Technology has become a part of daily life for people across the world with adults and children often using touch screens before they can walk and talk.
The use of technology and touchscreens in early years is a contentious issue, with some parents preferring a technology-free nursery experience for their child. Access to touchscreens has increased significantly in recent years, rising from 41.4 per cent in 2014 to 58.2 in 2015, a new survey published by the National Literacy Trust and Pearson has revealed.
Although 97 per cent of the 300 families surveyed said they own a tablet or smartphone, the report highlighted a specific problem in early years settings, revealing that some practitioners lack confidence using the technology.
The third annual Early Years Literacy Survey: The Use of Technology to Support Literacy in the Early Years, asked 450 early years practitioners about their use of technology in early years settings. The report found fewer practitioners (40.8 per cent) were using touchscreens to share stories in 2015 than in 2014 (49.1 per cent). Of those surveyed, 55.1 per cent said they felt confident using the technology compared 82.2 per cent of practitioners who felt confident using books.
Early years project manager at the National Literacy Trust, Charlotte Billington, said: “Technology is everywhere and young children are increasingly using touchscreens which can now be found in almost every family home.
“However early years practitioners are not using technology to the same degree as parents and only half are confident in doing so to develop children’s early communication skills. Our research shows practitioners are less confident using touchscreens than books to share stories with children, although using technology can particularly benefit boys and children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Though the report recognises that technology alone does not make a difference to children’s learning and is not a substitute for adult interaction. Touchscreens have the potential to play an important role in supporting the development of early communication, language and literacy skills by providing children with new opportunities.
Touchscreens provide children with sensory stimulation and provide opportunities for interaction which can help them to learn in new ways alongside books with careful planning by early years practitioners.
The research further revealed that technology can provide children with a route into reading for certain groups of children, such as boys and those from disadvantaged.
Ms Billington continued: “Now is an important time for early years practitioners to look at how they can support children’s future learning in a digital age. To increase practitioners’ confidence in using touchscreens and supporting parents with using technology, we have designed a range of exciting new resources including videos for practitioners, activity sheets and a film and the LiteracyApps.org guide and video for parents which are all available on our website and network.”
The National Literacy Trust and Pearson are calling for early years practitioners to adapt their teaching methods to help prepare children for an increasingly digital future education.
The Trust has created a range of resources as part of its Helping Early Language and Literacy Outcomes (HELLO) programme to support early years practitioners to become more confident using touchscreens and technology to help develop children’s literacy.
Funded by the Department for Education, HELLO worked with early years practitioners in more than 70 settings across the country to discover how technology can help pre-school children’s early years settings with their communication, language and literacy skills.
As part of the programme, the National Literacy Trust has produced a series of video case studies for practitioners to use, showcasing the best practice for using touchscreens, while also detailing a range of activity sheets and planning templates for use in early years settings.
The Trust has also developed a guide to choosing apps to help children’s early communication, language and literacy skills. The guide is broken down by age range and interest and contains a video for parents offering guidance and tips on how to use technology to help their child learn.
For more information on the Trust’s HELLO programme, visit: www.literacytrust.org.uk/early-years-tech and for information on early years apps for literacy, see: http://literacyapps.literacytrust.org.uk/.