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
Key Findings from the Teacher Surveys
The Impact of the Early Childhood Education Information Communication Technology Professional Learning (ECE ICT PL) Programme
This chapter considers the impact of the Early Childhood Education Information Communication Technology Professional Learning (ECE ICT PL) programme and summarises the findings of a comparative analysis of baseline, mid-project and end-of-project surveys (completed by teachers at the beginning, mid-point and end of the programme respectively). In each case the survey consisted of two questionnaires:
- A questionnaire completed by the Lead Teacher of the ECE ICT PL programme in each of the services taking part, profiling the range of ICTs available in participating services.
- A questionnaire completed by each of the teachers in the services taking part in the ECE ICT PL programme, profiling the range and level of use of ICTs for teaching and learning, as well as teacher capability (attitudes, confidence and skills) with regard to ICTs in the participating services.
Demographics – services
Just over half of the 60 services involved in these surveys are kindergartens and just under half are education and care services. One of the participating services is a Hospital early childhood service and one, that joined the project after the original baseline survey was conducted, is a Playcentre.
Demographics – teachers
The baseline survey was designed and conducted by the ECE ICT PL team and completed by all 59 participating services and 283 of the teachers in the programme during term 1 of 2007. The mid-project survey was completed by 56 of the services and 247 participating teachers in 2008; and 46 of the services and 245 contributing teachers completed the end-of-project survey in 2009.
The surveys gathered data on three areas of change across time:
- ICT capacity (what ICTs the services have)
- ICT capability (how able staff are to use the ICTs)
- ICT usage (what teachers and children do with ICTs including learning outcomes for children).
The specific indicators of capacity, capability and usage for which change was measured in the surveys were:
- For services:
- ICT facilities available in the services (these ‘facilities’ consisted of hardware only. Services were not asked to provide information about their holdings of educational or administration software)
- the location of these facilities within services
- the main users of the facilities.
- For teachers:
- levels and types of use of ICTs for administration, teaching and learning in their services (including the range of learning outcomes involved in use of ICTs by or with children)
- teacher attitudes towards ICTs (including their goals for the programme and any particular concerns they have about the use of ICTs for teaching and learning)
- teachers’ confidence about their use of ICTs, both personally and for teaching and learning
- teachers’ levels of skill with a variety of ICTs commonly found/used in educational contexts.
The key findings
Technical infrastructure in services
Since the start of the programme, services have significantly increased their stocks of computers and other ICTs – most of this increase has been in relation to ICTs located in play areas.
There has been an increase in the number of laptops available for children’s use – at the start of the project 38% of services had at least one laptop available in children’s play areas and this increased to 59% by the end of the project.
The majority of services possess at least one digital still camera, printer, scanner and video camera with a significant proportion having acquired three or more of each of these provisions. Many services have also increased their range of ICT tools, for example, webcams have increased from 7%–52%, TVs increased from 22%–69% and digital microscopes increased from 14%–78%.
The least prevalent educational technology in services for children’s use are interactive whiteboards, with only 4% of services having access to this resource. Other mobile technologies such as cell phones and iPods are still not widely used as a teaching and learning resource across most services; however, these provisions have seen a slight increase, suggesting that services are slowly immersing a wider range of ICTs into the learning environment.
In contrast with the baseline survey, when most technologies were located in offices, the majority of technologies are now based in services’ play areas. Digital cameras, laptop computers, photocopiers and digital microscopes were the technologies used most by children in all surveys.
The level of broadband access has increased from four fifths to almost all services having access to a faster web connection, with the great majority of services (91%) providing Internet access via wireless networking.
Usage of ICTs in services
Both ICT use and ICT capability in participating services have increased significantly since the start of the project.
Teachers’ use of ICTs for all of the professional tasks investigated increased significantly. The greatest teacher use of ICTs is for assessing and documenting children’s learning, with 94% of teachers using ICT for this purpose and many teachers also using ICTs to successfully complete service admin (81%).
Interestingly, the greatest proportional increases demonstrate that the use of ICTs is progressing beyond the service, with 77% of teachers regularly using ICTs to effectively communicate with parents and whānau and to help create strong links within the local community.
ICTs for teaching and learning with children have seen even greater increases than by teachers use for professional administration. The most frequent use of ICTs with/by children is for documenting learning, especially through the use of digital still cameras and the co-writing of learning stories. At the end of the programme, over three-quarters of teachers report that their children routinely use ICTs for this purpose.
The greatest proportional increase in children’s use of ICTs is in the exploration of creative software. Almost half of the teachers surveyed indicated that the children regularly use ICTs for this purpose. Exploring educational games remained the least used function.
Chart 1. Use of ICTs with/by children in services throughout the programme
How often do you involve children in the use of ICTs?
To communicate with their families/ whānau, eg. children sending emails and faxes.
To find and develop resources, eg. children researching on the web, making games, making their own books.
To explore educational games, eg. Little Brown Bear Series.
To explore creative software, eg. Kid Pix, Artrage.
Teacher attitudes to ICTs and their use for teaching and learning
At the mid-point of the programme, teachers reported being more concerned than they were at the beginning of the programme about the lack of time for integrating ICTs into their programmes. By the end of the project, teachers were still just as concerned about the lack of time but were also significantly concerned about an ongoing need for professional development and the need to keep up-to-date with required skills and knowledge on ICT developments. Teachers were also concerned about a lack of finances for resources and technical reliability, but were less concerned about a lack of ideas on how to use ICTs in their programmes and making links between ICTs and quality teaching and learning.
Over the duration of the programme teachers’ confidence levels increased significantly in regard to both their own personal use and use by/with children. By the end-point the vast majority (80%) of the teachers were ‘confident’ or ‘very confident’ about their own and/or children’s use of ICTs, and very few (4%) were still ‘not confident’ or ‘anxious’ about these.
Chart 2. Changes in teachers’ confidence about their personal ICT use and about ICT use with/by children
Teachers’ ICT skills and ability to integrate ICTs into teaching and learning
By the end of the project, reported levels of ‘moderate’ or ‘better’ competence have stayed stable for word processing, basic operations, file management and databases. Reported increases in skills were greatest with respect to Internet, spreadsheets, graphics and telecommunications, and there has been a slight decrease in levels of confidence with multimedia presentations.
Chart 3. Percentage of teachers who reported ‘high’ or ‘very high’ skills throughout the project
There have been substantial increases in teachers’ rating of their Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPCK) since the beginning of the project, over all of the specific knowledge or children outcomes listed. Teachers continue to feel most ‘skilled’ at using ICTs for assessment of learning. Their levels of pedagogical ability increased the most in relation to using ICTs to support documentation planning and communication.
Chart 4: Changes in proportions of teachers reporting ‘high’ or ‘very high’ ability in integrating ICTs for a variety of pedagogical and learning outcomes
Ongoing professional learning
Teachers gained confidence and skill the longer they participated in the programme, thus, as a result, offering learning opportunities that were appropriate and engaging for young learners. The confidence and skill levels of participating teachers had increased significantly in most areas. Almost a third of teachers wanted the professional learning programme to continue after it had finished to ensure that they were able to maintain high levels of confidence and skill when using ICTs in the classroom environment.
Overall, the services continue to run relatively up-to-date computer systems. Windows/PC machines continue to be in more services than Mac machines; and Mac Operating Systems continue to be more proportionally common in kindergartens than in education and care services. Macs are also in more services as laptops than as desktops.
In their responses to open-ended questions, asking them to identify the most important gains they have made from the programme, teachers identified a fairly wide range of gains.
Teachers identified a fairly wide range of qualitative gains from the programme:
- deeper pedagogical knowledge (most prominent gain)
- substantial increases in teacher confidence and competence in relation to ICTs
- increased use of ICTs for a variety of curriculum purposes/service purposes
- significantly increased levels of integration of ICTs into children’s learning programmes
- a much greater focus on the children themselves using ICTs for learning
- more critically reflective practice as teachers.
A small sample of what teachers identified as gains from the programme:
More confident in use of ICT; children have learned processes such as making slideshows in Kid Pix and have gone on to teach others – peer tutor; empowerment – they go on to be leaders in other situations; they are confident; using data projector to show children’s learning; making of slide shows; teachers ‘letting go’ and allowing the children to take the photos on the camera, we have become co-learners.
Children use the digital camera to take their own photos then go on to make slide shows, ibooks and mini movies with their photos; empowerment of children; children are experiencing success in the area of ICT and this spills over to other areas in the curriculum i.e. playing games outside; children are taking responsibility for their own learning.
Teachers’ knowledge and children’s knowledge has increased; collaboration between teaching teams; a tool for reflective practice; children are able to drive their own learning more; there is opportunity for reflecting and revisiting previous experiences.
Greater confidence; language and social skills development; the programme has deepened my understanding of children’s learning, especially in the higher learning bracket; greater skill level; leadership and the ability to effectively share our journey through dissemination; powerful problem-solving opportunities; digital documentation of their own learning and interests; teachers can offer learning experiences seen or observed at professional development courses or online.
Providing children with a voice that isn’t dependent on mastery of language; there is an evident rise in peer tutoring as children teach others what to do with the tools; reflecting on the basic nature of what teaching and learning is, so that we can build on it; being flexible and trying to work smarter; providing ways to revisit over long periods of time; offering high-order thinking tasks, as children record what they have done after the event – offering the story; children are more able to share in other’s learning experiences as well as group work/ ICT as a provocation for learning experiences is very evident.
More confident with technical skills; raised levels of overall technical skill; new ways of literacy learning; raised teachers’ levels of self-image and confidence in themselves as learners, able to take on new skills and knowledge; enhanced teachers’ leadership skills; able to access answers and follow up interest areas quickly; new ways to be collaborative; heightens children’s problem solving skills.
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