By Michael Hilkemeijer
Defining Technology Integration in ECE
Technology integration is an instructional choice by teachers that requires collaboration and careful and considerate planning.
This instructional choice involves integrating technology in early childhood education as a tool to support content-area instruction and not simply as an add-on to the curriculum.
Throughout this process, the use of technology in a meaningful context should always be ‘transparent’ to the point the children become so focused on using ICT as a tool to achieve other outcomes that they hardly notice that they are using technology itself.
In the early childhood context, children begin to become independent users of ICT as well as being able to understand ICT appropriately and creatively in its social context.
The subsequent development of ICT capability in early childhood education is achieved through either a thematic approach that delivers the curriculum through projects or topics, and/or an approach that is based on the breadth and depth of the Early Years Learning Framework and its Early Learning Goals.
Meaningful technology integration in early learning environments should not only follow the eight guiding principles set out in the DATEC project but should also aim to develop each component of ICT capability in early childhood classrooms.
Your understanding, therefore, of ICT capability development in early childhood learning activities is crucial to the successful integration of technology in early childhood education.
For the children in your care to become effective lifelong learners, you will need to ensure that they become literate in the communication modes of their culture.
For example, they need to make sense of ‘texts’ whether it be print-based, electronic or image-based. They also need to develop skills in the use of images and sounds to convey information, ideas and feelings.
However, the most important thing that you need to remember is that technology integration in early childhood education is about developing a child’s ICT capability and this involves becoming more responsive to a child’s own expertise in ICT.
The end result is that you are going beyond just integrating technology in childhood classrooms to enhance learning but to develop 21st century skills where the children not only know how to use an ICT technique but to “know that they know” an ICT technique and are thus able to decide if it is appropriate to use the ICT technique for a solution to a problem or task.
Technology Integration Guidance
As ICT becomes more embedded into young children’s lives and environment these technologies are having a profound effect on all aspects of people’s lives and they are being ‘taken for granted’.
Young children will continue to enter your early learning environment with varying degrees of ICT capability already knowing how to keyboards, touch screens and other digital technologies. This stresses the importance of technology in preschool education and in choosing developmentally appropriate technology to be response to a child’s expertise in ICT.
To be full and capable participants in their environments it is important that young children develop their ICT capability by successfully integrating key examples of technology in early childhood education.
Supporting social-emotional development
There is much debate about whether ‘screen time’ is good or bad for social interaction and this does inherent conflict for your decisions. However, concerns are sometimes linked to unease that software developers may see young children, their parents, or early childhood education settings as lucrative markets for “educational” programs and games that might not deliver the educational benefits they promise. As an educator, it is essential that you do introduce young children to new technologies while at the same time ensuring that children interact with each other.
It is for this reason that instead of fighting technology as a distraction, you plan to use it as a tool to enhance and support learning. For example, young children may find it easier to use a touch screen than a mouse or keyboard due to their developing fine motor skills.
Following multi-step directions
The use of digital technology in early childhood education can aid in young children following multi-step directions. Being able to listen, recall and complete series of directions is critical to completing many early learning activities. Despite being difficult to master, young children can if teachers spend a great deal of time working on them.
Teaching core academic skills
Another most noticeable uses of digital technology in early childhood education are in teaching and reviewing core academic skills. For example, a simple activity designed for a computer or tablet can help a student practice shapes or colours. Each of these activities can be adapted to fit the learning needs of young children more efficiently. This makes learning more personalised for young children and this further emphasises the significance of digital technology to enhance early years curricula in the classroom.
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