Today, media also permeate the world of children. Among children living in Germany, according to a recent study, television is the most popular and most heavily used of the media, well ahead of audio-cassettes and picture-books . The media are an integral component of the world that children live in, and processing of media impressions is an important part of early childhood accumulation of experience. Accordingly, quite aside from issues raised in current media criticism, the media should perform an important function in early childhood upbringing and education.
The usefulness or otherwise of media depends on the quality of the material, on its meaningful pedagogical integration, and on individual support from parents, early years practitioners and teachers. Media deployed in a way appropriate for the child can bring positive benefit to the development of the learning processes. They contribute to variety in the teaching activities, allow for multisensory learning as well as an individual approach to the learner. They can also be useful in aiding development of the powers of concentration and memory.
In early foreign language programmes, media (understood as the entire range of play and learning materials plus the electronic media) transmit learning content in differing ways. The media can initiate, accompany and support learning processes, and can deepen them by way of the replay facility, and they can also record and document results. By contrast, uncontrolled use of media may significantly impede learning.
For the child’s learning process real objects from the immediate surroundings and the natural world, toys, glove puppets, and games including board and dice games are preferred. The most widely used print media include picture cards, text cards, picture books, magazines and textbooks, along with transparencies, posters and placards. Media requiring technical support include sound recordings, photographs and films, CD-ROMs, online content and e-mail. Digital photo processing, electronic communications and aids such as the interactive board fascinate children and can play a useful role even in early foreign language programmes by imparting information and considerably enhancing learning motivation.
Children involve themselves very actively with media: they enjoy operating the equipment for themselves, and independently. For genuine competence in the media field, nothing can replace hands-on experience. Materials and media used by linguistically qualified pre-primary staff and teachers of foreign languages may be authentic or may have been specially developed for educational use. Materials that have been adapted or edited for educational use should differ as little as possible in content and form from the authentic original material even if they have had to be simplified for classroom use.
- Selection and deployment both of traditional and of ‘new’ media should derive their rationale from the goals, content, methodology and pedagogic principles of early foreign language learning.
- Irrespective of their form, media should be deployed sparingly and on the basis of careful consideration. They should support and enrich the learning process and never become an end in themselves.
- Media use contributes positively to the language learning process, to media education and to gaining media competence. Media experience should be accompanied by the practitioner or teacher, partly so that the children clearly understand its use, partly also to help them judge what value different media have for them personally.
- Practitioners and teachers should be able to recognise the legacy that children have brought with them from their media experiences into the learning programme, (e.g. in re-enacting roles, processing what they have experienced, exchanging views on television programmes with other children, etc.), tap into it at appropriate points, and use these points of reference to aid their understanding of the childhood learning process.
- Children love to be active, and in media sessions should be supported in their wish to play an active role.
 Cf. Feierabend / Mohr (2004)