As practitioners, we know that it is important that children learn how to use various ICT devices competently. The range of devices on offer to young children now has risen significantly in the past five years and two-year-olds are now confidently navigating their way around Youtube and BBC Iplayer independently. Whether we like it or not, technology plays a huge role in our everyday lives, and the lives of our children, but are we equipping them with the skills they need to use their devices to their fullest potential? Are we allowing them to aimlessly explore, tap and crash apps? Or do they have the skills to use technology for a culmination of purposes? Because ultimately, that is the aim of teaching them basic ICT skills isn’t it?
Recent research also shows the negative impact technology and screen time are having on our children, with increasing reports of anger issues, unsociable behaviour and aggression, not to mention withdrawal symptoms and emotional behaviour when access is limited.
So how can we as practitioners provide children with the right balance? Providing children with enough access to technology to enable them to develop skills that they will need to later life, whilst not making technology an essential part of the provision.
At our setting, we provide a range of ICT for the children to explore, with a mixture of working and non-working items, from old laptops and desktop computers, remote controls, cameras and non-working mobile phones, in addition the children’s own Kiddicamera, which most of our children can competently operate independently to capture each other, their play and things we encounter on our outings. We have always actively encouraged the children to use their camera to capture things that take their interest and share these with others and their parents at the end of the session.
We attended the Nursery World Show London in 2017 and attended a seminar on “The Rich Potential of Children’s Photography”. We were intrigued and keen to see what new ideas we could implement into our everyday practice. The seminar was given by Apple Distinguished Educator Marc Faulder who has produced a variety of learning resources highlighting the importance of promoting children’s skills using the iPad as part of their everyday learning and how these can be implemented into schools and Early Years settings, whilst covering each area of learning.
This seminar posed many questions that as practitioners, we may tend to overlook. For example, when children use the iPad to take photos, do they understand how to hold the tablet and focus on an object? Or are they just pressing the shutter button umpteen times resulting in 500 blurry selfies?
So many of Marc’s basic principles for promoting children’s photography resonated with us, particularly the “One Best Photo” resource; giving children a focus for their photography, teaching the basic skills; holding the iPad steady, focusing on an object, taking the photo, reviewing the photos, deleting photos, choosing their ‘One Best Photo’ of each subject and collating these images in an app called ‘Pic Collage’ where they can freely arrange, re-size and decorate their photos accordingly, displaying them in a single collage.
We left the seminar feeling beyond inspired and as a result incorporated the ‘One Best Photo resource’ into our half term project, enabling the older children to use the iPad to complete their project, whilst our two-year-olds used the Kiddicamera to create their own projects too.
The results of the project were staggering, and we now have children who can competently and independently use the Ipad to take photos, review them in addition to independently using an app to collate and produce their own posters too.
This is the most important thing we have taken from this; from reflecting on our own practice as a result of the seminar, to observing how the children actually use ICT equipment and to realising that it is actually essential that children know how to competently use apps and programs, not just turn on and navigate their way around the internet and games in order for them to get the most benefits and meaningful learning from their technological experiences.
By using technology for a purpose and enabling the children to use it in a positive and constructive manner, we not only provide children with opportunities to develop ICT skills at their own pace whilst supporting and developing their own play, but this also enables children to understand that ICT can be used for a positive purpose and isn’t just a means for ‘watching’ and becoming lost within a screen. This way, the quality of the experience of ICT and technology as a whole, increases significantly, not only making the experience more worthwhile and beneficial for the child, but also promotes significantly more meaningful learning experiences than simply giving the child an iPad to play games on.
If children confidently know how to operate and use the equipment effectively, this empowers them to experiment and use technology positively as an additional tool in their play and learning experiences.