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Why is ICT important in Education?
There are many reasons why ICT in education is important to today's students and teachers. You can see a full list of them here.
In this article, I will discuss the importance of laying the foundations to the effective integration of ICT in early childhood education. You will learn about the following:
- Benefits of ICT in ECE.
- Selecting ICT tools in early childhood education.
- Auditing your ICT resources.
What are the benefits of ICT in Early Childhood Education?
The following 10 reasons will highlight the advantages of ICT in early childhood education:
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Top benefits of ICT in early childhood education today:
Firstly, young children are already being exposed to ICT tools and as such it already has an effect on them and on the environment and people that surround them.
ICT tools are becoming a ubiquitous component of the physical and social world. It is an important part of the private and work-life of most people, including young children.
This relates to the many opportunities and potential ICT delivers to the teaching and learning of the curriculum.
In early childhood, it can:
- Support and enhance learning and play experiences.
- Support and strengthen your professional learning as an early childhood teacher.
- Support and strengthen your relationships with parents and other people connected to your early childhood education centre.
Many curriculums are now supporting the integration of ICT across the education sector from early childhood to tertiary.
Research shows that the delayed attention to ICT in early childhood has given the sector an advantage that while in the past attention has been given towards getting ICT infrastructure into schools without pedagogical support, the reverse is now occurring.
ICT supports metacognition or ‘learning to learn’. It means knowing that you know and it provides the foundation to what an ICT capable child is.
The use of ICT in early childhood education supports many opportunities for creative development with young children. Through the use of ICT in role plays, they will employ imaginative thinking.
Language development is greatly enhanced when ICT is employed in learning environments. ICT tools and resources such as word processors may appear to be very basic, but remember the power of word processing is in the ease in which children can easily edit and change their writing whilst developing their language and literacy skills.
Children can increase their world knowledge through the use of modern technology such as the Internet.
The many features that ICT brings with it in the learning environment will in the end improve the fine and motor gross skills of children.
Mathematical development is also enhanced as a result of the visual images which computers can provide.
One of the many benefits that will come with the use of ICT in early childhood education is that of collaboration. This alone helps to build language with children in addition to developing their social skills.
These 10 reasons represent the benefits of integrating digital technology in early childhood education today and emphasise the benefits of planning to ensure that learning and playing are enhanced. Some other advantages include:
- Young students are generally more focused and attentive when there's technology involved compared to the traditional way of learning, which is using the whiteboard. One of the main benefits of involving technology is that it's more engaging and interactive, especially since your main competition is the boredom of students. With technology, this rarely ever happens since their focus is completely engaged.
- Technology also makes it possible for students to undergo training resources that are paperless. Teachers don't have to undergo the struggle of printing resources for students with their lessons. If it's paperless, it also makes things more convenient for both the student and the teacher.
- Technology also makes parents see the progress of their children. With modern technology today, communication is now made easy between teachers and parents. Parents can now keep track of their children's progress with technology.
ICT Tools and Resources in ECE
ICT tools in early childhood education has a lot to do with how you planned the integration of technology in the curriculum. It is essential that any use of technology in early childhood education is well thought out with your colleagues and that they align with the EYLF goals.
Technology Trends for Literacy and Language Development in Early Childhood
Child development is an example of a smart goal for early childhood teachers these days and there is nothing as important in early learning as the learning of literacy and language.
Computers, of course, offer a great ‘print rich’ learning environment for children, however, there are other ICT tools for teachers as well. They also provide a powerful focus in role play activities. Using the computer in these situations can engage children in the collection or receiving of information.
Word Processors have the biggest impact on classroom learning in this area as word processing is closely associated with literacy and language work at all levels, and as a consequence has a contribution to make across the early years curriculum.
Talking books combine speech and words, and these can reinforce the link between written and spoken text. Although they are designed to encourage reading they should be approached with a certain bit of caution.
Other ICT tools, real or pretend, can have a major impact on a child’s imaginative role playing experiences in preschool or kindergarten.
Multimedia programs can also play a role as an ICT tool for teachers. Software such as 2Create a Story takes a fresh and innovative approach to early writing, bringing the multimedia possibilities of new technology to children’s story making.
Word banks and grids can also aid in literacy and language development in early childhood as many early childhood teachers are find out. In fact, its success is based on the continuous feedback teachers are providing its makers and which is improving its performance.
Technology trends for Creativity
Creative development is in its own area of learning in the Early Years Learning Framework and like in its counterpart in the UK (EYFS), it is employed to capture children’s development in:
- Responding to experiences, expressing and communicating ideas
- Exploring media and materials
- Creating music and dance
- Developing imagination.
Despite this, it is difficult to define as in this stage of learning it is often linked to painting and drawing. In fact, if you Google creativity in early years you will find references to art. So here are some ways in which early childhood teachers and children can be creative with technology in early childhood.
Technology for Teachers
Documenting is very important in early childhood education as it can make learning visible and ensure that you engage children in the learning process. In early childhood technology for teachers which enables documentation include:
- A full range of digital cameras including webcams, wireless cameras, digital still cameras, smart phone cameras and tablet computer cameras.
- Interactive whiteboards to quickly display children’s experiences.
- Audio recorders,
- Computer software such as MS PowerPoint to share learning journeys
- Digital projectors.
- Software programs to make books
- Talking cards and photo albums to quickly capture children’s comments on their learning.
ICT tools for Children
Children will need time, freedom, support, choices and inspiration to develop their creativity with technology in early childhood. The following you can adapt for your own context:
- Digital cameras – can be used to take photos of their creative play and to exchange ideas. By supporting them in their use you will also be able to encourage them to reflect on the photos they have taken.
- Video cameras – show them how to use it in a creative way such as for a movie making activity.
- Webcams – encourage them to record the process of an activity as they progress.
- Art software – this you can model for them by doing something like making a repeat pattern and printing it out.
- Programmable toys – there is so much value in bee bots and others like Pixie. Create a path on the ground and ask children to program the toy to follow it.
- Smartboards – use these in conjunction with good quality art software and as the children make marks, show them what the range of ICT tools can do. Model using these tools and then stand back and watch the children do with them.
Other Preschool technology trending in Early Childhood Education:
- Interactive websites: examples include Starfall, ABC Ya, Cookie and Fuel the Brain.
- DAP Apps: tablet computers like iPads and even those with Android technologies come with a range of educational and enhancing apps. You can find a list of the best apps for preschool and kindergarten here.
- Educational video sites like BrainPop Jr. and Discovery Education.
How to Select ICT in Preschool learning environment?
Young children in a digital society already have some degree of play experience with digital technology before they enter your early childhood learning environment. It is the very nature of the world in which we live in. As a result, a high-quality early years digital technology provision is essential if you are responding to their technological expertise and helping them grow to become digitally literate and ICT-capable citizens of society.
Digital literacy in early years education is about considering the use of digital technology in early childhood education for the early acquisition of digital skills to be part of young children’s communication development. The cornerstones of this is laid during the EYLF or other early years curricula such as EYFS.
It is during this period, those young children need to understand the digital world that surrounds them and learn that ICT is a tool that is designed for specific purpose. This will be achieved when you use it in a meaningful context as you develop their digital literacy and ICT capability.
When ICT is used in an imaginative way to deliver the curriculum and threaded through your early learning goals then the quality of what is taught and learned is enhanced and supported and the effectiveness of the learning process is increased.
In a previous video, I discussed a number of ICT in early childhood education that young children come across and use in their daily lives. Some examples include digital cameras, smartphones and electronic toys that resemble real-life technologies. Then there are computers – in tablet form, desktop form or mobile form - and the software and apps that accompany them.
In this video, I will show you what you can do to select the most appropriate resources for your early childhood learning environment today.
Audit your ICT resources
The possibilities are endless when it comes to choosing digital technologies. It can be difficult to know where to start. However, it is important to first adhere to the DATEC guiding principles for providing digital play resources in the early childhood learning environment.
- All applications (software and apps) should be educational.
- Digital technology should encourage collaboration.
- Digital technology should be able to be integrated into the curriculum and also into play-based learning experiences.
- The child should always be in control of the technology. Technology like this is referred to as tool technology as it allows them to have full control and can be used to promote creativity.
- Applications should be transparent and intuitive.
- Applications should not contain violence and stereotyping.
- Awareness of health and safety.
- There must be educational involvement of parents.
In addition to this, 4 key themes underlie your decisions in choosing technology. Rachel Ager started her career in a Reception class and now heads up the Primary ICT Team for Northhamptonshire County Council. Here she researches and has the particular responsibility for developing the use of ICT in the EYFS. Below are the key themes that she recognises as essential in consideration of choice of technology.
Theme 1 - A unique child
According to Rachel Ager (2022), this theme is underpinned by the principle that “every child is a competent learner” from birth. Children as such can be resilient, capable, confident and assured. Four things need to be considered:
- Consider how each child’s individual development is supported, and in particular whether the technology is developmentally appropriate for each child.
- Ensure that all children and families feel included, safe and valued by considering whether the technology chosen will promote this inclusive practice.
- Ensure all the technology on offer can be used without compromising children’s safety at any time.
- Consider how technology can be used to support and encourage mobility and movement.
Theme 2 - Positive Relationships
Another theme that Ager is significant is that of positive relationships and this is to do with “children learn to be strong and independent from a base of loving and secure relationships with parents and/or a key person”. Therefore, you need to:
- Consider how technology is used to support the development of respectful relationships.
- Discuss with parents and carers what technology the children are already using, and consider the implications of this when choosing which technologies to use in the setting.
- Ensure that the technology available will enable children to build on prior learning.
- Consider how technology will be used to support and enhance the key person's role.
Theme 3 – Enabling environments
Underpinning this theme is the principle “that environment plays a key role in supporting and extending children’s development and learning”. Ager believes that you need to:
- Consider how the technology can be used to support and enhance the process of observation, assessment and planning.
- Consider how the technology can be used to enhance communication between settings to support continuity in the children’s learning.
- Consider how the technology will be used across the whole learning environment, both indoors and outdoors.
- Consider how the technology will be used to support and enhance multi-agency working.
Theme 4 – Learning and development
Underpinning this theme is the principle “children develop and learn in different ways and at different rates, and all areas of learning and development are equally important and inter-connected”. Consideration needs to be given towards:
- Ensuring that children will be able to play with and explore the chosen technology.
- How children will be able to use the technology independently.
- Ensuring that the technology will support open-ended activities.
- Ensuring that technology is used to support and enhance all of the areas of learning and development.
These are all imperative aspects to consider and careful decisions should be made in relation to the selection of ICT in early childhood education.
How to Select ICT tools for Digital Play in ECE?
This is an extract from my online PD for early childhood teachers on “How to support play based learning in early childhood education with digital technology”. You can join it as a stand-alone course for just $460 AUD or become a member of the ICT in Education Teacher Academy can pay just $5.99 AUD per month for all new and current online workshops for preschool teachers today.
As we are all surrounded by technological development and advancements today many of us including early childhood educators are aware that young children, having already been exposed to digital technologies, come to the doors of an early childhood centre with various degrees of expertise in using them.
It is for this reason that there is a general conception amongst these educators that they don’t need to know too much about what technologies exist for them and the technical competencies that is needed. They require the evidence-based early childhood pedagogies that will make a difference them in the learning environment.
Nevertheless, understanding what technology is best for digital play in the early childhood learning environment is important and, in this section, I will show you not only how to select ICT tools for early childhood education that are developmentally appropriate, but also provide you with some examples of what teachers have downloaded in the past.
What kinds of digital technologies are best?
We all live in a digitally rich and dominated society, so it is not surprising that the range of ICT tools and resources is constantly increasing. For you as an early childhood education practitioner, it means ensuring that young children are provided with a broad range of digital technology in early childhood education that reflects what children are seeing being used in their own communities.
Using Grown-up programs
It is always best to choose software, activities and games that are developmentally appropriate. Grown up programs can be included in your choices as they provide many ways for you to facilitate the use of software that will enable you to accomplish early learning goals.
This comes with the benefit that not only most of this software is freely available but is also generic and you may already have it. The other important aspect of this is that young children need to know how you use computers. On top of this fact is that you will be able to do a lot without purchasing expensive educational software for children.
Letting children see you type the weekly parent update in Microsoft Word and print out 20 copies of it is a great way to begin their learning journey. The digital play experience that you might set up for them could be perhaps a writing activity so the children could either dictate or type stories and notes to parents on Word and click Print to make their writing appear on paper.
Digital play in the early years can also go beyond such learning experiences with adult software. Further examples of how young children can play with Microsoft Word could include playing with the different fonts and sizes or with WordArt. The latest version of Word includes lots of other features such Icons, 3D models, drawing tools like that found in drawing and painting programs. I will get to this next!
An idea might be to let them dictate a story that you type in and then make all the Bs extra-large so the children can practice saying the B sound. This has great literacy and language development implications.
What about other Microsoft programs such as Excel? Well, you can use it to make lists and charts and graphs and change or add to them over a period of time.
Another example of digital play in the early years might include showing children how to do an Internet search for pictures. Think about letting them help you think of the keywords on a topic you are interested in looking up together. This kind of learning activity can be applied to play experiences such as ‘restaurant’ playing in one of their socio-dramatic play experiences. Play around with different keywords in the search engine to see if they will get more ideas.
A final advantage of such programs would be that they also aid in the development of Digital literacy in early childhood education. Most adult programs like the ones discussed are content-free and generic.
Apps and Software
Today, there is a great range of apps available on the market and they vary in their quality. Some apps also could restrict children’s play and creativity which can prevent them from developing their Digital literacy. In choosing apps, the same decision-making process should be used when deciding on software as they are one in the same but for different types of devices. For starters, the media marketed term ‘educational’ should be used with caution as some lack the key qualities such as being intellectually challenging, fun, and flexibility.
Drill and practice apps should also be avoided and usually come in the form of commercially made games. They provide more of a workbook-like experience. Apps that just require children to press a button can also just become boring and do not possess the right attributes of that of which would develop their capabilities in ICT through play in early childhood education.
According to The Education Hub (NZ), the apps that you need are the ones that support children’s curiosity, exploration and experimentation. It is said that these types of apps allow children to make meaning, discover for themselves and generate their own conclusions.
The attributes of these apps may involve:
- Creating stories;
- Contain simple animations or video.
Research (Miller, 2018 as cited in The Education Hub) has found that most children prefer those apps that are creative or entertaining. You also need to ensure that the app can meet the early learning goals of each individual child. They need to at the right level for the child.
Yet, it is important that you do not restrict the selection of digital apps on the basis of children’s developmental stage “because there are many products designed for adults and older children that have play value for young children, if they are provided with guidance and support” (The Education Hub, 2022).
There has also been extensive research on the impact of digital books and its impact on learning and development. However, it is hard to draw conclusions as many contextual and individual differences impact on children’s learning from books (The Education Hub, 2022).
The advantages that a digital book has over printed books is that they can be highly engaging for both toddlers and young children. This can lead to higher levels of attention, positive emotion and talk as well as better retention of new vocabulary. Research has also indicated that they can also have a greater impact on emergent literacy skills.
Digital animations within digital books have also been found to mediate and support children’s interactions thus enhancing their self-confidence and independence as readers. Additionally, digital books can also elicit more commentary on illustrations.
Other digital resources for play based learning
It is essential that any educational media that you choose must be open-ended, socially interactive and flexible while requiring communication and removing external evaluation. This is so that the digital resources that you use for play based learning are effective in their use.
Additionally, your selection must enable experiences and learning to unfold as a result of the child’s questions. Throughout this online workshop for preschool teachers I have discussed key strategies that needs to be applied in addition to the need for you as the adult to remain playful participants who listen, follow, and expand on the child’s discoveries rather than direct, instruct and restrict their explorations.
Deborah Rosenfeld (2022) from the Center for Children and Technology at EDC recommends the following media:
PBS Kids is a high quality educational software for children that is based on research early childhood learning. It comes with videos, apps, digital games and hands-on materials. Some of this has been curated and sequenced into lesson plans and curriculum units.
The resources included are designed to encourage playful interaction by asking questions, pausing for thinking, or prompting children to imagine how an idea relates to their own experience.
Maths and Science digital resources
First 8 Studios was also recommended by Rosenfeld as a media that has been designed to support early math and science discovery through apps. A recent addition to this resource is the Preschool Data Toolbox. This app provides six pre-made investigations and then allows for create-your-own investigations.
This app enables children to learn about what questions can be answered through data collection and provides scaffolding to support the data collection, representation, and analysis processes.
Maths exploration can be supported through such apps such as SolveMe Puzzles. It incorporates puzzles in early childhood that build the foundations of play based learning.
It is important to remember that play based learning in early childhood education is typically associated with hands-on games and activities. Digital play in the early years has the potential to be as active and playful as nondigital media.
Laying the Foundations to Child ICT Capability in ECE
When it comes to integrating ICT in early childhood education, early childhood practitioners worry that they do not have the expertise or the necessary equipment or the time to put it into their practice (Kennington & Meaton, 2009). The rapidly increasing development of ICT tools and resources in society can be a hindrance too as early childhood practitioners struggle to keep ahead of it all.
This is just one issue, however, and it is a real shame because when threaded imaginatively throughout the early learning goals in curriculums such as Early Years Learning Framework (Australia) and the Early Years Foundation Stage (UK), the quality of what is taught and learned is further developed and the effectiveness of the learning process is increased.
The importance of ICT in early childhood education continues to be clear as schools struggle to control and effectively integrate ICT in the classroom. Over the years, there have been more reports in the media about high schools either banning ICT resources or restricting their use in the classroom. It highlights the necessity for early childhood practitioners to apply evidence-based early childhood pedagogies when planning to integrate ICT in preschool learning activities and for primary educators and secondary educators to build upon and apply similar ICT teaching strategies so that students progress in their ICT capabilities.
Additionally, it is important to use ICT in early childhood education so that young children develop the notion that ICT is a tool that is designed for specific purposes. Implementing such strategies also helps build the knowledge and understanding of ICT devices throughout young children’s lives.
A Shift in Focus
Over the past decades, the definition of ‘technology’ has taken on many meanings and classifications. These classifications are now so varied that it is quite significant that you as an educator in the early years setting understand not only there has been a shift in focus from ICT in preschool to distinguishing between ‘digital’ and ‘non-digital’ resources in preschool but understanding how the broad range of technologies today shape children’s play and learning.
Through our two online PD for early childhood teachers, we help you to lay the foundations for both in your practice. Our research has told us that for you to effectively, appropriately and intentionally integrate ICT in early childhood education evidence-based pedagogies, practices and examples is required. Further studies indicated that early childhood educators are not only aware of the many different digital technologies that exist and by which young children are exposed to, but also that they conceived the number one thing that they need is early childhood pedagogies for using digital technology in early childhood education.
How to Lay the foundations to digital literacy in early childhood?
Both online workshops for preschool teachers aim to develop your teacher competence, and your ICT capability, in order for you to teach the dispositions children need to know.
This course focuses on the development of ICT capability through the integration of ICT in early childhood education.
Understanding what is ICT in early childhood education is important in an ICT-dominated society the course examines early childhood pedagogies for ICT resources such as:
- Digital cameras and recorders
- Computers or laptops
- Robotics in early childhood education and programmable toys
- DAP software
- STEM resources.
Technology in early childhood education can enhance children's learning.
This online PD for early childhood teachers and carers delivers practical and immediately actionable advice on how to plan, teach and assess technology integration in the early learning environment. You will learn the expertise you need in order to lay the foundations for learning with technology in preschool activities and kindergarten learning environments.
It delivers practical advice on the best ICT pedagogy in early childhood education and cover 11 hours of PD.
This course focuses on developing digital literacies through play based learning and has similar practices and principles to course above.
You will learn how to support play based learning in early childhood education with digital technology that will respond to a child's capabilities and learning needs. This course is NOT about understanding digital play research, but IS about providing you with the 'practical and immediately actionable" strategies and steps that you can APPLY today and which is derived from the current research on digital play in the early years.
- Overcome hurdles to play-based learning;
- Understand digital literacy in early childhood education;
- Develop an understanding of what digital play and the role it has in early learning settings;
- Learn about teaching digital storytelling;
- Harness the potential of digital technologies for creative play-based learning;
- Promote learning without failure;
- Experience outdoor play-based learning with ease;
- Plan for play-based learning;
- Link high impact teaching strategies to play-based learning;
- Apply theories to do with play and pedagogy in early childhood;
- Observe and assess digital play in the early years;
- Reflect on your experience with digital play;
- Evaluate the effectiveness of pedagogies applied and how you might improve them in the future.
ICT in Early Childhood Education Activity
By becoming a member of my ICT in Education Teacher Academy you will have instant access to many ICT ideas for early years education. One of them is called Bee Bot dancing and it comes from a study conducted by John Siraj-Blatchford.
Early Years Learning Goals:
- Use ICT to investigate and problem-solve (EYLF 4.5)
- Engage with technology for fun and to make meaning (EYLF 5.5)
Session 1: Ask the children to create a dance program for their bee bots.
Session 2: Get the children to view video clips from the last session and ask them if they could remember the instructions they used last time.
Session 3: Get the children to choose a dance routine from their bee bot dance album and input the instructions into the bee bot.
As the teacher, point out all bee bots were dancing in a different way. Ask why is this happening. Then ask the children how they can make the bee bot dance the same way.
ICT Resources required
- Bee bot
- Computer with video player
- Digital video recorder
ICT Levels of Differentiation
- To be able to switch on/off
- To be able to move the bee bot randomly
- To be able to program forwards/backwards
- To be able to program forwards/turn/return
Download this ICT in early childhood education resource today by becoming a member of my ICT in Education Teacher Academy for just $5.99 per month (cancel anytime).