Where are we now with regards to Technology and early learning?
Since Development Matters (2012) was introduced we have been used to assessing children’s technology development against this Early Learning Goal within Understanding the World:
This is how I interpreted this statement and made sense of what children should be learning:
When I think how children can use technology for particular purposes, my planning in Reception sees technology as a tool for enhancing learning in all areas of the EYFS. I use technology across the curriculum:
Technology is used to teach reading, writing, art, handwriting, science, music, maths and so on. I teach children specific computing skills like pressing record, stop, play, select pens, erase, delete, open, close, focus when they are creating videos, animations, story images, photographs of nature.
What do we know about children?
The devices that children have access to are likely to all have cameras in. It’s common for young learners to open up camera apps and take multiple images, filling camera rolls with repetitive, purposeless photographs:
If you’ve introduced devices in your class or have young children of your own, the above example is probably familiar! Children might know how to open a camera and press a shutter button but they might not know what a photograph is and the purpose of digital photography as a communication or artistic tool.
We also know that parents and professionals have concerns about screen time. Internet Matters published this data in 2015 but after the pandemic it is reasonable to assume ownership and hours of use have increased:
Where do we stand now?
It is highly likely that children start our settings having had early experiences using technology. They probably own a device of their own and/or have regular access to the internet. When looking closer at their screen time behaviour, they are more likely to be consuming on demand videos, digital libraries of music, plenty of games and seeing lots of photos and images.
Our young learners are consuming way more information than they are creating. When we think about technology’s purpose in this way, we realise that all screen time uses are not equal. In our settings we need to use technology in a purposeful way across the areas of learning so that children can create rather than consume. This will balance the scale or even tip it in favour of creating with technology in the same way children create with other resources in our enabling environment. They do not have these skills and we need to teach them how to create with technology in the way same we teach them to create with other tools.
To know that we are doing this well, we should turn to The Characteristics of Effecting Learning to evaluate our planning for technology.
If children are active, playful, explorative, critical and creative when using technology then the activity is a purposeful use. Then the scale of creating vs consuming will tip in favour of worthwhile screen time.
Development Matters 2021
You will be aware that the assessment of Technology will not be included in the revised Early Learning Goals and Development Matters framework. This is the same for Shape and Space. Julian Grenier points out in his book “Working With The Revised Early Years Foundation Stage Principles into Practice” that Development Matters is an assessment framework. It is not a curriculum. By only teaching towards Development Matters, children miss out on the bigger picture of learning. Grenier goes on to explain that this shorter revised version provides more freedom for professionals to do what is right for the children they are working with. He also writes about technology’s role in learning:
It is our responsibility to plan a Computing curriculum which includes the youngest learners in our schools and settings. We need to find purposeful ways for our children to create with video, photographs, digital images, sound recordings and control devices like floor robots. They also need to learn social skills, rules and responsible use when using devices and the internet. All of this should be done with The Characteristics of Learning in mind, making purposeful links to all areas of learning.
Examples of Activities
The following examples are photographs of children’s work from my classes from 10 years using technology in active, explorative, playful and critical ways across the areas of learning. You are invited to click links below which will take you to other posts on my website for a closer look at how you can plan for these activities too.
A Computing Curriculum Beginning in the Early Years
We need to design an ambitious curriculum for our early learners which includes Development Matters assessment but opens up learning beyond this revised framework. Technology can be used in active, playful and explorative ways to promote critical and creative thinking and should be purposefully across the areas of learning. This has been demonstrated in the examples above. Now we need to be clear on the Computing skills that children need to learn so that they can create in these ways. With this carefully planned purposeful use where skills are applied across the curriculum in playful, active and explorative ways then the scale of creating vs consuming will start to tip in favour of positive screen time experiences.
At my school, the Computing curriculum is designed with three elements:
Here are examples of the progression of skills for each element, demonstrating how these computing skills begin in Nursery and Reception and progress through Key Stage 1 then onto Year 6:
I also designed this matrix, mapping computational thinking skills to The Characteristics of Effective Learning so that you can understand which learning behaviours are supported by the types coding activities you provide children.
Free On-Demand Course
To hear me talk about the Computing curriculum beginning in the early years, you can view a recording of a free seminar here.
These free guides are available to download from Apple Books and help you to sequence technology activities throughout the school year. Download the Young Children Can Create series for free here.
These series of blog posts explain how a Reception class in Birmingham have used these activities for their Computing curriculum.