Assessment 1 submission

Digital Technology and its benefits on Early Childhood Education

Introduction
Digital culture and games have become a part of everyday life of every individual, including young children. Incomparable to how it represents the benefits adults in this new era of mobility in regular activities at work or home, computers also have advantages on children’s learning and ongoing development. Some of the questions that can be asked are, how can mobile or tablet apps help in the development of early childhood social-emotional, cognitive and artistic skills? What role does early childhood educators’ play in enhancing the use of technology in the childcare services keeping in mind the risks of overuse of technology? What are the perspectives of the stakeholders, including children, parents, and educators on the use of technology in early years?

The aim of this paper is to discuss a brief history of computer technology and its associations with early childhood development, and how this process has evolved over the passing of time. The recent innovative digital devices feature different possibilities of action known as affordances and by exploring the affordances of particular digital technologies such as tablets and mobile phones enhance children’s social, emotional and cognitive skills. This report will examine what are the benefits of digital applications, educational sites and mobile games in children’s development and how it is compatible with the traditional style of learning in early childhood. This brings us to the point of significance of early childhood educators; their knowledge of functions of the digital devices, different strategies to increase or decrease children’s use of these technological applications to meet the requirements of the Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF, 2009) for Australia. Parents’ negative views on the use of technology also effect children’s learning at home. This essay will also discuss the drawbacks of excessive usage of computers, which could lead to fewer opportunities for social and physical development. Finally, it will highlight suggestions for early childhood teachers for the provision of qualitative learning experiences for children.

History of technology in learning environments
Computers were “problem-solving tools” for educational studies, including mathematics, science, and engineering in the mid-1900s (Molnar, 1997, p. 64). The first major research project on educational learning by using computers was PLATO initiated by Donald Bitier, and a general computer learning skills called BASIC computer learning programme was formally integrated into the education systems by John Kemeny and Thomas Kurts in 1963 (Molnar, 1997, p. 64). Seymour Papert invented LOGO, a language programme, which assists children in numerical problem-solving skills not in mathematics class but during music and physics class, which later was collaborated with LEGO construction games (Molnar, 1997, p. 64). In the 1980s, a flinch of globalization occurred due to the evolution of supercomputers and the telecommunication networks, which assisted in spreading knowledge worldwide (Molnar, 1997, p. 64). With the improvements in the linkage of computers and telecommunication networks, there was an increase in project-based learning. Digital literature on educations and communication has now evolved tremendously with the development of new network platform known as Web2.0, which include Wikis, blogs and Social networking services (SNS). Web2.0 influences interactive communication amongst participants, which is essential in the learning process (Wesch, as cited in Pireddu, 2011, p. 159). In a research study by Australian researchers (Hatzigianni & Margetts, 2014), a majority of parents’ thoughts on children’s involvement in computers with appropriate times of less than an hour three times a week encourages children’s educational as well as technological skills (p. 120).

Although computer-based learning was beneficial in children’s learning purposes for more than seven decades, it was not until recently that digital applications (apps) including online gaming for speech-articulation and language learning, and drawing apps for creativity has become extremely popular in today’s culture. Digital games are considered one of the essential tools for children’s learning processes in this generation. The old version games could contain characters with inappropriate activities that could affect children’s behaviour. Computer games and the Web were accepted as a beneficial factor for children’s exposure to different world, nonetheless it could be a hindrance to learning about realistic “ethical principles” and have negative influence, such as illegal “sexual and criminal behaviour” (Davis as cited in Wartella & Jennings, 2000, p. 32).

However, computer usage amongst young children has changed swiftly over time. Digital apps and games are used ubiquitously for children’s education.
Educational websites, such as BrainPOP Jr. and mobile game app Block Craft 3D, which is a simpler version of Minecraft, are age appropriate for children between two to five years. BrainPOP Jr. features short engaging movies about various fields of math, science, arts… and relative activities, including drawing and puzzle games. Similarly, Block Craft 3D is closely linked to real-life building using blocks and Legos. These kinds of technological aspects are beneficial in children’s social, emotional and cognitive development.

Benefits of learning sites in Education
Digital technology assists in children’s development, which aligns with the traditional method of learning. Couse & Chen (2010) states that a study by National Educational Technology Standards for Students (NETS.S) shows the benefits of digital learning, including the enhancement of children’s creativity and innovation, communication and collaboration, improve critical thinking, problem-solving and decision-making, technological function and conceptual skills (p. 78).

Computer literacy can develop children’s social skills through peer and teacher feedback, which highlights the importance of Lev Vygotsky’s theory (Eddi, 2010) of social interaction for the development of cognition. Electronic gadgets help children’s learning by enhancing their cognitive skills. Computer-assisted instructions also improve children’s motivation in learning (Jeong & Kim, 2016, p. 2). The reason behind children’s attraction to these digital tools could be because of the sound and visual effects. Computer technology, in comparison to how the use of digital drawing and painting applications also provide children with varieties of attractive colours and challenges to comprehend the guidelines of the applications and motion control on the screen (Cousen & Chen, 2010, p. 77), and assist in the representation of their creative and thinking skills and improvement of their eye-hand coordination, recognition of numbers and alphabets and logical thinking. In a study of technology usage in children aged between three to six years old, 64.10% of children show interest in electronic drawing or painting over drawing with traditional writing materials (Cousen & Chen, 2010, p. 90). Cousen and Chen (2010) claim that one of the prime reasons for their attraction to computer tablets according to these children was the persistent trial and error facility, which could be unsatisfactory and frustrating if drawn on a paper (p. 91). Therefore, children become enthusiastic over the endless practices on tablets or mobile phones.

Furthermore, computer tools are an educator material for daily programming and spontaneous communication with parents in an early childcare setting. Computer usage helps reduce stress amongst teachers and increase the opportunity to attend individual needs of children (Jeong & Kim, 2016, p. 2). With teacher-parent interaction, children could engage in their preferred play consistently at a childcare centre as well as home. Also, educators provide information to parents regarding advantages and drawbacks of children using computers for a longer period of time.

The risks of technology in Early Childhood
There are risks associated with the use of computers in early years. Staring at the digital screen for a longer period of time can have a detrimental effect on one's health. Raising Children Network (Australian parenting website) states potential risks of using computers as cognitive problems, including eye problems, headaches, neck or spine sore, fewer movement activities, and cognitive problems, including language, social, behaviour problems and less opportunity to engage in other developing activities. Excessive involvement with computers could hamper in children’s social and physical development. Some teachers’ view on negative effects on digital use in early childhood settings is a lack of socialization and interaction with friends and limited physical movements (Sak et al. 2016, p. 28). However, with a daily digital routine of less than an hour, the risks are unlikely to occur.

Solutions to minimization of technological usage
Early childhood teachers emphasize on choosing appropriate computer materials for young children due to probable risks. The Early Years Learning Framework for Australia (Belonging, being and becoming, 2009, p. 37) suggest an introduction of technology and media to children that are suitable for their age to develop their skills and knowledge. Similarly, the Turkish National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) stresses the everyday use of technology for early childhood education (Sak et al., 2016, p. 29). Teachers should be a role model and offer guidance to children using computers, plan and implement appropriate computer activities to meet their learning requirements and increase socialization amongst children by planning small group works. Children should also be encouraged to take turns while using the technology and provide comprehensible guidelines to increase their understanding (Sak et al. 2016, p. 28).

According to American Academy of Pediatrics (Raising Children Network: The Australian parenting website), two to five years old children’s daily exposure to computers should be an hour or less with adult supervision. The website suggests the usefulness of communication with children during screen time by asking open-ended questions regarding the programs, and provide decision-making opportunities for selection of apps or games. Some of the examples of open-ended questions are; what was the show about? What did the characters talk about? Why do you like the program? The raising children website also suggests encouragement of children to look away from the screen every few minutes, sit in a comfortable upright neck position and to remind children of physical movement and stretching regularly. Furthermore, Pireddu (2011) emphasizes on “innovative pedagogy”, for education is considered the most important step towards improved social, political, creative and economic progress of the nation in the changing world (p.167). In the digital era, educators need to adopt some advanced pedagogies in the field of technologies in relation to children’s interests and learning.

That being said, it is significant to take into consideration children’s preference in their learning tools and materials. Hatzigianni (2014) argues that children believe and express their interest in outdoor play experiences over computer engagement (p.98). In this modern age, children are increasingly involved in technology but they show strong fondness towards the traditional style of play-based learning (Hazigianni, 2014, p. 98). Lack of self-knowledge and technique to use computers appear to impact the confidence of users. Jeong and Kim (2016) argue that one of the causes of disruption to use computers is “self-efficacy”, which sequentially reduce the perceived effectiveness of computer learning (p. 11). According to Wikipedia definition, technological self-efficacy is individual’s ability to function complex tasks in technology. Therefore, early childhood educators have a pivotal, challenging role in providing a good balance between the daily real-life learning environment and age-appropriate yet engaging digital programs to draw children’s attention and interest to assist in their learning. a detailed method of implementing digital programs with children has become essential to support the early childhood teachers.

Conclusion
Although there are concerns about using computers at an early age, the benefits outweigh the drawbacks of digital technology in children’s learning (Sak et al., 2016, p. 21). Technology enhances children’s social-emotional skills improving self-confidence, self-esteem and cooperative learning, and cognitive skills improving their imaginative and fine motor skills. The early childhood educators emphasize engaging in digital apps and playing games that are beneficial in children’s learning, taking into consideration the screen time limits for appropriate age in reference to the Australian government policies. More research on evidence of computer literacy applications’ benefits on children’s learning is necessary. How can early childhood teachers scaffold the use of graphic tablets in children’s learning environment? For that, there is the need to consider professional development programs for early childhood educators in the field of technology to understanding and deliver encouraging experiences that are age appropriate for children.

Reference

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