It’s unfortunate that the AP headline “Tablets a hit with kids, but experts worry” (Dec. 25) may have alarmed parents, causing them to avoid the many positive benefits that can accrue to preschool children using iPads.
The caution comes from a pediatrician quoted in the article who says that if all children do is watch videos on their tablets, then it’s just like watching television, which has a limited ability to engage a child.
Although it should be obvious, he further notes that tablet time should not replace activities such as sleeping, reading, or interacting with adults. However, he says that educational games and applications have value, if they engage a child and prompt them to interact with the device.
Tablets were specifically designed to be interactive and engaging. The confusion about whether or not tablets are good for preschool children is largely because many people generalize studies of television screen time (non-interactive and non-engaging) with tablet time.
The Napa County Office of Education (NCOE) and NapaLearns have been working with our school districts for more than three years, introducing iPads in preschool and kindergarten classes, and the results have been outstanding.
Pre- and post-test studies on the nationally normed Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test have shown statistically significant gains for both native English speakers and English learners in expressive and receptive English language skills, a prerequisite for reading.
Kindergarten teachers, originally skeptical, have been excited about the differences in communication skills shown by children who enter kindergarten after using iPads in preschool and have eagerly embraced the use of iPads in their classes.
In fact, several of our iPad-using preschool and kindergarten teachers are being sought after to do presentations at early childhood education conferences, and we have had visits from superintendents who came to see our early childhood iPad program and returned to their own districts and established similar programs.
Yes, like almost any tool, iPads can be misused. But let’s talk about the positive benefits of this amazing new tablet technology. Parents who want to know what apps to use with their small children can look at the kindergarten teachers’ blog on the NapaLearns website, iKinder.org; call the Napa County Office of Education at 253-6810 for more information; and/or attend the Preschool Expo on Saturday, Jan. 4, between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. at the Yountville Community Center.
Also, the NCOE will have an announcement early in 2014 about a fantastic new app that we will be making available at no cost to every preschool child, whether or not they are enrolled in preschool, in Napa County. Stay tuned.
Nemko is the Napa County superintendent of schools.