As I write this in a coffee shop, there is a parent with a child who looks to be three years old. The parent is typing and reading on a smart phone. The child mostly entertains herself. She calls out to her parent to get her attention. The parent says yes each time, without looking up. After the fourth time, the child goes over and sticks her head between the parent and the view of the smart phone. The parent slightly startles and then focuses on the child. She holds up a brightly-colored magnetic letter and asks what letter she is holding. The parent hops up and they explore the magnet board together. In less than two minutes, the parent returns to the seat, the smart phone aglow, and the rapid-fire thumbing begins again. This is a very familiar scenario that we have all seen (and done!) many times.
Screens are everywhere: in homes, in stores and restaurants, in your car, in your pocket. Everywhere you turn, more and more technology enhances and encroaches into our lives. It is challenging to monitor your child’s tech time as so many options are available – smart phones, tablets, video games, computer time and more. Many of us sigh and wish our children would just play.
FUMP provides just that; our commitment to a technology-free classroom zone has truly stood the test of time.
At FUMP, we do not have computers, tablets, or televisions for children’s use in the classrooms. Within our walls, we are almost purists on this topic. As technology has advanced, children are more plugged in than ever before. As children are increasingly plugged in, so are the adults around them. Parents are spending time focusing on devices regularly during the day (Myself included. No stones being thrown here). Granted, we do capture observations of children’s behaviors with technology, especially using photographs. This is considered a best practice within early childhood; to capture images of children’s development as we are able. Also, we want our parents to see the amazing things that happen during the school day, so we take photos to share with our families. This is done sparingly, so we are keeping as tech free as we can.
As a result of this decision, the children are compelled to be fully engaged; with their peers, with the adults in the environment, with the classroom materials and experiences. While this decision about our philosophy was made over 40 years ago, we never realized the impact it would have over time.
To illuminate how times change, previously, early childhood educators were encouraged to use technology in the classrooms. Experts recommended that teachers expose children to technology and they should learn to be comfortable with it at an early age, using a mouse, clicking icons, etc. Now, technology has evolved to become highly intuitive, user-friendly and ever-so portable. I recently observed a 13-month-old infant reach for her mother’s smart phone and start swiping at the screen. She could only walk a few steps in succession, but she comprehended the rudimentary workings of technology at such a young age. I am in awe of the progression of technology in a relatively short time.
At FUMP, we have created this lovely, wholesome, engaging environment that fosters relationships; both child-to-child and child-to-adult. Our teachers focus on the art of conversation; listening, explaining, questioning, laughing — being fully present while they interact with the children. Children, too, are drawn into active learning; exploring, experimenting, creating, learning in dynamic ways. Also, they must navigate the social world around them — sharing, communicating, negotiating, listening. FUMP successfully creates a haven for meaningful interpersonal relationships and learning.
We hope that parents find the technology-free zone an added bonus of FUMP. We certainly do.
A Postscript…. I received this email from a current FUMP parent, just after the post was published. Keep reading for one parent’s perspective about FUMP’s tech-free environment.
I just want to thank you for the great column you wrote regarding technology and it’s ever-encroaching presence in our lives. I know we’ve had the conversation in the past about the importance of play-based learning, and as my little girls continue to grow and are closer and closer to entering public school, I find that philosophy even more important. I know that (realistically) kids will have to learn to navigate in a tech-driven world, but I think there’s an appropriate time and place for that — certainly not before elementary school, in my opinion. Anyway, thanks for reminding us that the unplugged world is a great big beautiful place that provides endless learning opportunities and loads of entertainment — and for reminding parents that FUMP is doing its part to make those opportunities accessible to our little ones.