Title: Briding the generational tech gap in childcare. Image of two women using a tablet together.

Bridging the generational tech gap in childcare

We live in an age where children grow up surrounded by technology, with many having smartphones available to them from a young age. Generation Z has always had access to instant results and, let’s face it, they’re better than we are at navigating technology in general! According to social analyst Mark McCrindle, “They are the most mate­ri­al­ly endowed and tech­no­log­i­cal­ly lit­er­ate gen­er­a­tion to ever grace the planet!”  

Many of us educators are millennials and Gen X, so we can navigate new technology fairly easily, since it’s been part of our life for at least our adult years. When we are introduced to a new platform or device, we often get excited and see it as a fun, new challenge. But there is an older generation of educators that we need to look out for who might shy away from new technology and prefer the “good old fashioned way” of doing things. 

It’s our job as younger generations to bridge that gap and help them along the way! 

Here are some tips to help our older generation of educators feel successful and relevant as they learn new technologies in the classroom:

1. Provide grace

A lot of us younger educators tend to roll our eyes when it comes to the older educators and we can’t understand why they don’t just “get it.” Instead of being willing to show our older peers how to use new technology, we would rather do it ourselves. 

Let me challenge you: If you find yourself getting frustrated, try to show more grace! Have you ever tried to learn a new skill using a tool you’ve never used before? I can show you my sad attempt at learning to crochet, and how I lasted maybe one hour before I quit! We’ve all been there, and that’s why we need to show more grace and empathy. 

Instead of just handing a tablet to an older educator and expecting them to know how to use it, give them plenty of time to ask questions and try it out. Allow for plenty of time to implement a new piece of technology, and actually take the time to sit with them and model how to use it! Don’t assume that everyone knows how to use an iPad or a Bluetooth speaker, or a SMARTboard. 

If you’re going to assume anything, assume that everyone at least needs a refresher.

2. Provide training

When introducing a new piece of technology, good training makes the difference between getting the most from that new tech and it collecting dust in a corner. Remember the generation you’re working with: a YouTube video alone isn’t enough! Don’t train on technology with technology! 

Instead, have some mandatory in-service training when children are not in your care, and then have some training that is available if educators want to come. At this training, make sure the trainer is prepared, patient, and clear. Model how the technology is used and how it can be implemented. Allow time during the training for hands-on learning, and remember that not everyone will grasp the concept at the same time, just like our children learn at different paces.

3. Provide mentoring

Assign each educator who is new to the technology with a mentor: anyone who is both tech savvy and empathetic. They also need to be willing to go over tutorials repeatedly until their colleague is comfortable. 

Can you think of someone on your staff who could do this without feeling overwhelmed? 

Providing an incentive is also helpful, such as a stipend to the mentors as a “thank you” for their time and care. Keep in mind that this can be a 6 month commitment or more where the mentor regularly checks in with the protege and is available as needed.

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4. Provide playtime

The best way for anyone to learn is to play. We know that for our children, but how often do we do that for our educators? Allow plenty of time for your struggling educators to play with the technology. They can take it home if they want or even allow for some comp time to play! This will help them feel equipped and less pressured than if they had to learn in the presence of their children. 

I remember when I was introduced to the SMARTboard as a young teacher: I was so excited to jump in and play! But I also remember one of my educators who was so afraid to try. It was intimidating, and the idea frankly scared her. When I invited her into my classroom after school one day, I ordered some takeout, and we just played around. We both messed up often, and when we did, we just laughed! It was one of my favorite memories at that center because we didn’t feel pressured to perform–we just simply played and learned our way through it. 

Be sure to allow time for this in your program!

5. Provide choices

Remember way back when we had to list objectives for every lesson plan?  I’m sure many of us still do that. Objectives keep us in line with making sure we are teaching what is necessary. It helps when we know the “why” to what we are doing. 

The same goes for new technology. 

Ask yourself “Why do I need to implement this technology?”  “Is it necessary or just a new trend?” If there is an activity that can be done with and without technology, go ahead and give the educators the freedom to choose how to do it. If an older educator prefers to do a math activity with the good old ruler, allow room for that! 

Not everything has to be replaced with technology. When our older educators have the space to choose, they will feel less pressured. So the next time you require educators to use a certain technology, be sure to ask yourself what the objective is and if there is another avenue they can choose instead.

When we switched our center from paper daily reports to the HiMama app, it was hard for some of our “old fashioned” educators to make that switch. They liked that they could write it in and hand it to the parents in their classrooms. But when they were shown how much time they would save AND the benefits of why it was helpful to parents, then they totally understood the “why.”  

With the right amount of time given to train and adapt, everyone on our team was “sold” on why we switched to the app. And we haven’t looked back since!

Technology is here to stay, and that’s a great thing! Let’s just make sure the older generations of educators don’t feel left behind. The main reason for their hesitation is that they feel inadequate and ill-equipped. If we can bridge that gap with providing a fun, learning atmosphere, they will most likely be more willing to try! 

At the end of the day, we are all learners, and we all need to be humble in learning new skills. That’s up to you as the provider to foster that kind of culture at your center. 

What are some ways that you implement technology to those who are older? 

Let us know below in the comments!

Missy Knechel

Missy is a professor in the early childhood department at Eastern University and director of Victory Early Learning Academy, a childcare center that she started ten years ago. Prior to that, she taught Kindergarten and second grade for a total of 10 years. She has been married to her best friend, Jason, for 18 years, and together they have four beautiful children ages 8, 9, 12 and 13 in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. In her spare time, Missy loves to bake, read historical fiction, sing karaoke and travel to Central America on short term missions.