Cutting straight through No Gender December, The Hon. Malcolm Turnbull, Minister for Communications, was delighted by the number of young girls using technology creatively at Wee Care Kindergarten where he launched Early Childhood Australia’s Digital Business Kit before Christmas.
‘It is great to see so many girls engaged here’, he said speaking at the Bondi Junction early learning centre. ‘Creativity is critically important. Machine languages and familiarity with machine languages are enormously important.’
‘Learning how to code is a vital skill. It’s going to be as vital for these kids growing up as reading and writing is. It’s not a substitute for that of course but it is another vital language.’
Ruth Weinstein, Director of Wee Care, agrees. ‘We’re very influenced by Reggio Emilia. It’s about children’s voices and allowing children to use a hundred languages to express themselves. Technology is just another form of language that they can use to express the things they’ve done’.
The Reggio inspired kindergarten offered many angles on integrating technology into children’s daily explorations. Touch screen challenges, collaborations on tangible play puzzles, an animated movie made by the pre-schoolers about saving turtles were a few examples on display.
In another corner the Architectural Planning team were hard at work on ideas for repurposing a neglected outdoor passage. The team worked with projections, digital and hand drawn images and intend to translate their ideas to a professional design via computer.
‘We need to embed innovation in every part of our culture’, Mr Turnbull said. But there is a catch.
‘It’s a conundrum,’ Mr Turnbull said. ‘In fact the percentage of women studying computing science at university is actually falling. Now, why is this so?’ According to the president of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg, ‘the problems are essentially cultural ones’ he said.
Australia’s predominantly female early childhood sector has a role to play in changing the current low female participation in the sciences and technology.
In the month where gendered toys were a hot topic, the Minister urged greater engagement in digital technologies from the earliest ages by all children.
‘If you can ensure at the earliest stage that technology and computers and screen-based devices like these are not seen as being boys things—as opposed to boys and girls things—that will make a very big difference.’
The Minister commended Ruth and her educators on the integration of technology into the rich program offered at Wee Care and the children’s creativity in using it.
‘What you’re doing is showing that the smallest children can use technology in very creative ways, from simple shapes and little movies to architectural work.’