25th February 2019

Playing, exploring, and discovering inspired by media & technology

by Susana Beltran

This past week, as part of my regular job, I co-presented and trained several public media stations and their community partners on a space and earth science curricula. The components of this curriculum include activities for children and families around space and earth science missions, the creation of spacecrafts, investigations, and play space-themed games. These curricula was inspired by Ready Jet Go! A show for children ages 3 to 8 to learn about space, earth science, and technology to encourage in children a sense of curiosity and wonder about our world and space (PBS Parents, n.d.).

In writing this curriculum, our team was inspired by several media collections of Ready Jet Go! clips, episodes, online games, and apps. We used media and technology as creative tools to help us evolve as creative thinkers in developing an early childhood, project-based, out-of-school curriculum for children and families.

The process of inspiration from media and technology access, made me think about early childhood practitioners and their fear and apprehension about the integration of media and technology for learning. If we, as adults mediated hands-on content creation inspired by educational media content, how can educators and families also view media and technology as a learning tool?

Research has shown that early childhood education has positive long-term effects in children, especially those in low-income communities. Enhancing the opportunities for children to read and write and gain skills in math in the early years will provide children with long-term benefits of improved literacy and math skills and the likelihood of graduation from high school. However, with the introduction of technology and new media literacy tools, children can have more learning opportunities and access to different resources and more likely to gain and improved skills in language, vocabulary, and math (Fisch, Truglio and Cole 1999; McCarthy, Li, Tiu and Atienza 2013; Silverman and Hines, 2009; Verhallen, Bus, and Jong, 2006).

One key aspect that further early learning outcomes are the interactive multimedia tools that impact children thinking and language skills. Multimedia storytelling may support the learning of stories by remembering linguistic information (Verhallen, Bus & de Jong, 2006). Storytelling like Jet and his friend wanting to put their own rover Mars can lead to the creation of a project-based how to make a rover curriculum to inspire in children hands-on creativity, critical thinking, and collaboration.

Integration of media and technology can create a path for learning opportunities in young children [and adults] (McManis & Gunnewig, 2012) but without the adult meditation and guidance, technology and media cannot fulfill its potential as a learning tool. Just like Fisher (2006) states, “the role of tech is not to produce change; rather, teachers are the agent of change." We shouldn't forget that relationships are a key factor in the integration of technology and media.

Developmentally appropriate media and technology can lead to creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and play like the examples below. The clips, episodes, online games, and apps are just learning tools, gateways to hands-on, playful learning experiences for young children. We can showed the above Ready Jet Go! rover clip to the children and after watching it, we guided them to create their own rover.

Children were inspired by watching the Ready Jet Go! media suite of content and resources but what they learned that day was critical thinking, the steps to the engineering design process and scientific inquiry. We grabbed their attention with media and technology but supported the learning through a series of playful learning experiences. It is imperative that the use of technology with children is appropriately integrated into classrooms with appropriate use and practices to supplement learning in formal settings. Although there is an immense body of research on media and technology, it is far from conclusive to state that media and technology prepares a child for kindergarten or closes the gap in education. However, there is no doubt that the studies above indicate that technology and media when used appropriately with children at home and in the classrooms, has the potential to support positive early learning outcomes for children.


  • Fisch, S., Truglio, R., & Cole, C. (1999). The impact of sesame street on preschool children: A review and synthesis of 30 years' research. Media Psychology, 1(2), 165-190.
  • Fisher, T. (2006). Educational transformation: Is it like “beauty” in the eye of the beholder, or will we know it when we see it? Education and Information Technologies, 11, 293–303
  • McManis, L. D., & Gunnewig, S. B. (2012). Finding the education in educational technology with early learners. Young Children, 67(3), 14–24.
  • McCarthy, B., Li, L., Tiu, M., & Atienza, S. (2013). PBS kids mathematics transmedia suites in preschool homes. Proceedings of the 12th International Conference on Interaction Design and Children, 128-136. PBS Parents (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/parents/readyjetgo/home/
  • Silverman, R., & Hines, S. (2009). The effects of multimedia-enhanced instruction on the vocabulary of English-language learners and non-English-language learners in pre-kindergarten through second grade. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(2), 305-314.
  • Verhallen, M., Bus, A., & de Jong, M. (2006). The promise of multimedia stories for kindergarten children at risk. Journal of Educational Psychology, 98(2), 410-419.

Tags: Early Childhood, early learning, ECE, EdChat, EdTech, media, Playful Learning Experiences

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