Is the NAEYC Draft Technology Statement really controversial?
It’s interesting to see how people who are weary of change react when change becomes inevitable. Take, for example, the recent flap over the draft update to the NAEYC Technology Position Statement. Some very respected leaders in early childhood education, including Diane Levin, Meg Merrill, and Susan Linn, have taken exception to the draft, and have issued a “call to action” to the field to respond to the draft. While I also urge everyone to take (hopefully) one last chance to weigh in on the draft, I (with all due respect) take exception to some of the extreme assertions and misinformation they published about the draft.
Now, bear in mind that this Position Statement has been in the works for more than a year, and there was already one comment period. The authors incorporated the comments into the most recent draft. In order to accommodate all the viewpoints, another comment period was offered to members. This (hopefully final) comment period ends May 31.
So is all of this much ado about nothing? I think it is. I believe the arguments set forth by many of the “anti-technology” contingent muddle the waters with inapplicable arguments and inaccurate insinuations. While the detractors of the draft statement sometimes make meaningful points to consider, they are obscured within exaggerations and out of context statements. Don’t get me wrong, I think a little refinement might be in order, but many of the statements completely off-target.
Point, Counterpoint: My perspective on the drama
I’ll address the points in the statement entitled “Do preschoolers need mandatory screen time?” on the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood website:
If we don’t act now, the pressure on early childcare programs to incorporate screen time into their core curriculum will intensify. With preschoolers already spending an average of 32 hours per week with screens outside of classrooms, the last thing they need is mandatory screen time in school or daycare.
1) “Pressure” and “screen time”? Position papers do not pressure or direct association members to do anything. They state positions from a high level. No obligations are stated, implied, or intended in this draft or any other position paper NAEYC has ever issued.
2) If children are already spending time in front of screens at home (which is clearly a class issue) shouldn’t we issue guidance to parents instead of ECE programs? Shouldn’t parents turn off the TV and shut down the computers to spend quality time with their children? Isn’t it more likely that professionals will make constructive use of interactive technology than parents who don’t know a lot about child development? Do we not trust the programs who are members of NAEYC to use technology judiciously?
3) The data, including the statement “32 hours” of “screen time” used out of context. Numbers are bandied about recklessly. Is this data about children birth to 8? Is the data reflective of TV/Video use or interactive technology, or what? All screens are not made equal. It’s irresponsible to generalize data and use it when it does not apply. That is a tactic for extremists. Extremism is bad for early childhood education.
4) Remember, the concept of Developmentally Appropriate Practice was developed by NAEYC. Clearly NAEYC does not advocate sitting groups of children down for instruction on computers or for anything else.
Prescribes that screen technologies should be included in all early childhood settings, regardless of the age of the children served or type of program. Even play-based and outdoor preschools will be expected to incorporate screens.
Provides no objective criteria or guidance to educators about whether or when to incorporate screens into their classrooms.
Does not address the growing problem of screen-based commercialism in preschools.
4) The draft does not prescribe anything. It does not “mandate” “screen time”. It is clear that NAEYC does not and cannot “mandate” anything. It is a voluntary membership organization that offers high level position statements. How can you make the leap from a position paper from a membership organization to “…expected to…” do anything?
5) In general, position statements are not standards. They simply outline an organization’s position from a very high level. They:
- do not include in-depth summaries of research, but do include citations upon which the statement was built.
- do not include a lot of direct guidance. They outline the position of the organization, which sets the stage for books, articles, policies, and procedures that will offer more guidance.
- cannot encompass detailed discussions of every possible negative result, but should offer high level guidance about the possible consequences and problems, as this draft does. Commercialism in media are not a part of a statement intended to discuss the use of interactive technology in the classroom. The authors of this draft were careful to carve out a specific path to discuss interactive technologies in the classroom to set the position statement apart from discussions about violent and otherwise harmful media and commercialism.
I’m issuing my own call to action: Let’s all agree that we are doing our best to help early childhood educators learn more about how to use interactive technology with intention and responsibility. Let’s take extremism out of the equation, use information in context, and think strategically about how to make progress. While I also urge everyone to send comments, I also urge you to use reason and offer ideas within the context of a position statement. If you need to write a book that builds upon or contradicts NAEYC’s position statement, have at it.
Explore the real issues: How to evaluate interactive technology
ECE Tech: Beyond Debate-How To Evaluate Children’s Interactive Technology Tools and Media