The children at Botany Downs Kindergarten love Skyping their friends in the new entrant class at Botany Downs School, where many of them will start school in the coming weeks and months.
As they prepare to transition from kindergarten to school, their Skype chats complement their school visits, allowing the children to build relationships, communicate with their future teacher and peers, and observe the class in action.
It’s just one example of how Auckland Kindergarten Association (AKA) is incorporating the use of digital technologies in positive and meaningful ways, supporting children to be curious, confident and capable learners.
Digital technologies reflect curriculum
Lyn Granshaw, AKA education technology specialist, says integrating digital technologies within the kindergarten environment not only reflects the updated early childhood education (ECE) curriculum Te Whāriki, but also links to the Digital Technologies and Hangarau Matihiko content in The New Zealand Curriculum, supporting the transition from kindergarten to school.
Technology can also play a key role in supporting the transition into kindergarten, says Granshaw. E-portfolio platforms like Storypark can help young children become familiar with the kindergarten environment before they begin.
Technology can also help to strengthen the relationship between kindergarten and home by providing a platform for documenting, sharing and celebrating learning success and progress.
Granshaw gives the example of a boy who had been practicing his haka but was initially too shy to perform in front of his peers. His mum recorded him at home, shared it with the kindergarten via Storypark and the children watched him on the big screen.
Seeing himself on screen had a positive effect. It gave him the confidence to perform in front of the children and teachers, celebrated his cultural identity, and inspired him to take on a leadership role by teaching other children the haka.
Technology gives students a voice
Integrating digital technologies into the kindergarten environment is enabling children to be more engaged in their learning.
“What I like about technology is that it gives children a voice,” says Granshaw.
“They can’t read what teachers have written about them, so this is helping them be involved in their own learning. It opens up a world that previously wasn’t available to them where they had to wait for an adult to read to them.
“Now they’ve got that option of augmenting that through video and audio so they can capture that learning and reflect on that learning beyond the written word.”
They might be pre-schoolers, but AKA takes digital citizenship and cybersafety seriously. It’s focused on growing confident and capable digital citizens through positive, age-appropriate messages, such as teaching children to ask permission before taking someone’s photo.
Just as digital technology infiltrates nearly all aspects of modern life, AKA strives to integrate technology into the curriculum and children’s day-to-day learning, rather than treating it as a stand-alone subject.
“It’s not the digital technology itself that’s important,” says Granshaw, “it’s the thinking behind it that matters.”