Meaningful Technology Integration in Early Learning Environments

Teaching strategies in early childhood - technology integration

By Michael Hilkemeijer

 

Laying the foundations to meaningful technology integration is essential if you want to make an impact on learning in early childhood environments.

 

For all early childhood environments to be safe, responsive and nurturing environments meaningful technology integration must take place. Young children today are brought up in a technology-rich society and may have already might have had a decent amount of exposure to technology.

 

As an early childhood educator you, therefore, need to ensure that young children learn to use technology safely, that you respond to their technology beliefs, skills and abilities appropriately and nurture their technological literacy and ICT capability.

 

In order for technology integration to make an impact on learning in early childhood education it is essential that teachers and carers themselves are supported in the early childhood pedagogy in ICT and other key technology integration information.

 

However, in order to achieve this early childhood teacher professional development should provide pedagogical strategies in technology integration that:

  • Involves teachers in setting the professional development and training agendas;
  • Take place in working classrooms;
  • Involve small-group collaborations between teachers;
  • Build on teachers’ existing knowledge about curriculum and practice;
  • Based on a specific project that teachers plan to implement in their own classroom;
  • Are linked to educational theory;
  • Provide time and opportunities to experiment and reflect on new experiences; and
  • Involve learning ICT skills on a “need to know” basis.

 

 

These are the features of effective ICT early childhood educator professional development as outlined by the New Zealand Ministry of Education (2004).

 

 

What is successful technology integration in early childhood environments?

Earlier I mentioned ICT capability and this in fact is what meaningful technology integration is all about. Here is why. It is because to develop ICT capability in early childhood environments you need make technology transparent. That is when the children become so focused on using ICT as tool to achieve other outcomes that they hardly notice that they are using technology itself.

 

In our free online professional development for early childhood educators, I delve into the strategies that you need in order for you to start the process of technology integration in your early childhood environments.

 

As ICT capability is quite literally is technology integration you should first start by imagining the potential of the available technology in your early childhood environments. This is important because technology integration is NOT waiting for the next big technological development to come around.

 

Meaningful technology integration in early learning environments can begin with just one computer, laptop, smartphone or digital camera. The productive process of integration can be started by a strong-minded principal.

 

This was proven in the following case study by UNESCO.

“Our belief is proved by one of the ECE centres in the poorest region of Southern Chile. All children there belong to the Mapuche Indian community; their parents are mostly illiterate and have no access to ICT – yet they appreciate what their children do at the centre and trust the teacher when she says:

We believe in the power of ICT to motivate and challenge children, expand their perception of the world, their language and thinking, and develop their values as being indigenous. We see ICT as an important component of today’s learning process, particularly so in poor surroundings.”

 

 

Meaning Technology Integration Environments

So now that you know where to start it is important to learn about what makes early childhood environments ideal for successful integration. Technology-rich learning environments in early childhood education that help promote the development of ICT capability or meaningful technology integration consists of:

  • Early childhood teachers who have been trained in early childhood pedagogy in ICT;
  • Technology that challenges young children intellectually;
  • Content-free software;
  • Embedded strategies that promote higher order thinking skills.

 

Meaning Learning in Technology Integration

This involves:

  • Digital technologies and technology-supported activities that are aligned in the EYLF or EYFS;
  • The choice of technology such as that which meets the above points;
  • Ensuring that all children are given the opportunities to participate in the successful technology integration of the curriculum.

 

Free Online Professional Development for Early Childhood Educators

 

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Why integrate technology in early childhood education?

Many believe that meaningful technology integration in early childhood environments is about improving student outcomes. Given thoughtful planning, lessons that use technology can certainly increase engagement in students. I, myself, am a firm believer of this and it should be something that you should be an advocate for too.

 

In early childhood environments, it essential that you believe in the need for children to find out and identify the uses of technology in their everyday lives. You should be ensuring that children are using computers and programmed toys to support their learning. Encourage children to observe and talk about the use of ICT in the environment on local walks.

 

If you match the technology to each child’s unique special needs, the impact of technology in early childhood education would not only be that of improved awareness which will lead to further progress as computers become more widely used by children but their understanding and notion that ICT products are tools. And tools are designed to be applied for particular purposes when required.

 

Children need to learn both about and through technology. They have to investigate what it can do. How it works and what it can be used for. And they learn through technology when they use it as a tool such as using a digital camera to take photographs of something they made.

 

 

To learn more about meaningful technology integration in your early childhood environments join our free online professional development for early childhood educators today.

Integrating Technology in ECE 

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