Digital Technology in the Early Years

Early Years WomenEdTech Leader, Pamela Algie

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As a teacher my two favourite things are Early Years and enhancing teaching and learning through digital technology.  Many people would say that those two things don’t necessarily go hand in hand.  Every week there seems to be a new article written about how children can’t hold pencils nowadays, they can only swipe or about how communication skills are on the decrease because of the amount of screen time children get.  In my opinion there’s a big problem with this.  There’s also a big problem with holding technology up as the silver bullet to solve every educational woe facing teachers today.  Its not about the technology.  Its never about the technology.  Its all about how you use it!

The children in my class are 4 and 5 year olds.  Hopefully they will continue in education at least until they are 18 years old, if not into their early twenties.  They will most likely be starting their adult working life around 2036.  I can’t imagine what life will be life in 2036, sometimes I wonder what life in 2019 will be like.  Can we really afford to do our children the disservice of limiting their interaction with digital technology?  To me its throwing the baby out with the bathwater.   Yes, they need to know how to write, read, use scissors, count, know about the world but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t learn with technology and learn to use technology alongside these other skills.

As early years practitioners, we know the importance of providing children with opportunities to explore real life objects and situations through play.  Think of how many forms of digital technology you’ve interacted with since you woke up.  If we exclude or limit digital technology from our setting we aren’t allowing children to make sense of their world, we’re allowing them to make sense of a fake world; a world thats probably more like the one we grew up in than they one they need to learn to navigate. I also firmly believe if we tried to limit technology inclusion in early years it would show up in other ways.  My class this week all spontaneously starting making cameras in the construction area which progressed to mobile phones…..

Early Years children are so inquisitive.  They have questions about everything, including digital technology.  Why would you not harness that? I’ve seen teachers like @AStrutin allowing children to (safely) take apart electrical equipment to see how things work, build simple circuits and experiment with Makey Makey kits.  Characteristics of effective learning all coming in to play together there, providing opportunities for collaboration, developing communication and thinking skills as well as being really exciting and fun!

Children are interested in technology, they’re surrounded by technology, they know what to do to make it work (or aren’t afraid to play around until they do).  That isn’t the same as knowing how to use it purposefully, knowing to how to get the best out of it or how to use it to help with learning or show understanding.  Thats what we teach. We don’t just put on a drill and practice app with headphones to go over letter sounds, we make collaborative PicCollages in Pic Kids or in Book Creator we show what we know by creating a page in a book with audio, video, photos and letter formation

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How should technology be used in Early Years?

 The same way as it should be used in education in general, not as digital babysitter, a time filler or a reward, it should be used purposefully to enhance teaching and learning in a way that goes beyond just substituting a device for a pencil and paper.  Using technology should make a difference to the task.  My friend Claire Jones (@assthead_jones) talks about an iPad as part of a digital pencil case. In my classrooms iPads are sketchbooks, cameras, pages for mark marking, audio recorders to evidence thinking and understanding, sequencing cards, movie studios, instruments, digital learning journals, a library of books, a home school link, an encyclopaedia, a window to the world, a way to connect.  In my classroom digital technology supports learning, showcases learning and helps me a better teacher.

“It’s not about the technology, its about how you use it.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pamela Algie is an Early Years teacher from Belfast, Northern Ireland.  She has been teaching in Foundation Stage for the past eight years in both mainstream and nurture group classes. In her current role, she is Head of Foundation Stage as well as class teacher for a bunch of lively 4-5 year olds.  In 2017, Pamela was selected as an Apple Distinguished Educator.  She regularly leads training sessions, participates in TeachMeets and is a very active tweeter. Pamela is passionate about helping young children develop as creative, kind and resilient learners – well able for a future we can’t yet imagine.

 

Pamela’s Blog https://misspca.wordpress.com

 

If you are teaching with technologies in early years, we would love to connect with you! Please get in touch via our Twitter handle.

 

 

 

1 Comment

  1. Excellent- I have just completed a Masters dissertation on the decline of fine motor skills in foundation stage and made similar conclusions – it’s not about technology but HOW it is used and integrated into our classrooms that presents the challenge to educators.

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