The development of information and communication technology (ICT) has expanded the opportunities for families and those in early education to share information and encourages greater engagement, says the Ministry of Education.
The Ministry says, “Children’s learning and development is fostered when communication with parents and family/whanau is actively maintained.
“Families have the greatest influence on young children’s learning, and ICT can enable parents, families and communities to be included in their children’s early learning in new ways.”
Linking family and community is one of the four key principles of the early childhood curriculum, and ICT has become a critical component of this, says the Ministry.
Digital technologies provide accessibility and the means to access and share information from a range of locations on a range of devices, meaning engaging with a child’s learning is less prohibited by location and time constraints.
The ease of access to multimedia also increases the engagement factor as children and adults alike can make use of graphic and multimedia functions, says the Ministry. It encourages children to share a project, grade or topic with their caregiver.
A few years ago, Kidspace Quality Early Learning Centre applied for a professional learning programme with an ICT focus. The team began with small innovations and followed a self-review process to trial equipment and skills.
They started by using digital cameras to make posters of children’s learning experiences as a focus for conversations with parents and teachers, and began a blog as a way of sharing the centre’s activities and inviting parents to comment.
“A learning community is a place of collective participation. One of the ways participants are connected together as a ‘community’ engaged in learning is through the community’s practice being made public or documented,” reads a statement from the Assessment for Learning.
While digital technology has the potential to increase engagement, it is important to already have a strong foundation.
The Ministry says digital technology complements face-to-face interactions and work most effectively in contexts where the relationship between the early childhood setting and family already exist.
“All ICT developments within early childhood education need to empower the child to learn and grow, support the holistic way children learn, support the wider world of family and community, and provide for reciprocal relationships between people, places and things,” the Ministry says.