Using digital learning in the classroom

Technology & learning in the classroom

Technology and learning in the classroom.

When you combine technology and teaching in the classroom, it leads to better learning and skill development for early learners. Through technology, you can engage children in key skills such as play, self-expression and critical thinking which will help to support later success academically and their digital citizenship.

What you’ll learn:

  1. Guiding principles
  2. Tips for learning in the classroom
  3. Online resources


Guiding principles

Below are some guiding principles for use for early learners. 


Principle 1: Technology – when used appropriately – can be a tool for learning

Using the right type of technology at the right developmental age can help young children grow and learn. Teachers and family must take on an active role to provide an environment where children can learn about technology and technology tools and use them to play, solve problems, and engage in fun and challenging activities.

Technology should never be used for technology’s sake. Instead, it should only be used for learning and meeting development goals, which can include being used as a tool during the day.

Use the Three C’s to determine what is developmentally appropriate for a child when it comes to technology –

  1. Content – How does this help children learn, engage, express, imagine or explore?
  2. Context – What kinds of social interactions are happening before, during and after the use of the technology? An example of this is conversations with parents and peers. Does it complement and not interrupt children’s learning experiences and natural play patterns?
  3. The individual child – What does this child need right now to enhance their growth and development? Does this technology appropriately match the child’s needs, abilities, interests and development stage?

Example: Physical books or e-books for early learners

E-books have capabilities impossible to deliver in physical books –

  • A device can hold a complete library of stories for children to explore
  • Words and sentences can be highlighted during oral narration
  • Pre-recorded narrator can read the entire text aloud.

The best experience for children to experience a physical book or an e-book is with an adult who is actively involved, asking questions that allow children to expand on what they’ve read.


Principle 2: Technology should be used to increase learning access to learning opportunities for children

When appropriately used, by early learners with guidance and modelling by adults, technology can extend learning such as introducing children more directly to cultures and place outside their community. Although children can access print resources from libraries, technology can increase the amount of reference information immediately available to them on a given topic and give them the ability to ask questions of people outside of their classroom. Technology should feature culturally responsive material – material that helps to achieve learning outcomes regardless of cultural or linguistic background.

You can use the following questions as a guide when selecting material –

  • Do children see different types of people, characteristics and attributes?
  • Do children hear a variety of sounds, voices, and music?
  • Are a variety of situations being depicted?


Principle 3: Technology may be used to strengthen relationships among parents, families, teachers, librarians and young children.

Technology can be used to build connection between home and school, especially between teachers/librarians and family members. For example, digital portfolios documenting student work through photos, audio and video recordings enable teachers to share what children are learning in class with families. This allows parents to track their child’s progress, validate their child’s efforts and accomplishments and opens opportunities for parents to engage their child about their learning to reinforce or supplement it.

Consider using text messages, social media and email in addition video technology to provide information and coaching to parents to reinforce at home what is learned at school. Video chatting is not limited to interactions between teachers and parents but also allows children to communicate with peers. While technology has the power to bridge the physical divide, it should not be used to replace meaningful face-to-face interactions.


Principle 4: Technology is more effective for learning when adults and peers interact or view together with young children.

Research shows that children learn more from content when adults or early educators watch and interact with children, encouraging them to make real world connections to what they are viewing both while they are viewing and afterward.

You can encourage more effective learning for children by the following:

  • Before a child views the content, you can talk to the child about the content and suggest certain areas to watch for or pay particular attention to
  • You can view the content with the child and interact with the child in the moment

After a child views the content, you can engage the child in an activity that extends learning such as singing a song they learned while viewing the content or connecting the content to the real world.


Tips for learning in the classroom

Tip 1 – Use two (or more ways of communicating)

Design classroom activities that combine multiple modes of learning such as visual, audio or spatial. For example, students can interact with e-books, create blogs, videos and play digital games as new ways of demonstrating digital literacy and digital communication skills.

Supporting children to create multimodal designs, even something as simple as creating a digital drawing or diagram paired with writing is a fantastic way to ensure educational benefit when using technology.


Tip 2 – Channel creativity

Look for opportunities for students to produce rather than consume and to be interactive and creative. Students shouldn’t be sitting passively watching a screen, or sitting through lecture-style content while watching the teacher flip through slides.

Avoid activities or educational software that simply required students to engage in closed answer “fill in the blank” responses. While sometimes useful for memorizing information, such as spelling words, using platforms that encourage creativity and support children to think for themselves is better for critical thinking.


Tip 3 – Choose collaboration

Give students opportunities to work together with their peers when learning and engaging with digital media. Create collaborative digital activities to engage students in higher order thinking skills and explore content in depth with the support of their classmates.

You can use technology such as devices and software that allows multi-user learning and encourage students to interact with each other. This includes interactive discussion boards, digital whiteboards where students can experience a digital learning environment together.

Incorporate “distributed expertise” where classmates help each other out in areas of digital literacy and technology, rather than seeing the teacher as the only expert. This will help to develop the students’ soft skill such as creative thinking, communication and teamwork.


Tip 4 – Movement is key

Encourage children to be active physically while using their brains. Research shows that moving can help keep the brain active. Cognition is deeply connected to the child’s bodily interactions with the world, so technology use and learning doesn’t need to be motionless!

This might include dancing along to songs teaching the alphabet to using augmented reality apps where smartphones and tablets are used to render 3D object, text or animations on screen. An example augmented reality app which can do this is Augment, which also offers specific instructions and accounts for educators.


Tip 5 – Media-free moments

While technology is great for learning in the classroom, ensure to set guidelines to achieve an appropriate balance. Establish media-free zones and set content and time limits appropriate to age and the curriculum.

Remove smartphones, turning off computers and laptops, and keeping an area completely technology free at regular times during the day is important to establish healthy habits with technology.


Tip 6 – Support digital citizenship

Teach students about cyber safety, including the need to protect and not share personal information on the internet, the goals and influence of advertisements and the need to caution when clicking on links. Model good digital citizenship and behaviour and be ready to share knowledge on how to critically evaluate how reliable online sources and other media are.

These skills are particularly important for older children who may be using a device unsupervised. Ensure the proper filters and firewalls are in place so children do not access materials that are not approved for a school setting.


Online resources

You can find some useful resources and online courses that help teachers plan and use different technology in the classroom including Google, Apple, Microsoft and other technologies: