Effective learning in early childhood education?
The impact of the ECE ICT PL Programme: A synthesis report
This report provides an overview of the impact of the Early Childhood Education Information and Communication Technologies Professional Learning (ECE ICT PL) programme, 2006–2009.
Author(s): Ann Hatherly, Dr Vince Ham and Laura Evans, Report for the Ministry of Education.
Date Published: August 2010
This report is available as a download (please refer to the 'Downloads' inset box). To view the individual chapters please refer to the 'Sections' inset box.
Chapter 1: Children's Learning
Literacy learning outcomes in e-learning contexts
Language is a vital part of communication. In early childhood, one of the major cultural tasks for children is to develop competence in and understanding of language. (Ministry of Education, 1996, p.72)
In Te Whāriki, literacy-learning outcomes are expressed in terms of language acquisition, competence, and use for appropriate communication. Literacy and language, while not synonymous, are inextricably related. In this respect, Te Whāriki reflects a now widely accepted view that 'literacy learning' and 'becoming literate' are much broader concepts than simply demonstrating an ability to decipher or scribe the written word. Literacy is more than the technical ability to 'read and write'. Rather, literacy is generally understood in curricula worldwide to be the more generic ability to read, write, speak, listen, understand, act and communicate appropriately with others in society, using a variety of 'texts' and media. Literacy is facility with language, in all its forms.
'Texts', in the language of literacies, are representations of communicated meaning. They are multimodal in that they combine one or more 'modes' of communication - the written, verbal, visual, aural, spatial and gestural. A 'text' may thus be a written sentence or a book, a picture or a movie, a dramatic performance or a verbal discussion; and 'literacy' is thus the ability to understand and use appropriately a variety of these texts in a variety of modes in order to understand and communicate ideas.
Literacy learning, at any age, is about developing the ability to understand and use a variety of language modes effectively when communicating and interacting with others.
We wanted our children to be not just "school ready" (being able to print their name, have working knowledge of ABC's and to hold the pencil in the correct grip as requested by a local school) but to have a lasting love of literacy. (Teacher, Allenton Kindergarten report, p.5)
A number of enquiries in the ECE ICT PL programme focused specifically on fostering and identifying literacy-related learning outcomes for children in e-learning activities (i.e. learning activities that involved the use of one or more ICTs). For example, two of these enquiries focused on aspects of children's oral literacy, two on developing their generic language and communication skills, and one specifically on contexts that fostered children's ability to reflect on their own meaning making from various texts.
Literacy related 'puzzles of practice' investigated in the services included:
- enriching children's use of oral language through the use of ICTs
- supporting children's literacy through open access to ICTs
- fostering children's use of the Samoan and Māori language
- using ICTs as a stimulus for dialogue, revisiting, reflection and meaning making.
Literacy learning outcomes
The literacy-focused studies found that, provided the appropriate general pedagogical strategies were also in place, ICT-based activities resulted in observable literacy learning by the children. The main literacy learning outcomes identified in the studies involved the use of ICTs:
- as a stimulus for talk and conversation
- for making meaning in a variety of language modes
- as an opportunity for sharing, telling, retelling and revisiting experiences.
Stimulus to talk and conversation
Several services looked at how providing ICT-produced visual and other resources led to instances of literacy-related learning, especially oracy outcomes. Spontaneous images taken by digital cameras and digital microscopes were found to be useful stimulus to 'get children speaking' and conversing more, either with each other or with the teacher. Such talk seems to have often taken the form of explanation or providing a running commentary on their work, or by way of verbalising their personal narratives or their activity planning (as when Eddie went home and talked over his plans with parents to collect things from the garden to explore with the digital microscope the next day).
Several services noted that the addition of microphones, video recorders, data projectors and software programmes with audio recording capability, such as Photo Story3, enabled particular children to 'find their voice' amongst their peers, for the first time, as in the case of Harris ''a quiet boy who loved to play in the sandpit''.
Harris went for a trip to Christchurch and used a digital camera to take photographs. When he returned he was given the opportunity to share these with the morning group at mat time, using the data projector and the big screen. Through this experience the teachers were able to see a different side of Harris, as they had not seen him communicating in this way before, taking a lead role in the group discussion.
When Harris's mother was told later she was thrilled, and pleased that it had been recorded in a video because she could not believe that her 'quiet son' would have the confidence to articulate his experiences in front of a large group. (Bayview Kindergarten report, p12 - 13)
Some services found that, for children with English as an additional language, ICT proved motivational in encouraging these children to practice and converse in English. Its value was also noted by A'oga Fa'a Samoa, where preservation and development of children's home language is central to their philosophy.
Tiali … really likes singing and participating in-group activities. She enjoys singing and dancing together with her friends. … This also helps her a lot with her speech and especially her Samoan language. Some of the resources that have been sent home for her and her family are DVDs on Samoan songs, and also DVDS of digital stories and poems. She enjoys the song on the DVD, "Ua sau nei le malulu." … On the day we made this DVD Tiali wanted to be in front, she was standing at the back and she pushed herself through other children, trying her best to be in the front so that she can be seen and heard.
When I played back the video she was laughing and pointing to herself singing and dancing in the front. After taking the video of the children singing, I started to take the photos of the children acting the different parts of the song, and guess who was the first wanting to do it, Tiali. She was the first one wanting to participate, and all the other children followed. She put on the scarf, and the hat and the other children did the rest.
Her parents were so thankful for these resources, they said that Tiali enjoys singing along when watching, and these resources encourage not only her but also her family to speak Samoan. Positive feedback from the parents encourages us to make more and send resources for other children. Tiali's parents commented, "It is great to know that there are resources like these for us to see Tiali in action, singing and enjoying her self. She loves watching herself. Good to make more of these resources with children in them, to share with the parents. The resources also help encourage us to speak Samoan at home." (A'oga Fa'a Samoa report, p13)
Photograph 1: Children's Portfolios
Aiden revisits previous drawings (photographed) from his portfolio, to form the basis of his current three-dimensional clay work.
(Tots Corner report p.34)
Making meaning in a variety of language mode
Other activities and ICT resources were found to help children make meaningful connections between ideas in different modes - mostly relating visual and verbal texts like connecting ideas portrayed in pictures with (usually) spoken descriptions.
Multimodal texts and revisiting
The multimodal nature of emerging literacy was also encouraged when children translated or presented the same stories or narratives in different forms - visual (pictures made in Kid Pix), aural (commentary recorded on digital microphones), and sequential (stories presented as slide shows), for example.
Several of the services also found that ICT-based activities often created the stimulus for children to talk meaningfully to each other as one became the 'expert' and peer tutor to others on how to use the particular piece of ICT itself.
Opportunity for sharing, telling, retelling and revisiting experiences
The other literacy-learning outcome identified in the studies that specifically investigated literacy issues, related to the affordance that ICTs provided through an editable archive for children to revisit, review and revise their work on an ongoing basis. Both Allenton Kindergarten and Tots Corner made this aspect of literacy learning a particular focus of their study cycles and both found evidence that "ICT supported 3 of the 4 children we sampled to share, revisit, tell or retell their stories" (Allenton report p.10); and that "portfolios, photographs and the [ICT-generated] wall documentation were the most valuable ICT tools for children to revisit their experiences" (Tots Corner report p.14).
At one point or another all of the services that investigated literacy learning commented on the children's tendency to revisit and often change or improve work, at home or in the service itself, because it had been archived and was in an editable form.
Eddie's interest was ignited when he observed a peer using the digital microscope. Seeing himself as a person who could rise to the challengeof learning how to use this IT tool, he began to actively explore it.
Going home that afternoon he shared his future plans with his whānau /family that he was going to collect interesting things from the garden and take them to Kindergarten the next day so he could further his exploration with the digital microscope.
Eddie asked his Grandma to support him with the garden search and together they collected treasures that they felt were going to be interesting under the microscope.
The next morning Eddie arrived at Kindergarten with his garden treasures. His passionate discussion about the digital microscope had also provoked his mother's curiosity about this technology. Eddie, his mother, a small group of interested children and a teacher sat down and closely examined what he and his Grandma had collected. As Eddie was working with the digital microscope he refined his plans and decided to document what they were seeing on the computer screen and make a book, so he could then physically share his research to all those who were interested.
After Eddie had finished using the microscope he was asked by several children if he could support them with their journey in learning how to use this ICT tool.
(Allenton Kindergarten report, p.7)
For Harley, an eighteen-month-old toddler, revisiting an earlier experience was a useful catalyst to both non-verbal and verbal language expression.
After a morning of messy play we decided to follow up the activity by watching Harley's 'Gloop photostory.' Inviting Harley's older brother Brooklyn to participate in the viewing, we watched Harley as be became totally engaged in what was mirrored in front of him. He relived the experience - indicating his understanding and interest in what he saw by pointing at himself, and looking around to gage the reaction of the children around him. He sought their approval, most importantly, watching for the reaction of his brother to see if he was enjoying the experience as much as Harley appeared to be. Brooklyn would acknowledge Harley's non-verbal communication prompts. "Its Harley" he'd say, which Dot (his teacher) supported and confirmed - "yes it's you Harley, playing with the gloop". Brooklyn became a trigger to encourage Harley to express himself in a non-verbal way. Knowing Harley well, Brooklyn read Harley's cues and responded to them, which then prompted Harley to display these attributes more.
For Harley, Photo Story 3 became a way of acknowledging an interest that was important to him. He was able to share this experience with others, gaining their interest and enthusiasm - thus enhancing his own self-esteem. The story became an outlet for the encouragement of his developing language base. He attempted different sounds.
(Rototuna Early Education Centre report, p22)
Teaching strategies that 'worked'
Stimulus to talk and conversation:
- Great way to get them to talk.
- [She] excitedly explains what happens in the photos.
- ….it lets me start the conversation, otherwise she wouldn't tell me much.
- The blog seems to revive her memory and she chats about all her activities.
(Comments from a parent survey on blogs stimulating conversation at home, Kew Kindergarten report p.11)
Sometimes this increased use of verbal language or complexity in children's speaking occurred more or less spontaneously in response to the ICT activity or the ICT generated resource. Both Kew Kindergarten and A'oga Fa'a Samoa's studies quote examples of spontaneous verbal language use at home, and Tots Corner's cite numerous examples of this observed in the service.
More often though, it was the result of additional pedagogical interventions or structures brought to the activity by the teachers or other children.
In contrast to the studies above, for example, the teachers at Rachel Reynolds found that when they sent children home with a DVD of their work "children appeared to be proud to take their work home to share with their family/whānau, but we didn't always get much resulting feedback or conversation",
concluding as a result that "creating shared expectations with family/whānau about discussing children's learning is an aspect of our teaching practice that we needed to improve on."
(Rachel Reynolds report, p.13)
The Rachel Reynolds Kindergarten study found that it was only when they 'persisted' in their own conversations with children, only once the children had become more confident and practiced with the technology, and only when the teachers related the use of ICT to some particular interest of the children or gave them sufficient one-to-one attention, that the amount and complexity of children's talk and discussion noticeably increased.
Teaching practices that we found effective included, using open statements and careful questioning techniques, providing one-on-one attention, creating quiet environments conducive to concentration, and building on children's interests.
Viewing video footage has also challenged our teaching practice because we can view and analyse ourselves in action as teachers. It makes us conscious of how the teaching strategies we use such as questioning, open/closed statements, and pauses, can either promote or stifle conversations with children.
(Rachel Reynolds report, p.14)
Kew Kindergarten's study found similarly that asking open questions in conversations with children was a useful way of prompting more complex verbal responses, but that asking too many questions during these interactions, or recording spoken stories into a digital microphone before children had fully prepared their stories, tended to close such conversation down.
Learning outcomes related to thinking and enquiry
Both Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 1996) and the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education, 2007) refer to learning and learning outcomes as a holistic combination of knowledge, skills and attitudes. Both have elements emphasising learning outcomes related to children's thinking, their ability to effectively process information, and to develop mental models or theories about the world around them.
Te Whāriki (Ministry of Education, 1996), in particular, characterises the cognitive elements of 'knowledge' as children developing more elaborate and useful working theories about themselves and about the people, places, and things in their lives. It talks, too, of the mental processes involved in this, as children develop the necessary inquisitive patterns of thought or habits of mind that will enable them to effectively use information about the world to enhance their lives. In all this discussion the notion of 'knowledge' clearly goes beyond the low-level skills of comprehension or mere fact acquisition, to encompass both 'higher orders' of thinking and a mental disposition to enquire and be interested in the world.
Knowledge-focused learning outcomes are thus often characterised in two ways:
- as a set of hierarchical 'thinking skills' (often represented as taxonomies that progress from lower to higher order as the mental process involved becomes more complex)
- as a disposition to cognitive enquiry and general 'inquisitiveness of mind'.
Both 'thinking skill' learning outcomes and 'disposition to enquiry' outcomes were in evidence in the services' investigations of their children's e-learning activities.
Learning outcomes related to thinking and enquiry featured incidentally in many of the services' reports, but there were several that specifically focused their whole enquiry on these types of learning outcomes. There were, for example, studies of children's 'problem solving', 'higher order thinking' and 'research' skills that focused on the particular thinking skills children demonstrated in e-learning activities, as well as specific studies of children's 'habits of mind', 'wonderings' and 'explorations' that focused on aspects of children's disposition to enquire.
The main thinking and enquiry learning outcomes identified in the reports involved the use of ICTs to:
- encourage problem solving
- foster complexity in thinking
- stimulate wondering
- encourage formal enquiries and the ongoing pursuit of interests.
Two services that focused particularly on children's problem solving were Mosgiel Central and Jonathan Rhodes Kindergartens. At Mosgiel Central, for example, the teachers used Church's (2008) revised Bloom's Digital Taxonomy as a tool to identify the lower and higher thinking involved in children's playing of online games such as pbskids.com, hotwheels.com, playhousedisney.co.nz, and nickjr.com.
Although they ultimately concluded that the taxonomy was very difficult to apply as an analysis tool, they nevertheless found the gaming activities had indeed involved some 'deep thinking' and problem solving by the children. Specifically, they found that the gaming activities had motivated children to use and recognise letters, numbers and symbols, but more importantly, the games often had a strong mathematical problem-solving focus.
On the surface it can look like children are racing cars around a track, but upon close observation it was speed, levels, time, points and understanding symbols.
They were calculating and counting to beat their time and obtain the next level. Many children set goals for themselves to get to the next level. They also talk the language of mathematics.
(Mosgiel Central Kindergarten report, p.13)
Photograph 4: Web wall includes URL addresses of game sites - Mosgiel Central Kindergarten
At Jonathan Rhodes the teachers looked at the problem solving inherent in children's use of computer software. By videoing children and reviewing the video record later the teachers were able to capture some of what they called "invisible problem solving" by children, especially the social and non-verbal strategies they used to solve problems or when persevering with a challenge. Jonathan Rhodes teachers were then able to discuss their children's problem-solving techniques with parents.
Yes, in general Dan uses a wide range of strategies in his daily life including why and what questions, using previous experience, thinking and planning, asking for help and persistence. The video catches some of this.
(Dan's Mother, Jonathan Rhodes Kindergarten report, p.17)
Complexity of thinking
The notion of identifying higher and lower order thinking was also implicit in the number of studies that looked at the complexity of children's thinking in e-learning contexts.
In their grounded analysis of the complexity of thinking demonstrated in 60 randomly chosen learning stories on activities involving ICTs, for example, the Pukerua Bay Kindergarten teachers found evidence in over half of these stories of:
- increased ownership by children, self-documentation and self-assessment
- increased attention to detail in observing and talking about their artwork and flora and fauna
- engagement in enquiry for longer periods of time
- more complex articulation of their understandings through reflective and informative narrative.
- increased cognitive risk taking and flexible thinking (Pukerua Bay Kindergarten report p.21-30).
Riversdale Kindergarten, by contrast, analysed their learning stories in a less grounded way and used more traditional 'levels of thinking' framework to analyse complexity in children's storytelling based on:
- making connections between the concrete and the abstract
- vocabulary extension
- children revisiting their learning
- thinking progresses from gathering to processing to applying information
- and children thinking about their thinking by reflecting on their work.
Learning story -
On this particular day I noticed her building quite an elaborate construction using the duplo and animals. I sat down with her and started talking with her. She explained to me about the work she was doing with the duplo. Her explanations were very detailed so I asked her to hold her thoughts for a moment while I got my pen, paper and the camera. I remember the smile she gave me as she sat and waited for me to return. When I returned I quickly wrote down her words and took photos myself. I took the photo's myself so I didn't interrupt the flow of her story.
As she was telling me her story I told her that I had horses too. She smiled but did not enquire about them. She was very absorbed in what she was doing and telling me about what her horses needed. At the end of the session I put the photos on power point and made the book using her words.
When Paige came to kindergarten I read the story back to Paige. This was her response:
"I've made a paddock for my horses. They have water and grass to eat. They need a gate to keep them in. It pens and shuts. There are some safe jumps for the horse.
I've got a dog.
That's me with a dog and my friend Tessa.
She is coming to look at the horses.
I have put water in the trough.
I have a friend Amanda, and she has horses at her house. She has a gate so they can't get out.
She has a house for the horses but it doesn't have a door.
I've got a goat at the paddock. He pushes me when he is hungry."
After sharing the story I gave her the book to take home and put a copy on the bookshelf for the children to share. During the weekend Paige made me two amazing pictures and made herself a book that she shared with me. In the book she had written her own words so she could read me the story herself. She asked me to come and sit with her so she could read it to me. She had drawn some lovely pictures and written letters. The letters represented words. As she read to me she pointed to each letter as if it was a word.
"Once there was a tallest flower. It should be big cause it has lots of water.
There is a spider on the web but he is making it big. The web is finished.
Then there was big flowers, but different flowers coming up.
Then a fairy comed.
I told her that I was very impressed with her storytelling skills. The look of pride on her face was priceless. Paige shared the story with a relieving teacher. I was impressed to hear her telling the same story and pointing to the letters as she spoke. … She displayed a real understanding that letters represent words. Paige went on to make and write several stories for her family. …This gave her the opportunity to share her ideas and thoughts with other people.
The e-book gave us an insight into Paige and what she was interested in. We initially thought this would be an interest in horses. Instead Paige's interest was in literacy and her skills in being an author. Paige found something that she could do and that was responded to positively by adults and children.
Teacher's analysis - Page's paddocks
Paige's confidence and self-esteem was unlocked through the e-book. It was also because a teacher had understood and applied notice, recognising and responding as part of assessment in a timely way. If the making of the book had been left for more than a day or the stories and pictures put into a learning story in her profile, I doubt it would have had the same effect.
Abstracting - connections between abstract & concrete
Paige illustrated this indicator when she understood that she could be an author and made her own book at home. While she didn't use ICT to create the book, we know that when Mum was shown how to, she showed Paige, then she was able to do this at home.
Children develop and acquire vocabulary
Paige's vocabulary was enhanced as she expressed her own words to create her stories. She used a variety of tenses and descriptive words that she may not have used in her everyday speech. The books gave her the opportunity to experiment with language. Paige also displayed an understanding of the elements of a good story. All her stories had a beginning, middle, and an end.
With the support from her family, Paige was able to revisit her learning many times at home.
The family listened to and appreciated her stories and she was encouraged to make stories for her Dad to read to him when they spent time together.
Thinking goes from gathering to processing to applying
Making books at home for friends and family showed that Paige was able to take the knowledge she had learned at kindergarten and apply it at home.
Children thinking about thinking
Paige understood that the letters she had written represented the words of her story. Every time the story was read she pointed to the same letter and said the same word. …
She was able to think about the reader and write a story for them.
"I really like making stories. I made a book for Dad and I read the special words. I wrote a special letter for Sohum and I am the only one who can read my words".(Riversdale Kindergarten report, p. 7-8)
Through this framework they identified not just cognitive but also metacognitive outcomes. Metacognitive outcomes were often taken as any form of reflective comment made by children about their own work, but especially those comments that addressed the process rather than just the product of their learning. Similar outcomes were identified by several other services, most notably in Geraldine Kindergarten's study of their children's 'Habits of Mind'.
Children also wonder about things they have no way of seeing 'in person' and this is an area of strength for the ICT tools, the resources of 'YouTube' and Internet sites are rich in opportunities for modelling and teaching not only wondering behaviours, but some effective ways to research.
(Pukerua Bay Kindergarten report, p.16)
Several reports provide evidence that ICTs can be used in a variety of ways to contribute to children's 'wonderings', and to their implicit theory-making. Examples are cited of ICTs:
- 'kindling' wonder (eg making a movie of a Māori legend generating an interest in other Māori legends - Otatara Kindergarten)
- being an enabler to enquiry (eg using digital microscopes to see things previously unseen - Campus Crèche Preschool)
- being a medium through which they can express and make visible those wonderings (eg the "accurate" artwork in children's presentations on flora and fauna - Pukerua Bay Kindergarten).
Encourage formal enquiries and the ongoing pursuit of interests
Yes, 'hands-on' is great, but YouTube video files can be the next best thing if live chaffinches or rattlesnakes, live sharks or crocodiles aren't just handy when curiosity or teachable moments are evident.
(Pukerua Bay Kindergarten report, p.16)
Associated with the notion of wondering is the outcome of children pursuing those wonderings and making them the stimulus for ongoing enquiries, often on their own initiative. The reports from Yendarra Kindergarten, Peachgrove Kindergarten, and Campus Crèche Toddlers, for example, all relate instances of children using digital microscopes as a way to transform wonder and interest into more "meaningful engaged work across the curriculum" (Pukerua Bay Kindergarten report, p.10).
Yendarra Kindergarten, for example, cite the following instance of Arapeta, who found an insect of interest to him in his garden and turned this into a full-scale formal enquiry:
In response to Arapeta's insect find in the garden, the teacher supported by the digital microscope, and insect and wildlife book, encouraged him to match what he saw under the microscope with what he could find in the book. After moving between interest in what he saw magnified and the variety of pictures in the book he identified the insect correctly and named it. Over several days of investigating, collecting, practising the techniques needed to focus the microscope correctly, and discussing insects' habitats and eating habits, Arapeta began to widen his inquiry to plants and other items. His unprompted descriptions of these magnified images drew comparisons with other knowledge he had. Describing a magnified leaf as, "It's like a turtle back", and physically demonstrating what he was saying.
(Learning Story. Yendarra Kindergarten report, p.18)
Teaching strategies that 'worked'
The visual nature of ICT magnifies, highlights and clarifies events for children that can only be seen gradually, or not by the naked eye. For example, Zachary seeing the caterpillar hatch out of the egg on the video clip. (Pukerua Bay Kindergarten report, p.11)
The pedagogical strategies that the services found worked in fostering thinking and enquiry-learning outcomes, included:
- engaging with children using invitational rather than closed questioning techniques
- consciously asking children about their thinking processes
- creating a special language for discussing thinking and enquiry with children ("I'm a perseverer. Sarah's not, she's a risk taker!" - Geraldine Kindergarten report.)
- videoing children solving problems and analysing the video later, as much of their thinking and enquiry habits are invisible in the moment
- having the ICT visible and accessible in a designated space
- giving children control over how much/how little ICT they choose to use
- children having ready access to digital cameras and printers with which they document their own learning
- children and teachers working collaboratively and not leaving the computer or ICT to be a 'babysitter'
- established frameworks for identifying thinking levels can be variable in how easy or difficult they are to apply.
Learning outcomes related to children's agency as learners
The concept of 'agency' in the education literature usually refers to the extent of autonomy, control, independence or authority that an individual has, or exercises, in a social setting. It thus refers to the extent to which individuals in educational contexts are seen, or see themselves, as 'in charge of their own destiny' as learners and/or teachers.
When Te Whāriki talks, therefore, of children being or becoming "confident and competent learners" and of their being "empowered" as learners, or when the NZ Curriculum talks of "managing self", "contributing and participating", or when educationalists generally talk of "child-centred learning" and of teachers being "the guide on the side not the sage on the stage", they are essentially discussing issues of the power relationships that exist between learners and teachers in services and schools. They are discussing where the locus of 'agency' might lie in any educational activity or context.
It is also a common claim in the literature on e-learning and new technologies in education that a major affordance of such technologies is to provide rich opportunity for learners to follow their own interests, to learn relatively independently, and to control and manipulate information in ways not previously practicable.
It is hardly surprising then that a common and prominent theme in the services' reports was to investigate and identify learning outcomes related to their growing sense of themselves as learners, the relative dependence or independence that they exercised in their learning, and the extent to which they were willing and able to self-assess and self-improve in activities involving the use of ICTs.
Outcomes for children related to their sense of agency and empowerment as learners featured incidentally in many of the services' reports. However, studies that particularly focused on such outcomes included investigations of how ICTs might be used to encourage children to 'drive their own learning' or follow their own interests (Rangitoto Kindergarten, Campus Creche Preschool, Eastbourne Barnados Early Learning Centre), to self-assess and set goals (Bayfield Kindergarten, Onehunga-Cuthbert Kindergarten, Lucknow Kindergarten, Greenhithe Kindergarten), and to be critically reflective (Halfway Bush Kindergarten).
Three prominent themes related to children's agency emerging from the reports were:
- Empowering children as learners
- Becoming an 'expert'
- Self-assessment and self-critique
Empowering children as learners
(Greenhithe Kindergarten report, p.1)
A number of the studies identified learning outcomes related to the children being empowered as learners through their ICT activities. Some of these reported this as:
- an awareness of themselves as learners, indicated by instances of children showing a sense of accomplishment and pride in their work
- being able to document their learning in their own language
- expressing a desire to use the ICTs again and again or to revisit ICT-generated products.
Other services reported this self-awareness as a learner more in terms of the children showing independence and autonomy in their ICT related work, indicated by instances of children spontaneously choosing to use ICTs in their play and becoming more knowledgeable about software than their teachers.
Becoming an 'expert'
Many of the reports commented on children building a sense of their own ability from the activities that went beyond pride in their work to involve them in becoming the 'expert' who shared their knowledge or expertise with others in the service, became more socially aware as a result, or simply 'came out of their shells' more in a social sense.
Tony's first interest involved his bringing into Kindergarten a cicada he had found. From this small beginning, Tony progressed to being a leader amongst his peers in the use of the digital microscope, and a teacher of Comic Life not only his peers, but also adults and student teachers.
(Greenhithe Kindergarten report, p.11)
Often this 'becoming the expert' involved them becoming the service's acknowledged technical expert with respect to a particular ICT or piece of software - as in Lucknow Kindergarten's learning story of Gerard the digital microscope expert, or Campus Creche Preschool's Press 'photographers of the day'. But there was also evidence of children becoming the acknowledged service expert in content fields as well - as in Rangitoto Kindergarten's stories of 'Lucas the Bird Watcher', 'Cameron the Palaeontologist', and 'Leo the Bug Man'.
We learnt together, children, teachers, family and the wider kindergarten community. Leo's enthusiasm and curiosity was infectious. He led a complex and fascinating investigation. ICT did not just answer Leo's questions and sustain his inquiry, but provided him with the opportunity to drive his own learning, collaborate with his peers and teachers, take on a strong leadership role and the motivation to try out new activities.From Leo's interest, many other children experienced, discovered and explored the natural world around them, ICT played a large role in this very exciting project and the indicators of: child driven, sustained inquiry, self efficacy, shared meaning making with other children, and shared meaning making with family/whānau were all evident. ICT was indeed a tool that 'empowered children to drive their own learning.
(Rangitoto Kindergarten report, p14)
Self-assessment and self-critique
Several reports provide evidence of ICTs being used in a variety of ways to encourage self-assessment and reflection. Greenhithe Kindergarten, for example, analysed their learning stories for evidence of children engaging in self-assessment in the forms of "making their own judgments about their achievements", of "knowing what they are good at", and of "seeing mistakes as part of the learning process". Onehunga-Cuthbert, Lucknow and Greenhithe Kindergartens all paid particular attention to children's goal setting in ICT-based activities.
Although the services talked of children's self-assessment in terms of both self-affirmation and self-critique in their commentary, instances of children being self-critical were much less in evidence than instances of their being self-proud. This may partly reflect the teachers' frequent concern not to pathologise their children's learning when representing it in learning stories, and it may be that the children were legitimately positive about themselves. But it may also reflect the inherently 'hidden' or 'unobservable' nature of reflection, and especially critical reflection, as a phenomenon to be identified. Simply citing instances of children 'revisiting' ICT generated work or 'retelling' their stories, for example, would not itself provide convincing evidence of children being critically reflective, whereas instances of their subsequent editing, changing or making improvements to that work or those stories, might.
An example of these issues at play, and some of the teachers' techniques for fostering more critical forms of reflection, can be seen in the incidents cited below, from Halfway Bush' Kindergarten's study:The teacher support became more precise as the children became more aware of their own photography successes and began to critically reflect. An example of this was when Brayden took a photo where the child's head was missing. He showed the photo to the teacher. She verbally prompted him "We can't see Emily's head!" This allowed Brayden to become aware of getting all of Emily into the photo. "I can take another one!" Brayden responded.
Another example of this was when Emily photographed her name. She looked at the photo and reflected that not all the letters of her name had been captured in the photo. The teacher verbally prompted Emily by asking her "What's happening here?" This reminded Emily from previous experience when she had discovered that by standing back to take the shot; she could get the whole of her name in. "I need to stand back to get it all in" was Emily's reply as she tried again,this time positioning herself so that she could achieve what she wanted.As the children began to become critically reflective and chose specific images to capture, the verbal prompting from teachers changed for these children who had advanced to this stage in their journey of digital photography. Teachers were now encouraging children to reflect on their photography by asking questions about why or why not the child liked a certain photo. For example, a photo that was too bright to see properly. The teacher discussed with the child why this might be. It was recognised that the sun shining in the window caused this to happen and the photo needed to be taken in another direction. This type of verbal prompting allowed the child time for reflection.Children were still supported to try again and have another go.
(Halfway Bush Kindergarten report, p.19)
Teaching strategies that 'worked'
Through [our] providing Sapphire with the means and the 'space' (not interrupting her, just standing back and offering assistance if and when required), Sapphire began to really explore the digital camera and became extremely creative with her photography.
(Greenhithe Kindergarten report, p.7)
Most of the recommendations made about this aspect of their teaching concerned providing children with the time, space, and trust they needed to learn about and use the technologies for themselves. The specific pedagogical strategies recommended to foster children's agency in learning included:
- giving the children the technology to use themselves - trusting them with it
- giving children enough time and space to self-assess
- moving away from 'leading' the children to become followers and co-learners alongside the children - being the silent observer and listener
- role-modelling the use of the technology
- judicious use of open-ended but targeted verbal prompting
- thinking about what is meant by critical in 'critical literacy', 'critical reflection', and 'critical thinking'.
Learning outcomes related to culture and cultural values
[All children are to be] given the opportunity to develop knowledge and an understanding of the cultural heritages of both partners to Te Tiriti o Waitangi
(Ministry of Education, 1996, p.9)
A number of services focused their enquiries on learning outcomes related to issues of cultural knowledge and cultural values, especially Māori and Pasifika cultures. These enquiries were about using ICTs to enhance te reoMāori or language knowledge, but in part they were about using ICT-based activities to raise cultural awareness, and for some, even more importantly, about using ICTs to encourage cultural values and children's sense of their own cultural 'ways of being'.
The goal of enabling Māori individual and collective cultural identity, where Māori children have access to a world (historically, contemporarily and futuristically), which is Māori, necessitates a regeneration of te reo Māori. It is not enough to simply learn about Māori - a bit of poi and haka here and there and to know that 'ma' is white - but to live as Māori, creating meaning out of life as Māori.
(Skerrett, 2007. P.8)
The culture-focused studies included investigations of children using digital recorders and cameras in conjunction with live performances to practice and capture their pepeha, make movies of Māori legends and hold a gala movie evening for parents and whānau, and use digital stories in te reoMāori as learning resources.
All found that, provided the appropriate general pedagogical strategies were also in place, ICT-based activities resulted in observable cultural learning by the children. Key themes emerging from the studies related to cultural learning outcomes and included the use of ICTs to foster children's:
- language acquisition and use, specifically of te reoMāori and Samoan
- awareness of specific cultural protocols and customary practices
- cultural values, for example, as embodied in tino rangatiratanga and whakawhānaungatanga
- cross-cultural learning - learning about other cultures.
Cultural learning outcomes
Language acquisition and use
Several services looked at how providing ICT-produced visual and other resources fostered language acquisition in te reoMāori. The teachers at Te Rau Oriwa Early Learning Centre, for example, mapped both the vocabulary and complexity of expression of several of their children as they used Kid Pix and digital cameras as part of writing and recording their pepeha.
They found that the reo the children used was a mixture of simple vocabulary in a mix of English and te reo Māori ("click the putiputi", "my maunga is pongo", "I'm drawing you whaea to hoe my waka"- p 35) and complex sentences all in Māori ("Titiro whaea , kei te mahi porowhita i runga te rorohiko." Kei te karakara ahau te porowhita - p 43), with an emphasis on the former.
They also found a mixture of vocabulary about the computer software itself (colours, how to do things on screen etc) and vocabulary related to the pepeha (what or who should be in a pepeha, its sequence etc).The combination of textual, spoken and visual cues afforded by the Kid Pix software were seen as the key technology-based factors in prompting this language use.
A learning story: Zedakiah's pepeha
Zedakiah wanted to do his pepeha. Whaea set up Kid Pix for him. He started off doing his maunga, he chose the tools he wanted to draw his maunga with. He chose kahurangi to draw his maunga, while he was drawing his maunga he was saying "Ko maungatautari toku maunga." "Whaea my rakau needs to go on to my maunga." He chose the stamp tool and chose the rakau he wanted to use. Then he asked whaea. "Kei whea a Tama-nui-te-ra?"
Whaea and Zedakiah looked through the stamps to look for Tama-nui-te-ra. Then he saw the marama, and put the marama in his pepeha.
He sang the waiata 'aue to ra' while he was drawing. Whaea showed him how to save his picture. Then he asked to do his awa. He chose the tool and different textures, for his awa; he said his awa while he was drawing.
"Whaea my awa's got a tuna in it." so he used the stamp tool for his tuna. For his waka he chose the spray paint tool and parauri for his waka. Whaea asked, "What are you drawing?" Zedakiah said, "I'm drawing you whaea to hoe my waka." Then he drew his whānau his mum, dad and him, he chose purple for mum with spikey hair, blue for dad and red for himself. Whaea supported his drawing by using te reo for his picture for the basic body parts."
(Te Rau Oriwa Early Learning Centre report, p.28)
Awareness of specific cultural protocols and customary practices
The most common example of incorporating ICT activities to reinforce awareness of and participation in cultural practices and customs was in relation to children's pepeha. Both Te Rau Oriwa Early Learning Centre and Yendarra Kindergarten made a particular study of how ICTs could be used by teachers and children to develop or perform their pepeha. Yendarra reported as one of its key findings that the focus on this as the context within which Kid Pix and other technologies were used had helped children, among other things, to "make links within a whakapapa whānau", to develop an "awareness of and taking part in protocol and customs for particular occasions", and to take "responsibility for carrying out inclusive routines." (Yendarra Kindergarten report, p.22)
Other activities and ICT resources were found to help children make meaningful connections between cultures and to revisit cultural concepts and stories over time. At Otatara Kindergarten, for example, the focus was on learning Māori legends through making their own films of such legends. "For some time after the movie night" their teacher recorded, "children wanted to recreate the whole Mataukauri story whenever they were outside (as the movie was set within the natural features of the kindergarten playground)" (Otatara Kindergarten report, p.17).
At Otatara Kindergarten, YouTube was also utilised to search for other Māori myths and legends for children to watch and reinforce this awareness and connection making.
Most of the evidence provided in the studies related to the learning of language and cultural customs, but there is some evidence of ICT-based activities encouraging children to live their cultural values both within and outside the service. For example, in a learning story on one child's ongoing use of the digital microscope in his enquiry into insects from his garden, his teacher commented: "Some of the old people say that the tohunga used to think like the creatures around them, the birds, the animals and maybe even the worms! That's the way they got to know what all the creatures around them needed" (Yendarra Kindergarten report, p.19).
Yendarra Kindergarten also gathered evidence from whānau on whether or not the children were incorporating what they were experiencing through their pepeha and karakia activities at kindergarten in their home environment. Even though only two of the children came from homes where these may have been practiced, they found that all of the seven children studied spontaneously sang waiata from the service at home, and about half used karakia from the service for food, said their pepeha in Māori, used basic Māori greetings, and incorporated Māori words learned at the service in their home conversations.
It was commonly reported that services incorporated cultural 'values' in their use of ICTs through:
- integrating the use of te reo Māori in conversations with children whenever they were using ICTs
- drawing children's attention to those values in their conversations when they were using ICTs
- choosing Māori content and themes for ICT activities
- building Māori customs (mihimihi, karakia, pepeha etc) into the daily routines of the service. The role of ICTs in this regard was mostly to provide the opportunity or stimulus for such discussions and demonstrations rather than being inherently 'value-friendly' activities in themselves.
Cross-cultural learning - learning about other cultures
Both Yendarra Kindergarten and Otatara Kindergarten commented in their reports that their focus on Māori language and cultural activities in the service was in fact an example of cross-cultural learning, as most of their children were from non-Māori backgrounds. At Yendarra Kindergarten the majority of children were Pasifika and at Otatara Kindergarten the majority were Pākeha. The cultural learning involved in their children's use of ICTs, then, was learning about their own culture for some, and about another culture for most.
Teaching strategies that 'worked'
Sometimes the increased use of te reo Māori occurred more or less spontaneously in response to the ICT activity or the ICT-generated resource. Both Yendarra Kindergarten and A'oga Fa'a Samoa's studies cite examples of spontaneous use of Māori language and custom being 'taken home' from the service, and Otatara Kindergarten's and Te Rau Oriwa Early Learning Centre's both cite examples of this observed in the services.
For the most part, though, such learning was the result of a combination of direct teaching and the affordance of the medium. The teachers at Te Rau Oriwa Early Learning Centre, for example, found that it was only when they themselves concentrated on using te reo Māori to converse with the children as they wrote their pepeha on Kid Pix, and when they used open-ended rather than closed questions, that the children's use also increased.
This included the kaiako having to familiarise themselves with the Māori words for the technology jargon, and the appropriate words for the particular piece of software being used (terms like 'click', 'save', 'drawing tool' etc).
Recorded reflection of a teacher at Te Rau Oriwa Early Learning Centre
This afternoon I took the opportunity to work with a child that was using Kid Pix. The child was already exploring tools and icons with the programme. I sat down and was speaking to the child in English, then one of the kaiako (teachers) said 'korero Māori'. I replied by saying 'ae'. Then from that moment on I was dumbfounded and numb, because I realised that I didn't know how to korero Māori in the context of Kid Pix. I said ka pai, he aha tenei, but I was just asking closed questions that were not getting the child or myself anyway in ways of opening up a conversation of communication.
This experience disturbed me. I need to be playing the part of using te reo Māori with interactions with tamariki. I can implement te reo Māori within the other areas of the daily programme, but I felt this was a challenge that I needed to overcome. I then asked a[nother] kaiako for help ... I asked her to look at the Kid Pix instructions that are translated in te reo Māori, and then korero and interact with a child that is at the computer working on Kid Pix.
(Te Rau Oriwa Early Learning Centre report, p.15)
The Te Rau Oriwa Early Learning Centre also found that using the digital camera to make images of themselves performing the actions appropriate to things like parts of the pepeha and incorporating these into 'how-to' sheets for the children, assisted in independent practice and performance of their pepeha.
Otatara Kindergarten teachers similarly found that their children's moviemaking activity, while it clearly enhanced some children's te reo capability and "made them familiar with a number of different Māori myths and legends" (p.16), was not without its logistical difficulties from the teacher's point of view.
The major outcome staff wished to achieve was to see an increase in children engaging in te reo and contributing in a real and meaningful way.
Like any good movie, a lot of takes were shot and a lot of footage landed on the cutting room floor before the final result was achieved. Having to go over and over the story and re-shoot scenes endless times didn't seem to worry the child actors. Being involved in the whole drama was what they wanted.
Trying to capture raw children's dialogue was a challenge though, and eventually had to be abandoned. To ensure that the movie did have an element of te reo, I borrowed a table microphone from Otatara Kindergarten School. Then I got the children with the speaking parts into the office and voiced over the raw audio. Again, through the magic of iMovie, as many attempts as was necessary could be made until the whole thing sounded right. At the same time, I got that group of children involved in selecting the special effects (which were sourced from Google Images or You Tube) and in producing a screaming girl special effect.
(Otatara Kindergarten report, p.29)
They concluded, like others, that their moviemaking activity provided one high impact focus on te reo Māori, but was likely to have its long-term effect only in combination with other reinforcements and as part of a package of learning activities that complemented ICT activities with other non-ICT based activities.
It is debatable whether there was any immediate, measurable increase in mana reo, but this is something which is being supported by other ongoing activities (daily music and movement and staff interactions)… If anything it has been the increase in the visibility of te reo amongst the school community that has been most notable.
(Otatara Kindergarten report, p.29)
Using ICT to encourage children's creativity
Creativity is not easily defined. However in general terms it involves a capacity to take what we have and transform it into something of value that is new or original. Most agree that creativity is associated with imagination and inventiveness; attributes, which as humans we are born with but that either flourish or wither depending on the environmental conditions experienced by individuals. Environments that encourage playfulness, risk taking, openness to multiple perspectives and collaboration are more likely to draw out creativity in children than those which are underpinned by conformity and control.
In today's world, digital technologies and new media are frequently associated with creative people and creative activities. Therefore we could expect that these tools would make a strong contribution both to learning how to be creative and highlighting learning through being creative in early childhood education contexts.
In reviewing the potential of ICT to support creative endeavour, Loveless (2002) highlights a number of features, which can be exploited to support creative processes. 'Provisionality' is one of these. This describes the way in which ICT allows users to make changes, try alternatives and keep track of evolving ideas. Other features include 'speed' and 'automatic functions', which Loveless suggests enable tasks such as "storing, transforming and displaying information" to be done by technology so that users can revisit, interpret and reconstruct activities. By defining first the features and then how these can be applied, Loveless again reminds us that ICT alone does not give rise to creativity, it is what people do with it that does.
Just two of the services made enhancing creativity the specific focus of their investigation, although many more used ICT in ways which either enabled children to create original work or documented examples of children's creativity as a valued aspect of learning. The two services looked at how complexity and confidence in the creative arts could be enhanced by using ICT.
Using the Internet as a source of provocation for developing ideas
Concerns are sometimes expressed that it is too easy to go to the Internet to find answers and this discourages children from problem solving and thinking independently. While this might have merit in some situations, there were examples from several services that demonstrated the opposite was true. Using the Internet thoughtfully provided children with alternatives and new ideas to consider. In short, it facilitated their creative endeavour by adding complexity to their own work.
Often images on the Internet inspired children's artwork, as the following example demonstrates:
For us, being creative was not just about children accessing information, it was what they then did with it.
ICT seems to engage children more than traditional resources used for research. Previously adults were having to mediate the resources (eg teachers choosing books and videos). The value of ICT is that it is more immediate, more visual and children are able to access it independently.
ICT also provides access to a world of current information that would be impossible to provide in a centre environment. For example, for Aiden and Jorja the Internet provided images when drawing that they based their artwork on. They were able to navigate the sites independently, choosing the images they wanted to draw. They made decisions about what to do with the information they had learnt about masks. They went onto the site over and over again examining the masks in great detail and noticing new details each time, and adding these details to their drawings. Their confidence was increased as they were in charge of their own learning and the realism and visual nature of the images seemed to inspire them to draw.
(Otago University Fulltime Childcare Centre report, p.10)
While services continue to use books as a source of inspiration, it seemed that the Internet often provided a more comprehensive and versatile resource for non-fiction information than the service could ever hope to have in a book collection.
ICT supporting playfulness and experimentation
Recently we have heard teachers discussing whether ICT kills creativity. Perhaps it is the teaching philosophy, teaching practices and the teacher's values that have the real effect on how ICT and creativity are viewed and used.
Using closed 'click and push' software is going to kill creativity, because it is about the software and its sounds and 'bobs and whistles' effects, not the children's imagination. We use open-ended ICT tools e.g. digital camera and software such as Kid Pix.
(Otago University Fulltime Childcare report, p. 16)
During the course of the ECE ICT PL programme, several services introduced software programmes with open-ended qualities such as Comic Life, PhotoStory3, Kid Pix and Photo Booth. These programmes enabled children to explore combinations of media; for example, putting audio together with photos and playing with image manipulation.
Digital photography also afforded opportunities for experimentation. Lucknow Kindergarten found that the increased use of digital technology within the service led to children's confidence to experiment in order to gain the results they wanted, as is illustrated in the story of Gerard's use of the camera. Furthermore, teachers observed that as the more experienced and skilled children modelled experimentation, the newcomers quickly learnt to use the tools in a similar way.
A dead monarch butterfly was capturing Gerard's attention. He experimented with enlargements by changing the wheel on the camera. Close up photographs inspired his question "Do Monarch butterflies bleed?" Gerard used another function to return to a previous photo to show me. Within minutes the photos
were downloading onto the computer screen. "How did you get these (photos) onto your computer?" The next day Gerard photographed the worms. He practiced his close up photography. He demonstrated to Ruby how to get a close up. In addition he discovered how to get multiple views on the screen - that was
a surprise! And Gerard had added complexity to his learning.
(Lucknow Kindergarten report, p.12)
Using ICT to highlight and give value to children's creativity
There were many examples of using ICT - particularly data projectors and LCD screens - so that children could share the 'products' of their creative work, digital stories, photographs, animations, and get feedback. The use of ICTs to highlight creative work often had the effect of 'spreading the word' about what was possible and led to other children's motivation to create and present work.
Kassidy and Sophie's video exemplars have captured the value of using video to promote storytelling and giving children the opportunity to assess and revisit their learning experience. The activity proved so popular it prompted several other children to have a go! Videos where sent home and celebrated with extended family. Interesting to note that many boys were involved in this activity.
(Sunshine Kindergarten report, p.17)
At Nayland Kindergarten the initial focus of their investigation was what teachers could do to increase the level of challenge and creativity offered to children in the visual arts. Having adjusted their role from a largely hands-off approach to one where they saw themselves as co-constructors alongside children, they used photographs and videos to capture both the new adult role and children's creative processes in action. The teachers observed that for "the boys especially, the use of ICT seemed to be a provocation" to engage in art (Nayland Kindergarten report, p.21).
The sandpit was an ideal place to explore ephemeral art. As it is not meant to be permanent the children had the prior knowledge that at the end of session all materials were to be packed away.
Children were able to keep their artwork by taking photos of it and then revisiting the materials to create further works.
(Nayland Kindergarten report, p17)
As part of children learning what it means to be an artist, the teachers organised an art exhibition for families and others in the community. ICT played an important role in the marketing, documentation and celebration of the children's work, reflecting back to them the value placed on their creativity.
There was an expectation from the boys that their photos on their paintings were there to tell other people that they were the artists.They had also developed an understanding that artists exhibit their work for others to enjoy and to received feedback. They also learnt about the process of exhibiting
(Nayland Kindergarten report, p. 20)
ICT to support creating and meaning making
There were numerous examples throughout the services of children creating digital stories, usually based on personal interests and experience. These varied from narrated photographs made into a photo story to dramatised movies, which were directed, filmed and acted by the children. In some cases the learning afforded by the experience was as much about gaining skills in new media with which to become creative. This is illustrated in this example about children learning to use animation:
We discovered that making animated movies is a wonderful way to tell stories and bring our ideas alive. Two people generally have to work together to make the process work. One moves the characters and one takes the pictures on the computer. We discovered that the children who have watched the process from the sidelines generally step up and have a go at making their own animated moves.
These children have developed an understanding of the concept of animation. They realise that the characters in the story must only move a small distance, a picture is taken, and then the characters move a small distance again. For a movie that takes a few seconds to run, hundreds of frames are taken.
The process works extremely well if the essence of a story has already been formulated, but I am amazed at how the story grows and becomes more detailed once the animation process is underway. Props are added and the children become more particular about the nature of these props and where they will be placed.
Some children have been introduced to the animation process by being the watchers in the early days when we were learning to make animated movies. Slowly they have become active participants in making the stories. With experience and practice the children take over the whole process and make the movies on their own.
(Takapuna Kindergarten report, p.23)
As Loveless (2000) explains, the fashioning of creative work "involves not only the physical act of making, but also an ongoing dialogue where the maker produces and the work responds". There were examples where work previously documented was then revisited and refashioned using different technology, and of children editing and revising their work as it was being created. An example of the latter is James, who was able to use Kid Pix and Comic Life to pursue his interest in manipulating letters and fonts. His teachers, observing his progress wrote:
Not only was this an indication of James' developing curiosity about language and writing, but it demonstrated a confidence in himself as a resourceful learner who was willing to analyse his own work and take responsibility for moving it a step further. After this, James could often be found tutoring others on this technique. …
When shown the editing tools he was soon adjusting transitions and sound effects quite independently… He would often reflect on his commentary and ask to go back and change it. Again this was an opportunity for him to have autonomy over his project, extend it.
(Onehunga Cuthbert Kindergarten report, p.16)
In terms of children learning to work creatively, there was substantial evidence from the services of children designing and making original works involving ICT. This was made possible because teachers trusted children to use the equipment themselves. A common occurrence was children transforming everyday experiences into stories and sometimes dramas using ICT as a means of recording. There were many examples of children sharing their 'good' work with others and consequently experiencing that sense of value for themselves and their peers. ICTs certainly appeared to facilitate this sharing, often motivating further creative activity.
Given the association of new technologies with creative acts, it is perhaps surprising that more services did not choose to investigate this aspect more specifically. In fact, very few services made reference to creativity at any point in their reports. Instead they tended to talk of children becoming 'competent and confident' as an outcome of working with ICT, echoing the aspiration statement of Te Whāriki. Is this because the actual concept of creativity, while valued, has been taken for granted for too long within the early childhood community? Perhaps this highlights the need for more interest and interrogation of creativity itself in the context of early childhood settings and its importance to 21st century learning?
Using ICT to support children with learning differences and to promote inclusiveness
I would love for this kind of technology to be used in the health environment between his specialists, doctors, therapists, so we can move away from a piecemeal approach to a more collaborative approach. The benefits would be enormous and everyone would be working together more efficiently and effectively.
(Parent, Meadowood Community Crèche report, p.16)
Inclusion has been defined in the context of early childhood education in New Zealand as:
A principle, an attitude and a set of processes that affirm the right of every child to develop and learn in accordance with the principles and values of Te Whāriki…. Inclusion acknowledges the fundamental validity of effective teaching and learning to include all children.
(Ministry of Education, 2000, p.45)
Inclusive education policies and practices mean that at any one time there are likely to be children in services with special learning requirements. Given that ICT can be a valuable resource for enriching learning and communication, it was likely to be of benefit for this small group of children and for facilitating inclusive education.
Collaboration between the service and family is important to educational outcomes for children in early childhood settings. In the case of children with learning differences, collaboration usually extends to several specialist professionals who work with the child and their particular disability. Any mechanism for collaboration that supplements the six-monthly Individual Education Plan meetings (IEPs) is likely to be of benefit in increasing the level of understanding and responsiveness to children's changing educational requirements. More recent Web 2.0 tools hold particular promise in that they allow observations, ideas and responses to be shared in real time.
Just one service, a community crèche, chose to investigate inclusiveness. However, there were a scattering of services that made mention of ways in which ICT had helped teachers with diagnostic assessment, or children to adopt more positive social behaviours.
Use of multimedia tools
The use of new media, in particular video, enabling voice and movement to be recorded, gave a fuller picture of children's achievements and learning in context. This was especially useful for speech or physical disabilities that are hard to capture through still images.
In Kirika's case, short video clips were copied to disc as a chronological record and viewed by her family and early intervention teacher. These provided a more comprehensive way of exchanging knowledge with families (including knowledge of cultural practices), interpreting experience and making informed decisions about future learning.
Kirika was three when we began to use the video recording. These video clips were shared with Kirika and her mother at the end of the sessions. They were also shared with the visiting early intervention teacher and speech language therapist.
One experience with Kirika using the outdoor play equipment was recorded in a learning story. A similar experience was recorded using a video clip. The effectiveness of the video was evaluated by asking for comments from the parents and early intervention teacher along with evaluating the use of video to support individual plan goals. Increasing voice strength, confidence to use her voice and express herself, developing hand/finger strength and further developing peer relationships were goals of learning formed at Kirika's IP meeting. Just from this one video clip, each key worker was able to observe these goals being met and see documented evidence that supports her IP goals and celebrates her achievements.
Parent's comments: "When I saw how she used the climbing equipment at crèche, I knew when I took her to the park she would be happy."
"Great for non-English speaking parents to see how their child is progressing."
"Kiri was very excited, explaining what she was doing over and over to everyone who watched the video."
"Crèche children can't read teachers' comments in portfolio but it is easy for them to see and learn watchingthemselves on video."
Early intervention teacher comments: "I can hear and compare the child's voice."
"I can view events I might have not seen during a centre visit."
When the videos were shared at an IP meeting Kirika's mother noted that: "The digital dairies made it easier to set new goals."
And a teacher's comment on the diaries: "Digital diaries provide a strong voice in a system where they can often only be heard as a whisper."
(Meadowood Community Crèche report, p. 8-9)
The use of video also proved to be very effective in motivating the children to repeat activities or, as in this case, to practice speech and communication.
We found ICT to be invaluable for strengthening approaches to working with children with special learning needs. For example, a child who had few words initially was captured dancing on the video recorder. She enjoyed replaying this video clip many times and watching herself - pointing and exclaiming with one or two word utterances.
(Pukerua Bay Kindergarten report, p.12-13)
The use of blogs for collaboration
Meadowood Community Crèche found thatvideo created large files that were difficult to share electronically unless they were put on disc. However, copying to disc involved another process for busy teachers and meant that the benefits of immediacy in sharing could be lost. Their solution was to set up individual, private blogs for children with special learning requirements. This was done only with the permission and full involvement of parents.
Their case studies demonstrated that the blogs, with their multimedia functionality, provided an opportunity for teachers and parents to work in partnership. Parents could now easily access children's documented experiences, often on the day they happened. Parents soon gained confidence in uploading material themselves and took responsibility for adding to this. This gave teachers a better insight into the children's and family's interests.
"Not only do these videos/photos/learning stories provide 'visual' feedback to all those involved, but they can be accessed at any time. This can increase communication with all those involved and feedback/direction/ advice/goal setting can occur all through the year, not just at the meetings. It becomes an ongoing process."
"I was very hesitant at first with creating the blog…. imagine my surprise when I took to it like a duck to water and I have not looked back.
I am so excited to get this video uploaded as it shows how quickly Nathan is trying new things and mastering them.
Thanks to all those involved as without this ICT, as I would not be aware of half the things my son could do."
(Meadowood Community Crèche report, p.10 and 12)
Specialists such as physiotherapists, speech language therapists and early intervention teachers also found the blogs very useful in building multiple perspectives around the children's competencies.
Commenting in one case study the teachers wrote:
It also allowed physiotherapists to view the child using a walker for the first time in a centre setting and again two weeks later to monitor the progress. As a result there was dialogue between the physiotherapists about a possible way to increase stability. Jaden's dad saw possibilities for improving the functionality of the walker and modified it by adding a tray. This allowed Jaden to be more independent, able to carry objects when he was using his hands to move from place to place with the walking frame.
Paediatric physiotherapist comments:
"Through seeing the video I can focus on the child, not just looking at what he can do, but how he is doing it. Even if I am present with a child, it is very useful to have a session of physiotherapy videoed for review and reflection."
(Meadowood Community Crèche report, p.11)
Children also gained from having access to their blog, as documentation could be revisited and each child's sense of themselves as a competent learner was likely to be reinforced. This is evidenced by this example written by Fynn's parents:
We have just finished sharing this clip with Fynn. He says 'Me swing, me stretch'. He also tells us 'Me monkey oo oo ah ah!' then he claps his hands at the end of the clip because he is so proud of his achievement. …
P.S. Sharing the clips with Fynn helps us to reinforce his learning and achievements. The clips also provide motivation for Fynn to talk about what he has been doing as crèche. He is very excited when he talks about what he is doing. It is just fantastic!(Meadowood Community Crèche report, p.13)
Use of image to help others understand and normalise disability
Harrison's example demonstrates how photos, an email from home and the use of a data projector helped his teachers and other children understand the process Harrison went through to be tested for new glasses. Importantly for his own learning, Harrison was able to describe the process himself - an approach likely to have left him with a sense of achievement and the knowledge that his 'disability' is respected and viewed positively.
These are a selection of photos Harrison used to recount his experience at mat time, using the data projector. (Onehunga Cuthbert Kindergarten report, p. 30)
Using ICT to help in diagnostic assessment
A small number of services indicated they had found programmes such as PhotoStory 3 and Kid Pix, which allowed children to record their thoughts, useful for diagnostic assessment of speech impairments.
In the case of William, a fascination with Spiderman was the motivator for his engagement with Kid Pix.
We created a DVD with William, discussing his interest and it was clearly audible to hear that he required a speech therapist to develop his language further. Nonetheless, William found the computer to be a tool where he could choose and compose images of his favourite character, and discuss these with teachers and eventually his peers.
This activity had a calming effect on his behaviour and encouraged him to talk more with both adults and children. It also appeared to help his confidence in socialising in a positive manner.
(Favona Kindergarten report, p.13)
ICT facilitating social competence and giving children a voice
A number of services made reference to the way ICT tools gave some of their more reticent children the confidence to speak out or join in. It appeared that these children discovered a natural affinity with technology or enjoyed having an audience. This led to them becoming the expert amongst their peers, which in turn gave them more confidence.
Tom can be quite a shy wee boy at times - but we have noticed that whenever the computer is involved he acts very confident and seems to be totally in his element.
A great example of this was when the primary school teachers etc were at kindy for the ICT afternoon - Tom was very shy and quiet around these new people - but when asked to demonstrate the blog on the computer he stood up and performed this with great confidence - and was not fazed by all of the people watching him."
(Parent, Fiordland Kindergarten report, p.38)
There were also some examples of teachers noticing how involvement with ICT appeared to mediate disruptive behaviour in some children.
The teachers had been working for the past couple of months supporting a child with developing social competence. He was becoming aggressive towards other children, and his parents had voiced concerns about his behaviour at home towards his younger brother. We had tried a range of different strategies with this child and the parents were concerned as he was due to go to school within four months.
When the children's computers were introduced into the room we noticed that this child had a real interest and strength with computer. He was already familiar with the basics of computer programmes, could follow instructions and was confident with the mouse. His prior skills and knowledge gave him confidence to become the support person for his peers.
His relationship with teachers and peers became more positive and there was feedback from his parents that things were calming down at home. This child demonstrated leadership skills, an awareness of other children's capabilities, and his self-esteem and confidence was increased. All of a sudden he was an 'expert' that had so much to offer others and previous concerns about his social and emotional wellbeing are no longer there.
(Kids Domain Early Learning Centre report, p.10-11)
There was a small variety of evidence to show that ICT can facilitate both social inclusiveness and positive learning outcomes for children with particular learning requirements. The multimodal nature of digital technologies and, in particular, the capacity to work with moving images and audio recording, appears to be particularly effective in diagnostic assessment and in supporting children's self-identity as a learner and contributing member of a group.
It was interesting, and perhaps of concern, that there were only a few references to special or inclusive education across the 56 services. It is unclear from the service reports if children with learning differences were being overlooked with regards to ICT experiences or whether they were simply not the examples that services chose to illustrate their investigations. However, in the evaluator's report carried out by Victoria University (2008), a similar disquiet was noted on the basis of observation, raising questions about teachers' awareness and facility to ensure equity is maintained regarding ICT in services.
The one service that did make 'special rights' the focus of their investigation provided useful evidence of the benefits of the interactive web for collaboration between the service, children, families and the professionals. They demonstrated that a practice such as blogging can be successfully used in a targeted manner. They did however suggest one proviso for using new technologies: consideration be given to ethical concerns such as respect for parent's choice to be involved in blogging and sensitivity and discretion when editing videos. The benefits of richer documentation, therefore, comes with increased responsibilities to consider aspects such as the longer-term impact of children's digital footprint.
The affective domain
The affective domain is the realm of feelings and emotions. In educational contexts it concerns how we respond emotionally to given learning situations, as opposed to what we learn, or how we learn it. It is clearly related to Te Whāriki and other curriculum discourses around attitudes, dispositions, confidence, sense of belonging and the like, and has obvious overlaps with the above discussion of children's empowerment and autonomy as learners. The 'affective' thus refers specifically to the emotional and motivational content of children's learning experiences and their sense of themselves as learners.
The research literature on the use of ICTs in education has identified a clear and persistent connection between children's use of ICTs for learning and a number of affective domain indicators like motivation, confidence, engagement and enjoyment. There is little doubt that learners usually enjoy using ICTs as part of their learning experience. Despite the fact that motivated engagement in a given learning activity does not in itself guarantee learning is taking place, nor does it describe what type of learning that might be, it is nevertheless generally regarded as a necessary or sufficient precondition for, and proxy indicator of, some sort of learning.
The last set of 'outcomes' for children that were frequently reported in the services' studies thus relates to the affective domain: how children felt about themselves and about their learning when ICTs were involved.
Very few of the action research studies took affective domain outcomes as their main focus, although one looked specifically at using ICTs to build children's 'confidence and competence', and another at children's 'dispositions' as learners. A great many more, however, either included some affective domain indicators in their analysis frameworks or identified affective domain outcomes as matters of interest in their findings.
The most prominent affective domain themes in the reports related to children's motivation and engagement in learning, their confidence and self-esteem as learners, and their sense of belonging.
Motivation and engagement
Many of the services reported high levels of motivation and interest associated with the use of ICTs for learning, and many found evidence of sustained engagement by children in the learning activities involved.
Major revisited his portfolio, which contained a collection of his own photos. "I did that one, I did that one…"
(Learning story. Lucknow Kindergarten report, p.15)
High levels of motivation were indicated, for example, in:
- the high levels of interest children showed in the technology itself
- many instances of child initiated use and choice of ICTs
- repeated use of 'favourite' ICTs or ICT-based activities
- repeat revisiting of work produced using ICTs, often involving changes, edits and improvements, and extensions into related activities.
We began to notice how the ICT was becoming more a tool for the children rather then the focus. 'J' for example, had a huge interest in construction. Initially we would ask 'J' if he would like us to take a photo of his work. Then he began to ask us for the camera and take photos of his own work. He started taking photos of the different stages of his building, wanting to capture the whole building process. … 'J' also began to refer back to his photos, using them as a reference point as he tried to recreate his past constructions.
'J's focus was on construction as that is what interested him. 'J' was able to share his interest with the children at the centre, his parents as well as with his future school. He was able to revisit past learning, redesigning or improving upon past designs.
Children have taken more ownership of their work, deciding for themselves what is 'valuable learning', and what learning/interests they want to follow on with. By trusting the children, allowing them to control their own use of ICT equipment such as computers, cameras and microscopes, children are able to build a sense of worth and pride about themselves. They see that they are trusted and respected enough to use ICT equipment.
(Eastbourne Barnados Early Learning Centre report p 8)
Many services also cited evidence and examples of sustained engagement and perseverance in ICT-based activities. These included:
- longer amounts of time being invested in ICT activities than were often 'typical' of a child
- instances of perseverance recorded in learning stories
- expressions of enjoyment, pleasure and pride while engaged in ICT-based activities or when reflecting on ICT-generated stimulus materials.
"When we look at the blog together she shares with us so much more than what is recorded there… she loves going back over past activities posted there, she reflects on where she was at then and lets us know things have changed, that she's 'bigger' now."
(Parent comment. Otago University Childcare Centre report, p. 20)
The ICT use of the camera clearly supported Mackenzie's confidence to articulate her learning in a social context and her ability to transfer knowledge to new situations like home was immeasurable. Mackenzie was not only able to use the language of the HOM to reflect on her learning, she was able to recognise it in other children. She continued to plan by taking photos of other children she could see persevering in the playground and said: 'I took these photo's 'cos they were persevering. There were lots of things to get. It was tricky but they didn't give up.
(Geraldine Kindergarten report, p. 16)
A second theme involved the self-confidence that was observed to come from children's use of ICTs. This confidence sometimes derived from their own successful use of the technologies (as in the self-pride they showed in successfully operating a piece of technology, or the status that 'expert' users of particular software packages were given), and sometimes from their responses to materials generated using ICTs (as when movies, pictures or computer-generated learning stories featuring themselves were proudly shown to parents and whānau at home).
We even found a dead bee and studied it under the digital microscope. But he still continued to go back to the bush with his two yoghurt containers. He watched bees run around the small plastic containers that are placed under the digital microscope. But was still not satisfied. The children all thought of Izach as 'The Bee Expert' and asked him questions and thought [of] him as fearless.
(Campus Creche Preschool report, p.28)
Sense of belonging
The third affective domain theme in the reports related to the children's sense of belonging, and for some, enhanced social interactions. Some services used ICTs in ways that fostered children's social connection with other children or adults at the service. This was a specific focus of the studies that looked at easing children's transitions within and from their service.
Teachers in other services used ICTs in ways designed to promote children's sense of belonging in respect of wider family, whānau or iwi community groups. Sense of belonging outcomes were often evidenced in the many studies that investigated ways of connecting services with their community.
Interestingly, while there were instances cited of one or two children not being especially interested in ICT-based activities, and not displaying high levels of engagement and perseverance, there were none recorded of any children whose motivations, confidence or self-esteem were negatively affected by their use of ICTs.
Children's sense of belonging is enhanced when they see themselves and their friends featured on the blog.
(Kidspace Early Learning Centre report, p.23)
Children who were reliant on non-verbal communication because they were not confident speakers of English benefited from having photos of familiar artifacts of importance to them.
Closer connections that developed between the teachers and families during this process assisted the teachers to gain cultural awareness and build meaningful relationships with children.The aim of building children's sense of who they are and their place in the wider community' is another of the pou [that] has also had its foundations firmly planted, the teachers feel, in the children's responses to retelling their pepeha. …The children … are also making their contributions to the making and telling of our histories. Tane Mahuta and our stories reinforce the ties across the Pacific.
(Kidsfirst Kindergarten, Trengrove report, p.12)
(Yendarra Kindergarten report, p.24)
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