In England we teach young children (Birth to 5 years old) from a non-statutory curriculum now known as Early Years Outcomes (formally Development Matters). The curriculum is structured around 7 areas of learning but themed on A Unique Child, Parent Partnerships, Enabling Environments and Learning & Development. Learning across these themes, principles and areas of learning are woven together through The Characteristics of Effective Learning.
Development Matters, and Early Years Outcomes, explain that the Enabling Environments theme should ‘value all people’ and all learning. Yet there is a division in the early years community about the role of technology in learning. Our young children have access to technology in the home and there are an abundance of reports and opinions claiming screen time is a contributing factor towards low attainment in physical, social and language development. For this reason, there are settings who switch off to technology provision.
Technology is the one strand in our early years curriculum, and throughout the National Curriculum, where the application in the learning environment is different to the application at home:
- talking at home is similar to talking at school,
- sharing at home is similar to sharing at school,
- reading at home is similar to reading at school,
- numbers at home is similar to numbers at school,
- whereas technology at home is different to technology at school.
At home, children (and adults!) watch TV and video rather than film movies ourselves. We use the internet at home to browse and shop. We more often choose to listen to music rather than make it. We look at photographs at home rather than take them. We regularly relax in front of screens.
At school and nursery, the Early Learning Goal for Technology states that children should ‘select and use technology for particular purposes’. In the National Curriculum for Key Stage 1 this extends to digital skills such as using images, video and sound for creative projects.
We should be teaching children how to create with technology, in meaningful ways that are cross-curricular where ‘experiences respond individual needs’ and interests.
If technology use at home is a contributing factor to lower attainment in the prime areas of development, then our intervention in the enabling environment should be balancing the over consumption of media at home with opportunities to ‘support children to explore’ content creation with multi-media technology. This way, we are giving children the skills needed to make better choices at home. If we better value children’s interest in the technology they have access to at home, by teaching them new ways to use it, then we will positively impact on their choices at home. That is how we will bring technology skills in line with all of the other areas of learning between home and school. An enabling environment should have a strong link between practitioners and parents and carers so that children have the best start in life. By teaching creation skills with technology, we can balance out and bridge the use of technology at home and school.
Young Children Can Create
So what can young children create with technology? We need to stop seeing the device and start seeing digital tools as equals to the physical tools we have in our settings:
The ‘Young Children Can Create’ series of free books are designed to guide early years practitioners through a progression of simple activities that bring photography, drawing, music making and filming to your setting over a 12 month timescale. The guides take you on a journey through the beginning, middle and end of your academic year, showing you what to do at each part of the year to give children the best opportunity to create with photos, films, music and drawing. The activities blend learning with traditional resources so that the device becomes invisible and creation takes the lead.
Activities across the 4 books are deliberately repeated but with the focus on the skill theme of that book. This is to help you see how 1 activity can support 2 or 3 elements of creating with photography, video, music and drawing with technology. At the end of each guide there is a cross-curricular project to apply these new skills. These projects will support the Characteristics of Effective Learning, specifically those points in the ‘Creating and Thinking Critically Strand’.
Download Your Free ‘Young Children Can Create’ Guides Now.
Let’s make this next academic year one where we ‘value all kinds of learning’. A year where we support each other ‘to take risks’ in our provision. Let’s balance out the consumption of media technology at home with media creation at school or nursery, rather than switch off, ignore and hope it just goes away (year on year on year!). We can use technology to facilitate ‘rich learning opportunities’, because technology is a ‘stimulating and relevant resource’ to the young children in our care.
Young children can create with technology.