The Importance of Tech Observation in Early Childhood Education Today

Teaching strategies in early childhood - technology integration

By Michael Hilkemeijer

 

Early childhood teachers in kindergarten and preschool make judgements about a young child’s learning progress throughout the day.

Observation is the best method to assess a young child’s ICT capability and ICT literacy in both early childhood and primary education, as most technology activities are practical.

So improving your capacity in this type of method should boost your TPACK as an early childhood teacher.

 

Similarly, the formative assessment techniques applied here also have a wider and greater significance in primary education. This makes it imperative for the two areas of education to share and combine key data in reports and transition statements.

 

Read on to uncover any uncertainty in relation to making assessments of children’s learning with technology.

 

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Let us first understand 'what is observation in early childhood education'. As an early childhood teacher, you are an interested observer and collaborate with young children in their play. During this time, you monitor individual children in their interests with technology. The EYLF learning outcomes can be recognised through monitoring and then documented.

 

Your observations in early childhood that relate to technology are about determining children’s ICT capability which they will demonstrate as they interact with their peers, their environment, and the adults in the setting.

 

Observing children in your care will help you to better understand their strengths and weaknesses in technology use and understanding.

 

Observation in early childhood

How to do observation in early childhood education?

When applying formative assessment strategies in early childhood education and care to assess a child’s ICT capability, the following methods of observation in early childhood education can be applied.

  • Observing how the child goes about tackling a piece of work;
  • Diagnosing difficulties which become apparent over a series of lessons;
  • Observing which planning strategies appear to work and allow the child to succeed in a given area;
  • Collecting significant pieces of work in a portfolio of development;
  • Documenting the context of the work and any factors which were significant: the grouping, the time taken, the level of concentration etc.;
  • Documenting the views of the child about the piece of work and asking them what made the activity so successful/significant;
  • Feeding the information back into the planning process;
  • When appropriate, making a judgement about the child’s level of attainment in terms of the level descriptions in the attainment targets for ICT capability in the EYLF and Australian Curriculum;
  • At all times keeping a clear focus on the learning objective; this is very important as well as having a general awareness of other learning taking place.

(Allen, Potter, Sharpe, & Turvey, 2012, p. 70)

 

 

You do not have to assess discrete ICT skills as this will show through observation of the whole class.

For example, if a young child can use a paint program then we know that they are able to use a mouse competently, make choices, select colours, use certain tools and even print or save their work.

What do you assess?

Developing ICT capability in the early years is about building on home experiences of ICT/technology through planning.

ICT capability in early childhood education and care is the ability to utilise ICT independently, appropriately and creatively and to understand ICT in its social context.

 

ICT capability consists of the following (Morgan & Siraj-Blatchford, 2009, p. 16):

Routines: how to use a graphics tablet or a touch screen can be learned. It is impossible to achieve a high level of ICT capability without this content knowledge and most young children master these skills very quickly. Such skills are of no use unless the child has a purpose in mind.

ICT techniques: inserting a photo into a document.

Processes: where ICT techniques are combined e.g. to produce a greeting card etc.

Conceptual understanding: including the basic terminology/shared vocabulary that enables children to communicate and understand what is required of them.

Higher order thinking skills: where children can clearly exhibit an understanding of what they are doing. They select appropriate ICT tools, routines, ICT techniques and processes to obtain the desired outcome.

 

This is demonstrated when they:

  • Decide when it is appropriate to use a particular ICT tool or resource for a particular purpose.
  • Plan what routines, ICT techniques and processes to use.
  • Work independently to solve a problem.
  • Evaluate their use of ICT and the outcome of the activity.
  • Explain and justify their choices and approaches to a problem.
  • Reflect on their ICT learning.

 

In your observations, it is important that you remember that:

  • It is NOT just about computer use;
  • It is NOT just about achieving ICT skills;
  • It IS about children’s growing technological awareness;
  • It IS about their understanding that there are ICT tools that they can experiment with and find out about, that they can begin to control and can use for their own purposes.

 

 

The following questions might help you to in your observations of children using ICT/technology:

  • Are they interested in and curious about technology? Do they enter into discussions and make comments?
  • Do they experiment with ICT applications, finding things out for themselves?
  • Do they show enjoyment and concentration?
  • Are they able to use ICT for their own purposes?
  • Do they talk about ICT tools and applications and show an understanding of their purposes?
  • Are they able to find and start a program?
  • Are they able to navigate a program?
  • Are they beginning to experiment with tapping out letters using the keyboard?
  • Are they showing an awareness of electronic forms of communication, email, Internet, mobile texts?
  • Do they know, are they able to find out, what buttons and icons do?
  • Do they print or save their pictures?
  • Are they able to insert a tape and press the “Play” and “Eject” buttons?
  • Are they able to control a toy and make it move where they want?

 

Questions that might prompt discussion with children in the context of their play

  • What happened?
  • What can it do?
  • How do we make it work?
  • What do people use this for?
  • I wonder what this button will do?
  • What else do you like to use a computer/tape recorder/camera for?
  • What will happen if…?
  • Have you had a go on the computer/tape recorder/camera? What did you do?

(Price, 2006, p158)

 

Observation in early childhood

 

Sharing observations in early childhood education with parents

Research has indicated (Morgan & Siraj-Blatchford, 2009) that the best practices use the technology available that they use to support children’s learning and report to parents to provide documentation of ICT learning and formative assessment.

 

Tracking Learning Progress

While young children are engaged in technology-based activities, informal observations can be used to monitor the ways in which different children respond to an activity.

You make observations about the responses of your children continuously in relation to:

  • The changing mood and relationships between different children or groups of children.
  • How they respond to your explanations.
  • How they answer your questions.
  • Whether they are applying themselves to the task.

 

Much of this information is used to adjust your teaching to cater for the changing needs of the children, unanticipated responses or opportunities to intervene with apposite instructions, explanations, or an increase in the level of challenge provided by a task.

 

 

Observation in Early Childhood

The Principles of Observing a Child

Collating the evidence of learning and learning progression is an essential part of your teaching strategies to be used in the early learning environment where you work. Observation in early childhood education is a key method to monitor a child’s development so that teachers are able to better understand the children’s strengths and weaknesses.

Child observations are, therefore, part of your everyday life as an early childhood teacher and it is imperative that you do understand its role.

 

Role play with technology is not only important to develop autonomy for children, but it allows you to document learning when you are observing a child while playing with technology. You might notice through your observation a child’s behaviour can:

  • Help an educator better understand why a child might be having challenging behaviour 
  • Identify special needs 
  • Better understand the child 
  • Allows for documentation of skills 
  • Shows the child’s communication style 
  • What their interactions with their peers are like 

(ECE Blog)

 

As mentioned earlier, generally speaking observation in early childhood education is typically about tracking children’s behaviour over a period of time.

 

The child observation methods discussed earlier demonstrated how tracking children’s use of technology encourages you to identify the needs of the children. It must detailed and accurate as this underpins the value of the tracking system and being able to keep track of each child’s learning progress through learning experiences in both activities and play.

 

The Principles of Observation Assessment in ECE

A key factor in ensuring that learning progression in ICT capability and technological literacy occurs not just within early childhood education but other sectors such as Primary education is the ability of teachers to share the same perspectives in the methods of teaching and assessment.

 

The importance of observation in early childhood is that it lays the foundation for effective planning and assessment in the future years of schooling for children.

 

You may therefore, need to adapt the following principles to your learning environment when assessing children using Information and Communication Technology.

  • Observing how the child goes about tackling a piece of work;
  • Diagnosing difficulties which become apparent over a series of lessons;
  • Observing which planning strategies appear to work and allow the child to succeed in a given area;
  • Collecting significant pieces of work in a portfolio of development;
  • Noting the context of the work and any factors which were significant: the grouping, the time taken, the level of concentration etc.;
  • Noting the views of the child about the piece of work and asking them what made the activity so successful/significant;
  • Feeding the information back into the planning process;
  • When appropriate, making a judgement about the child’s level of attainment in terms of the level descriptions in the attainment targets for ICT Capability Learning Continuum and that of the EYLF learning outcomes;
  • At all times keeping a clear focus on the learning objective;
  • this is very important as well as having a general awareness of other learning taking place.

(Allen, Potter, Sharp & Turvey, 

The most tool in the assessment of ICT capability is your own observation of children while playing and in all contexts and interaction with them about their work. It becomes important, therefore, to develop skilled observations of individual children.

 

Methods of Observation in Early Childhood Education

There are two different types of child observation methods that you can use when you are documenting and collecting evidence of dispositions for learning. These are structured and informal – both may need to be adapted for early learning environments.

 

Structured observation in early childhood education can be carried out in several ways:

  • Observe the whole class to gain an overview of its progress.
  • Observe a different group each week to gather more detailed information on individual attainment
  • Target your observations on particular ICT techniques.

 

For this, you will need to have a prepared observation schedule which you or a colleague complete at intervals. A good rule of thumb is to even have a coding system.

 

Informal observation is different as it does not involve as much planning but is to do with you making observations of your children continuously. For example, you would need to monitor how they are able to respond to your explanations, how they answer your questions, and so on.

While the children are engaged in EYLF outcome 4 activities for example, you can monitor the ways in which different children respond to an activity. You may notice that some are very confident and can tackle a given task while others are reluctant to try anything out for themselves and who consistently seek reassurance that what they are doing is right.

 

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