Matters to Consider when introducing Technology into Early Childhood Education Introduction Earlier research was more concerned with weather or not technology; including computers were, in fact, beneficial to children’s learning. Current research is concerned with how technology can be used to support children’s learning and development (Morrison, 2009). Acronyms like PC, CD, DVD, PDA, DSL, eBay, and . com, are part of our professional vocabulary right alongside ECE… technology has changed the way we teach children (Donohue, 2003). This author takes the position that technology is beneficial to early childhood education.
This paper will outline how technology is beneficial to early childhood education through an analysis of contemporary literature. The paper has been set out in sections addressing a different aspect of technology and matters to consider as it effects early childhood education. This paper will begin by defining technology. It will discuss recent trends in technology and the importance of educators and the benefits for children. It will discuss computer technology in the classroom and the use of media in education. It will conclude with a discussion on the effects of television superheros on children’s behaviour in an educational setting.
This paper will show by presenting different aspects of technology and arguing different perspectives from research; technology is beneficial to early childhood education. Defining Technology in Early Childhood Education Before a discussion on technology in early childhood education can proceed, there needs to be an understanding of what technology is comprised of. Depending on which author one reads or what the purpose of the research is for, the definition of technology varies to include or exclude varying forms of artefacts.
Dockett ; Fleer (1999) explain technology to be inclusive of high technology such as television, fax machines and computers as well as replica objects of television characters (p. 150). Dockett ; Fleer use a very general definition of technology. Looking critically at this example leads this author to feel the information here is too limited in content. In addition, other ‘high technology’ items include cell phones, smartphones, PDA’s, personal computers, the internet, e-mail, and digital cameras (Donohue, 2003), and electronic teaching materials such as SmartBoards (Flynn et, al. 2010). Donohue (2003) and Flynn et, al. (2010) explain that we routinely use these tools in our classrooms, as well as the home and work. Both Dockett & Fleer (1999), and Donohue (2003) use the term ‘high technology’. The purpose here is that there are other categories which can be viewed as artefacts of technology such as blocks, sandpit toys, play group equipment or infant toys (Dockett & Fleer, 1999). While this author acknowledges the listed ‘low tech’ items as developments of technology, this paper will not be discussing such items.
Technology as listed above (Dockett & Fleer 1999; Donohue 2003) lists items which could be considered as hardware. But technology is not limited to hardware alone. Other forms of technology which this paper holds interest include media. Weddell (2001, p. 4) describes media as being”…all forms of broadcasts, advertising, television, computer games, film, video, interactive online media (email, internet), recorded music, print material (newspapers, magazines, cards, stickers), toys and merchandising associated with media-related products”.
This paper will refer to technology as including both technical hardware and digital media. Technological Trends in Early Childhood Education In this section, the author will address matters that need to be considered about trends in early childhood education. While differing views are presented, the favoured position is overwhelmingly for the inclusion of technology into the early childhood curriculum as shown in the research. The question of technology in the early childhood classroom is not if, but how and why we use it (Donohue, 2003).
The use of computers and technology in early childhood education has grown each year, and the ways in which technological tools are used to manage and improve programs and enhance children’s learning have expanded dramatically (Donohue, 2003). It needs to be acknowledged that technology and media are social icons, and, most importantly, children are active consumers of these products (Weddell, 2001). There is little wonder why technology is being viewed as becoming, if not already, common place in the educational setting.
Zevenbergen (2010, p. 1) states, “This generation has been immersed in technology since their emergence into the world. Their homes have computer technology in all facets of gadgetry-the remote control for the television, the programmable microwave, the mobile phone computers, digital games (such as Xbox, as well as those on the computer)”. Early childhood is a period of growth and rapid development. During this time, many children attend preschool, where they have access to technology as a learning tool (Chen ; Couse, 2010).
There is increasing interest and belief in the need to start this education [technology] at an earlier age, possibly as soon as children begin formal schooling or even nursery school or kindergarten (Stables, 1997). In a survey conducted by Flynn et, al. (2010), the results showed more than half of the educators surveyed think that children should be introduced to technology between ages 3 and 4. Perhaps one reason the findings would indicate this is due to the motivational interest technology hold for young children.
In support of this, Chen ; Couse (2010) state, “Encouragement in the learning process is directly linked to motivation, as illustrated in Haugland’s study (1999), which found the motivation of kindergarten and primary-aged children increased when academic instruction was paired with the use of technology (p. 77). Today, educators are using technology in many creative ways (Donohue, 2003). In a study conducted by Jarvis and Rennie (1994) (cited in Fleer & Jane, 1999), young children were asked about their views on technology by using a picture quiz to identify their perception of the term ‘technology’.
Of the 28 items shown that had something to do with technology, the most frequently listed item was the computer (p. 7). This author notes this research was carried out in 1994. The results of a similar study being carried out today could likely reveal a different result. Unfortunately this author was unable to locate such a study. Either way, in early childhood classrooms, computers have become an increasingly accepted tool for learning and when used in a pedagogically appropriate manner, they provide valuable educational experiences for children (Edwards, 2005).
As children naturally explore and learn about their environments through inquiry, computer technology has proven an effective means of cognitive and conceptual development as children develop literacy and numeracy skills and competence (Edwards, 2005). Educators recognize ever developing potential of technologies to enhance the ability of children to learn, problem solve, and convey their ideas (Chen & Couse, 2010). The trend will continue for the foreseeable future; but equity issues of access, affordability, and the need for computer literacy for early childhood teachers and faculty will remain s significant barriers for many early childhood programs and professionals (Donohue, 2003). The trend of introducing technology into the classrooms appears to have gained motivation to the point where it is accepted by students, educators and parents (Dockett & Fleer, 1999; Edwards, 2005), the reason for this occurring is largely due to children being so familiar with technology as a result of this generations lifestyle (Zevenbergen, 2010), we must also consider another aspect for introducing technology into the classrooms as it has been pointed out by O’Shanesy (2013, MOCR), not all children have computers in their homes.
This is one very important reason why educators need to introduce technology and computers to these children as early as possible so that they may also develop the computer literacy skills that their peers may take for granted (p. 3). Early Childhood Educators in an Age of Technology In this section, the author will address matters that need be considered about early childhood educators working in this age of technology.
While differing views are presented about the educator’s level of training and confidence, it is without question that educators are the key to successful integration of technology into the school curriculum. Digital technologies and computers have become an integral part of many children’s daily lives. For this reason, it is important that early childhood educators are not only familiar with the use of computer technologies, but are able to guide children’s understanding of, and ability to use them (Morrison, 2009).
In agreement with Morrison, Weddell (2001) also insists that teachers need to guide children’s learning to better understand and interpret technology (p. 5). Haugland & Wright (1997) suggest, without training it is very difficult for teachers to obtain the necessary expertise to successfully integrate computers into their curriculum. Only when teachers feel comfortable with technology will computers play a significant role in early childhood education (p. 17). It seems that researchers agree that the key to successfully implement technology into the classroom rests with the early childhood educator.
According to Filipenko and Rolfsen (1999, as cited in Edwards, 2005), the integration of computers in the early childhood classroom to support children’s learning and development is influenced by the educators’ level of computing knowledge (Edwards, 2005). The question is raised, are teachers provided with the appropriate level of training to successfully implement technology into the classroom? Stables (1997) suggests, some teachers have warmly welcomed the challenge of introducing technology education to children at an early age.
They have found that it has allowed them to develop new dimensions to work already underway (p. 50). This is not the case however with all educators as the research shows. Burnett (2010, p. 1) states, “Studies have highlighted a lack of confidence and competence amongst early childhood educators in relation to new technologies. ” In support of this statement, Stables (1997, p. 50) argues, “Some [educators] are confused by what technology education would mean for young children… There are also those who believe that technology education is simply inappropriate with a younger age group. The author questions why there are such differing opinions amongst early childhood educators. Perhaps Zevenbergen (2010, p. 1) offers an answer to this issue as he states, “We contend that young children coming into early childhood settings may be different from other generations because of the social and technological conditions within which they are developing. ” In support to this statement, Donohue (2003), argues that most early childhood educators, unlike the young children in their classroom, have come to computers as adult learners and can be resistant to using technology (p. 17).
If this is the case, then how does one bring these generations closer together? How has it come to be that the early childhood learners, know more about technology, and are more comfortable using it than many of the educators? There are noted benefits of early childhood educators using computers in classrooms as Morrison (2009) mentions, when educators support children to use computer technology in their classrooms; it helps them to develop skills such as the use of a keyboard and basic computer software. It also assists children to build learning concepts around computer use and digital media over time (p. 6). A point being addressed here by Morrison is not regarding the benefits that computers offer to children but rather what benefits the educators off to children in developing their computer skills. Consistent with this research, it has also been bought to the authors attention by O’Shanesy (2013, MOCR) that educators need to be trained appropriately to scaffold learning and use the correct computer language when working with children (p. 3). Early Childhood Learners and Computer Technology In this section, the author will address matters that need be considered surrounding computers in the classroom.
While differing views are presented, the position is overwhelmingly in favour for the instruction and use of computers in the classroom as shown in the research. Computers are all around us. It has become virtually impossible to function on a daily basis without using or benefiting from computer technology (Haugland & Wright, 1997). It is inevitable in this technological age that children will be exposed to computers and that these computers will be instrumental in their daily lives (Haugland & Wright, 1997).
Computers have been shown to be beneficial to children’s cognitive development (Dockett ; Fleer, 1999). With the use of a computer, children can develop their skills in areas where they would otherwise be limited. For example (Clements, 1992), a child can further develop their composition abilities using a simple word processing program. It is argued that children will not be limited by their handwriting ability as it is easier to press the keys on the keyboard (Cited in Dockett ; Fleer 1999). Stables (2007, p. 1) states, “Curiosity as to how things work, leads to a determination to make things work. Consequently, opportunities to develop problem solving skills are provided [through the use of computers]. ” Used in developmentally appropriate ways, the computer is a resource which fits children’s learning style (Haugland & Wright, 1997). Introducing technology into the curriculum of young children is important because of the propensity of this age group to engage in technological activity with an enthusiasm, curiosity and lack of inhibition that creates an optimum opportunity for development (Stables, 2007).
Haugland & Wright (1997) explain learning involves children actively exploring their world and then, through a process of assimilation and accommodation, acquiring and constructing knowledge. Piaget (1971 cited in Haugland & Wright, 1997) states, “If we desire to form individuals capable of inventive thought and of helping the society of tomorrow to achieve progress, then it is clear that an education which is an active discovery of reality is superior to one that consists merely in providing the young with…ready-made truths to know with. ” This author acknowledges how relevant is this tatement by Piaget of 1971 is to modern education. While based on the research indicating the many developmental advantages of computers in early childhood educational settings as presented in this paper, there is still some doubts as to the benefits that will come from computers. Haugland & Wright (1997, p. 6) state, “Opponents believe computers should not be placed in early childhood classrooms. They fear computers will replace other activities, will rob children of their childhood, are too abstract, provide children an unrealistic image of the world, lead to social isolation, reduce feeling awareness and creativity. But based on research findings (Lipinski, et. Al, 1986, NAEYC in Press) this is not the case. It needs to be stated that a computer does not replace traditional resources for teaching in the classroom. Instead usual or traditional activities that take place in the classroom are as important as they always were. As suggested by Haugland & Wright (1997), computers should be used to supplement or accompany the children’s normal learning experiences (p. 7).
Classroom activities help children place computer experiences in context and reinforce the competencies and skills children gain from technology (Haugland ; Wright, 1997). Early Childhood Education and Media Technology In this section, the author will address changing opinions towards media technology. While differing views are presented, the argument for introducing media into the classroom is favoured as shown in the research. Television programs, whether positive or negative, do form a large part of children’s life experience (Dockett & Fleer, 1999). In support of this research, Flynn et. al. (2010, p. ) states, “It is hard to find a national study of children’s use of media in the past 20 years that does not demonstrate that media, and especially television, are a dominant activity of childhood. ” Flynn et. al. (2010) claims that young children have incorporated media technologies into their out-of-school lives in unprecedented ways in recent years. Early media use is now the norm, with baby videos and 24/7 cable television for children used by even infants and toddlers (p. 3). Weddell (2001) presents a position (but does not advocate to) that parents do not want media studies in their children’s curriculum.
Waddell argues in most cases, parents and teachers report that children are exposed to enough [media] at home and in the community without it becoming part of their education (p. 4). Weddell (2001) comments that children aged three to five are watching up to 17 hours of television a week (p. 4). While the argument that parents do not want media studies in their children’s classroom is not further supported by the research this author has located, there is certainly supporting research (Dockett & Fleer, 1999; Flynn et, al. 2010) that children are exposed to a great deal of media in their lives. There is research that indicates that parents are in favour of media being integrated into their children’s curriculum. Rideout & Hamel (2006, cited in Flynn et. al. , 2010) state, “We have a generation of parents who are more accepting of not just television but also computers and other technologies and who view such technologies as more likely to help than hurt their children’s development (p. 3). Perhaps this change in opinion could be a result of changing attitudes from 2001 to 2006.
Dockett & Fleer (1999) argue there is a range of children’s programs in Australia designed by educators to enhance children’s cognitive, social and emotional development. There is a great deal of community support for these kinds of programs. As a result, these television programs are part of many children’s educational experience. The Effects of Television Superheros on Early Childhood Learners In this section, the author will address matters of the media that affect the behaviour of children. The research presented shows conflicting views.
Once again, it is shown the educator is the key to successfully integrating media technology into the school curriculum. A significant amount of research into superhero play has suggested that teachers should work with the popular children’s culture initiated and developed through television and video (Cupit 1989 cited in Dockett & Fleer 1999). This would be interesting and thus motivating for the children. However, research indicates this also has negative effects on children’s behaviour due to television superheros usually being associated with violent acts.
According to a study by Lisosky (1991; cited in Levin and Carlsson-Paige, 1995); there are over 200 acts of violence per hour in a popular children’s show of that time (Dockett & Fleer 1999). In addition, the same television program used footage of real-life actors and settings with special effects and animation. As a result, children see real people engaged in realistic acts of violence (Dockett & Fleer 1999). According to Levin and Carlsson-Paige (1995, p. 0, cited in Dockett & Fleer 1999), teachers surveyed on the effects of the said television program on children’s play believe that the use of real people in the program increased the negative effect on children. It was argued ‘at 4 and 5 years of age, children do not have the cognitive skills to separate the fantasy from the reality of the show’ (p. 153). In contradiction to this survey finding, Weddell (2001, p. 4) states, “Very few children will be influenced by antisocial images or violence they see on the screen, nor will they become obese, unimaginative, poor communicators. Weddell (2001) does not deny that some children may behave violently during play after watching their television superheros in violent acts, however Weddell (2001) claims that some children behave violently because they have a predisposition to violent acts and are in need of supervision. Dockett & Fleer (1999) suggest that children act out their superheros violent actions as they are unable to imagine another storyline to go with their superhero character, as a result, children should be protected from violence in media (p. 153).
In argument, Weddell (2001, p. 5) states, “The notion that children are inevitably ‘at risk’ from the media and therefore must be ‘protected’ from it is a distorted perspective. Encouragement-rather than protection-is needed to guide children’s viewing and to teach the art of watching and interpreting the media. ” Weddell (2001, p. 4) states, “Most importantly we need to trust that children can learn to discern the media messages they receive. We seem to forget that children of this century will know more about the media than their parents or teachers. It is unlikely that teachers will be able to influence what children choose to watch at home. As a compromise of the research presented, perhaps while at school, this author suggests teachers should choose media programs that do not involve violence but rather appeal to the children through other means. In support of the author, Dockett & Fleer (1999) suggest teachers use quality television programs to stimulate positive children’s play. Programs such as ‘Playschool’ actively encourage children to construct the same or similar things as those shown on the program.
The construction work (e. g. , building a doll’s house, making name tags, or making hats) may stimulate further play (p. 158). This suggestion (Dockett & Fleer 1999) is consistent with the research presented from both positions. Children do, to varying degrees, imitate what they see on television. So rather than expose them to violent acts, in an educational setting, children should be exposed to ‘quality’ television media that stimulate their desire to learn. Conclusion The future looks bright for technology in early childhood classrooms (Donohue, 2003).
The effects of technology in educational settings on the development of young children have been widely documented and strongly positive (Chen & Couse, 2010). Technology has changed the way we teach children (Donohue, 2003). This author has taken the position that technology is beneficial to early childhood education and presented this position with supporting research through an analysis of contemporary literature. This paper addressed different aspects of technology and discussed matters to consider as it effected early childhood education.
This paper began by defining technology to include technological hardware (Dockett & Fleer, 1999) and digital media (Weddell, 2001). It discussed recent trends in technology arguing technology is present in all areas of children’s lives (Zevenbergen, 2010). It argued the importance of educator training and experience as being a key factor to successful implementation of technology into the curriculum (Haugland ; Wright, 1997). It also argued the learning benefits technology offers for children (Dockett ; Fleer, 1999) in early childhood education.
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