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iPlay, iLearn, iGrow

Nicola Yelland and Carla Gilbert investigate tablet technology for young children.  The Executive summary:

'This report presents the findings from a project that used tablet technology
with young children (aged 2 to 6 years of age) in three different early childhood
settings. The project was designed to explore the possibilities for learning in
each setting to determine if the use of tablets is appropriate for this age group.
The project builds on the successful IBM KidSmart Early Learning Program by
exploring the potential of tablet technologies for knowledge building, meaning
making and learning. Reconceptualising KidSmart requires going beyond using
new tablet technologies as playthings like blocks, puzzles or construction toys.
Educators need to be aware of the wider range of uses of tablets to enable
learners to become creators, innovators and to support them in their reflections
about the things around them. This project was designed to investigate this
potential but in the first instance it was essential to:

1. Describe what constitutes effective pedagogies when using tablet
technologies in early childhood settings
2. Examine the potential of new applications to support the teaching and
learning of literacy and numeracy with young children
3. Explore the ways in which tablet technologies can be incorporated and
integrated into early childhood curricula to support new forms of meaning
making, knowledge building and learning in the early childhood years.
4. Work with teachers to explore professional learning opportunities that
will enable teachers to effectively incorporate tablet technologies into their
programs.

The main findings by age group were:
a. 2 - 3 year olds (Mother’s group): The tablets created learning contexts that
encouraged interactions and collaborations between children, opportunities
for them to converse with adults to increase their language and vocabulary
skills, and to build the foundation skills (e.g. sorting, matching, classifying).
b. 4 year olds (Kindergarten): The tablet play was a stimulus for conversations,
a source of collaborations and a location for social encounters. The
tablets were successfully integrated into a play-based program, providing
opportunities for choice and self-regulation of activities. There was
a glimpse of the potential of the tablets to be a resource for reflection,
investigations and documentation of lived experiences.
c. 5/6 year olds in a (Preparatory class): The tablets’ use supported basic
skills for learning and advanced language skills for children who were
being inducted into school ways of ‘doing’ and ‘being’. Individual and
small group learning was experienced with a detailed focus on conceptual
understanding (building number skills, recognition of letters and sounds,
word knowledge), using language in context (eBooks) and as a stimulus for
talking in English (often a second language).

Recommendations
1. Tablet technologies should be incorporated into play based early childhood
learning contexts since they represent an exciting and viable resource for
young children from aged 2 to 6 years to support explorations and learning.
2. The pedagogical repertoires of teachers and carers need to be extended so
that they are able to incorporate the potential of new tablet technologies
into early learning experiences.
3. The use of tablets should go beyond a narrow focus on concept and skill
building to incorporate opportunities for playful explorations, reflections
and investigations.
4. The provision of Professional Development and resources about research
based activities incorporating tablet technology would assist teachers to
promote engagement with ideas and deep learning. '

 

Full report available at the link below.