Early Childhood Education
Promoting early childhood education using ICTs
Mary Wilson, Memorial University of Newfoundland
A group of kindergarten teachers were surveyed and half reported the lack of school readiness caused the first year of school to be challenging milestone for young children to overcome (Gill, Winters and Friedman, 2006). As argued by Auleear Owodally (2014), preschool students are inadequately prepared to face the challenges of the literacy programs in their first year of school. School readiness assessments go against the “uneven nature of development” and demand all children to be at the same academic level as they enter school (Gill et al., 2006). Lennox (2013) also supported this idea by claiming by the time children enter their first year of school, achievements gaps are already in place (Lennox, 2013). When children struggle with initial literacy skills during early childhood, they will continue to struggle in reading and writing throughout their schooling (Auleear Owodally, 2014). Lennox (2013) furthers this concern by claiming, “in the early years of school many young readers face difficulties with text level comprehension” (p. 386).
Teachers are pressured to close the learning gaps and as a result, early literacy instruction has taken a narrow approach of focusing on code-related reading skills, which in isolation, are not sufficient skills for achieving success in literacy (Lennox, 2013). To add to this problem, teachers are not given sufficient resources in the preschool programs to implement developmentally appropriate strategies to teach new words and encourage oral language development. Young students have limited knowledge of necessary literary skills, such as alphabet knowledge and print-related activities (Auleear Owodally, 2014). Children should be learning through play but the early childhood education curriculum is laden with learning projects and activities (Turja, Endepohls-Ulpe & Chatoney, 2009). Preschool classrooms are presented as a warm and welcoming place but do not inherit strong literacy support (Lennox, 2013).
Role of ICTs
The learning of a young child is positively affected when technology is integrated into the early childhood setting in a developmentally appropriate way (Bose, 2009). Technology not only initiates play opportunities for children, but also provides different avenues for play (Dietz et al., 2013). “ECE students benefit from developing the knowledge and skills to use technology, not as a substitute for hands-on experiences, but as a way to expand children’s play options, ideas, problem-solving strategies and learning” (Dietze et al., 2013, p.2). Careful and thoughtful planning of technology integration into the early childhood education setting was found to enhance all aspects of development: cognitive, social, emotional, language and fine motor skills (Bose, 2009). Ledoux et al. (2010) further concluded that the mobile capabilities afforded by handheld devices enable teachers to more effectively and efficiently assess a child’s development through formative assessment.
When reviewing available websites targeted for emergent readers, Thurlow (2009) argued that vocabulary was enhanced for young children when stories were read aloud via electronic books. Hearing the story along with the accompanying pictures helped students make associations to the spoken words, further enhancing vocabulary development. Thurlow (2009) also found specific educational websites, such as Starfall, Julie’s Rainbow Corner and Story Place, fostered phonological awareness thanks to the recorded speech capabilities. Zucker et al. (2009) also reported e-books to be stimulating for emergent readers because of the additional decoding features, support for comprehension and interactive elements. E-books provide young readers with further opportunities that traditional read alouds, such as strengthening word recognition, working with new vocabulary and practicing comprehension skills independently (Zucker et al., 2009). With the ability to support emergent readers’ processing, memory and motivation, Emergent readers’ processing and memory skills are supported when they are engaged in the multimedia features of e-books, and as a result, are more likely to demonstrate superior comprehension (Zucker et al., 2009).
iPads have been found to motivate young students to be responsible learners by allowing them to converse with teachers and classmates about their learning Lee (2015). As a result of the collaborative nature of technology education, early childhood students can co-construct new knowledge while interacting with the technology and their classmates (Dietz et al., 2013).
Crouse and Chen (2010) reported that the use of computers enhanced students’ motivation and engagement in drawing. They found that computer-assisted instruction supported the natural way young students learn by providing pictures and sounds, allowing them to solve problems and illustrate ideas. Internet photobooks, another form of technology, provides young children with a personalized literary focus, creating a sense of importance and facilitating conversations amongst students and adults (Katz, 2011)., Lee (2015) found that when digital tools were used in learning, students were increasingly motivated to learn, regarding learning as both more fun and engaging.
There is a need to identify the most appropriate applications in technology to support the development of young children (Bose, 2009). In order for technology to be integrated effectively into a preschool classroom, teachers need to be qualified for the role (Liang, Chai, Koh, Yang & Tsai, 2013). Early childhood education programs are not consistently training their pre-services teachers on how to effectively implement technology in the classroom (Blackwell, Lauricella & Wartella, 2014). Continuous professional development is in order to ensure early childhood educators are updated on technology use (Turja, Endepohls-Ulpe & Chatoney, 2009). Not only are there few preschool teachers trained to use technology, few preschool settings are equipped with necessary technology tools (Plowman & Stephen, 2005).
Not all teachers agree on introducing technology to young students (Crouse et al., 2010). There are concerns that children will develop addictions, eye problems or social problems if technology is introduced too early (Liang et al., 2013). Tsitouridou and Vryzas (2004) reported that half of a group of teachers surveyed expressed fears for “possible adverse consequences for young children from the use of computers” (p.40). The other half of this group saw the importance of using technology in the classroom but few were willing to commit to its use (Tsitouridou et al., 2004). In relation to student use, touchscreen devices pose challenges in the classroom because students have more difficulty selecting and moving around with the use of their finger, thus hindering the effectiveness of the tool (Romeo, Edwards, McNamara, Walker & Ziguras, 2003).
Auleear Owodally, A. (2014): Code-related aspects of emergent literacy: how prepared are preschoolers for the challenges of literacy in an EFL context? Early Child Development and Care, DOI: 10.1080/03004430.2014.936429
Blackwell, C., Lauricella, A. & Wartella, E. (2014). Factors influencing digital technology use in early childhood education. Computers & Education, 77, 82-90. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360131514000980
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Crouse, L. & Chen, D. (2010). A tablet computer for young children? Exploring its viability for early childhood education. International Society for Technology in Education, 43(1), 75-98. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ898529
Dietze, B. & Kashin. D. (2013). Shifting views: exploring the potential for technology integration in early childhood education programs. Canadian Journal of Learning and Technology, 39 (4), 1-9. Retrieved from http://www.cjlt.ca/index.php/cjlt/article/view/698
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Thurlow, R. (2009). Improving emergent literacy skills: web destinations for young children. Computers in the Schools, 26(4) p. 290-298. doi 10.1080/07380560903360210
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Zucker, T., Moody, A., McKenna, M. (2009). The effects of electronic books on pre - kindergarten - to - Grade 5 students' literacy and language outcomes: a research synthesis. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 40(1), p. 47-87. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ842944