How early childhood learning can be supported with audio and video tech?

By Michael Hilkemeijer


Today, there is an ever-increasing range of digital recording devices that are developmentally appropriate for young children in preschool education. As they are continually exposed to new and emerging technologies in their own lives, many of them already know a thing or two about recording images, video and audio with minimal support.


These devices range from simple resources that allow a child to record 30 second sound, to products such as the iPad, which can be used to take photos, record video and audio. They can be used to facilitate children’s investigation of their environment, providing a means viewing phenomenon otherwise inaccessible.


Digital Cameras

Digital cameras and recording devices allow children to also observe specific events or features closely with the support of the early childhood teacher who can support them to explore and reflect on ideas that may arise from their observations.


It should:

  • Be selected according to functional transparency;
  • Be apparent how the image is transferred from the camera to the computer;
  • Allow children to remove the memory card from the camera and place in the computer or connect to the interface ‘shoe’ and then double click on the thumbnail image to open the digital image on the screen.


They can either be stand-alone devices or found on mobile devices such iPads (or other tablet computers), laptops, smartphones and webcams.

Technology use in early childhood education can be supported by audio and video recording devices. Here are some examples provided by Rachel Ager (2022).



4 Ways that you can use Audio and video recordings in ECE

Here are some scenarios by Ager (2022) that your early childhood learning environment can incorporate into the provision..


Scenario 1: Traffic Lights

In this first scenario, a group of children are in the workshop area making a set of traffic lights for the outdoor area. The early childhood practitioner prompts a child to fetch a video camera and is asked to begin to video the other children as they work together constructing the lights. Then once the lights were completed, they were incorporated into the outside play area, and another child continues to video this.


The use of video of digital video recording was noted later on during the day when the children and the practitioner review the footage shot. They celebrate their achievement as well as explain their choices when constructing the traffic lights.


Modelling of the digital video recorder was also demonstrated by the practitioner in the recording of the discussions.


Both the children and practitioner gained valuable insight into the learning that took place.


The learning outcomes present in this scenario were:

  • Physical development: Moving and handling – handles tools, objects, construction and malleable materials safely and with increasing control.
  • Personal, social, and emotional development: Self-confidence and self-awareness – they are confident to speak in a familiar group, will talk about their ideas.


Scenario 2: New Arrivals

In this scenario, one of the children’s parents is expecting a new baby brother quite soon. The early childhood centre sends home with the child a digital camera to enable the child and his family to photograph exciting events. The next day the digital camera was brought back and the early childhood teacher downloads and prints out the photographs.


Following this event, both the early childhood practitioner and the child chose the best photographs and placed them into a ‘Talking Photograph Album’. The child then recorded a sentence to describe each photograph. Later, the album is made available to the other children as part of a display they are developing about families.


The learning outcomes present in this scenario were:

Remembers and talk about significant events in their own experiences. Recognised and describes special times or events for family or friends.



Scenario 3:  The Three Bears

Digital role-play has an important part to play in preschool education and in this scenario, the role-play area was set up with two distinct areas: a kitchen area and a bedroom area. The children helped to set it up and they enjoyed deciding what they needed to incorporate in it. This was all done so that they could act out the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Most children decided to make their own bear masks; these will then be available whenever they go into the role-play area.


An example of technology use in early childhood education came from the digital video camera which was used to record the play as they acted out the narrative. The early childhood practitioner encouraged the review of the video as a group and the children considered if there were any changes they would like to incorporate into their narrative.


The learning outcomes present in this scenario were:

  • Being imaginative – plays cooperatively as part of a group to develop and act out a narrative.
  • Making relationships – can play in a group, extending and elaborating play ideas e.g., building up a role-play activity with other children.



Scenario 4: Story Time

In this scenario, the children just finished listening to the story book ‘Good Night, Owl’ by Pat Hutchins. This story has a predictable pattern and repeatable refrain. The children have just begun to join in the refrain whenever the story is read to them. In this instance, one group of children enjoy this so much that the early childhood practitioner suggests that they record a ‘reading’ of the story, in which they join in with the refrain, “and owl tried to sleep”. This recording is shared with other groups of children, some of whom also decide to produce their own recording of the story.


This developed over time and at one stage one smaller group of children worked out how they could produce the noises all the animals make in the story. The children were supported by the practitioner to record these onto child-friendly voice recorders, and a picture of the appropriate animal is stuck onto each one. As a result, the children can now play the animal noises when the story is read as well as join in the refrain. It is shared with all the children in the setting and the voice recorders and the book are incorporate into an interactive display.


The learning outcomes present in this scenario were:

Listening and attention – joins in with repeated refrains and anticipates key events and phrases in rhymes and stories.


Producing Moving Images

Effective digital technology use in early childhood education can also be extended to maximising the potential of the available developmentally appropriate software in the early childhood learning environment. The above scenarios represent several ways in the past where practitioners have encouraged the use of both digital cameras and recorders for staff and children to reflect and discuss events.


Along with this comes the actual possibility of digital videos and images being edited. Today, there is a good range of editing software available for the early childhood learning setting such iMovie and Windows MovieMaker that is suitable for operating systems at least up Windows 10 (Windows 11 was released October 2021).


As it can be seen in the above scenarios, aspects of image production that would be useful to any early childhood learning environment include:

  • Event filming – filming of events and activities from daily life;
  • Filming for a purpose – for example, to inform your siblings or to document ‘what we do at preschool’;
  • Creating a record of the process and product of a creative process such as a poem, painting or musical composition;
  • Creating digital animations such stopmotion animation with favourites toys and objects.


Throughout this entire process of integrating such digital devices, young children develop:

  • Technical skills – for example, controlling the mouse, using the editing software;
  • Visual skills – for example, framing shots;
  • An understanding of narrative – for example, creating stories;
  • The concept of multimodality – for example, by considering the addition of sound;
  • An awareness of audience – for example, by considering if peers would be interested and why;
  • Critical skills – for example,  identifying features which were successful or which needed changing.

(Morgan & Siraj-Blatchford, 2009)


You can read about more case studies to do with technology use in early childhood education in my free course here.