Reflective questions support educators to challenge digital assumptions
Academic staff from the New Zealand Tertiary College (NZTC) were supported with first hand learning on early childhood and information technology from international early childhood education and care (ECEC) expert, Dr Chip Donohue in a recent professional development session.
Staff were encouraged to reflect on the ways in which tertiary educators can prepare those entering the ECEC profession to guide the children of tomorrow in a rapidly transforming world. The recap of the session has been shared by The Sector to support ongoing learning and reflective practice for Australian educators.
During the session, Dr Donohue shared ideas from his upcoming work Exploring Key Issues in Early Childhood and Technology: Evolving Perspectives and Innovative Approaches, due to be released later in 2019.
Dr Donohue encouraged educators to challenge past assumptions, asking “are young children addicted to screens, or are they in the early years of an engaging and empowering relationship with technology tools?”
He advised against adopting an either/or approach to technology, instead encouraging educators to consider the opportunities that can be opened for young children’s learning, provided they maintain a “healthy diet” of screen consumption.
“It’s not that screens are good or bad. It’s not tech or nature. It’s not that children are more isolated than ever or children are more connected than ever,” he said.
Rather, Dr Donohue emphasised the capacity of technology to enhance human communication, connection and collaboration. He described educators as curators of children’s screen-based experiences, acknowledging the important role they play in helping young children to develop healthy screen-based habits.
NZTC Academic Dean Sean Dolan said the ideas presented in the session “should be front of mind for all educators”, saying the role played by educators working directly with children was a vital one, which shaped the way children relate to, and interact with, screen-based technology.
“It is critical that our students are aware of the opportunities and challenges surrounding technology in early childhood so they can create positive digital learning environments to support future generations,” Mr Dolan said.
Appropriate and quality interactions with technology and children were not a consideration 30 years ago, however in that time, Dr Donohue said, the landscape had rapidly evolved.
“Educators of young children have a tremendous role and opportunity in the digital age. Parents are coming to early childhood teachers with their concerns about screen time. I love the idea that early childhood teachers can consciously accept the role of helping parents in this age.”
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