Unpacking the Early Childhood Australia Statement on Young Children and Digital Technology

One of Visionext’s valued team members, Michelle Gregory recently presented a webinar as part of the SMART Tech2Tech series. Her webinar on Unpacking the Early Childhood Australia Statement on Young Children and Digital Technology is also available at a SMART site for educators to learn more about transforming education through technology.

This webinar recording will deconstruct the Early Childhood Australia Statement on young children and digital technology by linking to classroom practice and identifying how to incorporate elements of SLS. For example, there is an emphasis on play and pedagogy in the statement, which leads nicely into the use of some of the LAB activities in SLS.

We are delighted to share her webinar with you.


Visionext engaged Michelle Gregory in early 2018 as our Early Childhood Trainer. She has been instrumental in providing tailored training to our Early Childhood customers.

Michelle’s developed her experience as a Centre Director at various locations. During more than 9 years at the University of Wollongong – Early Start, her time was spent as a Lecturer, Learning Technologist & Engagement and Professional Development Specialist. Her role as a Learning Technologist included supporting 41 locations across NSW training and implementing various technology into their centres.

Michelle’s expertise includes:

  • Associate Research Fellow University of Wollongong
  • SMART accredited trainer
  • B. Ed (Early Childhood)
  • Masters in Research
  • Interested in the use of technology to overcome distance barriers in early education and open a world of opportunity for young children
  • Mum of three

This webinar recording will deconstruct the Early Childhood Australia Statement on young children and digital technology by linking to classroom practice and identifying how to incorporate elements of SLS. For example, there is an emphasis on play and pedagogy in the statement, which leads nicely into the use of some of the SMART LAB activities in SMART Learning Suite.

Hi everyone and welcome to today’s webinar unpacking the Early Childhood Australia statement on young children and digital technology.

My name is Kendall Havenstein and I am the Marketing and Operations Manager for SMART Technologies Australia New Zealand, and I will be moderating this webinar today supporting the presenter in the background asking any questions that you may have. We will have a segment a couple of minutes at the end for you to ask questions directly to the presenter. But if any questions pop up throughout please feel free to just click on the speech bubble with the question mark inside on the control panel and I will be here to answer any questions you may have.

So you can earn a certificate for this webinar if you log on to https://training.smarttech.com/  and you’ll find a recording to this webinar with the certificate attached at the end.

If you’re attending the webinar now you can just scroll to the end of the webinar and click on the mark complete button and automatically generate your PDF certificate.

I normally have their recordings edited with the certificates attached at the end I normally have them up and running on training.SMARTTech.com the following week so for instance, this webinar will be up by next Wednesday at the latest. I do aim to get them there sooner and I usually get them there on Friday. So, if you check back next Wednesday to get a certificate or listen to the recording it’ll definitely be out there.

Okay, without further ado I would like to introduce today’s presenter. So today we have Michelle Gregory from the University of Wollongong. Michelle is an early childhood teacher. She has a master’s in philosophy from the University of Wollongong and she is a SMART Certified educator and casual tutor at the School of Education and also an Associate Research Fellow at Early Start. Michelle is interested in the use of technology to overcome distance barriers in early education and open up a world of opportunity to young children and she is also a mum of three.

So, without further ado, I would like to pass it over to Michelle. Thanks, everyone.

Thanks, Kendall.

I’m just going to get my screen to catch up to where we’re up to.

Hi everyone and thanks for joining in today as the title tells you we are going to Unpack the New Digital Statement for Digital Technology and young children from ECA which was released in 2018. But before we get started, I thought I just want you to put in your minds one word that kind of sums up your thoughts about technology when working with young children. So, there might be one word or a couple of words that come to mind that when you think about you know our youngest children and we’re talking about children that may still be in preschool and also those children that have perhaps just started kindergarten a few weeks ago. And how we feel about those young children and their exposure to technology in today’s learning environment. Obviously, children are leading very digital lives and digital technology is accessible to very young children. So they not only observe others using digital technology around them every day but they also participate in the digital world whether it’s using devices with their parents or their siblings or their educators and many of them also have a digital profile from birth or even before through photographs and ultrasounds and anecdotes that are posted online.

While we may not know a lot about the effects of technology on young children at this state if we do obviously know a lot about education. So, children like to be simulated they like to be engaged they like to you know be doing hands-on activities and so the use of technology in education is actually no different.

So, we need to really think about it from that perspective. I encourage you to perhaps Google the new AARC Centre of Excellence which has just been established at the end of last year and into this year called the Digital Child.  So that’s going to be a new research centre that studies children’s digital lives from birth for a number of years so looking at the changes that are happening from a very young age and how it’s impacting their lives as they transition through all those different types of education into formal schooling.

Now when we think about early education and technology one thing that we really must think about is digital play so we must not forget that young children learn the best through play and that introduces the notion of digital play. So, what is digital play? So essentially, it’s just an interaction with a piece of technology but what we need to think about is that it’s the first new type of play that we’ve had in more than a hundred years and so we’re really grappling to understand what it is.

There is no evidence base to support or deny the benefits of digital play or how it should be working. We can think about what the context of the play is. So pretend play, imaginative play it’s this play teaches us about our social world and that world now involves technology. So, the reality is that these young children have access to technology and they’re are surrounded by technology. So, it’s looking for a pathway that works for you as an educator or even as a parent exploring what is possible and not just succumbing to what the dangers of technology may be.

Now, this may be a little bit difficult to see but these are two images of a play cycle so play is seen as the way that children learn in early childhood and their young schooling lives and with more and more settings providing children with technologies we need to understand how they learn through this. There is a document called the digital play framework that provides a list of behaviours that children exhibit as they’re learning to use technology through play so they might be learning the functions of the technology and what it can do then they might master it as a tool and then they take it out into their imaginative play so the digital play framework has a list of children’s play behaviours as they learn to use things like iPads computers digital still cameras and digital video cameras and all the other things that we can introduce to them. One student of practice behaviours with devices and they’ve mastered technology as a tool they move into more play behaviour so we can recognise you know symbolic and creative behaviours while using their technology. So it might be the use of an iPad as a device in their home corner play or their free play. It might be the use of you know more technology pieces in their creative work so using pieces of Technology as they’re being creative and it’s through these behaviours whether it’s involving a device or not where we can see a lot of learning occurring.

So, where do we go with technology and how do we move beyond this notion of screen time so screen time has been around for a long time and a lot of I guess media coverage is given to the words of screen time and how to avoid too much screen time.

But we need to really think to go back to thinking about what the pedagogical practices of our technology use is and move beyond just tech support we need to engage in things like this so things like professional development and keeping that frequent and monitoring. I think one of the hardest things around technology is that it is ever-changing so something that you may learn one year could be obsolete the next because there’s another new piece of technology out. So that’s something to really consider and then thinking about policy and program development so as educators being media mentors and exhibiting really positive technology behaviours is really important. I’ll talk about that a little bit later on as well so.

I said today we’re going to unpack the new statement on young children and digital technologies so this statement was released in 2018 at the Early Childhood Australia conference in Sydney and it came in response to a number of course not only from educators but also from parents and other people that work with young children saying that we really don’t have any guidance or any framework around technology. We obviously we have in early childhood we have the early years learning framework and we also have assessment and raining criteria’s that we work towards but none of that really gave us a lot of practical advice or guidance on how the further integrate technology into an early learning environment how to achieve quality with that technology and also how to meet some of the criteria that we are looking for.  So, things like screen time you know positive healthy behaviours and that sort of thing. So early childhood Australia worked with a number of people to develop the statement that provides some principles and also some really practical advice to allow us to reflect on the role of digital technology and how we can optimally use that for young children and also support families and parents and caregivers in navigating that kind of tricky issue.

In my next couple of slides, I’ve got some screenshots of the statement, but Kendall has also got a handout of just the summary version of this statement that you can actually sort of go through and have a look at in your own time. It is freely downloadable from the ECA website and there are two versions so there’s the long document that gives you a lot of context and a lot of information behind it and then there’s this document that I’m sharing with you today which kind of just summarises a lot of the key points and a lot of the practical advice so it’s a lot easier to digest and a little bit easier to read through.

So, as you can see there up from the image there are four key principles that are outlined in the statement being relationships, citizenship, health & well-being, and play & pedagogy and we’re just going to unpack them briefly and have a look at what sort of things are looking at and then I’m going to link them back to obviously a SMART Notebook and our SMART Board. So, if we’ve got a SMART Board in the classroom and we’re looking at you know some of these principles in terms of guiding what we’re doing how can we do that with this kind of statement in mind. Even though this statement does come from early childhood Australia it’s obviously the guiding principles are also something that applies to you know children outside of early learning environments so as I said those children in you know K to 2 and even beyond and there’s lots of helpful information in there as well.

So the first I element of the statement is relationships and so looking at I’m kind of addressing that big issue that when children are using making use of technology they’re quite isolated they can be quite solitary so how do we foster relationships in a digital context? So looking at things like not only with educators but also with families so sharing with our family working together but also in the classroom things like turn-taking and because children are so keen to make use of the technology they’re often very self-regulated in terms of developing their turn-taking sharing skills together it can help with their attention span in their engagement and the interactivity with their peers and it can also give them some confidence in terms of their own learning so they can take some ownership as the users of the technology and support themselves in terms of how they’re going to learn.

So we want to foster children’s peer-to-peer interactions with some co-learning around digital technology so model how we can have social interactions even though we have devices and also create a shared understanding in terms of how are we as adults use technology when children are around us.

I think one of the key things that you can show from Smart Notebook in terms of relationships is some of our LAB activities and this is just an example that I’ve got here so this is one of the super sort lab activities which you could easily have up in the classroom. Here was simply sorting our food products from healthy food to sometimes food and so this is a really good thing where we’re thinking about things like turn-taking we’re using small groups and the children are going to work together to solve the problems answer all the questions and get to the end of that activity together. So there’s certainly a lot of relationships being built here the children are going to obviously work in groups are not going to be sitting using devices by themselves so thinking about how these activities can be used in the classroom and fostering those interactions together.

The second principle and I know I’m going through them quite quickly and as I said I encourage you to look at the document yourself as well the second principle is health and well-being and this is where we really come into those debates around kind of screen time, sedentary behaviours that are fostered by technology and all the things around sleep and fostering good sleep and the use of technology before night.

One of the key things I have to say about screen time is that was a term that was coined well before mobile technology existed so it looks at things like sedentary TV so watching TV shows well before we have things like iPads and apps and things that really can actually foster a lot of physical activity. We need to consider that not all screens are equal and not all digital play is equal, and we really need to look at what we’re solitary digital play is actually more of a concern than time. So if we’ve got children working together on activities such as super sort or on you know stem apps construction apps all those sorts of things it’s really about the quality of the content and what are they working towards what are the processes that they’re going through rather than the sedentary behaviour that they might be exhibiting. I encourage you to again look up someone called Jocelyn Brewer so Jocelyn coined the term digital nutrition and that was where she was talking about well not or not all screens are equal and we might have a screen that’s like broccoli and a screen that’s like ice cream and so obviously the broccoli screen you know we would encourage them to be able to use that freely whereas we might want to limit something like an ice cream. So she’s freely available with lots of news that is a really great content that you can look at around you know health and well-being and screen time and how we support them to be active in their digital context and not reducing things like physical activity and posture talks about things like vision as I said those sleep behaviours in terms of using technology before bed and also emotional well-being through the use of technology.

I thought this was all going to blast ants go marching this in – it’s a really simple example that I often show to early childhood educators so a lot of early childhood services do use YouTube obviously in their classroom and I’m sure lots of school classrooms do as well but there’s lots of great content on YouTube as well and obviously within SMART Notebook, we can embed our YouTube videos into our lessons without having to go out to the Internet so that’s a really great feature where we can create a pool of safe and useful YouTube videos that might foster things like physical activity they might be dance things they might be yoga things but we can pull all those together and get a really good repository together of material that doesn’t necessarily detract from children’s physical activity with technology.

The next point of the statement is part three and its Citizenship and I think this is a really important one you know from children very young right through to high school obviously. But looking at what our children are participating in when they’re online and when they’re using technology so things like our right to digital access obviously our digital privacy and our online safety and how do we communicate with that that with young children and forcing them to actually have an understanding of that there are some really great articles out at the moment around asking children’s permission before we take their photos and we upload them to Facebook and what does that mean and what does that teach young children if we’re asking them about those sorts of things from an early age.

Again we’re looking at the use of technology as a reward and why it’s often used as a thing for behaviour management so self-regulation can be challenged by a lot of apps that are made for digital technology and that’s it you know that’s what they do they’re designed and they’re aimed at being addictive so that children and young people do play them a lot and that’s where we can you know find those challenging behaviours so it’s placing those parameters around how we’re going to self-regulate, whether we’re going to curve you in those instances so that we can help with the interactions and with the self-regulation in terms of knowing when to turn off and that sort of thing.

Something I always show educators is this and this is obviously a very early childhood specific example but I walk into lots of early learning services and I find they’ve got lots of beautiful activities set up and tables around Wombats Stew and lots of paintings and then they might have some iPads out for the children to use but the iPads are always accompanied with a big black, well not necessarily always black but a big timer. I always ask them the question about what are we time the use on a device as opposed to the use of paints or crafts or blocks and that sort of thing. Is it now the screen time that we’re worried about? Is it the social interactions that we’re worried about? and how can we change this practice to get some more high-quality interaction in the learning environment?

And that says something to consider whether or not that’s something that’s present in your teaching environment as well whether there is a time limit on how long we can use those devices and just what we might be limiting young children with if we are doing that.

The final point of the statement and probably one of the most important ones is around play and pedagogy. So, as we said before digital play is an essential part of early learning so how do we integrate technology in line with kind of our philosophy for young children and their learning. Something to think about is that children can shift from the screen to the off-screen a lot more easily than we as adults can so where we might feel that children are locked into a place online the children can actually make that shift back to the real world really easily and apps can be a place where children can actually be heard so a lot of children that might be maybe quieter and that sort of thing might actually find that technology is a place where they can be heard.

So we don’t leave children to just play with other items we often have interactions with them at the blocks or sitting at tables or you know in different areas of the classroom so why would we do that with technology and I often question educators about why technology is viewed as something that we can hand to children and walk away.

So, what is the pedagogy behind using it? and what do we want them to achieve from it? Things like exploration, social interactions collaboration and just general learning in the digital context is all covered and engaging in active decision-making about the use and the non-use of our digital technology.  It’s not something there to replace what we’re doing but you know how can we enhance our pedagogy by making use of it?

An example that I have here with my own children is the use of Louisa my children of us in love Bluey as does everybody and it was really interesting that they were watching these episodes of Bluey and then I caught them one day acting it out so acting out the crane Bluey goes to the park and he uses us like a skilled testing machine and so they collected all their toys and put them in their lap and then they were being the crane and they were actually acting out what they’d seen on the screen. So, it was a really nice kind of transition between the screen and off-screen and then a really nice play experience for them too there was lots of language being used. You know again turn-taking they both had a turn at being the crane they were correcting each other oh no this is how they say it, and this is the words that they use and that sort of thing. So, it’s really nice to see how they could shift from that online world to the offline in real life.

I’ve covered lots of content there and again as I said this statement is readily available for you to view but a kind of a few key points around children’s early digital engagement.

Number One – as I said is it’s there to enhance and not replace so looking at the difference between I guess the utilisation of technology so where it might be a little bit random it’s kind of rare and sporadic it’s often used mainly to instruct content by the educator as opposed to that integration. So where it’s really part of the children’s every day it’s planned it’s purposeful and it’s used to support our learning goals and our learning objectives with the students in mind that’s something to think about you know the way that we want to use it and the way what we want to achieve with it.

The key points of the statement as I said our relationships, citizenship, playing & pedagogy and health & well-being so remembering that tick the magic comes from the child and the teacher and the educator not from the device so it’s not this the latest bit of technology that’s going to achieve the results it’s more about how we can use it, how we can integrate it and how we can work together to get the most out of the digital context.

Moving beyond screen time technology is more effective when it’s used together. So whether it’s engaging together, whether it’s using it to communicate with others, whether it’s learning together or creating things together capitalizing on the children’s interest in technology and really seizing the moment, so if they’re really engaged in something seizing that moment and getting the most out of it for them.

And the last little point as my daughter has just starting kindergarten & has been coming home and telling me about ‘filling her bucket’ and ‘filling the bucket of her friends so I think I will run with that. “Filling your bucket” basically means engaging in PD. It’s amazing how many educators and teachers out there have never actually done any professional development around technology or digital technology and integration yet expect it to be something that’s part of their everyday. So yeah, “filling up your bucket”, finding experiences like this whether it’s webinars, whether it’s face-to-face workshops but things that really can support how you want to use technology in your environment and help you get the most about it.

I get you to, I’ll ask you to reflect back on that first word that you thought of before we started which was the word that comes to mind when you think about young children’s digital engagement and technology use and just think about what happens when we make assumptions about our students based on our own fund of knowledge. So, if your word was maybe a little bit negative or a little bit scared, I get scared an awful lot, scared, nervous, unsure. If that’s your word around children’s use of technology in their early years of school, think about how that might be impacting your students and then yet working towards filling your own bucket with lots of more knowledge and ideas that you can use in the classroom.

That’s it from me. So that’s me and that’s obviously my three little ones in the corner. Please feel free to send me an email if you’ve got any more questions as I said there was a lot of content in the statement and it’s very hard to run through it in 20 or 25 minutes but it is as I said readily available so please have a look at it, draw from it what you can, use it to speak to parents and families about you know what you’re doing in the digital context and what they can do as well when they’re working with there were there to own children at home.

Thanks very much for joining and I’ll hand back to Kendall.

Great, thank you so much for that.

Michelle does anybody have any questions?

I would like to ask Michelle directly today, so you can log on just to do our Smart Exchange and there’s loads of free content and resources so that’s at the link for that is content on smart tech comm just down there in the bottom right-hand corner that’s smart exchange in this lots of lesson templates and yet loads of valuable content.

And for those who missed the beginning of this webinar, I did mention that you could get a certificate for this webinar and you can also locate their recording if you would like to really listen to it and share it amongst your teaching team. If you’re doing your staff meetings you can do so you should just log on to smarttech.com today. There’s actually a whole library in there, of last year’s webinars from each term and also, I upload each one each week, so I’ll get this one up there by next Wednesday at the latest.

I normally do get them up there a bit sooner so you’ll be able to find that there at least by next Wednesday 19th and then next week we have Whole Road Highs School SMART Journey on Wednesday the 26th do you like to attend that and then on Wednesday the 4th of March we have how to create quick and simple activities in the Smart Notebook for the early years classroom and then the last but not least we actually have students running the webinar from a Public School in Sydney New South Wales so that will be very interesting and that’s on Wednesday the 11th looking forward to that one as well.

Okay, so I think that’s about it, and I hope everyone has enjoyed their afternoon.

Thanks, everyone


Download a pdf transcript of this webinar Unpacking the Early Childhood Australia Statement on Young Children and Digital Technology

If you would like to see how a SMART Board might fit into your classroom or would like additional training call us on 1300 139292