FILIPE PRIETO shares his experience and findings on how technology can be used to great effect in early childhood education (ECE) settings.

I have always believed technology plays an important role in early childhood. The literature supports this, suggesting that technologies offer new opportunities to strengthen aspects of ECE practice. I sought to explore such opportunities further as an ECE teacher and through my studies.

Start of a technological journey

Early in 2012 I started working at New Shoots Children’s Centre Papamoa. The centre has a licence for 100 children and at that stage was at around 80 per cent of its capacity.
Soon after starting I noticed that the centre had an iPad that was rarely used by the teachers. My interest in technology and education made me wonder what teachers could be doing with the iPad. After setting up the iPad and sorting out the Apple store credentials I started to explore apps that focused on preschoolers. Soon after that, I was authorised to purchase an Apple TV for the centre. When the Apple TV’s set-up was complete I was able to connect all devices and share information between them. I could mirror the iPad screen onto the TV, share photos between the devices and instantly find photos taken with the iPod on the laptop computer.
Teachers then started to make the most of the devices and started to use them during their mat times, planning and assessment. Initially, some teachers found the transition easy, while others found it more challenging. However, with everyone’s commitment and collaboration, two years on all teachers are fully able to take advantage of all the devices on hand.

Taking it to the next level

I then started to wonder how much children were really absorbing from all that technology we were involving them in the centre. As part of my study towards my Masters in Education, I developed a small project to investigate how much children would support each other when interacting with the iPad. I wanted to find out how much children were learning and how much they were teaching others during their involvement. The project ran for six weeks and involved a small group of 10 children. I used Mercer’s Quality of Children’s Talk framework to assess the children talking during their session with the iPad.

The project showed that the interactions children had during the iPad sessions suggested they were not only taking a lot from it themselves, but even more importantly that they were also contributing to each other’s learning. The more technologically capable child was supporting and helping the less capable so they both could achieve the same outcome. The results confirmed my belief in the iPad as a great learning tool.

It was interesting to find out that my project findings are consistent with larger studies in this area which also show that the iPad plays an active role in children’s own learning and development, and that of others.

Technology used in this way also aligns with many of the goals laid out in the ECE curriculum Te Whāriki, particularly the exploration goal which places emphasis on using a variety of strategies for exploring and making sense of the world, and also on explaining and listening to others.

I intend to continue extending the knowledge on how technology can influence ECE and also researching new apps that can help children to learn and to extend their interests. Technology provides opportunities for learning at all levels of education – and this journey starts in early childhood.

Please join the Facebook page “ICT in ECE”, created as a forum for teachers to share technological ideas, discuss issues and ask questions.

 


Devices for ECE (and how to use them)

While Apple devices are used here, it should be noted that there are many alternatives available including more affordable Android and Google devices that are proving popular in many other ECE settings.

iPad/tablets

The beauty of the tablet is its portability. It can be taken to wherever the learning is happening. For example, if a child finds a strange bug in the sand pit, teachers can take the iPad to the sand pit and search for the bug, take photos of it and even create a small learning story. The Apple store also has more than one million apps available that cover lots of subjects that can arise from children’s interests.

iPod

This can be used as a camera or to play music. With easy access to iTunes, teachers can purchase and play songs according to children’s preferences (‘Let it Go’ from Frozen was a popular choice!).  Teachers can also access internet radio Pandora to search for free playlists containing everything from Disney songs to classical music. The iPod can also be linked to the other devices through the iCloud so photos can be easily accessed from the computer or Apple TV.

Apple TV

Teachers have access to the YouTube channel and can instantly find resources related to anything children show interest in, or anything related to a specific theme, song or story. We are still to create a closed YouTube channel where we can post videos made by the children and those can be easily accessed through the Apple TV.

Air Play functionality

Teachers can mirror the iPad and iPod onto a bigger screen. If a child is exploring a specific app, a teacher can mirror the iPad screen onto the bigger TV so the other children can watch it.

iCloud

Pictures taken with the iPod/iPad are instantly available at the laptop computer. Photo stream can be published and watched on the Apple TV and pictures are instantly backed up and can be accessed from any other computer remotely.

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