STEAM in Early Childhood: Introducing Technology During Play
In recent years there has been a change in understanding regarding young children and technology.
I have long since been an advocate for technology in early education, believing that our children as the citizens of the future should be encouraged to use technology in different aspects of their lives.
Introducing Technology During Play
Personal experience has shown me that young children will engage, become curious and independently attempt to solve problems when provided with activities that are supported by technology.
Communication Skills are enhanced; peer interactions and peer guidance (Vygotsky, 1978) become more evident when children are involved (Siraj Blatchford, 2003; Magennis, 2015; Whitebread, 2015).
Through play children learn to engage, interact, support each other, empathise and support others (Vygotsky).
Therefore if we introduce technology into this play environment we can help to promote these and other important life skills which children need to develop.
The Child As a Reporter– All children have a journalist/researcher inside them, they just love to ask questions, find out new facts; that natural curiosity makes them brilliant little investigators. Engaging with technology in this way promotes communication, social interaction, literacy and language skills. Children learn the importance of body language, and concepts around social cues, for example pausing, sharing empathy with others, awareness of individual space, and the skills to engage in conversation, pausing, waiting, listening.
iPad – The possibilities for creativity and art activities involving the iPad in early education are endless. Children can access music on the iPad, share with others, and using a wide selection of instruments, create different sounds, levels of sound, rhythm, patterns, introducing early numeracy concepts. The iPad can also help with storying, and when brought on outdoor adventures, it presents an array of ways to record and share this experience with others.
Interactive whiteboards– The interactive whiteboard brings with it so many different possibilities for children to engage, independently or as a group activity. Concepts such as mark making and symbolic representations (Bruner), provide emergent engagements with writing and literacy. Colour, shape and size all introduce emergent numeracy concepts, and through play children can learn these concepts without the fear of failure, or judgement.
There are so many other resources and ways of engaging with technology during play.
Technology for supporting music for example; music has a magical way of uplifting us, calming and grounding us in the moment, as well as being a wonderful resource to enhance conceptual development.
Give a child access to music through technology, they can develop their own likes and dislikes, explore and experiment with new sounds and language, develop the concept of sound, the ability to notice new things, watch, repeat, and conform to social rules, waiting for their turn, understanding rules related to rhythm and empathy for others involved, and so much more.
Devices such as light tables can be used to explore and introduce concepts such as colour, shade, bright and dark, shadows. Or to explore substances which children might find on outdoor adventures, leaves, plants, flowers, bugs, food and much more.
The camera can provide new and interesting ways of encouraging a child to share their own learning experience.
As in Reggio Emilia, children are involved in their own assessment when using a camera.
They can decide which of their projects they wish to share; it is no longer the role of the adult but the role of the child to capture and share these experiences, to show progression.
There are many other forms of technology and ways in which we can engage and encourage to use these resources in positive ways when working with children, microscopes to allow children to investigate further items which they have discovered in the outdoors, scanners, printers, computers can all be used to encourage new and different ways for children to learn concepts which have already been introduced into their learning environment.
Magennis, M. (2011) ‘The Impact of ICT on pre-mathematical concepts in early years children’, Belfast: Stranmillis.
Magennis, M. (2015) Enhancing Literacy Concepts: Digital natives and Cultural Tools, in US – china Education, 5(9): 610-622.
McBlain, S. (2017) Contemporary Childhoods, London: SAGE.
McClure, E., Clements, D. H.,Guernsey, L., and Levine, M.H. (2017) STEM starts early: Grounding science, technology, engineering, and math education in Early Childhood, The Joan Ganz Cooney Center.
Preston, C. (2021) STEM education in Early Childhood, in Campbell, C., Jobling., W., Howith, C. (ed) Science in Early Childhood, UK: Cambridge University Press. Siraj –Blatchford, J., and Whitebread, D. (2003) Supporting information and communication technology education in early childhood, Buckingham: OUP.
Stephen, C., Plowman, L., and McPake, J. (2010) Growing up with technology: young children learning in a digital world, London, UK: Routledge.
Yelland, N. (2010) Knowledge building with ICT in the early years of schooling, He kupu: The World 2(5): 33-44. Whitebread, D., Kuvalija, M., O’Connor, A. (2015) ‘Quality in Early Childhood Education: an international review and guide for Policy makers’, UK: University of Cambridge.