Completing professional experience placement online with eKindy
Nicole Piltz, an early childhood student, and resident in the Queensland town of Mt Isa has overcome the dual challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic and her remote location to complete her professional experience placement with eKindy, an early learning program designed for children who cannot access a centre-based kindergarten program due to distance, medical condition or itinerant family lifestyle.
Ms Piltz, who studies with the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) told local news source The North West Star that she “felt right at home” during her placement, during which she spent three weeks educating some of Queensland’s youngest and most isolated learners remotely, gaining valuable practical experience without leaving her house.
eKindy launched in Queensland in 2012, and uses video conferencing to engage children in play based learning, while connecting them up with other kindergarten children and families during sessions run by an early childhood teacher.
As well as supporting children, the program allows preservice teachers such as Ms Piltz to have supervised professional experience placements, a requirement for the successful completion of their degree.
Speaking about her experience, Ms Piltz, who is in her second year of study, said supporting young children one on one via video conferencing was “a big learning curve” and that her teaching modality needed to include more descriptive language in order to ensure she was clearly understood.
Maintaining the attention and engagement of the child was also something that was more challenging when working with children online.
“What if they got up from their chair and walked away? It’s not like I can pull them back, so it was important I created lots of fun activities that kept them interested and engaged,” she told The North West Star.
The availability of digital placement was something which saved her from needing to travel more than 900 km to Townsville to complete her next placement, Ms Piltz said, highlighting the challenges faced by preservice teachers in rural and remote parts of Australia.
Speaking on behalf of USQ, Early Childhood lecturer Dr Alice Brown said the eKindy placement was a unique opportunity for preservice teachers to learn from experienced early childhood educators about teaching online, while also giving them an understanding of the challenges faced by parents and children living in a variety of contexts and locations.