How to successfully prepare young children digitally for primary education?

By Michael Hilkemeijer


Throughout a young child’s digital play-based learning experiences it is important for you as an educator to pause and reflect on the digital skills that a child will develop while in your care.


What ICT skills, aptitudes and abilities are you hoping that they will achieve?


It is important that those who might be lagging behind in digital capabilities either due to the digital divide or because they have not had access to preschool programs prior to primary school, catch up.


This phase of schooling is significant as it will enable the learners to enter the schooling system with different levels of ICT capability (digital literacy capabilities in Australia) as a result of the various digital technology experiences and skills learnt. 


By the end of their first four years they should have a sound set of ICT capabilities and a wide rang of digital technology experiences. They should have grounding in ICT capabilities in this phase of schooling.


Compare this to what they are expected to have developed by end of primary education and it becomes clear why your role as an early childhood teacher is more important than ever before.


Early Childhood Pedagogies to apply today


The development of ICT capability through the successful integration of digital technology in early childhood education is recognised when young children have the ability to use ICT independently, appropriately and creatively.


Digital play-based learning supports ICT capability developed but in the past its developed has been ignored or suppressed in early childhood learning environments.



ICT capability albeit digital literacy in early childhood education is comprised of 5 key components – routines, ICT techniques, processes, concepts, and higher order thinking skills.


One of the best ways for children to learn in early childhood learning environments about routines, ICT techniques, and processes is by observing you as an early childhood teacher use them yourself.


This is why it is important for you to model the use of digital technology appropriately. Not only to model its use but also to model your thinking as well. Say things such as “What tool will help me draw a circle?” for example.


At the same time, ensure that if the children cannot use the ICT techniques sufficiently then provide them with focused practiced tasks.


Your use of terminology for ICT techniques will play a major role in how young children will understand what they are doing. For this reason, give the ICT techniques a name that will help communicate its action and effect.


While children are observing you complete a process it is important that you discuss with them what you are doing at the process level. Draw on images and analogies where it is helpful for the children to gain an understanding for the whole process.


This will enable them to identify useful ICT techniques themselves.


Examples of integrating technology in early childhood education would include:

  • Routines – learning how to use a graphics tablet or touchscreen.
  • ICT techniques – inserting a photo into a document.
  • Processes – where many ICT techniques are combined.
  • Concepts – in shared vocabulary using the basic terminology that enables children to communicate effectively and understand what is required of them.
  • Higher order thinking skills – where the children are able to exhibit an understanding of what they are doing.


Particularly for HOTS they need to demonstrate by selecting the appropriate equipment, routines, ICT techniques and processes to obtain a desired outcome.



What are some skills and learning experiences before entering primary education?

ICT capability development in this phase of education is comprised of two specific characteristics: ICT skills and early childhood learning experiences. In each phase of schooling, there are different sets of skills or areas to focus on.


When you take a closer look at both aspects the ICT skills are concrete learnings of actual abilities while the digital learning experiences are more complex and are actual uses of different digital technologies and their educational applications.


They represent the level of capability each child is expected to have by the end of their four years of learning in early childhood education. However, the list is not all that they will learn as digital technology integration in early childhood education becomes more accepted so to will the increase in digital learning experiences and skills.


In reading this list it will be important to remember to ensure that you plan and seek to develop all components of ICT capability especially since it is the mix of routines, ICT techniques, concepts, processes and higher order thinking skills that together make it up. It is the ability of the children to carry out the sets of processes that constitute ICT capability.


What you need to judge are the decisions that a child makes in order to create the finished product – in other words, their metacognitive abilities. It is in using their higher order thinking skills, in order to make choices as to how to apply the ICT techniques that you will see in the list, that enable them to execute the process, and in doing so the child demonstrates their ICT capability.  


ICT Techniques/Skills Digital Learning Experiences

Basic operations associated with PC and laptop computers.

Basic web-searching (understanding what a search engine is, keyword searching)

Use of commonly used programs (MS Word, PowerPoint, Excel and Access)

How to use a digital camera and associated skills

How digital movies are made

How to record your voice on recording programs and devices such as Audacity, PowerPoint etc

How to save files on the computer

How to use more complex technologies (e.g. LEGO robotics, Bee Bots)

How to use tablet computers (i.e. iPads)

How to use an IWB (with a pen or finger) – how to use particular programs

Familiarity with terms associated with computers.

Understanding how to use keywords to find information

Knowing some terms associated with the Internet

How to frame images – considering how to set up a shot, what you trying to take, visual literacy

Social experiences – working in pairs or groups, taking turn and sharing.

Literacy experiences – language associated with content, new terms associated with technologies

Fine motor skill development (manipulating devices)

Complex problem-solving (working out how to do something associated with a program)

Rick tasks (such as LEGO robotics that incorporate STEM)

Modelling the use of digital technologies and ICT techniques

Engaging in sustained shared thinking.

Source: Howell, 2012 p.116


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