Early education in the digital age

This article gives educators and parents a flavour of how one Donegal Pre-school has used the MOSAIC Educator app (www.mosaicelc.ie) to enrich their ICT curriculum through the interactive use of technology in a way that is meaningful and fun for children.

Research shows that the benefits of technology are much greater when the screen time is interactive rather than passive, and benefits are most great when it is supervised, and other interaction accompanies the activity, such as discussion.

This article conveys the experience of an early childhood service owner and educator Clare Cassidy from Little Stars Pre-school in Ballybofey, Co Donegal who is doing just that! (check them out at https://clareslittlestars.ie/).

Clare and her team of educators use MOSAIC as a documentation tool to record children’s learning and communicate with parents. Not only have they found MOSAIC to be ‘a fantastic tool for observation, assessment, planning and especially as a way of communicating children’s interests and stories to parents on a regular basis with ease’, they are meeting Aistear learning goals in relation to children’s meaningful and enjoyable use of IT. This is what they had to say …

‘To encourage children to explore how basic technology works, the Mosaic App gave us another opportunity to take children’s ICT learning further.

As the year went on, we saw that the children seemed familiar with tablets and tended to be more than interested in tapping the screen. So, when I had a learning story typed up on MOSAIC, I made the time for us to review it together, read it out to the child, chat, introduce new words, and explain the positive dispositions in the story to build their self-esteem. It was lovely as they asked again and again, ‘what does that say about me?’ .. ‘let me see my picture’

It was lovely one to one time, they were keen to swipe through their photographs, a fun way of supporting hand–eye co- ordination development as they scrolled up backwards and forwards. One child, missing his dad who had started working away from home, was sure to tell me every week “I’m sending this to my dad too!” It became a whole collaboration; they became so competent and confident to use the tablets.

Even when we got to the ‘posting’ options at the end of the learning story – we would decide together – will we save our learning story for later to add more or will we send it to mammy/daddy now? They knew which colour of button to click for each option. The delight and pride in their wee faces as they chose ‘yes’ was quite special.

More often than not, as soon as they were collected many children would start asking their parents “did you see my pictures, did you see what I made today – I sent them to you”. And off they would go chatting, the child having initiated a conversation about their day and what they had posted as if it was the most natural thing in the world. The parents really didn’t have to ask what kind of a day they had’.

MOSAIC has given us much more than a recording tool; it has given us a meaningful way of introducing children to ICT as a crucial link between the pre-school and home’. Clare Cassidy, Little Stars Preschool, Ballybofey.

Here are some top tips to make sure children get the most out of new technology like MOSAIC:

Enable children to participate by involving them in creating their learning stories – support them to take photos of a painting, junk creation or construction.

Use the child’s voice – use children’s own words when describing what they are doing, making or their opinion.

Give them real, meaningful experiences of communicating via technology – ‘let’s send this to Mummy and see if she gets it on her phone’.

Foster positive self-image and self-esteem by using the MOSAIC Storybook as a tool for the key educator to spend 1:1 time with children.

Practice ‘cause and effect’ – e.g. what happens if we swipe here, click here, press this?

Physical activity, reading, and human interaction will always play a pivotal role in child development – this is a given! However, in the right environment, the use of meaningful IT such as MOSAIC Educator, can bring new educational experiences to young children and help them develop skills and broaden real-life experiences.

MOSAIC is an innovative electronic storybook framed around the Aistear curriculum used by educators to record, support and enhance children’s learning, development and care and communicate with parents through updates, photographs and videos in real time. See www.mosaicelc.ie or contact info@meantoir.ie for more.

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