By Michael Hilkemeijer
Like many teachers, when I first began teaching ICT or Digital Technologies as it is known today, I believed it was mostly about just teaching ICT skills. This was typically done by using a set of instructions for the children to learn from. It had no context behind it at all. However, throughout my years I learnt that you need to go beyond just teaching basic computer skills. In this article, you will learn the beginnings of how to teach basic computers skills for preschoolers
*** NOTE: This is an excerpt from my online PD for early childhood teachers - Harness Technology in Early Childhood Education Today - 11 hours of CPD
How to Teach Technology Skills in Preschool
Going Beyond just ICT Teaching Skills
The most basic level of ICT capability is the interactions between the child and computer hardware or software. ICT skills are the fundamental underpinnings of competence and are described as repetitive behaviours that are relatively easy to learn.
This no doubt could explain why many associate the teaching of technology in early childhood education with just the teaching of ICT skills.
Most of these ICT skills are learned early in the development of ICT capability, but as research has indicated, there are some skill-like behaviours that are acquired as the child learner encounters new software or hardware. Like pressing the button of a programmable toy.
Today, as ICT continues to be a prominent feature in children’s lives, they will enter your early learning environment with different levels of ICT capability of which the following skills (below) might be already known.
- Use fine motor skills to use the mouse to move a cursor to a target on the screen.
- Show awareness of the “power keys” on a keyboard (e.g., "enter," "esc," "delete," and the space bar).
- Know the difference between the left and right mouse button (which can be helped by a small label or sticker).
- Be familiar with at least five quality interactive applications, games, or activities.
- Have a basic working vocabulary of common technology terms, such as "digital camera," "iPad," "computer," "Internet," "mouse," "keyboard," and "printer."
- Have been exposed to common technology terms in the natural context of everyday conversation, such as "on/off," "Internet," "browser," "software," "hardware," "computer," "mouse," "monitor," "keyboard," "digital camera," "printer," "battery," and so on.
- Have taken their first digital photo.
- Find the numerals on a QWERTY keyboard.
- Type their first name on a QWERTY keyboard.
- Understand the basic functions of a browser, including how to open or close windows and use the “back” key.
Though, a key part of ICT capability, it is when ICT skills forms routines when transformation occurs. Routines involves more than one ICT skill and can also become instinctive.
A typical routine may involve learning how to use a graphics tablet or a touchscreen.
Children cannot develop a high level of ICT capability without this content knowledge, but while they are learned quickly, they are of no value unless the child has a purpose in mind.
ICT techniques are the explicit, deliberate manifestations of ICT capability and is the combination of skills and routines.
They vary from task to task and involve the selection and application of choices by the learner. Used to achieve specific effects created by the software tool chosen they are subject to personal preference.
Typical ICT techniques may include the following (below):
- Control the cursor on the screen using a mouse
- Single click and double click
- Click and drag to move objects on the screen
- Recognize and select different icons
- Launch and quit programs
- Use draw and/or colour editors
- Use text editors (input letters/text)
- Use keyboard to input letters or simple text
- Type first name
- Identify and use "power keys" (Enter, Esc, Delete)
- Identify and use backspace, space, arrows, enter and number keys
- Identify parts of the computer (mouse, keyboard, screen, etc.)
- Use teacher/parent-selected games and activities (may include internet games)
- Be familiar with at least 5 interactive educational applications
- Work independently or with a partner
Most of these ICT techniques are transferrable to other programs and can be applied in any context.
Unfamiliar software will require the learning of new ICT techniques, underpinned by previously learned ICT skills and routines.
For example, the creation of shapes in a vector drawing program will require the learning of a new ICT technique, informed by ICT skills and routines acquired from paint programs.
ICT techniques have an element of refinement that does not readily apply to ICT skills and routines. When children can only get better at performing routines by doing them faster, progression in relation to ICT techniques may involve a number of factors.
For example, they might first learn by typing in direct commands. Later, they will be able to do the same thing automatically. Both are ICT techniques used to perform a task but the latter is better because it is not only faster but more sophisticated.
When teaching ICT techniques, it is much easier to use them than it is to describe or explain them. Later on, I will highlight how by making ICT techniques explicit is likely to support concept development and the possible transfer of ICT techniques to new situations.
The ICT techniques that we select in a particular problem situation are a function of the context, the resources available and our strategic knowledge.
They are all underpinned by concepts, but their application will also depend on the features and the structure offered by the software or hardware, as well as the knowledge that the young child has of these.
As a final note, if you encourage young children to reflect on the use of ICT techniques across contexts and situations, they are more likely to generate principles, ideas and strategies that are widely applicable.
If you want to know more about how to successfully teach technology in preschool activities, visit my free online professional development for early childhood educators: