Reviewed by Mary McLaughlin, M.S. SpEd
One of the key ways to promote strong academic skills in preschool students is to allow each student the opportunity to demonstrate skills they’ve recently learned. Traditionally, this may mean a teacher calls upon a student to answer the question. This leaves every other student in the classroom out of that particular discussion. However, activities designed for cooperative learning allow for each student to demonstrate a learned skill to each other, creating an environment that better supports the retention of newly learned skills.
Typically, cooperative learning methods feature a specific sort of teaching where students are split into groups, given clear instructions, and then evaluated by the teacher as they observe the various groups engaging in the group activities. This allows students to demonstrate on an individual level their skills and abilities learned during the group activities.
Cooperative learning methods also result in remarkable growth in the social well being of preschool students. This is especially important for students that typically withdraw from larger social activities. More introverted students may differ from Parten’s Stages of Play, reaching stages of associative or cooperative play at a later time than more social students.
To help reinforce positive social interaction, the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) suggests using technology as a cooperative learning tool. The use of computers inspires cooperative work between preschoolers, allowing them to jointly present solutions to problems and tasks. Any conflicts that might arise present an opportunity for students to resolve their own problems while engaging in what is regarded as a fun and rewarding activity.
One of the key technologies that the NAEYC talks about is a multi-touch table, a large tablet device that allows for multiple inputs at once. In contrast, single touch tables force students to take turns or the table does not function properly. The NAEYC admits that the uses of a multi-touch table are not entirely researched, but the possibilities for this new technology to positively create cooperative learning opportunities are prompting discussion.
The table has been shown to create inspirational moments between students as they see their peers creating and storytelling with the technology. Despite the rarity of such large devices, teachers can leverage other commonly found devices, such as iPads, to create digital learning experiences with similar results.