How you can promote metacognition in preschool with tech today

By Michael Hilkemeijer

Metacognitive strategies teach students to think about their own thinking. When students become aware of the learning process, they gain control over their learning.

Metacognition in early childhood education extends to self-regulation, or managing one's own motivation toward learning.


Metacognition and ICT Capability

In the 21st century, using technology to promote higher order thinking skills in meaningful contexts is the key to preparing young children for a technology-dominated society, but also to ensure that children develop metacognitive skills.

To be able to develop ICT capability in children, they need to know more than just the knowledge of techniques and processes.


Teaching just ICT skills simply is not sufficient anymore for the successful application of ICT to problem situations.


In early childhood, higher order thinking skills are demonstrated when young children:

  • Decide when it is appropriate to use ICT as a tool for a specific purpose.
  • Plan what routines, techniques and process need to be used.
  • Work independently to solve problems.
  • Evaluate their use of ICT and the outcome it presents.
  • Explain and justify their choices to approaches.
  • Reflect on their learning with ICT and question how things might be changed for a better outcome next time around.


All these skills are to do with selection, implementation, monitoring, control and evaluation of ICT techniques and processes.


And are metacognitive in nature! They are all metacognitive skills in early childhood education.



In relation to the development of ICT capability, this concept includes both:

  1. The awareness that individuals have of their own knowledge of ICT techniques and processes,
  2. the opportunities offered by the possible use of ICT techniques and processes,
  3. their beliefs about themselves as learners and the nature of ICT.
  4. Their ability to regulate their own actions in the application of that knowledge.


The former aspect is passive in character.

It is about ‘knowing what you know’.

What it refers to is the knowledge and beliefs that we have about our cognitive resources in a situation.

It is also about ‘how well we are likely to perform in that situation’.


The ICT techniques and processes we might be able to use, and the nature of the situation itself.

This self-knowledge may be shaped by participation in day-to-day classroom practices.


The develop of this aspect of ICT capability is significant to children’s study skills, as they have to be able to make realistic assessments about what they can learn.


Applying metacognitive strategies in the classroom will build their ability to solve problems which is dependent on metacognitive knowledge.


What you need to remember when applying metacognitive strategies is that is not that a child knows an ICT technique or process.


It is often whether they know that they know and are thus able to decide to use it.


That is why to be ICT capable is not merely to have secure knowledge and understanding of a wide range of ICT skills, techniques, processes and strategies.



The second aspect refers to the ‘active monitoring and consequent regulation and orchestration’ of one’s thinking (Flavell 1976, p. 232). 

It has to do with why and how children explore, plan, monitor, regulate and evaluate progress.

It too is influenced by metacognitive knowledge.


Teaching Metacognitive Skills in Preschool

Metacognitive strategies examples that you can apply in preschool need to focus on the development of higher order thinking skills and knowledge and emphasise the following:

  • Significant child autonomy in the selection of ICT tools and resources;
  • Active participation of children in the process of planning and evaluating the use of ICT in problem situations;
  • Teacher intervention in the form of focusing questions to assist children in the formation of generalisations;
  • The requirement that children articulate their thoughts about the opportunities and constraints offered by ICT techniques, processes and strategies which they have experienced;
  • Teaching should develop child’s enthusiasm and confidence about ICT;
  • That children be given opportunities and encouragement to reflect formally on their ICT learning.


Some strategies that you can use when engaging in sustained shared thinking include:

  1. Tune in – listen carefully to what is being said and observe their body language and what they are doing.
  2. Be genuinely interested in what they are doing – maintain eye contact, smile and nod.
  3. Respect their decisions and choices – ask them to elaborate.
  4. Re-cap the experience.
  5. Offer your own experience.
  6. Clarify ideas.
  7. Make suggestions.
  8. Remind them of things to do.
  9. Encourage further thinking.
  10. Offer an alternative viewpoint.
  11. Speculate and reciprocate.
  12. Use positive questioning.
  13. Ask open-ended questions.
  14. And model your thinking out aloud in front of them.


What technology promotes metacognition in early childhood?

Earlier, I highlighted that using technology to promote higher order thinking skills is essential for young children today. So what technology will allow you to support and develop metacognition in early childhood education?


Tool software is the ideal technology that will put children in complete control over the computer, tablet computer, laptop or otherwise.


I am talking about content-free and generic application software.


The reason is that to develop ICT capability through the process of technology integration in early childhood education, you need to provide children with intellectually challenging content-free software where the child’s level of control and decision making is quite high.


With the end result being that children not only know specific ICT techniques but ‘know that they know’ ICT techniques AND are able to decide whether specific ICT techniques are appropriate to solve the problem.