By Michael Hilkemeijer
Today, young children grow up in technologically rich environments. The term ‘digital natives’ is what they are commonly referred to as each generation is born into worlds rich in technology. Understanding this is essential to your role as an early childhood teacher.
As an early childhood teacher, it is important to make yourself aware of their technology home experiences so that you can build on them. There are many benefits of family engagement in early childhood education and by supporting families and asking the key questions you can begin to build a picture of this right from the start.
It is, therefore, imperative, that parental involvement in the use of technology in an early childhood setting is considered.
The Benefits of Parent Involvement
It is said that some of a child’s most important cognitive development happens during the early childhood education they may receive in preschool or kindergarten. The benefits of parent involvement in early childhood education include:
- Taking an active role in ensuring that their child has all the support they need to develop their technological literacy and ICT capabilities;
- Extending teaching outside the early childhood learning environment;
- Supporting the ICT learning that takes place at preschool or kindergarten;
- Prolongs a more positive ICT learning experience for children.
Understanding home experiences of technology
It is essential that you do not focus on their ICT skills/techniques, but that you determine the best teaching methods in early childhood education to use technology for learning. Ideally, thinking of questions such as ‘how can I plan for a child to use a digital camera to communicate things they have done’ or ‘how can I support children in writing labels’ we enable you to plan more efficiently.
Here are some tips in encouraging family involvement in early childhood:
- Invite families to tell you about their child’s interests;
- Observe children at play using a range of technology;
- Talk with parents on a regular basis, inviting two-way communication on their child’s interests, ICT learning and development.
- Listen to parents’ stories about their children’s technology experiences at home.
Lack of parental involvement in early childhood education will inevitably prevent you from planning effectively for the learning progression and continuity in ICT capability. Parental involvement in early years, therefore, must be a way of establishing a starting point in learning.
It will involve you opening a dialogue with parents so that you can help them to understand what you are doing and why. You will also help alleviate some fears that they may have and be able to support them in making choices.
Other ways of supporting families include:
- Communicate with families about their child’s ICT skills, knowledge and understanding.
- Give information about suitable resources.
- Model the use of technology yourself.
- Make available books and leaflets on ICT for parents to browse and borrow.
- Ensure that parents are involved in the ICT policy early years.
Parent involvement in preschool research
Studies have indicated that early childhood education parent involvement can lead to more proactive involvement in primary/elementary school education.