Technology is no substitute for play and imagination in my centre
Amy Meatchem – Centre Director, Goodstart Mona Vale
Technology is all around us and it’s not hard to see that in coming years we’re going to become ever more reliant on it in our daily lives.
It’s important that children grow up being tech-savvy. They need to function and be successful in this digital world of ours, but in my centre at Mona Vale
, technology plays a quieter role than you may expect in the learning and development of children.
That’s not to say we shun technology – not at all. We use iPads each day as educators to document our observations on each child and plan their individual programs. We also use them to share photos and videos of their progress with families, via StoryPark our online family community.
Using technology for these processes saves us countless hours each week, and it means we can truly respond to and plan for children’s individual needs and interests. When I first started in child care, everything was paper based and it took hours to complete any type of observation or planning which meant much less time engaging with children.
StoryPark has also improved our ability to engage with parents, making the relationship much more authentic and keeping them close to the developmental journey of their child.
When it comes to technology with our centre’s children though, we could be regarded as being a little ‘old fashioned’ because play, curiosity, nature and imagination are still king. Technology’s role is to complement this and help us to extend learning, but in my centre it’s never a replacement for what comes naturally to children.
The curriculum at Goodstart centres around Australia reflect the needs and wants of their local communities. For us at Mona Vale that means using nature and play to stimulate learning but equally at some Goodstart Centres, like East Perth, technology plays a more formal role in early education and development.
Both approaches have merit, and both are centred on using play as a vessel for problem solving, exploring opinions and higher levels of inquiry. Play initiates conversation and questioning and opens the door for us to capitalise on a child’s interest in that moment and extend their learning.
The extension of learning is where we start to use technology more at Mona Vale. For example, we’ll use our iPads or the centre’s Prowise smartboard (which is like a giant iPad!) to do research and learn more about a particular subject.
This is a powerful use of technology, because it hasn’t replaced the children’s need for play and exploration but rather it’s enabled us to extending their learning while they’re still ‘in the moment’.
Equally though, sometimes we consciously don’t turn to technology to find all the answers. We’ll often sit together, think about solutions and talk about ideas. The objective is to stimulate thought and reflection, not to simply find the answers straight away.
I’m also very conscious of mitigating any potential negative effects of technology on children. Given how quickly technology has grown in our lives over the last decade, the research in this area is still developing and opinions vary, but there’s consensus starting to emerge around style, time and regularity.
To approach the issue in terms of ‘limiting screen time’ is too simplistic, as not all screen time is equal. Like most things, there’s both good quality and poor quality when it comes to screen time, but it always needs to be balanced with developing holistic skills like physical, literacy, numeracy and social-emotional development.
Getting that balance right is a huge area of focus in my centre, as it should be in any high quality early learning environment.