By Laura Stone & Linda Harrison
Through our engagement with early childhood educators across Australia, it’s clear that a wide range of opinions exist about the inclusion of digital technology in play-based learning environments for children under-five. Some services have embraced digital technology, developing policies and procedures that intentionally plan for its use in their everyday programs. Others have chosen to steer well away from digital devices and content, amidst valid concerns around passive engagement and how time in early learning should be best spent. Many evangelise technology as ‘all in’, or ‘all out’, however responsive teaching can facilitate deeper explorations to extend children’s learning ‘beyond the screen’ using a balanced approach.
“A balance of play and technology used as a part of intentional teaching practice will prepare young children to be lifelong, competent and involved learners”.1
ABC Kids Early Education was formed in 2019 as an addition to the ABC Children’s Department. In March 2020, ABC Kids Early Education online launched at the Community Connections Solutions Australia (CCSA) Rural and Remote Forum in Dubbo, NSW. We are now an integrated part of the ABC Kids production family that creates world class video and audio content such as Play School, Imagine This and Little Yarns. The leadership team and contributors responsible for ABC Kids Early Education (including early childhood teachers, early education consultants and subject matter specialists) recognise the boundless potential high-quality digital children’s content can have when planning and implementing multi-faceted learning experiences for children. We are keen to support educators in harnessing that potential.
As most would agree, there’s certainly limited value in using children’s programs or podcasts just for the sake of ticking a digital literacy learning box. Instead, it requires early childhood educators to engage in critical reflection for curriculum planning to ensure digital technology use in early learning settings supports and promotes the best interests of young children. Basically, it means doing some research (which is pretty good fun in this instance) to uncover the content you think is entirely worthy of children’s time.
Is digital learning a child’s right in today’s tech-connected society?
Children are born into a rapidly evolving digital world. There’s no denying technology is part of children’s lives and identities as learners. The ECA Statement on young children and digital technologies urges the early childhood education sector to consider young children’s digital rights regarding technology use, internet access, and learning how to participate in digital contexts safely and productively. 1
From podcasts and programs, to learning apps and using different types of digital devices, there are certainly many valuable learning and teaching opportunities to support young children’s digital citizenship. ABC Kids has developed a range of Early Years Teaching Resources designed to share important eSafety messages with children and families. Getting into positive habits right from the start is so important!
Can digital technology support positive learning outcomes?
Young children can learn and develop important skills and behaviours when using suitable websites, apps and television programs. Educators must also consider pedagogical use of technology that enhances children’s physical, cognitive, social, emotional and language development across the curriculum. The Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) advocates the use of technology with young children via Learning Outcome 5.5 – “ Children use information and communication technologies to access information, investigate ideas and represent their thinking”.
The ECA Statement provides an evidence base from which educators can make decisions regarding digital technologies that are relevant and sensitive to the digital contexts experienced by children and their families.1 Educators must also engage in active decision making about the use and non-use of digital technologies for learning.
In this way, good quality digital content can be viewed as an effective tool for teaching and learning in early childhood settings by:
- Sparking or extending upon children’s interests
- Supporting ongoing inquiry-based investigations
- Fostering children’s critical thinking skills
- Helping children build important relationships with teachers, family and peers.
Integrating digital technology into play-based learning
It’s important that educators co-view and co-play with young children, thereby engaging in their “digital playgrounds” to inform pathways for further programming and planning. Digital play can involve children engaging in many combinations of activities using a range of both digital and non-digital resources.1 Exploratory play can therefore remain at the forefront of programming when digital technologies are used alongside other engaging, hands-on learning experiences across the early childhood curriculum.
“When young children have opportunities for play and pedagogy in digital contexts, it involves children using a range of digital devices for exploration, meaning-making, collaboration and problem-solving”.1
Selecting quality digital content
Check out the eSafety Commissioner advice on choosing good online content, with useful tips for assessing what’s appropriate and beneficial for young children. ABC is the leading children’s broadcaster in Australia, delivering trusted, educational and entertaining content for our youngest citizens. ABC Kids takes pride in its provision of high quality, developmentally appropriate children’s content and carefully considers research about children’s digital diets and the impact of technology on early development.
Visit ABC Kids Early Education and ABC Kids Listen to discover an extensive range of high-quality teaching digital resources created in alignment with national early childhood curriculum frameworks including – children’s programs, podcasts, music, stories and apps.
View the ABC Kids Early Education website as a ‘virtual store cupboard’ for your early education and care setting!
ABC Kids Early Education webinar – FREE for CELA members
CELA members are invited to join the conversation through an upcoming webinar in partnership with CELA. Participants will have the chance to unpack the ECA Statement on young children and digital technologies and share ways to effectively incorporate digital technology into ongoing educational program and practice.
- How can we use digital technology as an effective tool for teaching and learning?
- What works and what are the challenges?
- How can digital resources be used with confidence and flair?</span
Educators will be encouraged to analyse their pedagogical practices around the inclusion of media and digital technologies to enhance young children’s learning through a play-based, contextually relevant, cross-curriculum planning approach. Discover ways digital technology can be used to help facilitate meaningful, deeper understandings and promote ongoing discoveries at your early childhood service.
- Early Childhood Australia (ECA). (2018). Statement on young children and digital technologies. Canberra, ACT