What is ICT capability?
According to Morgan & Siraj-Blatchford (2009) “ICT capability is considered the ability to utilise ICT independently, appropriately and creatively and to understand ICT in its social context” (p.16). Research shows that children who are ICT capable not only have the technical knowledge and skills but also an awareness of this knowledge base in order to be able make effective choices (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000). Children are considered therefore to be ICT capable when they have the “disposition to construct ICT solutions to problems which are appropriate to the context and are based on knowledge of the opportunities and limitations offered by the systems available” (Kennewell, Parkinson, & Tanner, 2000, p. 39).
The development of ICT capability is of much importance today as the Australian Curriculum has placed it amongst all Learning Areas of its curriculum. As a result, early childhood educators need to begin to lay the foundations so as to ensure progression and continuity in student capabilities. Research shows (Bolstad, 2004) that it is important that both practitioner and child develop ICT capability. However, according Kennewell et al. (2000), the level of capability development a child creates is directly connected to the educator’s own level of ICT capability. Therefore, it is pertinent to start this section by discussing how practitioners can do so.
Practitioner ICT capability development
Developing practitioner ICT capability plays a significant role in the ICT capability of children in early childhood education. Practitioners are amongst other people who are present in children’s lives so it is crucial that they are able to make the right decisions in terms of the use of ICT in their curriculum. According to Bolstad (2004), educators need to have well-developed understanding of the role and potential of ICT in early learning in addition to having practical skills. In contrary to these findings, studies conducted in Australia (Cooper, Farquhar, & McLean, 2001; Downes et al., 2001 as cited in Bolstad, 2004) have indicated that ICT use is minimal and that practitioners have a lack of understanding on the values of ICT and how it can contribute to their practice.
In order for practitioners to further develop their ICT capability, they need opportunities to learn about:
- the possibilities that ICT offers for new ways of communicating, seeking, and handling information, and interacting with the environment and other people;
- what research says about the role and impact of ICT use for children’s learning, play, and development; and
- Examples of how other early childhood education settings have used ICT to support children’s learning or play; or to strengthen relationships between children, practitioners, and families.
(Bolstad, 2004, p. 9)
The development of practitioner ICT capability needs to be nurtured by providing them with the skills to use different forms of ICT and being able to identify how they could use ICT to support or extend practice in their own early childhood setting (Bolstad, 2004).
Child ICT capability Development
It is imperative that practitioners help their children develop ICT capability. According to Bolstad (2004, p.7) “Information and communication technologies are becoming more embedded and ubiquitous in the environment around children”. The continuing emergence of new technological advancements and developments will mean that young children will continue to be exposed to these ICTs in their lives. As much of the research states that this is the exact reason why young children need to develop ‘technological literacy’.
The key skills that young children in early childhood education should learn would include being able to “find out about and identify the uses of everyday technology” and this means that children need to be given the opportunity to use ICT to support their learning (Bolstad, 2004, p. 7). As a result, children will learn to become effective lifelong learners. Other skills would include being able to analyse and organise information and recognising the way that ICT can shape information (Bolstad, 2004). Living in a knowledge society these skills will become essential for each child to prosper and even survive. These are the individual needs and expectations of society today (Semenov, 2005). An ‘information literate’ person is someone who proficient in the use of ICT.