The Early Years Learning Framework was developed by the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) for the Australian Government in 2010. It describes the principles, practices, and outcomes that support and enhance young children's learning from birth to five years of age, as well as their transition to school. It aims to maximise children’s potential to develop a foundation for future progression in learning.
The following will enable you to develop an ICT-integrated curriculum in Early Childhood today. Doing this will ensure that young children will meet the ICT outcomes not just in the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF), but also later on in the Australian Primary Curriculum as there are embedded opportunities to integrate technology in the classroom.
Statement on Young Children and Digital Technologies Released 2018
This statement highlighted “role and optimal use of digital technologies with, by and for young children in early childhood education and care settings” (Edwards, Straker, & Oakey, 2020). It covered key aspects of young children and digital technologies including relationships, health and wellbeing, citizenship and play and pedagogy. It will enable you to harness technology in early childhood education Australia as it focused on the ICT learning outcomes in the EYLF.
In summary, it highlighted the following (Edwards, Straker, & Oakey, 2020):
Relationships - Young children in digital contexts interact, engage, access and learn how to use digital technologies in relationships with other people, including the adults (e.g. family members, parents, kinship members, educators) and peers (e.g. friends, siblings, extended family members) in their lives. These relationships facilitate and influence children’s engagement with digital technologies.
- Use digital technologies in early childhood education and care settings to promote social interactions between children, peers and adults.
- Support children in turn-taking and learning to share when using digital technologies in collaboration with others.
- Foster children’s peer-to-peer interactions as opportunities for co-learning about and with digital technologies.
- Model self-regulated digital technology use with children and families that recognises the importance of sustained social interactions between children and adults.
- Create shared understandings between families, educators and services about digital technology use, by adults, in front of children.
Health and wellbeing - The way that young children interact, engage with and experience digital technologies can have implications for health and wellbeing. This includes their physical activity, posture, vision, sleep and emotions.
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- Provide digital technology experiences for young children that promote movement opportunities.
- Ensure children participate in both digital and non-digital activities to build strength and skills in their hands and fingers.
- Ensure that screen-based digital technology use while sitting is only for short periods and does not replace periods of active physical movement.
- Promote postural awareness and change by providing a variety of spaces and heights for children to use digital technologies.
- Minimise screen glare and reflection and promote regular breaks with a variety of visual distances when using screen-based technologies.
- Support families to understand that exposure to disturbing or arousing content and screens in the hour before sleep time decreases the length and quality of children’s sleep.
- Promote screen-free sleeping areas and the use of non-screen-based calming activities with children before nap times and evening bedtimes.
- Help children develop self-regulation for using digital technologies and support them to transition from digital to non-digital activities.
- Establish routines and structures that promote access to a variety of digital and non-digital activities in the early childhood education and care setting.
Citizenship - Citizenship in digital contexts recognises that young children are active participants in their communities now and into the future. As citizens, young children respect their own rights and those of other people, and develop an appreciation for cultural, racial, gender and religious diversity. Digital rights, digital privacy, online safety and cyber-safety education provide a foundation for early citizenship in digital contexts.
- Participate in professional learning opportunities to build educator understanding about young children’s digital rights and how these relate to young children’s socioeconomic, geographic, gender and culturally based experiences in digital contexts.
- Seek permission from children and families to use digital documentation, including photographs of children via social media and/or other digital documentation platforms.
- Develop policies and guidelines about the collection, use, retention and deletion of digital data held about young children and families.
- Ensure proactive adult supervision of young children’s online activities, including the use of filters and restrictions on devices and networks in the early childhood education and care setting.
- Maintain conversations with young children about their online experiences, both positive and negative, to ensure they are supported by adults in their online engagements.
- Help children develop an understanding of the internet as a network that people use to generate, store, retrieve and share information.
- Model internet use with children for learning purposes and provide opportunities for assessing the quality and relevance of information.
- Direct families towards government and/or not-for-profit organisations for advice on the selection of digital media, content, apps and games that are appropriate for use by young children.
Play and pedagogy - Young children have opportunities for play and pedagogy in digital contexts. Play and pedagogy involve children using a range of digital devices for exploration, meaning-making, collaboration and problem-solving. Educators engage in active decision making about the use and non-use of digital technologies for learning.
- Provide opportunities for children to explore and experiment with the functions of a diverse range of digital technologies alongside adult modelling and instruction in digital technology use.
- Promote play involving children in digital technology use with digital and non-digital tools and materials to build knowledge about the use of technologies for communication, collaboration and information sharing.
- Seek young children’s perspectives regarding the role and use of digital technologies in their own lives, play and learning.
- Model active decision making regarding digital technology use with, by and for young children that provides a balance of digital and non-digital experiences and activities in early childhood education and care settings.
The Integration of Technology in Early Childhood Education
The term ‘technology’ is often used interchangeably with ‘ICT’ although this is not quite true. However, it is more user-friendly term and so in this paper, this may occur. It is essential that in the 21st century where children live in an ICT-integrated society that the same approach should mirror what is happening in children’s lives.
Today, children should be actively finding out about the technology that surrounds them and is embedded in their environments. It should involve identifying uses of technology in their everyday lives and using programmed toys and computers to support their learning.
As an Early Childhood teacher, you need to encourage children to observe and talk about the use of ICT in the environment on local walks. Research states (Siraj-Blatchford, 2006) that this improved awareness is likely to influence further progress as ICT continues to be a presence in their lives.
Despite this, the most important reason why children should experience an ICT integrated curriculum is that they will begin to recognise ICT products as tools which are designed for a particular purpose when required.
The integration of technology in the EYLF will enable children to learn both about and through technology. ICT in the EYLF is recognised in two outcomes:
- Outcome 4 – Children are confident and involved learners and;
- Outcome 5 – Children are effective communicators.
However, ICT has many applications throughout it such as the enhancement of literacy and language development in early childhood, numeracy, creativity and collaboration all of which can be effectively integrated in the curriculum.
The Road to ICT Integration in Early Childhood Education and Care Centres
Back in 2010, UNESCO outlined a roadmap for Early Childhood Education and Care Centres to developing ICT capability. It presented a two pronged approach that would ensure what research said would lead to a technology literate child.
It addresses principals and teachers of ECE centres and states:
“Which ECE centre can start with this process? Every single one, where you understand the meaning and importance of ECE and where you care about better fulfilment of goals of quality education, about all-round development of their children. It would be wrong to assume that this process requires high budgets. It rather requires strong will and critical approach to teachers’ own pedagogical experience, perception of modern knowledge about the role of ECE, courage and the need to innovate, reverence of children and their parents and – last but not least – curiosity and the itch to explore the potential of ICT to support this kind of transition.”
In summary, it noted that it is vital that children develop their ICT capability and ICT literacy with the use of technology in early childhood education. This would ensure that they become capable participants in their environments. The report supported the research conducted by Bolstad (2004) for the New Zealand Government on ICT in ECE.
If this is to occur, then firstly the capabilities and ICT literacy of early childhood teachers need to be supported as they have a direct impact on children’s learning. These people need to have a clear understanding of the role and potential of ICT/technology in early childhood education.
For children, as technology dominates their lifestyles it is feared that they may be taken for granted. A notion that is the same for adults and early childhood teachers alike. This is supported by other researchers such as Kennewell et al. (2000) who while discussing in the context of primary education used a classic example of how television was once used as a serious medium for learning and now it is not so much. He stated that unless teachers do not support it with effective strategies that ICT may soon follow suit.
There are 8 steps, whose order may vary and who should not necessarily be linear, which you should take according to UNESCO (2010) and include:
- Develop your potential;
- Classify your position;
- Set up your goals and objectives;
- Build your environment;
- Promote professional development of your staff;
- Integrate, observe and reflect;
- Build networks and;
- Plan further development.
The integration of technology in early childhood education can be achieved by anyone who wants to start this process and follow these steps. This process does not need a high budget. What it needs is “strong will and critical approach to teachers’ own pedagogical experience, perception of modern knowledge about the role of ECE, courage and the need to innovate, reverence of children and their parents and – last but not least – curiosity and the itch to explore the potential of ICT to support this kind of transition” (UNESCO, 2010, p. 104).
Writing quality programs
Quality written programs have an impact on children’s learning and are based on current research, values, and beliefs. The writing of programs should, therefore, not be a static exercise but an ongoing process. As an Early Childhood teacher, you have a major impact on children’s learning and development.
It is the belief of COAG that a quality written program will enable children to display improved outcomes no matter the type of early childhood setting they attended. Through supportive learning environments and programs, the influence of your guidance will be felt.
ICT and Learning through Role Play
In the early childhood learning environment role play is a significant element that engages children in play which reflects their lives. Play gives children the opportunity to experience and recreate roles, emotions and relationships. According to Kyretses and Caplan (2018), it is the genetic makeup of individual children and their environments which contribute to developmental outcomes. Brain growth and development is influenced by environmental factors and new experiences.
Quality role play gives children the opportunity to make sense of the world in which they live in. Encouraging the use of ICT in their role plays helps them to make sense of the technological world in which they live. Role play with ICT builds children’s confidence to begin the use of ICT tools with which they are less familiar and which they might be reluctant to use.
Playful learning can be enhanced through collaboration with more knowledgeable peers as well as with adults. They can work together with peers or adults in an intellectual way to solve a problem, clarify a concepts, evaluate activities or extend a narrative.
When used effectively, ICT can support children’s social-emotional development and encourage cooperation, collaboration and competition among children. There are various types of peer collaboration through ICT which include:
- Joint planning.
- Taking turns.
- Asking for and providing opinions.
- Chaining and integration of ideas.
- Arguing points of view.
- Negotiating and coordinating perspectives.
- Adding, revising, formulating and elaborating on the information under discussion.
- Seeking agreement.
(Rojas-Drummond et al., 2008; Kucirkova et al., 2014 as cited in Sung, Siraj-Blatchford, & Kucirkova, 2016)
Choosing appropriate and quality resources
The quality and appropriateness of the ICT tools and resources affects the role play within a role-play area. However, you don’t have to go out and purchase the next big technological development for the children. It is necessary to have a range of tools and resources available which include:
- Items of technology that work;
- Items of technology that no longer work;
- Toy technologies that simulate the working of the real technology;
- Toy technologies such as wooden washing machines.
- Technologies that the children have made.
Self-regulating children’s use of ICT
This is an important issue with many parents and it is imperative that they need to learn to deal with it sensibly. So there needs to be a process of negotiation in order to balance the amount of time spent with ICT.
Children too need to be taught how to handle ICT tools and resources responsibly. You need to communicate the rules at the beginning of any playful activity.
Planning Role Play
Many children by the time they enter your early childhood centre are already tech-savvy in various ways and their ICT knowledge, skills and understanding are well developed.
You will need to develop a clear understanding of children’s developing ICT competencies in relation to the vast range of everyday technologies with which children interact with.
Value the competencies that children develop at home and appreciate the links that these have with the ICT competencies. Understand though, that a child’s ICT competencies will vary according to their access and use to ICT at home.
Consider factors such as:
- The children’s own life experiences and knowledge;
- How the children will be involved in the setting up of the role play area in the setting;
- The attitudes of the adults and their involvement in the play;
- The space available;
- The time available in the setting’s daily routine;
- Whether there is the opportunity for the role play to develop over time;
- The quality and appropriateness of the resources.
(Ager, 2009 in Price, 2009)
Here are some teaching strategies in early childhood to encourage role playing with technology (Peterson, 2015, pp. 27-28):
- Provide young children with clothes to dress up and role characters from computer programs.
- Have young children imitate sounds of vehicles they heard in a technology activity.
- Give young children the opportunity to dramatize a story they previously viewed from a media presentation.
- Use poems and stories to role play a variety of events following technology activities.
- Let young children pretend to be an animal they observed on the computer screen.
- Bring toys and objects so young children can play and related actual objects for the things they observed on the screen.
- Give young children the chance to tell stories of what they examined in software programs.
- Have a box of props so young children can make up skits following technology activities.
- Use the technology activity so young children can express their feelings and ideas.
- Let young children role play a favourite part of a show they observed during a technology presentation.
Play by nature needs to and is child-led, however, you can further support and facilitate learning when you link to intentional teaching. In this way, child autonomy and joy is maintained while being relevant to their learning experiences and knowledge of the world.
Playing outdoors can lead to many opportunities for intentional teaching.
Developmentally Appropriate Practices with Technology
Throughout the EYLF developmentally appropriate practice with technology is present. It is imperative that you follow these recommended guidelines as they provide an excellent basis for decision-making, both in choosing technologies in the Early Years and in planning uses of technology.
- Application should be educational.
- Encouraging collaboration
- Integration and Play through ICT
- The child should be in control
- Applications should be transparent and intuitive.
- Applications should not contain violence and stereotyping
- Awareness of health and safety issues
- Educational involvement of parents
Technology and the EYLF Outcomes
There has been good evidence in research in ECE over the years that states that the development of ICT capability not only should occur but needs to take place. The EYLF ICT learning outcomes ECE embedded within the early childhood learning and play activities should facilitate the broadening of a child’s technological literacy and develop that ICT capability.
Supporting children’s ICT capability is essential in a world where Information and Communication Technology is increasingly becoming “more embedded and ubiquitous in the environment around children” (NZ Ministry of Education, 2004. P.7). Adding to this, is the fact that ICT will continue to be used in children’s learning environment.
The Early Learning Outcomes framework enables provision for the use of ICT throughout the EYLF curriculum, but particularly in the 4 and 5 learning outcomes ECE. In the document by Early Childhood Australia, the role of digital technology in early childhood education is made clear and is supported by your ability as an early childhood teacher to make sound instructional decisions and embed effective digital early childhood pedagogy.
Here is a summary list of the learning outcomes EYLF. Throughout it I have added ways in which you can integrate technology in early childhood education Australia as I myself am Australian and this is for early childhood teachers using the early years curriculum there. They are super helpful tips that are practical and immediately actionable.
Learning Outcome 1: Children have a strong sense of identity
- 1.1 Children feel safe, secure, and supported.
- 1.2 Children develop their emerging autonomy, inter-dependence, resilience and sense of agency.
- 1.3 Children develop knowledgeable and confident self-identities.
- 1.4 Children learn to interact in relation to others with care, empathy and respect.
Use of technology in EYLF outcomes:
ICT can play a big role in enabling young children to achieve the learning outcomes here by promoting confidence, knowledge and autonomy in the use of ICT.
EYLF Practices: Autonomy is best achieved when children use technology in role play and you can help facilitate this by asking them to help set up the play area and include digital ICT tools in early childhood, child-made technology, toy technologies and defunct technologies.
Learning Outcome 2: Children are connected with and contribute to their world
- 2.1 Children develop a sense of belonging to groups and communities and an understanding of the reciprocal rights and responsibilities necessary for active community participation.
- 2.2 Children respond to diversity with respect.
- 2.3 Children become aware of fairness.
- 2.4 Children become socially responsible and show respect for the environment.
Use of technology in EYLF outcomes:
As children play with digital technology and that which simulates working technology, groups will emerge as they collaborate together. ICT will give them access to outside groups and communities that they may belong to and as teachers, you can help them understand what active participation in their communities mean. By role modelling behaviour and thinking processes along the way, children will begin to understand a better way to fit into their communities when they learn through technology.
Learning Outcome 3: Children have a strong sense of wellbeing
3.1 Children become strong in their social and emotional wellbeing.
3.2 Children take increasing responsibility for their own health and physical wellbeing.
Use of technology in EYLF outcomes:
Emotional wellbeing is promoted in ECE when you collaborate with families. Children benefit from observing their educators and families respectfully sharing information about their ICT learning and their technology use at home.
EYLF practices such as this can be elaborated more in this online PD for early childhood educators.
Learning Outcome 4: Children are confident and involved learners
- 4.1 Children develop dispositions for learning such as curiosity, cooperation, confidence, creativity, commitment, enthusiasm, persistence, imagination and reflexivity.
- 4.2 Children develop a range of skills and processes such as problem solving, inquiry, experimentation, hypothesising, researching and investigating.
- 4.3 Children transfer and adapt what they have learned from one context to another.
- 4.4 Children resource their own learning through connecting with people, place, technologies and natural and processed materials.
Use of technology in EYLF outcomes:
As stated in learning outcome ECE 4.4, the use of technologies occurs when children research their own learning. ICT resources such as the Internet can enable children to become involved learners as they look for things that are of particular interest them.
Learning Outcome 5: Children are effective communicators
- 5.1 Children interact verbally and non-verbally with others for a range of purposes.
- 5.2 Children engage with a range of texts and gain meaning from these texts.
- 5.3 Children express ideas and make meaning using a range of media.
- 5.4 Children begin to understand how symbols and pattern systems work.
- 5.5 Children use information and communication technologies to access information, investigate ideas and represent their thinking.
Use of technology in EYLF outcomes:
It is quite evident how ICT is integrated in the EYLF curriculum here. Despite this, learning outcome ECE 5.5. can be present alongside other learning outcomes throughout early childhood learning activities as the children access information on the Internet to resource their own learning, develop dispositions to construct ICT solutions to problems and enhance literacy and language development in early childhood education.
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