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Integrating technology into the preschool classroom

Integrating technology into a preschool classroom can seem like a complicated balancing act. On one hand, there are many apps, programs and devices that are specifically catered to support early childhood education. Yet on the other hand, your students may already be watching television, videos or using tablets or smartphones for hours every day.

So how do you benefit from these new technologies without overloading your young students with excessive screen time? The following ideas may help you to use technology in an innovative and productive way in your preschool classroom:

1. Break out the flip phones and landlines
With the popularity of smartphones, it is likely that your preschool students have never seen a flip phone - or even a landline with a cord. Collect old phones and set them up at different stations around your classroom. In order to teach your students good phone etiquette and phone safety practices, encourage them to take turns "calling" each other. You can have a script written up with topics they need to discuss on their phone call. You can even turn the activity into a fun skit where students can improvise and have fun.

2. Introduce learning apps or websites
While apps or websites should never serve as a substitute for classroom learning or interaction, they can offer specialized or engaging lessons for your students. Many are designed to strengthen reading, math, or critical thinking skills, while keeping students interested with fun graphics and music. Set aside a few minutes each day for students to login to these websites or apps. They can be rewards for a job well done, warm up activities for the daily lesson, or ways to practice what students learned that day.

3. Goodbye pen pals, hello Skype pals
In the past, many students expanded their world views and improved their communication skills by writing pen pals around the country or world. With the advent of Skype and other collaborative mediums, now students can have Skype pals rather than pen pals. Students can speak with others their own age in another country or state, allowing them to learn from about other cultures or ways of thinking.

For example, if your students are learning Spanish, you could connect with a sister school in Central America, allowing both groups of students to practice speaking another language. This can be beneficial on even a local level, as you could partner students with others in another school district. You could even partner students with senior citizens at a local nursing home or college students at a university. The possibilities are endless.

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