When are mainstream students being introduced to technology - specifically computers? In 2005, the U.S. Department of Education reported that 67% of nursery aged children have used a computer, while 23% have also used the internet. (U.S. Dept of Education Report)
Note: This study was prior to the release of touch screen devices. Because computers have been available longer, there is more research and educational 'best practice' policies in place for computer skills than touch screen skills for young students. This post will focus on the standard computer literacy skills for preschool students with vision.
It is critical to note that the majority of students are entering kindergarten with tech skills!
Computer Literacy for Preschoolers
Computer labs and computer classes have been embedded into K-12 curriculum; computers are also apart of the preschool classroom. Computer literacy in preschool can vary across the country; however, here are the commonly accepted computer skills that sighted preschoolers often demonstrate in some capacity.
Computer Tech Goals
- Control the cursor on the screen using a mouse
- Single click and double click
- Click and drag to move objects on the screen
- Recognize and select different icons
- Launch and quit programs
- Use draw and/or color editors
- Use text editors (input letters/text)
Use keyboard to input letters or simple text
- Type first name
- Identify and use "power keys" (Enter, Esc, Delete)
- Identify and use backspace, space, arrows, enter and number keys
- Identify parts of the computer (mouse, keyboard, screen, etc.)
Use teacher/parent-selected games and activities (may include internet games)
- Be familiar with at least 5 interactive educational applications
- Work independently or with a partner
Students with Visual Impairments
The mainstream computer tech skills listed above also appropriate for low vision students. Low vision students may change their computer's accessibility features by activating invert colors or screen magnification. Students who will rely on a screen reader may find that the typical education applications for preschoolers/early learners may have accessibility issues. While the majority of the preschool-level computer games and activities are self-voicing, these games often require vision to complete. The majority of these early learning games are not accessible with a screen reader and therefore are inaccessible for students who are visually impaired.
Here are two posts about accessible web-based games: Ballyland Keyboarding for Desktops and Laptops: A Fun Game for Early Learners and Hark the Sound. Hark the Sound is a simple game that uses only the arrow keys to navigate and select the desired items.
Young students with visual impairments can and should be introduced to computers; however, the lack of accessible preschool-level computer games makes it challenging to build basic computer skills through gamification. Often games that are accessible require some level of pre-requisite skills which preschoolers are not developmentally ready to learn. Here is a post about introducing a screen reader to a young student: Tips for Young Students learning to use a Screen Reader.
Editor's Note: Students with visual impairments may have additional computer literacy tech goals, especially if the student will be using a screen reader. Additional goals may include listening skills, understanding earcons (see earcon post), listening speed, basic commands, etc.
Touch screen devices are significantly more accessible for preschoolers with visual impairments. Toddler/preschool apps tend to be self-voicing - including simple cause-and-effect apps. Part 2 in this series will cover computer literacy for touch screen devices.