The question of how children learn most effectively is a common topic of discussion among educators. Many young children are growing up in a world that is increasingly dominated by digital technologies. These children bring a range of computer-related skills and learning dispositions to early childhood services.
Young children live in a world of interactive media. They are growing up at ease with digital devices that are rapidly becoming the tools of the culture at home, at school, at work, and in the community. An assessment that was conducted by Debbie de Jong, a learning specialist from the Seven Circles educational consultancy in partnership with Vastratech, recognized an opportunity for change at the Blair Athol School in Kromdraai to enhance the English language skills of the Grade R students.
The children at the school are taught English as a second language and their first language is an African language. The assessment program also planned to outline specific benefits for both the children and the teacher. The assessment was developed as a holistic solution that offered software content, quality didactic accessories and over 400 lesson plan ideas which would be conducted from a SMART board making it perfect for the early childhood classroom.
Two teachers participated in the program. One teacher received a SMART board, software solution called Eduquest and a facilitator to assist with the technology throughout the six months. The other teacher did not receive any technology intervention and her classroom was used as the control group in order to derive any comparison after the duration of the program. The students that participated in the assessment were from disadvantaged backgrounds or poverty stricken homes. The program lasted for six months beginning in February of 2016 and two teachers and their students were assessed for that period.
Phase 1 of the assessment took place in February of 2016 where the children were assessed on their current English skills and knowledge in both participating classes. Phase 2 took place in August of 2016 and the children were re-assessed using the same assessment tools which created a platform for accurate data analysis. The Phase 1 observation and assessment had poor results as the children were unfamiliar with a number of tasks and struggled to achieve simple tasks such as “sit down”, “turn the page”, and could not answer questions such as “what is your name?”. Their teachers had to assist them in all of these tasks and translate the instructions for the children into an African language. The children struggled with their pencil grip and control and failed to stabilize their page which indicated poor development of bilateral integration.
Phase 2 of the assessment took place in August of 2016. The program aimed to determine a positive change with the use of the ICT intervention vs traditional teaching. The assessment measured the following skills:
- Visual perceptual development,
- Visual motor integration,
- Basic concepts,
- Expressive vocabulary,
- Conceptual thinking,
- Shapes and colours,
- Numbers and counting.
The class that was used as the control group saw little to no change with all the above skills.
The class that received the ICT intervention and training saw a huge change in their skills. The children showed more mature behavior and responded well to tasks and questions. The children in the ICT classroom went a step further by assisting each other with their given tasks. Drastic improvements were achieved by the children with regards to stabilization, pencil grip, and control as well as postural endurance on task behavior. By August 2016 the children with exposure to technological teaching had advanced their skills tremendously.
Significance in language development was also seen with the children in the ICT classroom. The children needed no translation at all when instructed to perform a certain task whereas the children in the control group classroom constantly needed their teacher to translate and intervene for them with their tasks.
This assessment proves that introducing technology into a classroom full of young children is effective and is beneficial for their knowledge and skill development. What is most important is to implement the training and facilitation of the technology for the teacher as this also boosts the teacher’s pedagogical skills and confidence because technology on its own cannot do anything until it is effectively put to use.