Empowering Underachieving Youth with Developmentally Appropriate Web 2.0 Technology Tools

Document Type


Presentation Date


Abstract or Description


Lack of a thorough knowledge of child development and theory that serve as a base for the design of electronic equipment, and lack of teacher input in the selection process leads to the waste of precious funds, gross misapplication, and hence developmentally inappropriate classroom technology practices. Further, in order to foster social and emotional skills and enrich the social climate for all children and youth, especially those from high-poverty populations (Strand I.), and in order to improve instruction (Strand II), it is imperative that teachers (not necessarily technology staff) choose developmentally appropriate technology for their students.

Brief Program Description

Research-based and developmentally appropriate technology strategies are presented orally and in table format (NAEYC, 2012; Piaget, 2001; Vygosky, 1987). The table, also offered as a hand-out, provides a quick point of reference for classroom teachers.

Target audiences of this presentation include teachers, teacher educators, technology specialists, and instructional designers. Participants are encouraged to ask questions and dialogue with the presenters.


More than once over the years we have witnessed a growing phenomenon---technology personnel (not necessarily classroom teachers) repeatedly adopting expensive electronic programs without knowledge of their theoretical grounding, authenticity, and applicability to the students and program(s) they are supposed to enrich (Garner, 2003; Lightfoot, 2011; McKenzie, 2001). Result? Wasted monies (Dede, 2012; Mageau, 2012; Needleman, 2012) and developmentally inappropriate equipment used briefly then relegated to the back closet (Becker, 1998; Hughes & Ooms, 2004; National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2012). In order to break this cycle of spend-use briefly-discard-spend, we propose that before spending precious funds on inappropriate technology for students, those involved need to consider cognitive development (National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2009; Piaget, 2001; Vygotsky, 1987) and the theoretical bases which undergird the technological equipment under consideration. Without knowledge of these things, the technology will be short-lived at best or doomed from the beginning. With these ideas in mind, our purpose here is to improve academic instruction by offering developmentally appropriate technological strategies (i.e., Web 2.0 tools) defined by their theoretical grounding(s) and cognitive appropriateness, and used successfully in our own classrooms.


Developmentally appropriate technological strategies defined by their theoretical grounding(s) and cognitive appropriateness reject the notion of controlled incremental structured frameworks, such as programmed instruction (Gagné, 1987; Skinner, 1968), into which students and their needs are “plugged” (McCall, 2002, 2012) thereby stifling personal choice, responsibility, and student empowerment. Developmentally appropriate strategies reject the multitude of programs which focus on rote drill and practice (Chatel, 2005). Many of these programs are indeed self-paced but not developmentally appropriate and not grounded in children’s individual needs and wants. Lastly, while it is important that students learn how to create spreadsheets, graphs, and other statistical databases, the attention paid to these things quite often overwhelms the attention paid to teaching students metacognitive strategies, critical analysis, responsibility, and creative problem-solving (Kearsley, 1998). Instead, developmentally appropriate technology stimulates and enriches a child’s cognitive, linguistic, socio-emotional, and psychomotor development in a nurturing and democratic environment ( NAEYC, 2009; Noddings, 1992, 1995). The focus is on choice (Piaget, 2001), dialogue (Vygotsky, 1987), authenticity, responsibility toward oneself and others, and reflection. For example, Animoto, one of the tools listed in the table, offers children the freedom to choose meaningful activities (e.g., developing, producing, then sharing slides or videos) which stimulate creativity, critical thinking, and reflection (Copple & Bredecamp, 2009; Dewey, 1901, 1902, 1916; Kohn, 1993).

Additional Information

Georgia Southern University faculty member, Linda Ann H. McCall and Jackie HeeYoung Kim presented Empowering Underachieving Youth with Developmentally Appropriate Web 2.0 Technology Tools in the National Youth At-Risk Conference, March 2015.


National Youth At-Risk Conference


Savannah, GA