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Research report

Integrating ICT within Play Based Curricula in the Early Years

Justine Howard, Gareth Miles and Laura Rees-Davies

In this project we explored how computer use can be successfully integrated into play-based curricula in the early years

Main Findings
  • The teachers in the current study recognise the cross curricular benefits of computing provision for young children in relation to subject specific skills but particularly in relation to facilitating autonomous learning and developing children‟s confidence.
  • The teachers in the current study felt relatively well equipped to deliver computing provision within the Foundation Phase, most had a good range of equipment and felt well supported by designated ICT co-ordinators.
  • Computers were used in a variety of ways throughout the school day and descriptions of use mainly related to continuous, enhanced and focused forms of activity provision. These forms of provision were consistent with Foundation Phase practice guidelines and appeared to be characterised by whether participation and goals were child or teacher directed. There were no differences in the observed involvement levels of children engaged in activities described by teachers as continuous, enhanced or focused. Children‟s involvement levels across the full range of provision were high.
  • Computing practice could be typified by; modality type (single classroom computer, suite or whiteboard use); teacher absence or presence and; social context (whether children worked alone, in pairs or in small or large groups).
  • There were no significant differences in involvement levels according to modality type although the highest involvement levels were those associated with children using the mini-suite.
  • Contrary to previous research, teacher presence had no detrimental effect on children‟s involvement levels.
  • Whole group activity led to the lowest levels of involvement. Paired computer use led to higher involvement levels than those associated with whole group activity but interestingly, lower levels of involvement than when the computer was being used alone or in a small group.
  • Children consistently rated the video clips presented to them of children using computers as being a lot like play. There was no relationship between how much like play an activity was perceived to be and the involvement levels of the children featured in the clips.
  • The quantitative play ratings of clips provided by the children did not reveal any effect of teacher presence. Of significance to the children was not whether a teacher was present, but rather what the teacher was doing. The children were sensitive to how much help was being given and whether this help had been requested. The children also appeared sensitive to teachers adopting a monitoring role (for example, when the teacher was standing behind the children, they described her as looking at their work and it being less like play).
  • Consistent with involvement level findings, children found solitary and small group activity more playful than whole group or paired tasks.
  • Computer activity was described as more like play when activities were self chosen, enjoyable, participated in for longer or unrestricted periods of time, involved purposeful activity and positive social interaction.
  • The use of games and websites were considered to be a lot like play, as were drawing, painting, colouring and musical activities. Less like play were writing and typing.
  • Some children were sensitive to features of classroom routine and indicated that activities were more like play because of when the activity was occurring (for example after the children featured in the clips had finished their work or after snack time).