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Computer Use in Early Childhood Education Essay

Abstract The importance of the child’s development in early years of education has reached the stage where it becomes critical that learning programs becomes a global issue. Understanding changes and undertaking practice is fundamental in student learning. The purpose of this article is to increase our perception on the different effects of using computer technology in early childhood setting. In answering the question ‘What is the purpose of education?

I started at that time from the observation that man lives in a world of objects which influence him and which he wishes to influence, and so he must know these objects in their characteristics, their essence and their relation to one another and to mankind. Friedrich Froebel Keywords : Early Childhood, Computer, Technology Education, Curriculum Introduction Throughout educational history, world philosophers have wrestled with understanding the myriad of questions and problems surrounding the education of society’s children.

Historically, many early childhood educators supported the idea that children should be trained as soon as possible to become productive members of the larger society so that the cultural heritage of the society could be preserved from generation to generation; this cultural imposition theory has been prevalent throughout the educational history of the world (Staff, 1998. Early Years of Education Early Childhood Education is the term commonly used to describe the formal teaching and care of young children by people other than their family or in settings outside of the home.

The developmental definition of early childhood education spans the human life from birth to age eight. However, typically early childhood education covers the period from birth to when a child starts school and this can be as early as five years of age as in New Zealand. This time period is widely considered the most vulnerable and crucial stage of a person’s life. The early years of childhood are receiving increased public attention around the world.

Issues on providing quality service and ensuring a good foundation for lifelong learning is generating a new interest in the academic community by adapting different theoretical perspective, pedagogy and philosophy. There are several key components to understanding how young children learn, and therefore how they need to be taught. In New Zealand, the process of creating the early childhood curriculum was inspired by the evidence of not only a bi cultural society but a multi cultural and multi racial society. CurriculumCurriculum is defined in Te Wha?

riki as ‘… the sum total of the experiences, activities and events, whether direct or indirect, which occur within an environment designed to foster children’s learning and development’ (Ministry of Education, 1996, p. 10 cited in Nutall, 2003). This definition of curriculum as ‘everything that happens’ is acknowledged in the curriculum theory literature (e. g. Cornbleth, 1990 cited in Nutall, 2003) and it is a description that resonates with the holistic, child-centred philosophy of early childhood education in New Zealand. The central expectation of Te Wha?

riki is that early childhood centres and services will articulate ‘their’ curriculum in a conscious, culturally situated way. (Nutall, 2003). The implementation of Te Wha? riki, which was inspired by The Socio Cultural Constructivism principle of Vygotzsky, introduced the early childhood teachers in New Zealand to the most recent curriculum tradition. One of the reasons socio-cultural approaches resonate with teachers in childcare centres is the way in which children are understood to be learning through their experiences in the centre, including routine happenings such as play and mealtimes.

(Nutall, 2003) Within this pedagogy, both the teachers and students are understood to be engaged in a process of actively constructing knowledge, through their interactions with time, space, objects and people. Children learn through collaboration with adults and peers, through guided participation and observation of others, as well as through individual exploration and reflection. There are five different developmental domains of children which all relate to each other.

They are easily referred to as the SPICE of life: Social – Refers mostly to the ability to form attachments, play with others, co-operation and sharing, and being able to create lasting relationships with others. Physical – Development of Fine (small) and Gross (large) Motor Skills. Intellectual – The process of making sense of the world around them. Creative – The development of special abilities creating talents. Music, Art, Writing, Reading, and Singing are all ways for creative development to take place.

Emotional – Development of self-awareness, self-confidence, and coping with feelings as well as understanding them. http://www. teachingexpertise. com/articles/computers-and-early-years-1124 According to Yelland (1999), Educators beliefs such as Montessori, Isaacs, Froebel, and Steiner, has led to early childhood programs that are characterized by their adherence to such traditional principles, manifested in unstructured environments, informal contexts, and learning through active exploration and play.

Indeed, early pioneers such as Montessori advocated relatively structured learning opportunities, whereas Froebel’s views supported a less formal structure. However, both Froebel and Montessori seemed to agree that children learned most effectively from self-directed activities that gave them a high level of empowerment and ownership. Technology Education Technology education all over the world is evolving dramatically in a very fast phase as international academic institutions explore the implication of their present status and the rate they are progressing as compared to other developed countries.

It is quite safe to say that, it is the brewing competition over the magnitude of the technology education, which comprises the curriculum that is becoming the main catalyst to these rapid changes. This notion could set the trend on how Early Childhood Curriculum should be designed and be implemented. What should be the content of this curriculum to help the children be prepared for technology education? Is the integration of technological tools beneficial to the learning outcomes of the students?

Are computers developmentally appropriate to early childhood students?. Introduction of these devices and in some cases integration of the use of the technology in the existing curriculum has been a massive ground for global arguments. What brought this massive revolution to this day’s education is coherent to how fast the world is changing. Change is inevitable and sometimes predictable as it may seem, most of us will still be caught unaware and mislaid. As members of the community everyone takes part in the development of tomorrow’s citizens.

The early childhood sector has been heavily influenced by particular views of child development and how children learn. Such views are often based on developmental psychology and seek to develop practices that are developmentally appropriate (Hirsh, 2004, cited in Zevenbergen & Logan , 2008) The author believed that whether traditional or technology education, students’ experiences, social influence, and development are the main considerations on the part of the educators/teachers approach in delivering knowledge and evaluating learning outcomes.

There have been several studies and articles (Cordes & Miller, 2000; Haugland, 2000; Plotz, 2007) on arguments about the content of technology in early childhood, or the appropriate age to expose children to computers. Regardless what the parents thoughts are, whether or not they choose to expose their children to computers, eventually they will be introduced to technology when they enter school. To this day it is still uncertain on whether or not extensive use of computers for young people could be detrimental to their being, physically, socially and intellectually to say the least.

What is certain is that technology is at hand and here to stay. Computers are increasingly present in early childhood education settings. Toward the end of the 1980s, only one-fourth of licensed pre schools had computers. Today almost every preschool has a computer, with the ratio of computers to students changing from 1:125 in 1984 to 1:22 in 1990 to 1:10 in 1997. This last ratio matches the minimum ratio that is favourable to social interaction (Clements and Nastasi 1993; Coley et al. 1997).

In the event that the use of this technology could be measured in education settings, what are we to assume or expect in the different household settings. No one knows the exact number of computers in each and every particular household. Are Computers Developmentally Appropriate? There are many researchers, organizations, and other programs that recognize the benefits of using computers with young children. One major supporter of children and technology is the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

They created a lengthy position statement on Technology and Young children that states, “The potential benefits of technology for young children’s learning and development are well documented” (1996). Susan Haugland, a professor of child development and president of K. I. D. S. & Computers, Inc. , has done research and recently published an article about the benefits of technology called, “Computers and Young Children. ” In this article, Susan states that an appropriate age to introduce children to computers is at age 3.

She also goes on to state that, “ children 3 and 4 years of age are developmentally ready to explore computers, and most early childhood educators see the computer centre as a valuable activity centre for learning. Children this age are developmentally within Piaget’s preoperational stage. This means they are concrete learners who are very interested in using newly learned symbolic representation – speaking, writing, drawing (including maps and geometric figures) and using numbers. Children this age are extremely active and mobile.

They often have difficulty sitting still; they need frequent changes in learning modalities; and they want a variety of physical experiences involving dance, physical play, climbing and sports. Pre operational children are also are continuing their mastery of language, and exploring various facets of social behavior. Another large organization that supports technology in early childhood education is NETC (Northwest Educational Technology Consortium). They created a resource website for educators and providers called, Early Connections: Technology in Early Childhood Education.

This website offers information on how to implement technology into child care centres, preschools, kindergarten, primary grades, and in before/ after school programs. They also offer suggestions on classroom arrangement, software selection, health & safety, hardware, and other resources. However, I think the most valuable information they offer is how technology is linked to learning and the curriculum. They state that one of the main benefits of computer use is because it enhances the five development domains: social and emotional, language, motor, and cognitive skills (Early Connections, “Learning and Development,” n.d. ).

Clearly many of these developmental needs match up well with appropriate use of technology in the classroom, especially exploration, manipulation of symbolic representation, matching alternative learning styles, and quickly changing learning modalities that individual students can control and pace to meet their individual needs. It is also a very powerful tool for students with specific learning disabilities (Wardle,1999). If the goal for a certain age child is to learn to write personal journals, then the computer can naturally support that through writing software, digital cameras, and other methods.

A science goal that requires learning the solar system can be augmented by using specific CD ROMS and accessing web sites. Similarly, studying extinct and endangered animals becomes more real and educational through the use of specific software and web sites. Lee and O’Rourke (2006), reported an Australian project on ICT use in Early Childhood setting, they discussed that teachers experimented with a range of activities and, in keeping with Piagetian perspectives of early development and learning, attempted to connect concrete experiences with those experiences children accessed on the computer.

An example of this is the work done in one early childhood centre with the software ‘Millie’s Math House: Build-A-Bug’. The children created a ‘critter’ on the software and then recreated it in 3D using playdough, matchsticks and other collage materials. Making a connection between the image and the object was a powerful tool for engaging reluctant learners and the teacher was encouraged by the student response to the experience.

Another example of this type of experience was developed by a teacher in a rural pre-school centre who used the program ‘Sammy’s Science House: Workshop’ to design, make and appraise a toy or machine. The children were invited to design a machine using the software and to describe what its function was. The teacher suggested that some children might like to build the machine out of materials of their choice. The use of computers in a fully integrated classroom is endless. Software can be used to assist not only the learners but the teachers as well in so many ways.

Although research has proven many beneficial reasons to include technology in early childhood programs, there are many who believe that computers are not appropriate and could have harmful effects on young children. Jane Healy, an educational psychologist, wrote a book called, Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children’s Minds- for Better and Worse (1998), in the book she states that children should be 7 before introducing them to computers due to the harmful effects of computer use on their development.

Her view is one that is shared with another large organization, The Alliance for Childhood. The Alliance for Childhood published a large report, Fool’s Gold: A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood, which claims “computers can have damaging consequences for children under age 7 in terms of their health, social relationships, and intellectual development” (Cordes & Miller, 2000, pg. 3). In this report they stated that, “Computers in childhood may expose children to the risk of a broad range of developmental setbacks” (Cordes & Miller, 2000, pg.3).

A wide array of experts release a statement about the ways computers are reshaping children’s lives, at home and at school, in profound and unexpected ways. They stress that the use of technology is a distraction from the urgent social and educational needs of the low income children. And concludes with the following statement, “Those who place their faith in technology to solve the problems of education should look more deeply into the needs of children”.

The renewal of education requires personal attention to students from good teachers and active parents, strongly supported by their communities. It requires commitment to developmentally appropriate education and attention to the full range of children’s real, low-tech needs — physical, emotional, and social, as well as cognitive” (The Alliance for Childhood, 2000. ) While both views provide compelling arguments, one can not avoid the obvious fact that technology will continue to evolve and will become a more significant part of the daily life.

Use of technology in the early childhood program must not be a goal unto itself: the purpose is not to teach children how to use computers; they can do this as they get older, just as they can learn to drive a car later in their lives (Wardle, 1999). Appropriate use of technology in the classroom is to expand, enrich, implement, individualize, differentiate, and extend the overall curriculum. Computers are not to replace physical play, outdoor exploration of the community and of nature; art, music and dance; learning specific social skills and moral values, and experiencing diversity in a myriad of ways.

Common sense suggests that we consider the potential harm, as well as the promised benefits, of this change and not rush forward with computer usage in childhood. As an educator we always want the best learning outcome for our students, and to extensively use whatever possible ways to achieve this goal. The only true education comes through the stimulation of the child’s powers by the demands of the social situations in which he finds himself. (James, 2005) Teachers’ Perception on the use of Computer Technology inside the classroom.

One more compelling issue as regards to the use of technology in early years of education is the preparedness of the early childhood teachers in the use of technology inside their classrooms. Hsiac (2003) stated that the most important aspect of good early childhood program is its teacher, as classrooms practices are influenced by teachers’ beliefs. May (1997, 2000) has traced this rich heritage of multiple ideological, theoretical and pragmatic influences, showing how each successive trend has challenged early childhood teachers to re-examine their practice.

(Cited in Nutall, 2003) Fact is not all early childhood teachers embraces the idea of technology education, some of them are faced with ethical dilemma in the use of information technology, (Myers & Miller 1996). According to Morrison (2007) there are, “three challenges confronting early childhood teachers when implementing effective programs using technology in their instruction: 1. ) Their own personal acceptance of technology, 2. ) Confidence that technology has a positive influence on children, and 3. ) Decisions about how to use technology in early childhood programs and classrooms” (pg.383).

It’s important for teachers to accept technology and learn how to use it effectively. (cited in Plotz, 2007). Nutall’s (2003) research suggests to explore some provisions of frequent opportunities for teachers to make explicit their knowledge and assumptions about their role. As well as ideas about how children learn through the various aspects of their daily life. Furthermore, such research must take into account the way in which teachers in early childhood constantly teach each other about the deeply inter subjective and interpretive task of working with very young children.

Aside from personal struggle there were also some issues being raised in accordance with the role of early childhood teachers in technology education. Gibbons (2006) mention some tensions between the early childhood educators and the government sector which in becoming a challenge for teachers and in one way or another becomes one of the reason for the derail of the their readiness and compliance of the task. Teachers as well as student possessed certain individuality; the trust that teachers should adjust to their student’s ability, will not be the same as students will adjust to their teachers ability.

As teachers we are given the higher responsibility of being, according to Vygotzsky, the more knowledgeable other. Complex as it may be or to others simple as it may seem, early childhood teachers should take a step ahead to deliver this overwhelming educational demand. It’s important for teachers to accept technology and learn how to use it effectively. Morrison (2007) offers these guidelines for educators (pg. 384): Educate yourself on the potential benefits of computers and technology.

Be willing to try new ways of using technology to help your children learn new knowledge and skills. Collaborate with colleagues in your school and school district to explore ways to use technology. Collaborate with parents and community members, many of whom have skills that you can use and apply. It is also important for teachers to have a positive attitude toward technology to create an appropriate classroom environment. Children will have a difficult time embracing technology if their teacher doesn’t approach the situation with a positive outlook.

Summary and Conclusion Endless as it may seem, the ongoing issue of Information and Communication Technology in Early Childhood Education is giving the community of education a more clear and vivid guidelines on the process of creating, conceptualising and implementing policies and standards suitable to each and every environment. Immense concerns coming from diversity of culture and practice takes place. Analysing the impact of using technology in early childhood classrooms have established a variety of implications on different members of the academic community.

Teachers, students, policy makers, writers and researchers, centre, and of course the ministry have presented diverse opinions and views on different aspects over this highly arguable issue. Because of the ongoing conflict of interests, the government of New Zealand particularly the Ministry of Education have gone through a major curriculum reforms leading to the development of a national technology curriculum. Technology in the New Zealand Curriculum (Ministry of Education 1995) became mandatory for all schools in February 1999.

The development of the national technology education policy and the way in which the curriculum was developed, was described in an article by Jones(2003). This curriculum area will be compulsory for all students from years 1–10. Aside from Jones (2003), the evidence of issue concerning the integration of Information Technology in Early Childhood Education curriculum is becoming countless Gibbons (2006), Compton & Hardwood (2005), Zebenbergen & Logan (2008), Walters & Fehring (2009), Mawson (2007) to cite a few, and of course publications from the Ministry of Education (1993), (1995) and (1996) is as substantial.

Recent development in Early Childhood Education offers exciting opportunities for exploration on how these technological tools will continue to improve children’s learning development and provides new stage to discover different aspects of teachers role. The challenge for parents and educators is to maintain a balance on the possible huge and massive effect of this ongoing evolution in technology education. * draft journal article for International Journal for Early Years References Clements, D. H. , and Nastasi, B. K. (1992). Computers and early childhood education.

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