How to build 21st century skills with ease by explicitly teaching in preschool today

Technology in preschool activities

By Michael Hilkemeijer


When teachers adopt explicit teaching practices they clearly show students what to do and how to do it.


Technology integration in early childhood education is in fact, ICT capability!


And being largely practical, using explicit teaching practices makes perfect sense.


The transparent use of technology is essential in both processes and so in this section, I will show you how to teach ICT capability in your early learning environment today.


Here are explicit teaching strategies in early childhood education today.



The Effective Teaching of ICT capability


Just as with any other key learning area and because ICT capability is mostly practical, you need to show students what to do and how to do it.


Plan and seek to develop all components of ICT capability

As ICT capability is constituted of 5 key components you need to use strategies for each of these.



if you have children who are slower to learn routines, they will make slower progress in the curriculum.


You will need to continually help them with basic operations such as selecting items and undoing mistakes.


If they do not meet these important ICT techniques sufficiently, focused practiced tasks may be necessary.



ICT techniques 


ICT techniques are the explicit, deliberate manifestations of ICT capability. It is important that children associate the actions involved in an ICT technique with the effect it achieves.

Have a name for the ICT technique and/or its effect. Examples you might know include ‘copy-and-paste’, ‘minimise a window’, ‘undo’ or ‘find-and-replace’.

The name should be seen as a means of communicating and thinking about the action and its effect. Not as something extra to learn!

By making ICT techniques explicit you will support concept development and make it far easier for children to transfer the ICT techniques to new situations.


Unfamiliar software will require the learning of new ICT techniques, underpinned by previously learned ICT skills and routines.


When monitoring and intervening, you will need to give those children who need help only the minimum amount of support. This support should be withdrawn as soon as possible.


Remember, it is not whether they know how to use an ICT technique it is whether they ‘know that they know’ and thus are able to decide whether it is appropriate to use.





Whenever possible you will need to discuss what it is they are doing at the process level. Don’t just identify the next ICT technique.

Draw on any relevant images and analogies where it is helpful so that children can gain a feeling for the whole process.



Higher order thinking skills


You will need to manage the planning, monitoring and evaluation of children’s work and involve them in the process through whole class teaching.

Eventually, children should be able to take over some of the thinking about their work and about their learning.

You can promote this by using strategic and evaluative questions in addition to encouraging children in groups to ask these questions of each other, and then, expecting individuals to ask these questions themselves.



Promote conceptual understanding

Behind every ICT skill and technique is a concept, an idea as to how and why it may be used and it is essential that young children do understand this. It forms part of their foundation for ICT capability.

You need to focus on the concepts behind the skills.


Through whole class teaching, you can discuss examples and non-examples of a concept, both with and without ICT, to highlight the important features of the concept.

For example, a poster is not a ‘message’, as it is not communicated to a particular person.


In my full implementation course, I show a table that will provide you with further suggestions which can be used as the basis of questioning and activities away from the computer.


However, you need to challenge naïve ideas about handling ICT tools and techniques both in whole-class teaching where appropriate and when monitoring the progress of individuals.


Reflection is a vital element in the development of conceptual understanding.


You can have a reflective write-up activity to focus children’s thinking on the principles they have met.


As I stated earlier, the explicit teaching of ICT techniques will support the development of concepts and will make it possible to transfer those ICT techniques across contexts.


Concepts are developed through verbalisation of ICT activities.


ICT experiences that are carefully structured by you will engage the learner explicitly with examples and non-examples of the concept.


It is important that the child must find, and overcome, difficulties for learning to occur.


Learn more about explicit teaching strategies with technology in my full online PD.




Explicit teaching strategies

Explicit Instruction in ECE

What is it?

Explicit teaching strategies clearly shows children what to do and how to do it. By applying these explicit practices you are ensuring that children have a clear understanding of why they are learning something (conceptual understanding), how it connects to something they already know and what is expected of them.


There are several steps to exploit instruction teaching:

  1. A teacher decides on a learning intention for a class and sets specific, transparent success criteria. These criteria are shared with students and explained in detail.
  2. The teacher clearly shows students what to do and how to do it through physical demonstration.
  3. The teacher periodically checks for student understanding. At the end of a lesson, a teacher will revisit what was covered to summarise understanding and learnings.
  4. In the context of an ongoing task or assessment, students are provided with all the information they need to complete this independently.



Why is it important?

Studies have indicated that those children who experience explicit instruction make greater learner gains than children who do not experience teaching practices. The evidence for this is long standing and according to NESA the “cognitive load theory provides theoretical and empirical support for explicit models of instruction”.


The key benefits of explicit instruction include:

  • Fast tracked performance – the explicit instruction example provided above helps to fast track child performance. Explicit teaching strategies such as this aims to move beyond rote learning and to attempt to sequence learning for children.
  • Increased flexibility – these explicit teaching strategies can be applied in real time or by using video content. Today, technology has aided explicit instruction in many areas.
  • Clear expectations – explicit teaching strategies are useful for ensuring that children are clear about the criteria.
  • Systematic and sequential - Explicit instruction is always systematic and sequential. By directly supporting guided practice using a series of steps, it’s ideal for teaching practical hands-on skills, rather than more abstract concepts.



School Improvement Link – ICT in Education Teacher Academy

There are over 30 online PD courses for early childhood practitioners and primary teachers to learn about explicit teaching strategies when integrating technology in the classroom.


Become a member for just $40 USD per month today.



Individual Profile Sheet

Methods of Observation and Assessment in ECE