Sunday, 18 January 2015

Technology in the Early Years - Basic skills

My love affair with technology began when I was very young. My mam went to university when I was 6 and we got a Windows computer (pre 95!). It was glorious. All I did for days was type my name over and over again on Word, play solitaire and change the colours on the screen so when my mam did eventually come around to typing out her essays, the screen was pink and blue!

I learned so much about computers because I played with it in much the same way that our children play in our setting.  But it sometimes disappoints me that there is a lot of muddiness surrounding the teaching of technology in the Early Years.  We rarely have desktop computers anymore, or if we do we have touchscreen ones that don't compare to those being used in school when they get to year 1!  We have tuff cams and easi-everything which bear some resemblance to the real thing but there is no transition between that and the real thing.
Now before I go too far here I want to express that I actually like tuff cams, easi-whatevers and touch screen computers.  I don't think they're such a bad thing.  My problem is that they don't always teach children the basic skills which I have learned and we expect other children to learn before they reach year 1+.

I have broken down the skills that I think OUR* children need to learn about BEFORE they reach the end of Nursery (or at least the end of Reception.)

*(I say our, meaning the children in my particular setting. I know most of these skills need to be taught to all however I am no ICT expert and whilst I want to encourage discussion, I do not want to encourage wrath!)

1) Technology is a sensual experience.

Children need to understand that technology exists around them and it can be accessed by using their eyes, ears and touch.  At the same time they need to recognise that technology can produce sights, sounds and experiences which need to be interpreted using our senses.

For example we use 'talking tins' to record our talking or singing voices.

2) Children must understand electronic devices need power either via batteries or mains.

 Children need to understand that technology requires batteries, or plugging in.  This is far more common now as a lot of technology surrounds mobile devices which require charging daily and are usually in sight of children.

For example in our setting we have easi-headphones and more often than not a child will bring them to us and exclaim, "It needs charging."

3) Children must understand that a keyboard, touchscreen, mouse and other similar peripherals can be used to input data into a device.

Interactions with a piece of technology requires some kind of input.  This can be any peripheral including a touchscreen, but, ideally, they should know about a wide range of input devices including older ones such as mice, keyboards and even games controllers or text type phones.

For example on an old style phone 'hello' would be = 44(h) 33(e) 555(l) 555(l) 666(o)) 

4) Children must understand 'programs' and 'applications' (or 'apps') have different functions and we use different ones for different reasons.

When we say we're "using the computer" it can be awfully confusing because we use a range of different applications to do this.  Talk through the applications you can use to create things, even if these are online/browser-based applications such as google maps.

For example "I need to know what the weather will be like tomorrow, I'm going to press this weather app with the sun."

5) Children must understand that devices have primary or multi uses.

We use mobile phones to take photographs at the same time as reviewing the photo, making calls, receiving text messages and retrieving information. Certain devices can be used for a singular purpose such as a conventional telephone or a torch but others, usually more modern ones, have more than a single use.

For example children who are using easiphones whilst listening to stories can also use these to record stories of their own. 

6) Children must understand technology should be used safely.

Not internet safety (that comes later) but safely as in not putting devices in water unless told to do so.  Or applying a certain amount of pressure in a touch screen (not bashing it!).

For example when children are using an ipad in your setting, show them you're being gentle with the screen by tapping on their arm using the same pressure as on the screen.  "Gentle!"

7) Children must understand finger gestures (and more!).

With the dawn of touch screens came gestures. Pinch to zoom, scrolling - you just need to get hold of a macbook and you're transfixed for weeks by what a touch pad can do!  But beyond this we have kinect making their way into classrooms. Its not going to be long before we have gesture interfaces on IWB.

For example provide children with devices such as ipad, ipods and touchscreen computers which require zooming, tapping and dragging.

8) Children must understand technology is used for communication.

We use phones and various iDevices to communicate with the real world. Its one of their uses but there are others that we use to communicate. Email, fax (I have never sent a fax!), instant messaging, conventional telephone - we communicate in many more ways than a mobile phone.

9) Children must know information can be accessed from a computer (type search, voice search, image search) and this can be presented in different ways.

Computers are no longer singular input devices.  We uses gustures but we can also access information by using voice search (google, Siri, etc), image search on google and bing as well as typing information out.  This is done so online usually however we can also search for information and files in a local way such as 'word' search in word, or file search in a browser.

10) Children must know that information can be accessed locally (on device) or on a network (e.g internet).

We access information from a computer. In the development matters (2012) it suggests a CD-ROM (Which was dated by then).  So whether this information is accessible locally or view a wide network, children need to understand we can access information in a variety of ways.

11) Children might not like what they see.

Inevitably children will see things online which they (or we) do not like. Firstly, children will undoubtedly not understand much of what they see online if they are 3-5. But we need to encourage children to understand a simple axiom of 'I don't like this, I won't do this.'  Its a complex thing to teach them internet safety, thats not what I am on about.   (This is a complex skill and rarely would I teach this at Nursery level, I would model but I wouldn't expect any independence in this.) 

For example, on the school network you can access files from any year group. Child A opens a document with pictures of year 6 children on a visit to a hospital where they are looking at different parts of a skeleton.  Child A doesn't like or understand what they are looking at so decides to close the file and keep looking. 

This is not meant to act as an exhaustive list of skills - but a scaffold of other skills.  I'd really appreciate some comments below if you think I've missed any out:)

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