Digital Technologies in Early Education Centers. Opportunities and Concerns


Term Paper, 2021

26 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Excerpt

Table of Content

1. Introduction
1.2. Aim and Structure of the Paper

2. A Changing World Requires a Transformation of the Knowledge Base
2.1. The Concepts of Information Literacy and Technology Literacy
2.2. The Four Cs: Essential Skills in an Interconnected World

3. ICT in Early Childhood Education

4. Opportunities and Potential of ICT - Innovate, Educate and Empower
4.1. Transformative Learning Spaces: ICT as Driving Force for Change
4.2. Digital Equality
4.3. Meeting the Needs of All Learners
4.4. Powerful Tools for Expanding Global and Cultural Awareness
4.5. Educational Landscapes: Communication and Collaboration with Parents
4.6. Motivation and Appreciation of the Educators

5. Concerns and Challenges of ICT in Early Childhood Education
5.1. Skepticism and Reservations
5.2. Misplaced Focus and Increased Workload due to Constant Monitoring
5.3. Key Challenge: The Educator´s Role as Media Mentor

6. Conclusion

Works Cited

1. Introduction

An educator arrives at the kindergarten in the morning, enters a PIN code to unlock the door and swipes on a tablet to log in at the entrance. A dialogue box opens, and the educator can see that three kids of her group, Emily, Andrew, and Sam, are already there and being looked after by the early service. They are already building a sandcastle in front of the group room. Suddenly, she hears exited voices as the kids found a big caterpillar. She fetches the magnifying glass and helps to catch the insect. Now Emily wants to know what kind of caterpillar it is. While the children look closely at the insect, the educator gets a tablet and takes pictures of the children with the caterpillar. Then she opens an app that can be used to identify insects. Together they compare the pictures with the real sample. Sam interjects that caterpillars turn into butterflies, which Emily cannot really imagine. The educator therefore shows a video on the tablet about the metamorphosis of the caterpillar into a butterfly and suggests that they themselves record a video about the process of transformation with the children and send this to another nearby kindergarten. The children are thrilled and want to take their caterpillar to a safe place and build a house for the animal to observe this transformation over the next few days. Meanwhile, the educator puts the photo of the kids and the caterpillar in the children's digital portfolio folders. She takes the tablet again and adds a short text. She assigns the entry to the educational area "Nature" with a few finger movements and triggers a notification to the parents. Within seconds, Andrew’s mother writes a comment and thanks her for the picture… (adapted from Knauf, 2019a).

This does not seem an unrealistic vision of the future! More and more early childhood education centers are using apps and online platforms to organize their daily educational routine and learning. Many of the digital tools used are now so familiar that they no longer stand out: digital cameras, tablets, writing programs, special software and email are just a few examples. Living, as we do, in the 21st century an information, communication, and knowledge society has progressively formed, and childhood is increasingly technology constructed as it integrates into the lives from an early age and begins to accompany them permanently. The next generations will live in an even more fast pace, constantly changing and technology driven world than we do now. The ubiquity of digital technologies permeates all aspects, will be the underlying structure of our lives and impact the whole world around us (see Jones & Park, 2015, p. 4). Accompanied by concepts such as lifelong learning, today's workforce is expected to constantly face new challenges that involve new forms of collaboration and require more creativity, critical thinking, and imagination than ever before (see Yelland & Arvanitis, 2018, p. 111). The changing demands clearly show that education must also change in order to prepare for life in this new era. Active participation in this transformed society requires different knowledge. The question that must be asked here is not only related to the content of education, but also includes the question of implementation. The debate following the results of the PISA study has put the importance of education in early childhood on the agenda, so that questions of education are increasingly finding their way into the field of early childhood education. This also gives it a decisive importance in the education debate on digitalization.

1.2. Aim and Structure of the Paper

In my paper I therefore want to investigate the effects of rethinking early childhood education towards the use of digital technologies in order to find out what opportunities and chances arise from this change. In addition, possible concerns and challenges will be discussed in this regard. I have structured my paper accordingly by starting with looking at the extent to which digitalization changes the required knowledge base by defining and thinking the concepts of Information Literacy and Technology Literacy together and highlighting essential skills in an interconnected world. After defining the term ICT in early childhood education, examples will be used to discuss how the implementation of digital technologies can look like regarding the work with parents, the work of the educators and the work with children. Following this, the opportunities, and chances to rethink and implement pedagogical approaches and to adapt the learning experiences to the 21st century which result from the implementation of ICT, will be discussed. After describing the opportunities, the concerns of digital resource use in day care centers will be further addressed, with a special focus on the challenges for the educator. It should be noted that it is not possible to go into the opportunities and concerns in depth, as this would go beyond the scope of this paper, but rather the aim is to contrast the basic ideas about the main potentials and limits of digital technologies in early childhood education centers and to highlight the role of the educator.

2. A Changing World Requires a Transformation of the Knowledge Base

The term digital transformation refers to "changes associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society" (Parviainen et al., 2017, p. 64). So, in the wake of this growing importance of digital technology, there is not only a purely technical change from an analogue to a digital process. Rather, the procedures and even their contents are changing. In recent years, digitalization has transformed society, creating new work skills, modern cultural conditions and innovative information and communication technologies. Before moving on to more specific elements of educating and teaching with digital technologies in early education, it is necessary to address the question of whether the development of digital technologies has actually changed the nature of knowledge that should be taught. In this regard, it can be said that certainly one way in which knowledge has changed is the way it is represented and accessed. Getting knowledge is easier, faster, and more accessible nowadays due to digital technologies. As used in the introductory example, an app can immediately show which caterpillar the children have found and with another click a video shows and explains the process of its metamorphosis into a butterfly. The large amount of fast and always accessible knowledge, which is dynamic and inevitably changes, requires completely new competences. In this context, it can be argued that the focus in the digital age is less on what, so on the specific knowledge, and much more on how, that is, on knowledge about how to acquire, evaluate or classify knowledge. The issue is not so much the nature of knowledge, but how learners come to acquire that knowledge and learn how it can be used. The focus therefore “shifts from what the knower knows to the knower themselves” (see D’Olympio, 2013, S. 41) which requires more emphasis on developing and learning skills of how best to apply knowledge, rather than a focus on merely teaching content. Since knowledge is dynamic, expanding and constantly changing, learners need to develop the skills and learn to use the tools that will enable them to continue to learn.

2.1. The Concepts of Information Literacy and Technology Literacy

Based on this shift in the information age, the concept of information literacy is also coming into focus alongside technology literacy. It can be said that although these concepts have different academic orientations and origins, they can be thought of together in the course of new digital technologies. This is because an approach to digital technologies implies not only the importance of working independently and with others to use technological tools responsibly, appropriately, and effectively to access, manage, integrate, evaluate, create, and communicate information. It also includes identifying and accessing appropriate sources of information to meet information needs and to use information resources effectively, regardless of format. More so, to apply the information critically and ethically (see ACRL, 2000, p. 2). Information literacy can thus be conceptualized as a set of competencies, such as critical thinking skills, that an informed citizen of a digitized information society should have to actively participate in society. These further include skepticism, judgement, free thinking, questioning, and understanding (see Heider & Renck Jalongo, 2015, p. vi). Lankshear et al. have identified three dimensions of technology literacy that are also associated with information literacy and are illustrated in the following graphic.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Figure 1: 3 dimensions of technology literacy based on Lankshear et al. (2000).

The concepts of information and technology literacy imply that simply the exposure to a large amount of information will not bring out informed individuals, as the need to learn how to use and process information effectively (see ACRL, 2000, p. 2) which includes restructuring the learning process and requires a fundamental shift in what Paulo Freire called the banking model of education in which teachers place information in the learners’ minds. According to the standards of the International Society for Technology in Education, technology literacy includes both the basic knowledge and skills needed to use technology and the more advanced ability to use digital technology “to analyze, learn, and explore.” (see ISTE, 2013). Technology literacy in early childhood education, as the first step of the education system, should prepare young children for the mass of fast pace information but must take the cognitive level of the child into consideration (see Kazakoff, 2015, p. 47). Moreover, while building basic technology literacy, digital technologies can be used as a tool to build skills in other areas, including reading and writing, motor skills, and socio-emotional skills. In the following section, special attention will be paid to the four Cs which further highlight skills for an interconnected world, which are not only generated using digital technologies but can also be strengthened through them.

2.2. The Four Cs: Essential Skills in an Interconnected World

As already indicated in the introduction, digitalization is also changing the demands placed on individuals in an interconnected world. In addition to information and technology literacy, four other competencies are highlighted at this point. The 4Cs (communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking) potentially take on a whole new meaning as essential skills in an interconnected world where technology infused (critical) pedagogy is practiced and valued (see Machado, 2015, p. 83-84).

Communication and collaboration are skills that are increasingly in focus due to the interconnecting nature of digital technologies and can, for example, also be considered particularly in relation to facilitating the integration of different cultural areas. Cultures refer to cognitive, affective, and behavioral patterns of a group of people and is linked to the concept of socialization in the context of learning. Learning in this context means the cultivation of a certain understanding of the world. On the other hand, the purpose of learning does also mean acquiring knowledge and skills for oneself, developing one´s ability, and reaching personal goals. As the world becomes smaller, people from different cultures with different socialization from more collectivistic or individualistic cultures merge and educators of young children must rethink how to prepare young children for this communication and collaboration (see ib., p. 38-39).

Creativity as the ability to make connections between ideas or experiences involves a combination of control and freedom, conscious and unconscious thought, intuitional and rational analysis. The introduction already addressed the fact that digital transformation is fundamentally changing our world and creative “outside-the-box”-thinking is becoming increasingly significant to be able to adapt (see Yelland & Arvanitis, 2018, p. 111). The challenge with young children lies not in cultivating creativity in them, but rather in preventing creativity loss by offering a dynamic and interactive environment which in turn can be supported using digital technologies (see Machado, 2015, p. 85). Critical thinking has already been mentioned several times in the previous descriptions of technology and information literacy. Children's curiosity starts very early on. They question the world and test out how things work to see what happens. This curiosity and constant questioning can be seen as the beginning of critical thinking and is already brought along in part by the children. Critical thinking ability has special importance in the fast and ever-changing information and technology age and should therefore be encouraged, especially at the beginning (see ib., p.85).

“Only if we raise children to think critically, as a matter of course, about their use of language, the information they take in, the nature of propaganda which surrounds them, the multiple prejudices assumed to be self-evident truths; only if we educate children to probe the logical structures of thought, to test proposed knowledge against experience, to scrutinize experience from alternative perspectives; […] only then do we have a fighting chance that children will eventually become free and morally responsible adults and hence help eventually to create […] genuinely free and moral societies” (Paul, 1993,p. xviii).

Now that particularly important skills and abilities for pedagogical work have been pointed out to prepare children for a digitally interconnected world, a closer look will be taken at early childhood education centers and their use of digital technologies.

3. ICT in Early Childhood Education

ICT stands for Information and Communication Technology and can be defined as “anything which allows us to get information, to communicate with each other, or to have an effect on the environment using electronic or digital equipment” (Siraj-Blatchford & Siraj-Blatchford, 2003, p. 4). In early childhood education ICT could include computer hardware and software, digital cameras and video cameras, the Internet, telecommunication tools, programmable toys, and many other devices and resources (see Ministry of Education, 2004, p. 2). There is a growing appreciation of the many ways that ICT can contribute to and transform activities, roles, and relationships in early childhood education settings. To provide a broader overview of the potential for the use of digital media in early childhood education, the following table is intended to illustrate some areas.

Table 1 : Possible Roles of ICT in early childhood education based on Ministry of Education, 2004, p. 6.

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

In addition to the administrative and organizational tasks that are supported by digital tools, work with parents, the preparation and follow-up of pedagogical work and, of course, the work with children can be identified as subject related areas. So as one aspect, the type of communication between the pedagogical staff and parents is changing. Most of the time, communication took place in person, for example during pick-up situations or parents' evenings, but also through parents' leaflets or information notices. Digital technologies expand these levels of communication through emails and chat groups or, as in the situation described in the introduction, through online platforms with a notification function. Parents and educators are permanently connected through their smartphones, so that parent-educator communication can be much better realized in the everyday flow of information through digital channels.

Another aspect is the field of pre- and post- processing of pedagogical work. In recent years comprehensive software solutions have been developed to support educators in their pedagogical work. Apps such as Evernote or Kidblog that can be used to create a digital portfolio for each child which makes documenting learning processes easier are getting important and used more frequently. Situations that are significant for the child´s development can be recorded and stored in virtual folders with photos or learning stories and pictures that the child has painted. Furthermore, instruments for diagnostics such as language development can also be integrated. So that the educator can meet the requirement of systematic observation and documentation of child development processes laid down in the Common Framework for Early Education in Child Day Care Centers (Gemeinsamer Rahmen der Länder für die frühe Bildung in Kindertageseinreichtungen) (see JMK/KMK, 2004, p. 5).

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Details

Title
Digital Technologies in Early Education Centers. Opportunities and Concerns
College
University of Bamberg  (Lehrstuhl frühkindliche Bildung und Erziehung)
Grade
1,3
Author
Year
2021
Pages
26
Catalog Number
V1025587
ISBN (eBook)
9783346426376
ISBN (Book)
9783346426383
Language
English
Tags
early education, digitalisation, media literacy
Quote paper
Felina Lehmann (Author), 2021, Digital Technologies in Early Education Centers. Opportunities and Concerns, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/1025587

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