Don’t leave it to chance. Get intentional

What is your approach to your own learning? How do you incorporate new skills, knowledge and experiences into your professional practice and private life? In ECA’s digital technology projects including the Digibiz survey of childhood educators, carers, directors, principals and managers we found some interesting patterns. Being intentional, applying the same approaches to technology learning as for other learning and having a plan make a difference.

Nine essential educator skills

ECA’s Digital Business Kit has tips for tech planning. Click the image above for more.











Some people learn best by doing. Others work their way through instructions (and may wait to receive them) while another type of learner picks up tips one at a time from those around them, colleagues, family and friends. Or perhaps there is a particular team member that helps out.

We noticed that while many people use the latest technology and tools in their private life they are not always so sure about its place in their educational practice. Educators may feel ‘out of their depth’ with technology, unsure where to begin, lacking in confidence. At Live Wires forums in October 2015 was attended by a full range of educators and carers from techxperts to techgnostics and techphobes. Some had never touched a tablet screen while others moved easily among the conversations and devices. Many remarked about young children knowing more than the educators do; not always a comfortable feeling. Inquiry-based learning, so valued in early education, is not always the first approach we adults take with technology.

In the Digibiz Survey 2015 we asked early childhood educators and carers, their directors, managers and leaders where they get information and support. It seems that planning makes a difference.

Yet starting to plan for technology need not be complicated. The skills, resources and approaches that early education and care services already possess are a good place to begin. Learn more about the Nine essentials early childhood educators already know about technology planning in Module 5 of ECA’s Digital Business Kit, a free federally funded resource).

There is a lot of fear and resistance in regards to incorporating digital technology amongst [ECEC] staff
—Educator and sustainability facilitator, Digibiz Survey 2015.

In the Digibiz survey respondents were asked to select up to two statements that best describe how their early childhood education and care organisation keeps up with digital technology and how to use it. Most people keep up by sharing information and tips among colleagues. From 219 responses to this question, we found organisations keep up with technology:
Table-keeping up with techAll1_aug2016

However the answers change considerably when we compared responses from organisations with a technology plan or strategy and those without.

There were 75 respondents from the survey (34% of all survey respondents) in early childhood education and care organisations with some form of technology plan in place. Their answers about keeping up with technology were different. They were more likely to have an in-house or external source of expertise and support to draw on.

In fact almost double the proportion of tech planning organisations had in-house support compared to the overall respondents (61% compared to 34%). The tech planners still share information and tips among colleagues at work (nearly half—48%—keep up this way) but were not as reliant on this as other respondents.

Survey responses with a technology plan or strategy

Table-keeping up with techPlanners_aug2016

For the group that had no technology plan the contrasts are even sharper.

Without a technology plan or strategy in place, ‘keeping up’ is left to informal avenues or may not happen at all. This group (ie the no tech planning group) show a much higher reliance on informal sources such as self-directed reading, hands-on experience or talking to friends and family compared to other types of strategies. As a group they showed higher reliance on informal sources compared to the overall group of respondents and compared to the tech planning group.

In the no technology plan or strategy group:

  • 6% relied on informal sources to keep up with technology, compared to 35% of all respondents and 20% of respondents with a technology plan.
  • 28% had an outsourced expert or support service compared with 17.8% of all respondents and nearly a quarter of the tech planning respondents (24%).
  • 19% chose the statement ‘we don’t really keep up’ compared with 6% of all respondents and 1.3% of respondents with a technology plan or strategy.

Planning and being intentional rather than relying on chance is the key. Much of what can be achieved and improved in early childhood settings happens because it is built into everyday systems as well as regular planning cycles. Quality Improvement Plans, professional learning plans and regular reviews and reports are some of the existing processes educators and leaders use. Learn more at the Digital Business Kit. Try tips on Developing your own strategy at Module 5, or look at links for Getting connectedin Module 3. Or click this video link to see one Gowrie team discuss technology strategies.

Find more on the Nine essentials early childhood educators already know about technology and planning at Module 5 of the Digital Business Kit

Clare McHugh

Clare McHugh is Early Childhood Australia's (ECA) Strategic Communications Executive, working on projects that support ECA’s reputation as a trusted voice for young children, their families, educators and carers. Clare has been part of ECA's Learning Hub Team, managed ECA's Start Early. Respectful relationships for life project and ECA digital initiatives including the federally funded Digital Business Kit and Live Wires. Clare has been thinking and writing about children, family and social policy for a number of years, including for the Commonwealth Child Care Advisory Council and the Australian government.

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