Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Early Childhood

Learning with Technology for Pre-Service Early Childhood Teachers

Academic journal article Australasian Journal of Early Childhood

Learning with Technology for Pre-Service Early Childhood Teachers

Article excerpt


WHEN MY GRANDSON TURNED three I made the mistake of giving him a toy mobile phone for his birthday. He was excited enough when he opened the parcel, but obviously very disappointed when I showed him that we could only have pretend telephone conversations. He examined the toy phone very carefully, then looked at me sympathetically and explained in a somewhat patronising tone, 'They should have sold you a sim card when you got this, Nana. They don't work without sim cards, you know.'

Welcome to the world of the 'digital natives' (Prensky, 2005), the 'millenials' (Oblinger, 2003; Wiethof, 2006 Zemke, 2001); or the D-generation (Jukes & Dosaj, 2006) who were born into a world where technology is a given and where mobile phones and computers are tools you have used since your fingers were big enough to press the keys or the touch screen. Digital technology is so much part of their lives that they barely notice it is there. They can use DVD and CD players to select their favourite movies and music, use the remote to channelsurf, use a microwave to heat up their snacks, a mobile phone to SMS their friends, the internet to email their grandmother, and the family computer to play and to learn (Zevenbergenen & Logan, 2008).

It is a technological world in which children are often more comfortable than their parents and teachers. Until very recently this has been regarded as anathema to effective early childhood education, where the emphasis has traditionally been on the development of interpersonal social skills and physical coordination (Ferguson, 2005; Miller, 2005).

Zevenbergen and Logan (2008) have pointed out that this has led to a 'digital divide' between the learning experiences encountered in a child's home environment and those experienced in early childhood educational settings. This situation is especially worrying when there are significant gender differences among even four- and five-year-old children in terms of access to computers and in the ways computers are used.

It is also disconcerting that some children still do not have access to computers at home and therefore do not have the opportunity of developing the skills my grandson and other 'digitals in diapers' like him take for granted--skills such as using a mouse, finding letters and numerals on a keyboard or screen, typing letters, navigating websites, retrieving files, using pull-down menus, loading CDs and DVDs, uploading photos from a digital camera, using toolbars, saving files, printing documents and files, using drawing software and typing words (Zevenbergen & Logan, 2008, p. 42).

Although some of these skills are used for playing games, this is still an impressive array of digital literacy skills, even more so when they have been acquired more through independent learning and experimentation than through an adult providing instruction. I cannot help being impressed when my grandson gives me a Christmas card he has made himself by inserting a photo of his new guinea pig into a word template and adding the text, even though I know his mother told him how to do this. That children as young as this have the capacity for learning such a sophisticated array of skills and practices has significant implications for early childhood educators.

If we are to take seriously such principles as student-centred learning, providing equity for all learners, and preparing them for future roles in a technological society (ACTDET, 2007; DEST, 2007; MCEETYA, 2006), we cannot ignore findings that tell us that children in early childhood centres who have access to computers at home are the ones who have highly developed IT related skills (Zevenbergen & Logan, 2008). Nor can we ignore the fact that early childhood educators need to know how to make effective use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in their classrooms, and need to be convinced that doing so will enhance the learning of their young students. …

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