Technology and digital media are an integral part of our world today!
Not long ago, the conversation about digital media and early-childhood learning focused on whether these new technologies should be part of early-childhood education, but in recent years, the conversation has shifted to an acknowledgment that technologies are a part of learning.
More than ever before, educators are open to embracing technology!
The most influential new research shedding light on the change in acceptance of media use comes from the American Academy of Pediatrics. A report released in October 2016 provides updated recommendations that more accurately reflect the daily lives of young children both at home and in school. In addition, current research is beginning to make clear that while digital media can provide significant learning benefits for young learners, the adult–child relationship is essential to obtaining these learning benefits.
One extremely effective method for establishing adult–child relationships as children interact with technology is "joint engagement."
Hatch Early Learning has long been grounded in developmental research, and new research makes it clear that experiences of young learners are somewhat different from those of slightly older preschoolers, pre-kindergartners, and kindergartners. The integration of joint engagement (between teachers/adults and young learners) helps to ensure young learners are supported through communication, guidance, and relationship building.
What Is Joint Engagement?
Joint engagement = Child-controlled/teacher-facilitated, somewhat spontaneous interactions that take place between children and teachers (or other adults).
It’s through relationships that we grow and learn best!
When adult–child relationships are established, children are more ready to learn, all of which contributes positively to children’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.
Why Is Joint Engagement Important?
- Joint engagement plays a critical role in early-childhood development. Studies indicate that joint engagement abilities (i.e., a child’s ability to participate in joint engagement) can predict later cognitive, language, and social competencies.
- Teachers employing joint engagement gain insight about what their young learners do and do not understand, what they like and dislike, and so much more! These insights enable teachers to maximize each child’s learning experiences.
How Do I Implement Joint Engagement?
- First, joint engagement is all about teachers following the lead of the learner, but it is important that you model appropriate technology use because the children will follow your lead!
- As important as it is for you to model appropriate use, it is vital that you encourage children to lead you as they make decisions about their play.
- At times, it can be a struggle to let our young learners problem solve their way through technology interactions, but resist the urge to take over! Rather than reaching over to show a child how to answer a question, manipulate an object, and so on, encourage children to try a few techniques on their own!
- Prior to the child reaching frustration, provide suggestions to help them solve the problem. If you sense a child has reached a level of frustration that will interfere with the overall experience, provide guidance.
- Encourage young learners to scout out a location from which you can both comfortably enjoy technology time together!
- If you are working with a computer rather than a tablet, work with the child to find an appropriate seat for you (and/or them).
- Direct attention and eye contact between what is on the screen and the young learner with whom you are working.
What to Say/Do and Other Important Techniques for Joint Engagement
Choose one or two of the following techniques during each joint engagement interaction, and over time, mix them up!
- Listen closely. Make comments and ask questions that show your interest and understanding.
- Supply words that the young learner may be trying to say but does not yet know. Add details if invited, but do not take over the young learner’s storytelling or information sharing.
- Ask the learner what they think and why.
- Be patient and provide the learner time to respond.
- Use "tag questions" such as, “That is a green house, right?” or “I see a cat. Do you?”
- Providing a description is a something you likely do many times every day! As it pertains to joint engagement with technology, simply share a brief description of what is shown on the screen or what the child is doing (i.e., “You moved the caterpillar to the flower.”).
- Provide "evaluations" about what is shown on the screen (i.e., “I like the way the robot dances!”).
- Ask the learner to point to pictures and find details. Talk about the pictures and ask the child to name or describe what they see.
- Focus on what a child means to say, not how they pronounce the words or what language or communication system they use.
- Give the child time to repeat new words.
- Say and repeat sound effects and repeated lines or choruses together.
Support the young learners by
- Asking “why” and “what-if” questions.
- Suggesting new possibilities with statements or questions (i.e., “What if you moved the triangle there instead?”).
- Supplying or asking about missing connections with statements or questions (i.e., “Why didn’t the dog make a barking sound that time?”).
- Encouraging children to model their reasoning and problem-solving with statements and questions (i.e., "Tell me how you made the cow say, "moo.'").