When children begin kindergarten or preschool depending on where you might live (in Queensland, preschool is kindergarten!), they begin the learning progress of many things such as literacy and numeracy. However, when it comes to technology use, they already have been exposed to a certain amount of ICT tools. These ICT tools and their integration in education are very significant as many national curriculums have recognised the value of these in society.
The problem is that by just exposing children to technology in early childhood will not sufficiently develop their capabilities in ICT.
So here are some of my teaching strategies in early childhood that will help you to facilitate the foundations of ICT capability today.
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When to use technology in Early Childhood Education
Before we begin to assess a child’s ICT capability in this type of setting it is significant to determine when it is best to use it. When making your decisions they need to be based on exploiting the features of ICT to its fullest potential in order to achieve the desired learning outcome.
In the early childhood setting, there are three type of interactions with ICT that may be effective. These include:
- Brief targeted moments – consists of activities that take 5-10 minutes to complete;
- Spur-of-the-moment ideas – usually consist of child-initiated , spontaneous activities that can be accomplished with little prior planning and that make use of available materials;
- Thematically linked activities – carefully planned, multi-layered activities that involve multiple opportunities to learn key concepts in various ways.
What is the specific ICT capability that children need to develop?
In early childhood education children need to just develop the basic ICT techniques that they will use throughout their schooling and adult career. Their understanding of ICT needs to be developed in the broadest form so that they become proficient users of ICT. The two areas that need to be developed include:
- Techniques that allow them to interact with the computer such as inputting information into the computer using keyboards and mouse effectively.
The learning goals for children are:
- Complete a simple program on a computer;
- Use ICT to perform simple functions;
- Use a mouse and keyboard to interact with age appropriate software;
- Find out about and identify the uses of everyday technology and use ICT to support learning.
Guidance on observation and assessment of ICT capability
The best way to measure the achievement of children in ICT capability is through your own personal observation. This can be coupled with well-thought out questions and listening and talking. Any formative assessment in early childhood in relation to ICT capability needs to be seen in this context.
When assessing it is not necessary to assess discrete skills as this will show through observation of whole tasks. For example, if they can use a paint program then you know that they can use a mouse well enough. As children interact with their peers, they will be able to demonstrate their ICT capability. You can make brief notes along with your observations to help you build a firm picture of their capabilities in ICT.
The following is an example of observations recorded in a reflective diary.
30 September 2017
Many of the ICT resources have helped to capture, and hold X’s attention for increasing periods of time. He is not interacting very well with others in the class and is not keen to wait for his turn, which makes some of the other children less keen to include him in their play, particularly in the role play area.
3 November 2017
X is now constantly pointing to technology.
17 November 2017
The recent setting up of the interactive whiteboard (IWB) has helped X to develop some degree of patience, as he is now able to wait his turn to use it, when working in a group. This has been invaluable in boosting him with his peers. X is very good at recognising and adding numbers. When working with the whiteboard with number, for example, the size makes it possible for others to see how clever he is, which I am sure is helping with both his self-esteem and his standing, amongst his peers. It has also given him another avenue which to devote his seemingly endless energy. Looking back over my notes, it is also possible to see that X is collaborating more with his peers and is less demanding of my attention.
Example of quality observations made in a reflective diary (Siraj-Blatchford, 2006)
It is recommended that this formative assessment practice be strongly supported (Siraj-Blatchford & Siraj-Blatchford, 2006).
Assessing their Higher Order Thinking Skills
Higher order thinking skills are essential in the foundations of ICT capability development in children. At this stage of learning, children demonstrate these when they:
- Decide when it is appropriate to use a particular ICT for a specific purpose;
- Plan what techniques, routines, and processes are to be used;
- Work independently to solve problems;
- Evaluate their use of ICT and the outcome of an activity; Explain and justify their choices and approaches and;
- Reflect on their learning and explain how things could be done differently next time.
(Morgan & Siraj-Blatchford, 2009, p. 16)
The assessment of ICT capability is vital as it will allow you to track progress and to plan appropriately for students to achieve their capabilities. Proper assessment will provide you with real evidence and knowledge of where the students are up to. Without it any planning conducted would be worthless.
Formative assessment in early childhood education is vital is allows you to establish the learning goals for young children in terms of their ICT capability. Take the first step in establishing a starting point for young children in your care and determine what they know when they enter your centre or school today.