disappointed. When marketing teams discuss how they are going to reach early adopters they might as well call my cell phone directly.

I have the privilege of sitting on a Board of Directors as one of a group of representatives for a local pre-school. This school is one I believe in with my entire heart and soul.  Both of my children went there, and although they have both graduated it is still our second home. Like many pre-schools ours has faced a decrease in registration over the last few years, and our school income has been lower than what we had hoped for.  At one of our regular meetings a committee member brought up the lack of hands on technology (note: there are working computers in each class) at our school for the children to interact with. She mentioned that she thought because we didn’t have a computer lab as part of our core curriculum we were losing a competitive advantage. I said great, do the research. What do we need and how much will it cost?

As I was evaluating what technology might best serve a pre-school, I of course asked myself the obvious questions: Who is going to teach the children? What do we want them to learn? How would technology affect the rest of the program? Would we have teacher buy in? I then thought about my own children and their pre-school experiences.

One of the main reasons I sent my children to pre-school was so they could use stamps, paint and play-dough outside of my home. These were things that my children adored, and truthfully I despised pulling out at home because of the subsequent mess I was left cleaning up. Like many kids, mine have and continue to have plenty of exposure to e-everything. So when it comes to pre-school, do we really want to engage them in a solo activity that seems to withdraw them from the very social (and messy) activities that I signed them up for in the first place?

We have all read the literature arguing the positives and negatives of children and technology. “It helps them read earlier” vs. “It keeps them from going outside and playing”. I could write an entire blog convincing myself either way that technology was imperative to raising children these days or the biggest hindrance to psychological and developmental growth. So what is the answer?

For my family, the answer is everything in moderation. This philosophy has guided many of my parenting choices and so far so good. I am curious, if technology is the question for your little ones, what would you recommend to your Board of Directors?