By Michael Hilkemeijer
There are many different learning styles that you need to be aware of as an early childhood teacher so that all children can learn effectively throughout the curriculum.
One of which is to learn from examples given or demonstrations provided and while I cannot demonstrate the use of ICT in early childhood education, in my studies I have come across many preschool case studies that will effectively help you learn the best practices that are occurring today.
They constitute an exciting collection of pedagogical interventions into the territory of ECE. It will highlight the trends and help you to recognise the potential of ICT in early childhood education.
These are just 2 examples that you will find in my ICT in Education Teacher Academy as I have put them into a special collection/mini-course for your convenience.
They are extracted from a study by UNESCO (2010) on Recognising the potential of ICT in ECE.
Example 1: Period of great explorations and revelations
My son at the age of 4 accompanied me at an international conference. While I was preparing for my presentation, I let him sit in front of a computer running Logo and showed him the effect of “FORWARD” command, knowing that he was fond of numbers.
He immediately started exploring it with different parameters to witness the distance the Turtle went forward. He first started out with familiar numbers of one or two digits, but later got more eager to enter much bigger ones.
But, numbers with more digits did not produce notable effects, so he started to go backwards, writing smaller and smaller numbers. Suddenly, he shouted out: “Mummy, do you know what 0 is? It is just NOTHING!” This great revelation stayed deeply within him with the memorable content.
This made me develop a complex tool – KIDLogo – for ELTE University kindergarten in 1984 and got loads of revelations myself on the treasures that this age group was able to dig up and manipulate with.
Estimation of lengths and angles meant no problem for kids as well as their fluent use to express exactly what their intentions were in terms of self-expression while drawing.
They had no problem to understand and use the iconic drawing tool with 30 degrees of turns at a key press and even understood and changed the angle (experimenting to get the right value) when the drawing required that.
They all took up a challenge in finding the right letters on the keyboard to write their names on the drawing or express their textual explorations and quickly mastered the fact that the computer was able to learn drawing different figures if they give their drawing procedure a name.
At first they used their own names, those of their brothers/sisters and parents in sequence, but around the fifth attempt, they insisted on using the name that represents the drawing itself. They were well aware that these saved procedures could be reused from different angle settings and could also be modified by others for repeated use.
They understood perfectly well the difference between saving a drawing with a file name (to be printed later) and saving a procedure for drawing (that is, the program) with a file name that can
be later retrieved and further worked on or shared with others.
After a year of experiment I let abroad and the only kindergarten teacher able to use this program left to another kindergarten. The project was thought to be left to die!
However, returning after five years, I was shocked to find out that everything was running on: kindergarten teachers just allowed children to switch on computers (even if they were themselves not aware of what was going on), while working, older children taught the younger ones how to use the program, and thus, it went on and on for years quite swiftly.
Collaboration was one of the buzz words, as this is how they were always helping each other attaining own goals and burning desire to grow up to a next challenge was the other secret key to success.
Example 2: Dreaming and dancing with ICT: Developing creativity
I like to work with ICT because it enables me to see the results of my work in dynamics. At my sessions, I use Dreamer’s Magic Designer (on the left).
Creative environment of the program allows revealing individual abilities of each child. It is so interesting to observe how children create their images, buildings, how delighted they are during the process of working with the computer; it is interesting to guide them in search of new solutions in creating different compositions.
Recently, I conducted a session called Waltz of the Flowers. The beginning of the session was accompanied by famous Waltz of the Flowers by Tchaikovsky.
Wonderful sounds of music were spreading all over the room while children entered the computer class, where a real flower gallery was waiting for them: floral bouquets, rose petals and flowers made of paper (Origami), photos of flower meadows, floral artwork made by children. The room looked magical, ready to spin in a rhythm of waltz.
Together with me, children recollected their summer vacations, nature and flowers: dandelions, daisies, roses, carnations. I asked children: What are flowers for? The children tuned into lyric mood by the waltz and room decorations answered: to make beauty, to raise our mood, to smell sweet, to give them to mother, to make garlands.
Then I invited children to take petals, throw them up and observe how they spin when falling down. I asked: Do you think it looks like a dance of colours? Let‘s imagine how the flowers are dancing. The children closed their eyes and started imagining the dance of flowers and rocking gently.
Finally, children started their work on computers: Using the Flower Fantasy workshop of Dreamer’s Magic Designer every child started creating his or her own dance. While working on the computer some children silently dreamt about the dance having their eyes closed. One girl stood up, danced and sat back again to continue her work.
I admired the variety of solutions that children showed. In a dance of one child, small flowers were drifting around one large flower; second child made flowers dance in pairs; third child made a colourful kaleidoscope of flowers and petals of all types forming a ball.
These ideas could be used in a real dance. The drawings were passed to the teacher of rhythm. At a dance session each child showed his or her own dance to the teacher; dance, which he or she fancied and created with the help of a computer.
That is how creative ICT applications, classical music and talent of a child turned children into young choreographers.
Recognising the potential of ICT in Early Childhood Education - Kalas, 2010