Knowledge, Learning and ICT in Early Childhood Education

Volume 2, Number 5 - October 2011

Editoral

This special edition, the third in the series after Arts (Vol.2 No.1) and Literacy (Vol.2, No.3) has taken as a theme “Knowledge, Learning and ICT in Early Childhood Education.” As with the two previous editions this has produced a number of differing opinions that have focused on the relationship between knowledge and ICT in early childhood education: How do we conceptualise Knowledge and how does Learning reflect knowledge in action? And how can ICT applications incorporate concepts of knowledge and learning? The authors present arguments and perspectives on the role of ICT within education as a whole and what constitutes knowledge in the 21st century. The impact of new developments in ICT and technology are also examined in this edition in relation to learning theory.

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Peer-reviewed Papers

Mobile technologies such as the iPad, mark a turning point in leisure activities for many young children. Their proliferation is now an emergent theme in educational research yet the impact on ‘play’ is less understood. This paper reports on data collected from three interrelated studies designed to examine issues of (i) children’s access to these technologies from the perspectives of parents/guardian, (ii) the opportunities for spontaneous play these devices present through their applications targeted for young children, and (iii) the affordances and limitations that emerge from the experiences of children. In this paper we share an expanded criteria designed for the analysis and observation of computer play with young children. Our findings, contribute to the theoretical basis for digital play by applying theories (established in conventional play settings) to children’s use of iPads in their home settings. Our findings captured some positive experiences showcasing the potential for digitally mediated imaginative play with the iPad. The critical role that parents and care-givers play in framing the activity through time and selected opportunities was emphasized. We provide some examples of the affordances for children and their significant others that emerge from digital play that might be not be possible in natural play.

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This study investigates empirically 4-8-year-old children’s interaction with a novel technology for music improvisation called the MIROR Impro. The technology is designed to ‘respond’ in a varied but stylistically consistent manner to the child’s playing. Looking at this interaction from a pedagogical point of view, informed by a socio-cultural perspective, we analyse (i) the basic turn-taking rationale of the technology; (ii) what characterises the turn-taking between child, technology and/or another child or an adult; and (iii) if and how the responses from the technology scaffold the child’s musical playing. The results show that while some children discover the turn-taking nature of the technology’s responses, some children need help in noticing this feature. The changing nature of interaction and turn-taking when the child plays the keyboard alone or with a peer or adult is also clarified. The children do not necessarily orientate themselves towards the rationale ‘inscribed’ in the technology, instead being focused on achieving other musical goals, e.g., playing a melody rather than improvising. The findings are discussed in terms of a more dialogical notion of musical development than traditionally conceived and the importance of the child’s previous musical experiences in relation to his or her activities with the new musical technology.

Keywords: early childhood education, musical dialogue, musical interaction, new technology, turn-taking

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This paper interrogates the concept of knowledge in postmodern times. It is evident that in the 21st century new types of citizens are required: ones who are able to work collaboratively in knowledge- building communities in order to generate the new forms of knowledge that will propel us forward in the century. However, school curricula would seem to remain firmly rooted in the industrial age of previous times. Examples are provided of curricula that embrace the creation of new knowledge in schools that are relevant to the lives of people as well as more detailed descriptions of curriculum applications that enable learners to participate in knowledge-building communities that are vibrant and exciting.

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An enduring problem for educators and educational researchers in recent years has been related to the difficulties of discriminating between curriculum and pedagogy in early childhood education. At no point has the debate been more acute than in relation to the issue of the inclusion of phonic approaches to reading in the UK Guidance for the Foundation stage of learning. In this paper we present data collected in research into the use of ICT in early childhood, and argue that a consistent application of the philosophical concept of emergence, which many early childhood academics have paid lip service to for some time, offers a means of resolving these controversies.

We draw upon data collected in Effective Provision of Pre-School Education (EPEE) qualitative case studies (Siraj-Blatchford et al. 2002) to demonstrate some of the challenges of implementing a phonics curriculum. A study of emergent literacy work carried out in a UK preschool is also presented to show the value of applying information and communications technology (ICT) in early childhood education (Parmar, 2011). We argue that the major problems that are considered with phonics are related to the pedagogies that are typically applied. The assumptions that are apparently made by policy makers that the universal adoption of phonics instruction may be sufficient to ensure that all children learn to read at an early age are also considered unhelpful. It is suggested that the curriculum content of phonics are less problematic and controversial than commonly supposed, and a case is made for the inclusion of playful phonics in an emergent literacy curriculum, where ICT may be seen to provide significant pedagogic knowledge support to the educator.

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In this paper I consider the theme of technology and its influence on how we come to know possibilities in an increasingly fluid, uncertain world. The argument is made that we are not always aware of how technology, linked with the project of modernity, linear progress, certainty and the scientific method, has contributed to an overly instrumental and technicist view of the complex endeavour of early childhood education in contemporary times. If modernity has produced categorizations and separation through binary divides such as theory/practice, adult/child, individual/group, matter/discourse then the project of postmodernity blurs these divisions and draws attention back to their complexity. Understanding how the overarching mood of technology has contributed to these divides and their part in supporting hegemonic technicist views of practice, leads us to question how might this be turned? More specifically I consider alternative views, involving digital technologies and pedagogical documentation that afford new spaces for ‘border crossing’ (Dahlberg & Moss, 2005, p. 23), as a means for reflecting and revealing our taken for granted assumptions.

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This article examines the potential of open-access (OA) publishing to support the professionalization of early childhood care and education (ECCE).To frame this argument, the results of a pilot project on transitioning a print-based academic early childhood journal to OA, will be discussed. With the increase in multi-media and multi-literacies of ICT, new spaces for dynamic interchange for teachers to critically examine new ideas on knowledge and learning have been enabled. This ease of access to professional literature and debate is linked to a continuing process of democratisation of the early childhood profession. Open access allows early childhood teachers and educators to more easily access current research and engage in local, national and global debates while benefitting from an openness to new knowledge and understandings.

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Commentary

This article examines the changing face of the curriculum and argues that with the advent of online learning and the widespread use of discussion forums, there is an opportunity for faculty to encourage students to collaboratively reflect on their own teaching experience in their own unique contexts. Moreover, this shift towards greater student participation has become vital so that the range of views and values from an increasingly diverse student population is reflected. In this way it is suggested the traditional notions of curriculum are augmented by the grounded experience of student teacher practice.

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Contributors

Donna Bregmen, Marisa Bromhead, Lisa Kervin, Pernilla Lagerlöf, Neelam Parmar, Jean Rockel, John Roder, John Siraj-Blatchford, Irina Verenikina, Cecilia Wallerstedt, Nicola Yelland

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