Curriculum, pedagogies and practice with ICT in the information age

Nicola Yelland, Chapter 14: page 225

Critical Issues in Early Childhood Education
Edited by Nicola Yelland

This is an reflection that I wrote for a previous class that has relevance to the discussions that I’ve been having with colleagues and supervisors in my school division.

I connected with the challenges that educators are having integrating technology into their classrooms. Yelland comments on the concerns being raised about the amount of time young children spend on computers and whether that time is time well spent. The concerns are not support by research or data. In fact, research is showing that home use of computers support learning. In Jackie Marsh’s article Digikids: Young children, popular culture and media she finds that research supports computer use. On page 189 Marsh quotes “The relationship between literacy learning and computer-game playing is complex, but nevertheless significant” (Gee, 2003; and Pahl, 2005). Many people who object to computer use are focused on violent games, inappropriate web sites and questionable content but are not using research to support their beliefs. I believe as educators we need to teach students responsible use of  computers, software and the internet because we see the value of computers for students. I recently read a blog post about filtering of internet in school and how we as teachers need to teach our students what sites they are to use in school and what sites aren’t appropriate. Will Richardson, who wrote the blog post, thought that filtering was a form of classroom management so that teachers didn’t have to teach responsible use. 

Yelland’s article also looked at the value of ‘authentic activities’ that students can experience using computers and the internet. In my own case, my students have gone on virtual field trips around North America, dissected a frog, examined and commented on art in museums, visited Auschwitz and collaborated with students around the world. My students also have personal blogs which allow them to post their writing on-line and have an authentic audience to provide feedback. I find it hard to understand that people could not see the value in the experiences students have using technology. Students become excited when they have visitors to their blogs that read their writing or leaving comments. The visitors or their audience provide motivation to continue writing and posting to their blogs but perhaps the biggest factor is that students begin to want to write ‘for’ their audience. Students become better descriptive writers who become more aware of the mechanics of their writing so that they can provide their audience with interesting blog articles to read.  The goal is that the blogs can provide authentic audiences, rich discussions, feedback and interactions for the reader and the writer.

On page 226 Yelland states “Children are exposed to computers and a vast range of new technologies in every aspect of their lives. It is impossible for any of us to avoid technologies since they are integratal to everything we do.” Leonie Rowan and Eileen Honan in the article Literaily lost: the quest for quality literary agendas in early childhood education explores the various types of literacies that young children engage in. Young children are already participating in “media literacy, computer literacy, technological literacy, visual literacy or emotional literacy” (page 195). If young children are already exposed to these various literacies why wouldn’t we as educators embrace these opportunities to build upon them as we teach the children? Yelland continues this thought “If schools ignore this (the prevalent use of technology in our society) they cease to be relevant to life in the twenty-first century “(page 226).

On page 227 Yelland questions the new curriculum “there has been an increasing recognition that curriculum decision-making needs to take note of children’s out-of-school experiences and build upon them.” I agree that these questions need to be asked and educators need to be the ones to make changes in their classroom. I also think there should be changes made in teacher education programs that weave technology use throughout the content classes to show pre-service teachers how use technology in the classroom. Yelland quotes Dede who has “called on educators to ‘reshape children’s learning experience in and out of school to prepare them for a future quite different from the immedate past. Meeting this challenge involves teaching new skills, not simply teaching old skills better” (2002, p.178).

These are questions that the articles raised:

1. We can’t avoid technology in our lives so why do we want children to avoid technology in schools?

2.  Why is using technology relevant in the twenty-first century?

3. Why doesn’t provincial curricula recognize the value of technology? Does the curricula give teachers any incentive to integrate technology into subject areas?

4. How do you use technology in your teaching/school?

5. What type of technology use do you feel has the most value to students?

6. We can’t avoid technology in our lives so why do we want children to avoid technology in school?

7. Why is using technology relevant in the twenty-first century?

8. What future are we preparing our students/children for?

9. Why doesn’t provincial curricula recognize the value of technology?

10. Does the curricula give teachers any incentive to integrate technology into subject areas?

11. Why do educators have to prove that use of technology is beneficial to students?

    I just finished viewing and reflecting on Steve Wheeler’s slide presentation on New Pedagogies for the Digital age. As Wheeler states “The future of education will be premised on what students need – and that will include creative solutions, flexible, personalisable tools, and device responsiveness that is culturally relevant. It’s going to be exciting and challenging!” It occurred to me that there is much discussion about what type of education students need and what pedagogy is best to prepare students for an unknown future.

    In Rethinking Pedagogy for a Digital Age: Designing and Delivering E-learning Helen Beethem and Rona Sharpe argue that there is nothing new about using technologies for learning. From the beginning of time every tool that has been introduced to enhance learning and teaching has been a new invention. Beethem and Sharpe continue with “The networked digital computer and its more recent mobile and digital are just the latest outputs of human ingenuity that we have at our disposal.” Beethem and Sharpe contend “that these technologies represent a paradigm shift … on the theory of learning.” Beethem and Sharpe question how digital technologies constitute a new context for learning and explore this in their book.

    In his paper How has pedagogy changed in a digital age? Hayat Al-Khatib concludes that “The full potential of ICT support should be explored in learner-centered strategies to shift pedagogic orientation to cater more for the role of the learner in the learning process, taking advantage of the resources and tools made available in the digital age.”

    Our goal as educators should be to develope a curious, flexible and creative student who is able to work cooperatively in group situations. Whether that group is within that student’s classroom, school, city or even country depends on the student and teacher’s ability to connect to a learning network outside of the student’s building. The biggest change since I started teaching is that type of tools and technology available to me. I still remember learning how to use a gestetner machine and how exciting a photo copier in the school was. The difference now is that we live in a digital age and as educators, digital tools are what we have to use with our students. In Block 5 for my EC&I 832 class we’ve been exploring various web tools and questioning how they can help us in our teaching practice. If we consider the cartoon sites, movie makers, digital story telling and social networking applications as technological tools we can use them wisely to enhance learning in a digitally relevant way.