How children learn with Technology in Early Childhood Education

Teaching Strategies

By Michael Hilkemeijer

In order for you to effectively integrate technology in early childhood education and develop ICT capability in the learning environment, it is essential to understand the key elements of learning theories that underpin the ICT supports learning. 

Learning with ICT includes:


  • Behaviourism;
  • Constructivism;
  • Social constructivism;
  • Situativity;
  • Brain-based ideas;
  • Metacognition and;
  • Affective aspects.


Theorist such as Kennewell (2004) suggests that there are three types of knowledge – knowing that, knowing how and knowing why. Whereas ‘knowing that’ refers to factual knowledge, ‘knowing how’ refers to skills and the last one concerns the element of understanding of which there is a high emphasis on.

He points out that all are essential and that all school curricula are based on them. As a result, as a teacher your understanding of ICT integration should follow suit.



Behaviourism is based on the idea that people learn from experience through the mechanisms of stimulus-response. It is through applying the activity frequently and providing positive feedback where the learning process occurs.

Examples of technology in early childhood education are in the use of literacy and numeracy software or other integrated learning systems. This type of use is fantastic if you specifically want to focus on the learning of these skills, but has little to no impact on the development of child ICT capability. We will discuss this later on.




Constructivism theories were developed at the same time as behaviourism by such theorists as Jean Piaget. However, though similar the key ideas revolved around the concept that the “development of schematic structures in the mind which constituted understanding” (Kennewell, 2004, p. 90).

A key part of this theory is part that emphasises the importance of children learning while reflecting on experiences. Reflection plays a significant role in the learning of ICT capability for without it is unlikely that experiences will have any effect on mental structures.

For this reason, it is important that you provide opportunities for children to reflect on their experiences at different stages of their work. This will involve you to continually plan and monitor their actions carried out during tasks.



Social constructivism focuses mainly on the individual mind and therefore has a tremendous amount to do with cognitive development.

This type of theory encompasses key concepts such as you as the teacher considering the learning environment in addition to discussing how collaboration is paramount to learning.

The collaboration of children on ICT tasks has a powerful role to play which is why it forms the basis for many approaches to using ICT in the classroom today.



Higher order skill development is a significant component of what constitutes as ICT capability. The skills which it encompasses includes monitoring, evaluating, selection and the control over processes – all of which are metacognitive in nature. For ICT capability within children to occur they need to:


  • Be aware of their own knowledge and ICT techniques and processes;
  • Be aware of the opportunities and limitations offered by the possible use of ICT techniques and processes and;
  • Have the ability to regulate their own actions in the application of that knowledge.


‘Knowing what you know’ is important because “knowing how well they are likely to perform in a situation will affect the way students approach a task and how successfully they are likely to be” (Kennewell, 2004, p. 93).

This feeling of self-efficacy will enable them to choose to do something and to take the risk of being wrong. Additionally, it will help them make realistic assessments about what they can learn.


Problem solving skills are dependent on metacognitive knowledge as it calls on what you know. These skills are essential for inquiry based lessons that are based on authentic (real world) problems. We need children to become the problem solvers of the future.


The third part of the above focuses on “when, why and how children explore, plan, monitor, regulate and evaluate progress” (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000, p. 47). It too is influenced by metacognitive knowledge.


Situativity refers to the theory that learning is of our participation in activities in various social settings where the knowledge gained is situated in the setting and therefore, a change in the setting means new learning.


Brain-based ideas is based on the claim that while we might use visual, auditory and kinaesthetic activity in learning, we each have a preference for which one is best for us to use. This has two main issues for you as teacher:

  • How to accelerate learning by exploiting the full range of individual learners’ strength and;
  • How to help learners improve their abilities in strategies that are naturally weak?
  • (Kennewell, 2004, p. 93)

ICT can help accelerate learning through the use of multimedia presentations that comes with images, sound, and animation which is more effective than only oral/verbal exposition.

Finally, affective aspects refers to the degree that children are motivated by the activity that they are engaged in. This has a lot to do with their self-esteem which is improved in the technology-rich learning environment. Even the disaffected children may find an incentive to use ICT as it provides them with the potential and structure for action that they need on a continual basis (Kennewell, 2004) in addition to the fact that they do not realise that they are investing effort in learning. As Kennewell (2004) states “if disaffected children can gain success when ICT is used, an immediate positive assessment of their subject learning (not just their ICT capability) combined with appropriate praise may them encouragement to continue their effort” (p. 94).


To discover more of the benefits of technology in early childhood education, take an in depth look into our accredited online for teachers in early childhood education.




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