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Integrating digital technologies into ECEC programs

20 Apr, 2022

Digital technology, when integrated in meaningful ways for children, is a valued tool in early childhood education.

For example, outcome 5 (Children are effective communicators) of Belonging, Being and Becoming: The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia states that “Children benefit from opportunities to explore their world using technologies and to develop confidence with digital media” (Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations [DEEWR], 2009, p. 41). While digital technology use with children can be controversial, and sometimes considered at odds with play-based approaches that underpin ECEC programs, their inclusion in curriculum documents has prompted reflection about how best to use them with and for children. The worldwide pandemic has also propelled this imperative and cemented the value of digital technologies in early learning.

Early years educators have previously sought advice about aligning digital technology use with pedagogies. In response, Early Childhood Australia (ECA) released the Statement on Young Children and Digital Technologies (ECA, 2018), which aims to build understandings and support practice relating to digital technology use with and for young children. The Statement offers valuable information about the principles of use and general ideas for practice in four key areas:

ECA’s key principles for digital technology use in ECEC programs

Educators, however, rarely see others using digital technology with and for children. In this post, we draw on actual classroom learning experiences from two Australian Research Council studies: (i) Investigating Mobile Technologies in Young Children’s Everyday Worlds (FT120100731) and (ii) Interacting with Knowledge, Interacting with People: Web Searching in Early Childhood (DP110104227), to provide practice examples of a range of digital technology modalities used in ECEC classrooms, including YouTube, web searching for information and images, online shopping, email, and maps.

Practice examples

These studies identified three components that support the authentic integration of digital technologies into ECEC programs. First, there should be a genuine need to use digital technology. For example, composing an email after a child suggested emailing a staff member who had recently left the centre about the kindy’s chickens to tell them about the first time their favourite chicken laid an egg. Second, digital technology should connect people with others, information, or memories. Finally, digital technology should be used in response to classroom happenings.  The examples from these studies show that digital technology use was not a contrived activity to specifically ‘instruct’ children or ‘tick’ the curriculum box, nor was it used as an isolated activity. Instead, its use was seamless, embedded into everyday classroom experiences. Its use was ‘fit for purpose,’ and afforded children to access knowledge, purchase classroom resources, document ideas and memories, and communicate and connect with others to support children’s interests, projects underway, and upcoming classroom events at times that were meaningful to children.

We’d love to hear about your experiences of how you’ve embedded digital technology into your classrooms to support children’s interests, projects underway, and upcoming events by leaving a comment below.

Key references

Danby, S. (2013). Accessing knowledge through web interactions. Educating Young Children, 19(3), 30–32.

Danby, S., Davidson, C., Ekberg, S., Breathnach, H., & Thorpe, K. (2016). ‘Let’s see if you can see me’: making connections with Google Earth ™ in a preschool classroom. Children’s Geographies, 14(2), 141–157. https://doi.org/10.1080/14733285.2015.1126231

Davidson, C., Danby, S., Given, L., & Thorpe, K. (2014). Talk about a YouTube video in preschool: the mutual production of shared understanding for learning with digital technology. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 39(3), 76–83.

Danby, S., Davidson, C., Given, L., & Thorpe, K. (2016). Composing an email: Social interaction in a preschool classroom. In S. Garvis & N. Lemon (Eds.), Understanding Digital Technologies and Young Children: An international perspective (pp. 5–18). Routledge (Taylor & Francis Group).

Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. (2009). Belonging, being and becoming – The early years learning framework for Australia. https://www.acecqa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2018-02/belonging_being_and_becoming_the_early_years_learning_framework_for_australia.pdf

Early Childhood Australia. (2018). Statement on young children and digital technologies. https://www.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/Digital-policy-statement.pdf

Acknowledgements

We thank the Australian Research Council for funding this research,  (i) Investigating Mobile Technologies in Young Children’s Everyday Worlds (FT120100731) (Danby) and the Discovery project “Interacting with Knowledge, Interacting with People: Web Searching in Early Childhood” (DP110104227).

We would also like to thank the children, families and educators for participating in these studies.


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About the author/s

Dr Sandy Houen’s research focusses on early childhood education quality and its impact on children’s lifelong trajectories. Sandy’s expertise is in qualitative research approaches, such as conversation analysis, with a key focus on data collection methods that include interviews with child ... more
Professor Susan Danby is one of Australia’s leading experts in early years language and social interaction, childhood studies, and young children’s engagement with digital technologies. As Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child, Susan leads a collective of national and in ... more

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