The use of technology in early childhood education and care has sparked many debates over the years. While some may show concern towards early childhood development in relation to technology use, others have listed many benefits that are associated with its presence in the early learning setting.
It is from these which our online workshop draws its core beliefs on and it is why early learning curriculums such as the Early Years Learning Framework in Australia, have placed high value in its integration throughout early childhood development activities.
Making sure tech supports child development
It is essential as an early childhood teacher and also as a parent that the technology that you expose young children to supports their learning and development.
You can ensure that this occurs by adhering to the DATEC principles set out in relation to the use of technology in early childhood education. This should influence all your teaching practices with technology.
You will also need to evaluate the technology you use. Some criterion that you would need to consider include:
- Is the content accurate and educationally appropriate for young children?
- Will the content meet the learning objectives?
- Are the instructions easy to understand and age-appropriate?
- Can the children start/stop and exit at any time?
- Can the children or early childhood teachers set the instructional level?
- Are the graphics, audio, animations and video of a high standard and appropriate for the lesson?
- Is the feedback to the children positive?
- Will the purpose of the software, website or app meet the outcomes of the lesson?
- Does the education authority allow access to the software, website or app?
- Is a site licence needed?
(Hilton et al., 2014 p31)
When looking for technology to use in early childhood development, you will come across a vast range of ICT resources such as software, websites and apps.
If ICT capability and ICT literacy can be incorporated into early childhood development activities then you will need to:
- Ensure that the young child is in full control of the technology – this aligns the DATEC principles.
- Make sure that it is intellectually challenging to them.
- Integrate content-free or generic software – for two reasons 1) They meet the above criteria 2) If we want young children to become proficient users of ICT, then getting them an early start on this technology is beneficial to us all.
However, you will also need to make that you match the ICT tools and resources to the intended learning objectives.
How does technology empower young children?
The factors influencing digital technology use in early childhood development are connected to a young child’s curiosity about the world.
Young children like to:
- Tell and listen to stories about themselves;
- Draw the environment and people which surrounds them;
- Make something and;
- Play and interact with other people.
The use of technology for early childhood development can help achieve all these things. It should always be viewed by both early childhood teachers and children as a tool designed for a particular purpose.
There are four ways that technology can support early childhood development:
Communication and collaboration – through incorporating Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and through the natural tendency that it brings with it to bring children together, it opens up a whole new avenue for young children to communicate with each via collaborative learning and play.
Creativity – a well-designed on-screen application can assume a wide variety of possible responses from a young child. It should allow a child to try things out, and if it doesn’t work, try something else. By being an innovative early childhood teacher you can support this practice. You need to be proactive and keep asking them what if….?
Socio-dramatic play – there is enormous potential for the integration of technology into young children’s play environment. The possibilities are endless and the learning potential is considerable.
Learning to learn – there is a lot of good to suggest that computers can help young children think about thinking. When you apply ICT applications that support the development of ICT capability, metacognition, and learning to learn are also supported.
The following areas of learning can be enhanced through the use of technology in early childhood education:
- ICT and literacy;
- ICT and mathematical understanding;
- ICT and science;
- Creativity, problem-solving and playful uses of technology;
- Visual literacy and painting;
- Digital animation;
- Learning of music.
Technology and early childhood development work very well together but only if the technology is supported with evidence based teaching strategies in early childhood development.
It is never the technology which is the issue, it is how it is viewed and used. Simple exposure to digital technology in early childhood education is not enough to develop ICT capability and ICT literacy, there needs to be more than the haphazard development of ICT skills.
Support early childhood development with effective technology use today.