Child with VR googles

Digital technology in ECE

Children with iPad

Become more confident using digital technology in ECE

When it comes to digital technology in ECE, some people are much more confident exploring what is possible. Others, however, can feel a little nervous, and unsure how to navigate this whole new way of being. ICT certainly challenges some of our ‘tried and true’ values and beliefs about how children learn best.

Do you remember many years ago thinking that the year 2020 would have us all zooming around in a Jetson’s type of world? Everything would be much more advanced, quicker and easier. Anything would be possible with all of the exciting and brilliant technology available, designed to save us time and make life generally easier. A housecleaning robot was something many of us looked forward to in the future, and as predicted, we have robot vacuum cleaners (here’s to future updates here that include the ability for robots to cook dinner, fold washing, and take the dog for a walk). There is a lot that we are yet to see in our lifetimes, but all in all, the general population has grown accustomed to the use of technology.

The use of digital technology in ECE has become a real game-changer. Particularly during COVID-19 restrictions, educators quickly realised its value. You used technology to stay connected with and work with your children and their families. Zoom meetings became the norm, and everyone quickly adjusted to this new way of being.

As educators, when it comes to digital technology and devices, there are literally thousands of ways that you can benefit from the use of technology. To use for administrative purposes, and also to use with children as part of their learning programme.

So, how can we best utilise ICT (information communication technologies) with educators, children and families?

There is so much to consider and reflect on when embarking on this journey, and we have categorised the things that we feel are most important.

Child with VR googles

Breaking down the concerns and pedagogy of ICT in ECE

  • Have you considered whether you need to update, or create new policies and procedures that relate to the use of digital technology in ECE? Particularly in regard to educator’s and children’s use of technology in your learning service? 
  • Which programmes, apps and online programmes are best to use with children?
  • Why is it so important to implement safe ways of using ICT with young children?
  • What are some common fears and concerns that educators have about the use of ICT?
  • How do pedagogy and curriculum influence the way you integrate and utilise ICT within your service?

Exploring the world of apps and ICT tools

  • What are some of the basic tools available on digital devices that can enhance your work with children? 
  • How do you critique apps, and how do you choose apps that support the type of learning that you value?
  • What is the difference between an inadequate app, a good app, and a great app?

Staying safe and developing good digital citizenship skills

  • How can you go online with children safely, to investigate and revisit learning experiences? 
  • What are the pedagogical and safety challenges in relation to this?
  • What are some of the very important issues you need to consider, such as copyright laws?

This is just scraping the top of what is a whole new (fantastic) can of worms! It can be overwhelming to know where to start, and from what we have heard, a lot of teams are putting it in the “too hard right now” basket. 

But, as technology advances, are you being left further behind? The short answer is, yes!

child on laptop

STOP THE BUS!! It is time to unleash your inner Jetson, jump on board with Storypark in their four part virtual journey exploring digital technology and devices in early childhood education. 

Are you ready to up your technology game? 

You will leave feeling confidently capable of implementing new and valuable technology in your early learning service. You will have a solid understanding of the legalities around using digital technology in ECE, and the policies and procedures you will need to create and/or update to ensure the safety of all, looking at tools and apps and how to choose quality ones, and look at where pedagogy and curriculum come into the equation. 

Storypark, a certified Kidsoft partner, allows you to record and communicate learning as it happens within a secure online environment. Learn more about Storypark and how they can assist your business by clicking here.

Children play Tablet on white background

How can we better understand and support young children’s digital experience through play?

Children play Tablet on white background

For two decades I’ve talked, explored and tried to better understanding the role of digital technology in children’s lives and how that relates to early childhood education. And, over that time the presence of digital technology in all of our lives has increased exponentially. I think about what that must be like for a young child coming to grips with the world they live in.

Everyone has a phone in their pocket. Even babies watch as every adult they come in contact with stares and taps and weaves some magic with the miniature computer in their pocket. Our houses, our shopping centres, our waiting rooms are full of screens. And, our interactions whether that be clicking a like, sharing a post, scanning a FlyBys card or tapping one of our many pieces of plastic are collecting and collating huge datasets on who we are and what we do.

This is the world young children experience. This is what I think about.

How do we, as early childhood professionals charged with supporting young children’s learning and development so they can continue to grow and function in the world, help children make sense of all this?

It is our responsibility to prepare them and teach them about the world and part of that now requires us to teach them and help them understand what a computer is, what the internet is and how it works. Not in deeply complex ways, but in ways that make sense to a 2-year-old or a pre-schooler.

And, the way we do that, and always teach young children is through play. So, how do we bring those things together?

I ask myself questions like:

  • What do they think Siri is when it talks to them from their parents’ phone?
  • How do young children understand GPS or Google maps sharing directions as they sit in the back of the car?
  • What does a three-year-old make of UberEats, or messaging photos, or video chat?

New resources to help children learn about the digital world through play.

Playing it safe banner

Playing IT Safe is a web-based resource that offers activities and ideas about how to use play to teach children about the basic concepts of technology and digital networks. It is designed for use across all early learning environments for children aged as young as one and up to school age.

Playing IT Safe was developed closely with a collective of early childhood educators who tested activities and approaches with children in their pre-schools and childcare centres. It was informed by academic advisor and leading thinker in the space, Professor Susan Edwards. It also provides some digital interactives that educators can point parents to, so they can play and participate in their children’s growing understanding about technology.

Playing IT Safe is for educators who are concerned or struggle to work out how they best manage teaching children about the digital world. It requires no technology. It requires play-based learning and your practice. There are also resources for parents and carers to help young children learn about the internet, that you could share.

Free Training Opportunity for Educators

And, if you are interested in learning more we have a great opportunity for you, at no cost to you or your service.

Supported by Gandel Philathropy, the Alannah and Madeline Foundation is working with Early Childhood Australia to deliver a pilot program that will offer educators targeted training in using the Playing IT Safe resource. Participation in the pilot is free, along with access to the resources. The first workshops will be run online in August 2020. Want to participate? Register your interest here.

 

Written by Dan Donahoo for Storypark
Daniel Donahoo is the Senior Advisor, Innovation at the Alannah & Madeline Foundation. His work there explores the intersection of play, narrative and technology specifically as it relates to the lives of children and young people. Daniel is the author of Idolising Children (UNSW Press, 2007) and co-author of Adproofing Your Kids (Finch, 2009). He has worked for two decades in creating, exploring and understanding technology in children’s and families lives.

Storypark, a certified Kidsoft partner, allows you to record and communicate learning as it happens within a secure online environment. Learn more about Storypark and how they can assist your business by clicking here.

Storypark app on mobile view

Storypark – New and Improved iOS Educator App

Storypark app on mobile view

We have been working hard behind the scenes at Storypark HQ, on a not so little project that is about to make things a whole lot easier for you. It is now time for the big reveal…

DRUM ROLL PLEASE…

Introducing the revamped and improved iOS Educator App! Yes, you heard right, our app has just had a huge makeover, and we think you’re going to like what you see.

We listened to the challenges you were facing and prioritised creating solutions to the things you do most often and the things you spend the most time doing. These two things are creating stories, and engaging with your learning communities. 

We put on our thinking caps, spent a whole lot of time discussing, researching, and experimenting with ways we could streamline your work, and save you time!

We then created prototypes to test with some handpicked and willing participants. We asked them questions and even watched them do set tasks to see how easily they could implement them. 

The next step was releasing our beta app, and surveying the hundreds of users for their feedback. 

They’ve told us that the new app is providing them lots of value already. Particularly during COVID-19, when maintaining close contact with our communities has become even more important, the improvements offered in the new app can better support you through this time. 

Over time you will notice even more functionality added to the app, but we knew you would find the new features to be super valuable now! There are still a lot of things we would like to add, such as giving seamless access to plans. Be assured we will continue to make the new app even greater than it already is.

What problems will the new app help you solve?

  • We know how important it is for you to be able to share stories of children’s learning the way you want to. Now, in order to make the best use of your limited admin time, you can do everything from your device! You can very quickly add photos and videos in the correct order for publishing. Stuck with finding the right learning tags for each story? Don’t worry, it is now very simple to find the right ones to include your curriculum. Tags are now organised in sets, and you can even see the descriptions that are attached to individual tags as well.
  • Particularly at this time, keeping track of conversations, community posts and responses is really important and this is streamlined in the new app, with each group you’re talking to having its own channel, with messages in chronological order. You’ll see at a glance when a new message comes in, and it’s much easier to go back and find something. Best of all, in this all-new community area, you can now create community posts!
  • Just when you think things couldn’t get any better, you will now be able to easily see individual children, finding their profile very quickly.
  • Can’t get near a computer and want to change the date of a story? You can now do this on the new app too. 
  • In the past you may have had times when you have been midway through creating a story, when your internet connection drops out and you couldn’t complete your story. Now, if this happens, your work will be saved on the device! The very next time you reconnect and open the app, you will find that your work has been saved and synced online!
  • Responding and contributing to other educators and families stories just got even better too – now, you can comment with images and videos! This is an awesome way to show continuity of learning and contribute with your different lenses of children’s learning.

What about a new app for Android users we hear you say…

  • We built the new iOS app first because our data showed us that it had significantly more users, with an increasing number of requests for new features.  
  • For team Android, feedback told us that the current Android app provides a better user experience than the old iOS app. This doesn’t mean that it’s perfect, so if you use an Android device please let us know what improvements you would like to see. Also, we would love to know why these improvements are important to you. By giving us this valuable feedback, it will help us prioritise improvements for our Android users.

So there you have it! Our newest “duckling” is ready to venture out into bigger ponds. As always, if you have any questions or hit a roadblock, our superstar support team are always here to help you. You can contact them at hello@storypark.com

What is left to say? It is now time for you to go and download the new app here, have a play, get to know it, and then go out and keep being awesome!

Storypark, a certified Kidsoft partner, allows you to record and communicate learning as it happens within a secure online environment. Learn more about Storypark and how they can assist your business by clicking here.