Friday, 01 December 2017 02:38

Live Wires Forum

The Live Wires Forum had a real mix of delegates, some as passionate about technology as the speakers and some still unsure about the role of technology in Early childhood. So it was great that Professor Lydia Plowman started the forum by dispelling 7 myths about technology in early childhood education

1. Technology dominates children’s lives even if they are not directly involved with it.... No, research says this isn’t true, however it was concerning that watching TV on television and/or devices was the main screen time use.

2. Screen time is out of control.... No, survey results suggest that 83% of parents think their child has a good balance of screen time and other things. It got me thinking what our MICCC parents think about this and who has control of ‘screen time‘, is it the child, the adult or the app? Screen time is something to be positive about, it helps us connect with the real world and people in it, as well as extend play. Children should be learning about all types of technology, and making real world connections at MICCC by helping us look up maps and bus time tables for excursions and faxing art orders for example.

3. Technology hinders social interaction.... No, this is more relevant for adults and depends on what families and educators allow and regulate, children can use technology to FaceTime or share excitement and achievement with others as they look through and take photos.

4. Children know more than we do... No, they learn by the behaviours we model so it may look like they know more but it is simply imitation.

5. Digital play has squeezed out real world play... No, it is intertwined with real world play and helps us share experiences with others, thinking, problem solving, singing, dancing and role playing with others.

6. If it is interactive it must be educational... No! Apps don’t have an educational review process and have limited forms of literacy, we need to look for apps that our children can input their themselves into, their drawings, voice and images.

7. Children need to get tech savvy for their future lives.... No, there is no rush and children need time to learn about the dangers and safety risks that revolve around personal data.
Professor Leon Staker identified some feelings about technology that are shared by everyone in the education and health sectors, including parents; worried, excited, confused, unsure and nervous... is this how you feel?... I know I do.
The Department of Health provides us with daily sedentary screen time recommendations:
Children under 2 years should have zero screen time
Children 2-5 years have 1 hr Maximum with the moto “less is better” 
....These recommendations somewhat contradict our Early Years Learning Framework, where outcomes 4 & 5 state that we need to provide experiences that expose children to technology. It is important to remember that in regards to screen time there are learning benefits which are in no way harmful.

The whole ‘screen time‘ concept is based on the idea that children are being sedentary, simply sitting still and not moving. An interesting fact is that children sit still when reading stories or at group times so energy wise it is exactly the same. Professor Staker’s research shows that children can benefit from technology when it is used for quality purposes and co-viewed. Children under two can engage in video chats where they can move around and share their world with others, 2-5 year olds can be exposed to high quality media that encourages movement, real world thinking/connections and social interaction. At MICCC we need to obtain more information and preferences from families and discuss with parents the benefits of co-viewing and co-researching in our rooms.

With ALL play experiences, not just those with technology, we need to look at children’s postures as when they are sedentary bone and muscle growth is not being stimulated and gross motor skills are not developing.

Dr Kym Simoncini confirmed concepts that I have always been a big believer in when she discussed the benefits of developing spatial reasoning. This is the art of thinking visually and mentally manipulating objects, spaces and environments. Number sense and spatial thinking are closely tied so we as educators must role model high level spatial language and offer block play to all children daily. She got me thinking about our story tables and the ways in which we can incorporate block play with them... instead of providing props for story table scenes, encouraging children to build or make them. We also need to ensure that we are exposing children to meaningful blueprints/centre plans and books that use spatial language. In a study where a large number of children were asked to draw doctors and pilots, there was a concerning result as all of the children drew male representations, so it important to surround the children with resources and experiences that breakdown stereotypes.

Offering children opportunities to draw plans, maps and theories is heavily linked to the ideas of Reggio Emilia and could be a real feature of walks/excursions and sharing our identities. We all know that children can recognise their own house on the street and could show you how to get home from the local shops or park but how would they describe these to someone else?

I wasn’t surprised to hear that Preschool maths skills are the greatest predictor of later school success and spatial reasoning is a huge part of that. It is extremely important to focus on meaningful learning experiences and play that cross over into all developmental areas.
Leslie Podesta challenges us to determine what is a threat and what is a challenge? Their e-smart framework success is now being developed for preschools and could be something for MICCC to think about.

Celeste Carnegie reinforced the fact that the future is unknown and shared her passion for educating children in remote communities, sharing technology that we might not think is possible. I love her example of children creating a map of county and using technology to drive small cars around without disrespecting the land. She was an advocate for intergenerational learning to support cultural connections and bridge technology gaps. I also love the cultural term “yarning circles” and though that using the word yarn could be an interesting alternative to group time at MICCC. A vital point was raised about Centres investing time and support for educators and families to learn more about technology to be able to create meaningful learning benefits.

Professor Susan Edwards was quick to highlight the interwoven connection between technology and pop culture and a child’s cultural context causing them to do what they see. What reflective concepts for me as an educator and parent. In a centre that follows the emerging interests of children, pop culture is inevitably going to be a part of that so we must consider how we can transform those interests into meaningful and powerful developmental learning opportunities.
Families and educators seem to be in a state of moral panic when it comes to screen time, yet Professor Edwards made the most powerful connection of all speakers when she shared her research of iPad history. To know that in 1971 Alan Kay developed the initial concept of an iPad from his readings of play theories is amazing. The exact same theories we still refer to today in early childhood education, Bruner, Dewey, Piaget and Vygostky. I feel somewhat empowered that screen time technology stems from a history of early childhood theories around stages of development, cognitive learning, psychology and social engagement.
We can’t underestimate how clever families are at intertwining technology and pop culture in their child’s real life learning. MICCC is privileged in that we have access to a range of technologies. As a centre and a community we need to be more aware of what we look like when we are using technology, and assess how we role model this. We also need to be reminded that technology has incredible learning power and should never be used for pure entertainment, when it comes to iPads children should have your full attention and you should be engaging with them to make it meaningful.

Dr Addie Wootten really struck a cord with me with her Smiling Mind presentation. Mindfulness and meditation come up a lot in staff reviews and when we discuss strategies to support emotional regulation in children and it something that I think could really benefit some of our parents too. Smiling Mind is part of Australian curriculums and is now being developed for the early childhood sector. Stress has increased 45% in the last 40 years and we need to help our children maintain a healthy positive mindset, developing life-long habits for success by proving children time and the devices to use themselves in these moments. I myself have been listening to some meditations since this presentation and approached Dr Wootten to discuss working with MICCC as a whole centre approach.
The speakers and panels raised the following ideas that I found interesting:
- Children using Siri to research their theories
- Using walker chips to track children on excursions
- It is unethical to not teach/connect children to the technological world we live in?... does that mean we need the actual devices?
- Engaging in Centre community conversations about technology
- Looking deeper into what is attracting children to the activity
- Listen to the feedback in apps, is it promoting a growth mindset?
So much food for thought and so much more to share with my staff team as our centre prepares to engage families in more conversations about technology.


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