Technology in Early Childhood Education
Today’s children are growing up in a digital age which is quite different from previous generations. Children have access to a range of technology and media. From a young age, many children know how to manipulate a mouse or navigate their way around a touch screen. When incorporating technology into the curriculum in the Early Learning Centre, it is therefore important that the children begin to develop an understanding of the purpose of technology so that it can be used to support their learning and development.The Early Years Learning Framework (DEEWR, 2009) outlines in Outcome 5: Children are effective communicators who ‘…use information and communication technologies to access information, investigate ideas and represent their thinking.’ As educators we promote this learning when we provide authentic experiences involving technology. These experiences are carefully and intentionally selected by the educators. There is a distinct difference between using technology for education purposes and entertainment. All experiences involving technology or media are designed to directly support educational learning and development.
The use of technology and media in the early learning program is not an isolated experience. Children are encouraged to work in small and large groups. Small groups of children may use the iPads to conduct research on a current area of interest and inquiry. Children work alongside one another on individual iPads whilst working on educational apps. The apps used with the children are educationally based and help to develop pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills, or provide opportunities for creative expression and problem solving.
Technology and media are used to support children’s learning as a research tool and source of information. At times the children use the internet under the supervision of the educators to access images or source information which is connected to a current project, interest or inquiry. For example, a group of children may be researching the life cycle of the silk worm. Through accessing the internet the children are able to look at images of silk worms and the various stages of their life cycle and gather information to help develop their understanding of this area of interest. The internet is a wonderful source of information and is used by the children as a research tool alongside reference books from our library.The children in the Early Learning Centre also have access to other forms of technology and media. Light tables are used in a multitude of ways to provide children with opportunities to learn about light, colour, transparency and reflection. Similarly, overhead projectors are often set up for children to explore the concepts of light and shadow or experiment with shadow puppetry. The children are provided with opportunities to use equipment such as digital cameras, video and audio recording equipment to document their play and learning. These experiences are reflective of our Early Learning Centre philosophy which is inspired by the Reggio Emilia approach.
It is important to understand that technology and media are not used to replace creative experiences, physical play and real-life exploration. Play is central to the children’s learning and development therefore the children’s interactions with technology mirror their interactions with other play materials. The key to using technology with young children is balance. Technology is therefore used as a learning and research tool at times when it is appropriate to extend or support the children’s learning and inquiries.
Information and communication technologies are an integral part of the world in which young children are growing up. Working with technology can enable young learners to use and demonstrate understandings beyond traditional areas of competence and to learn about people and places beyond their immediate experience. “Carefully managed information and communication technologies open new doors for children to understand, interact and re-imagine their world.” (Every Child, Vol 16 No 3, 2010)