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Evaluate and Use Information and Communications Technology Essay

The purpose of this essay is to research a technological toy, I focused on Bee Bots, which I use in my setting, evaluate and critically analyse the effectiveness of that toy in promoting children’s learning. Later I will demonstrate my personal use of ICT and a record of use of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) over a period of one month as a professional role in promoting children’s development in my setting. Finally, I will reflect on my tracking sheet and identify the opportunity to develop ICT in communication with parents.

According to Siraj-Blatchford, Whitebread (2003) in supporting children in their development of an early understanding of ICT we are concerned to support them in learning about a wide range of products that are used to manipulate, store, retrieve, transmit or receive information not only computers. Most of the ICT applications that we are familiar with today are put to use in electronic products such as telephones, audio and video, CD player, recorders, computers, television. I am going to focus on a programmable toy – Bee Bot. I chose that particular piece of ICT toy as we use it quite often in our setting.

Bee Bot is a bright and a colourful and multi-sensory programmable floor robot, suitable for use in Early Years. According to Morgan, Siraj-Blatchford (2009) the use of programmable toys in early years educational settings is based upon the constructionist teaching approach, which is underpinned by the idea that learning can happen most effectively when people are actively engaged with doing and making things in the real world and was first developed by Papert, in 1993. Bee Bot “enable young children to learn through play about control and directional language and provides a perfect ‘hands on’ introduction to robotics” (Sprainger, 2007).

Sturdy construction and colourful, easy-to-operate design is a perfect tool for teaching alphabet, number recognition, fine motor skills by using the directional buttons, and social skills such as turn taking. Direction keys are used to enter up to forty commands which send Bee Bot forward, back, left and right. Pressing the green ‘Go’ button starts the toy on its way. “ Bee Bot blinks and beeps at the conclusion of each command to allow children to follow Bee Bot through the program they have entered and then confirms its competition with lights and sound” (Terapine Software, no date).

It works on rough or smooth surfaces and is small enough to be used on a table (Inclusive Technology, no date). Bee Bot moves in 6”steps and 90 degree turns and compact size as well as durable material make Bee Bot child and classroom friendly. Bee Bot is equally adaptable to home and school environment, it can be use both indoor and outdoor and operates on three AA batteries (Interactive Learning in the Early Phase, No date).

In 2005, Bee Bot was awarded a Gold Award at the Practical Pre-School Award in London and in 2006 Bee Bot was a winner of an Education Resources Award in the Primary ICT category awarded by The British Educational Suppliers Association (BESA), (TTS: Educational Supplies for Schools, Nurseries & Childminders , No date). After an initial introduction to the toy Bee Bot help children to engage in playful exploratory activity which allows for numerous opportunities such as self-initiated activity, which provide opportunities for quality adult-child and child-child interactions (Siraj-Blatchford, Whitebread, 2003).

According to Light and Butterworth, activities requiring ‘joint attention’ and which involve ‘children learning to share’ provide a better cognitive challenge for young children than activities were they work alone” (Developmentally Appropriate Technology in Early Childhood, No date). Learning with the Bee Bot is a highly social experience and support communication and social skill development, children learn about negotiating, taking turns, sharing and peer work. The Bee Bot has the capacity to support children to develop a broad range of essential skills across curriculum and the only limit is the practitioner and children imagination.

It is available with across curriculum mats to enhance children learning in all area of their development, therefore in my work place we adapt the mats that we already have in our setting and I still feel that we did not use its full potential. So far we used Bee Bot with Alphabet mat, and alphabet flash cards to extend children letter sound recognition and oral language development for children with English as an Additional Language (EAL) to support their listening and recalling skills.

Number and shape mat is used to expand children mathematical skills such as counting, number recognition, positional language, shape recognition. Road mat is used to develop children orientation as they need to manipulate, orientate, track and rotate the Bee Bot as well as road safety skills. Using a Bee Bot also introduce the children to a range of science skills as they interpret design challenges, generate possible solutions, make plans, test and evaluate and modifying the program were necessary (Sprainger, 2007). I founded as well as a number of eachers around the world (see teachers reviews in Appendix C) that Bee Bot are good value for money (manufacture instruction enclose in Appendix B) and the only disadvantage I can find is that after each activity program needs to be cleared in order to reprogrammed again. Although, it is clear that ICT should be used ‘to develop skills across all six areas of learning’ it is the ‘Knowledge and Understanding of the World’ strand alone in the guidance that makes direct reference to ICT usage. “It is clear that young children are computer… literate at an early age” (Keating, 2007, pg. 126).

According to DATEC (No date) any application introduced to children in order to develop understanding and experience of ICT should not just be enjoyable, although this is important but more importantly should be educationally effective. Children need a variety of applications which encourage a range of development, including creativity, self-expression and language. From analysing my tracking sheet which recorded the use of ICT in my setting (details in Appendix A) I must admit that I was quite impressed with the amount of ICT equipment we use with children each day without even realising.

From the tracking sheet I understood how important modelling and collaborative play is in Early Years. Programmable toys and many screen based applications offer the possibility of collaboration but adult intervention is frequently needed to gain the most from the ICT ‘equipment’. According to the UK Effective Provision of Preschool Education (EPPE) (Sylva et al, 2004), and Researching Effective Pedagogy in Early Childhood (REPEY) (Siraj-Blatchford et al, 2002) studies have found that the most effective foundation stage settings combined the provision of free play opportunities with more focused group work involving adult instruction.

This approach appears to be most desirable model to promote ICT and I must proudly admitted that we are focusing on small group activities to meet all children’s needs, especially with EAL children. The relationship between cognitive strategies and language development is currently regarded as central to understanding children’s difficulties developing language as a first or additional language. Skinner emphasizes the roles of imitation, repetition, reward and reinforcement in formal language teaching situation (Lewis, Norwich, 2005). Adult-child interactions that involved some elements of ‘sustained shared thinking’ were especially valuable in terms of children’s early learning” (Siraj-Blatchford, and Siraj-Blatchford, No date).

Activities I have provided for the children in my setting are differentiated according to their interest, age and learning style and were “targeted at learner’s educational needs and stage of understanding” (Hurst, 1997, pg. 82), as according to Miller, Devereoux (2004, pg155) “children need to be able to experiment, repeat activities in variety of ways and have some control over a pace of what they are doing… ollaborate with adult and each other and share their discoveries and triumphs”. Furthermore, the work of Bruner and Vygotsky suggests that “we actually come to understand what it is we think through talk” (Moyles, 1995). “Bruner showed that children need to be reminded of previous experience… by pictures, books… he called this ‘iconic thinking’, he also felt that role of adult was important… as… adult provides support as children develop their competence and confidence” (Tassoni, Huccker, 2005, pg. 31).

I believe that according to North, McKeown, (2005, pg. 72) “ICT meets all learners styles as it “lets pupils learn by looking, listening and doing”. “Although the evidence on gender differences in attitudes towards computer-related activities, levels of participation with computers,… it appears that girls perform just as well as boys when they engage with computer-based learning” ( Bancroft, Carr, 1998, pg. 104) and it has been proved in my setting that girls get involved as equally often and well in ICT related equipment as boys.

From my tracking I also realised that we are meeting entire requirement as Every Child Matter (2008) suggested relating to observation, assessment, planning, key person by using ICT equipments such as cameras, video recorder, Interactive White Board (IWB) and Fronter – School Blackboard (explained deeply in Appendix D), which is available through London Managed Learning Environment (MLE) (Ealing Grid for Learning, No date) and all the staff have been given training on it. Children from key stage one and two are able to access Fronter from home and share their school life with their parents.

In the sector I work in – Early Years Foundation Stage parents are given individual logins and passwords to be able to track what is happening in our nursery each term, check any events that are taking place in school but in my opinion working with parents in relation of ICT is an area that needs improving. I discovered three main issues that must be improved in my opinion to develop a better communication and build better relationship with our parents. First of all, I must mention that even though as a school staff we have opportunities for professional development and ICT “supporting learning” (Teaching and Learning, No date).

Training are usually organised by our school ICT co-ordinator. Insets quite frequently and I recognise myself as being a computer literate person thus we must consider that not all of our parents “can present barrier” (Plowman, Stephen, 2003, pg. 160) and perhaps school could extend ‘children Fronter club’ for ‘parents Fronter club’ to help parents overcome that barrier as “home school link and parents involvement is therefore a component of effective school” (Curriculum Guidance, 2001). Secondly, the language barrier could be one of the reasons why parents are not so keen on using our School Blackboard.

To overcome this barrier after having an Inset with my manager we decided that the school news letter both in electronic form and hard copy could be translated in the most common spoken languages in our school, such as Tamil, Somali, Arabic and Farsi. As a Foundation Stage Practitioners we all agree that when “parents, teachers and children collaborate towards the same goals it leads to the improved academic performance of children” (Curriculum Guidance, 2001). Lastly, in my opinion the main issue could be, as the school is situated in low-income industrial area, that not all household might have an access to the computer.

According to Morgan, Siraj-Blatchford (2009) research evidence has shown that the efforts of parents and preschools can make a considerable difference to children’s future educational achievements regardless of their socio-economic background and current national policy initiatives aim is to close the gap in educational achievement for children from disadvantaged background. “One of the ways in which this commitment has manifested itself has been in the Government’s three hundred million pounds Home Access project which provides computers and internet access to families to enhance learning at home” (Morgan, Siraj-Blatchford , 2009, pg. 13).

Our school received the funding three years ago and designed the ‘parent computer room’ which was very popular at the begging but now seems to be forgotten. I think it is a good time to bring up that issue during the Inset to make use of that room again. When talking about ICT I must mention about a “number of queries and concerns regarding health and safety issues and other risks, which may be associated with technology routinely used by young children (Morgan, Siraj-Blatchford, 2009, pg. 39) , such as using electricity .

Our children are thought not to “investigate or play with any equipment that uses mains electricity” (Creary, 2002, pg. 4) and all sockets are protected with socket protector to eliminate any hazards. According to Health and Safety at Work Act (1974) Portable Appliance Testing (PAT Testing and Portable Appliance, No date) is required once a year and our school has passed one two weeks ago. It is important that while children learn about ICT they also learn how to manage their own space and select the right tools when sitting at the computer. According to Morgan, Siraj-Blatchford (2009) it is therefore advisable that the regular use of any computer application by three years old child should not be longer than ten to twenty minutes.

Young children, parents and practitioners are using ICT in novel and creative ways” (Morgan, Siraj-Blatchford, 2009, pg. 40) and it is important to use all available ICT equipment safely. Our school leaders with ICT co-ordinator “consider the issue of e-safety” (E-safety, No date) and drew Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) (See Appendix E). According to Every Child Matter (2008), suitable premises, environment and equipment our outdoor and indoor spaces, furniture, equipment and toys are safe as they are checked on regular basis and school is monitored by CCTV camera and locked.


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