16 SES 13 B, ICT in Early Childhood Education
We live in a constantly changing society in which digital technologies are becoming a necessary part of our everyday life, and playing an increasingly important role. These technologies have also changed the way our children behave in their everyday life, regarding playing, communicating and learning (Morgan, 2010; Nikolopoulou, 2014; Plowman & Stephen, 2003; Siraj-Blatchford & Siraj-Blatchford, 2006; Yelland & Kilderry, 2010). For instance, according to the Swedish media council’s annual report (2017) daily use of the internet among young children has dramatically increased since 2010. The continuously rapid development of digital technologies has created an interesting set of opportunities and challenges for learning and development but has also placed new demands on individuals’ knowledge and skills (Säljö, 2009).
During the last decade, digital technologies have become an indispensable part of the Swedish educational settings. According to the Swedish media council (2015) 100 % of preschools in Sweden have access to the internet and 65% of internet use is related to activities with children. Over 80% of preschools have access to computers and tablet computers. The same report reveals that about 85 % of preschools have access to big screens projectors, TVs and digital whiteboards, of which over 20% relate to access to digital whiteboards (Findahl & Davidsson, 2015). As a consequence, using digital technologies have become a common feature in preschools’ daily practices.
Investments to integrate Information, Communication and Technology (ICT) in preschool educational practices are increasing. The Swedish curriculum for preschool highlights the use of digital technologies both in developing and applying creative processes (The Swedish National Agency for Education, 2011, p. 7). Similarly, a large number of Swedish preschools and schools have significantly invested in ICT and enhancing teachers’ ICT competences (Kjällander, 2014).
Such great investments have been made to make use of the benefits of the digital technologies to promote children’s learning process, so questions about the usefulness of digital technologies in educational settings can be seen as one of the key questions for the public. In other words, the initiatives that have been conducted to integrate digital technologies are costly, both in terms of time and money, so it is in alignment with the societies interest that the use of digital tools is reviewed and discussed.
A large number of preschool teachers do not or cannot use the opportunities that digital technologies offer in early childhood education (see Ljung-Djärf, 2004; Masoumi, 2015). It seems that there is a gap between the availability of digital technologies in preschools and preschool teachers’ use of this technology in educational settings. This study, accordingly, addresses the above-mentioned knowledge gap and wishes to contribute to the current knowledge about the use of digital technologies in preschools’ educational practices. Thus, the study aims to investigate the ways preschool teachers use interactive whiteboard and how these ways can scaffold young children to think analytically.
An increasing number of international studies have focused on the use of IWBs in schools (see Kervin, Verenikina, Wrona, & Jones, 2010; Klerfelt, 2010; Maher, 2011; Mercer, Hennessy, & Warwick, 2010). However, few studies have investigated how preschool teachers use IWBs to scaffold young children’s learning. Mathematics education is chosen in this study as a delimitation to explore the ways preschool teachers use digital technologies to design and structure their pedagogical practices. By looking at how preschool teachers use IWBs in their educational practices, we try to map the ways that digital technologies can be used to scaffold young children´s learning.
In order to investigate and understand more about the ways preschool teachers use interactive whiteboard (IWB) and how these ways can scaffold young children to think analytically three preschool teachers using interactive whiteboards in their preschool’s practices were video observed. These observations focused on the ways that preschool teachers use IWBs to scaffold young children’s education in general and mathematical education in particular. In line with socio-cultural theorizing notions, the unit of analysis in this study was the teachers’ activities and the ways they scaffold the children’s learning. Wood, Bruner, and Ross (1976) categories of scaffolding were particularly taken into account. According to their categories, children learn through interacting with an adult who i) recruits their interest and adherence to the task requirement, ii) reduces degrees of freedom so the learner can fit into the task, iii) conducts direction maintenance and finally iv) marks critical features and demonstrates models’ solutions so the child can imitate them. The main research focus was on how preschool teachers interact, communicate and use IWBs with preschool children. The preschool teachers, who participated in the study planned and conducted their mathematic sessions using IWB, without interventions or suggestions from the researchers. Each of the preschool teachers’ mathematics teaching sessions was video recorded and lasted between 20-35 minutes. All video material was reviewed by researchers several times to approach and develop an overall understanding of the empirical data. Relevant excerpts were then chosen in relation to the purpose of the study, in order to conduct further analyses. These excerpts were then analyzed in line with the categories of scaffolding used by Woods et al. (1976). The Swedish Research Council’s ethical principles for research (2011) were taken into account both in the planning and implementation of the study.
The preliminary results of our study indicate that preschool teachers use IWBs to scaffold young children to think analytically in different ways. First of all, preschool teachers use available features in IWB to develop activities based on the children’s interests and engage them to the given activities. The preschool teachers give children opportunities to explore and solve the given learning activities in their own ways on the IWB. Preschool teachers can also scaffold children through reducing degrees of freedom and drawing children’s focus to the specified learning outcomes, by choosing a specific learning object on the IWB. By asking challenging questions about the given activities on IWB, preschool teachers direct children’s attentions to the addressed activities on the board. The IWBs big screen and possibility to move the objects on the screen gives an opportunity for preschool teachers to exemplify the contrast of the learning objects. Also, the ways teachers raise challenging questions motivate children to reflect analytically, for example through matching the number of dots on the screen of the IWB with the given number. Further, the multisensory resources of the IWB and its big screen can help preschool teachers to mark critical features in a given task and scaffold children to think analytically.
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