Love it or hate it, children are more exposed to technology today than ever before. It seems that everywhere we look we see even the youngest of children using a wide variety of devices and apps for play and to keep themselves entertained.
But are we overlooking the beneficial influence that these devices can have in Early Years education? Our 3-5 year olds are technology natives so why do we hesitate to place the proper tools into their hands?
A recent article published by the Telegraph, following a survey of 1,000 parents with children aged three to five, states that young children who have access to both touch-screen technology and books at home were “…more likely to enjoy reading and perform in line with national targets for their age than those who could only access books.”
So why is this?
Technology is intrinsically motivating for children. Be it a tablet, digital camera, roamer device in the classroom; you name it, these devices grab and keep children’s attention. In fact, a study by Pearson and The National Literacy Trust indicates that it is the intuitive nature of devices that children enjoy the most, closely followed by the independence that it allows them.
Factors influencing enjoyment.
Researchers have found that "technological devices such as smartphones and tablet computers can offer a new and important route into reading for three- to five-year-olds.” Wide scale studies have also shown that technology can help children to connect between what is concrete and what is abstract. For example, using apps or online games to learn the abstract concept of how a letter correlates with a letter sound can become more meaningful for them if they play a matching game (eg. with the phoneme ‘s’ and letter ‘s’).
How can we use all this in practise?
The intuitive nature of Firefly makes it a perfect tool for the Early Years classroom. Here are three ways that you could use Firefly to enhance the learning and enrich your children’s experience;
- Share online books as an additional route into reading. There are many available from places such as Oxford Owl or The British Council. If you’re feeling even more adventurous, why not try using an app such as Explain Everything or a media tool such as Youtube to record you, the teacher, reading the story. Children engage brilliantly with a familiar voice and this is an excellent way to help them in the early steps of reading.
- Use navigation links to apps or your favourite online games so that children can practise their skills. The ease of navigation enables children to select their learning independently, as a guided group activity in the classroom, or at home with parents; they can develop and grow in directed areas of the curriculum through intuitive, engaging and independent activities.
- In every Early Years classroom hundreds of photos are taken to record the learning journey. Why not make cameras or tablets available for the children to take photos too? These could be shared in Firefly as a record of their understanding of the world around them. Additionally, the children could use a drawing programme to edit the pictures, use them to tell stories or record short ‘voice recordings’ about what they have been learning. Great apps for this include Explain Everything, Skitch or Puppet Pals.
Children love working with technology; they love its intuitive nature, the way they can interact with it and the independence that it gives them. There is a real opportunity here to engage with our technological natives in ways that will help them start to make those first crucial steps on the learning journey. Surely as teachers and parents, we have to be open to the enormous possibilities on offer?