By Michael Hilkemeijer
Play is not only an established part of early childhood education but also it is a part of children’s social, emotional, cognitive learning and motor development. Through play, children build language skills, engage in social interactions, develop their concepts about the world and experience physical and cognitive challenges.
As an early childhood teacher, you engage in play-based learning using strategies such as modelling, questioning, discussions and conversations to be responsive to young children’s knowledge, skills, and capabilities.
Children should begin to learn about technology – how it works, and the roles it plays in their own and other people’s lives – as well as learning through technology. Play is recognised to be an significant aspect of both these kinds of learning.
The “Statement on Young Children and Digital Technology’ defines digital play as involving young children in a combination of activities using a range of both digital and non-digital resources, either by themselves or collaborating with others.
By incorporating non-digital and non-working digital technologies into play-based learning in early childhood education, therefore, does not require a high budget. It does, however, require a strong will and a critical approach to one’s own pedagogical experiences, perception of modern knowledge about the role of ECE and courage.
In this video, I will show you how the productive process of digital play-based learning in early childhood education can be started even with one ordinary computer and a strong-minded principal.
3 Digital Strategies for Play
Even if you decided to start or intensify the integration of digital play bases learning in your ECE centre, you will need to answer several questions. These strategies were developed by UNESCO (2010, p 106-110) and also work towards developing ICT capability and digital literacy in early childhood education.
Further develop your capacity as an ECE practitioner to integrate digital technologies
It is important that you try to extend your understanding of the context in digital play based learning. This will involve becoming familiar with your government’s ICT framework and policy documents.
- Develop your own ICT competency by having a well-developed understanding of the role and potential of ICT for supporting young children. This is a lifelong process and by achieving this it should be able to assist you in the process of planning and supervising ICT professional development for teachers.
- You will also need to continue to study high-quality sources. If academic books on ICT pedagogy in early childhood education are not available, then online sources like this one can help too. Use the articles you will find here to analyse the potential of ICT in your play-based learning environment.
- Look for other ECE institutions in your region that promote digital play based learning in early childhood education.
Classify your position
The fact that you are here reading this article should already indicate that you have started taking the steps in order to integrate digital play based learning activities. Throughout this process you will need to consider:
- Motivation and initiation – who is the initiator of this process and why?
- What are your goals; which curriculum do you prefer - have you defined your goals clearly, in more detail than they are defined in the official educational curricular documents?
- Which categories of ICT do you use – do you use only one or two technologies? Do you realise what ICT is a broad concept, which gives us many possibilities and opportunities for a new experiences for the complex development of children?
- How do you use these ICTs to support the learning and play processes – do you integrate ICT in your planned processes as a tool for achieving your goals or just it as an add-on?
- What is the ICT competency of your teachers that you have at your disposal? How many of them and to what extent are they prepared and motivated to learn, discuss, discover and innovate – are you able to create the atmosphere of the learning community?
- Who will support you?
- What does your centre use the ICT tools for (apart from administration) – mainly for and with children to support their learning processes or to support the children with special education needs, to develop and plan activities, to analyse, to create e-portfolios of the children, to communicate with parents?
- How do you analyse, evaluate and further project this process – how much attention do you pay to the reflection of your situation, to the reflection of the development of your children in the context of using ICT, of their development in social, physical, intellectual, creative and emotional domains, which instruments do you use?
Set up your goals and objectives
Congratulations on getting this far! By now you should have a clear orientation in addition to having an obvious why you want to integrate digital play based learning in early childhood education. It is time to:
- Keep your goals and strategy simple – as your centre may have various levels of ICT competency amongst the staff, keeping it simple will help you explain it to them and win their attention and support.
- Keep your goals and strategy flexible – be prepared to make your goals and strategies flexible allowing you to learn and develop your insight.
- Think about the areas of learning, play and development and how to support children’s development through digital play-based learning.
- Clarify what is beyond your goals and why – by this it means not setting as one of your goals learning to operate computers and other ICT. Throughout this process, the children will develop skills and knowledge so the goals should involve extend their capabilities in ICT.
- Look for strategies how to (a) implement ICT into many current activities so that the goals are more efficient, authentic and inspiring and (b) specify your new goals – which will create new opportunities for children to learn through digital play based learning in early childhood education.