Supporting young children's learning with technology at home and in preschool

Plowman, Lydia and Stephen, Christine and McPake, Joanna (2010) Supporting young children's learning with technology at home and in preschool. Research Papers in Education, 25 (1). pp. 93-113. ISSN 0267-1522

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We describe two empirical investigations of three- and four-year-old children's uses of technology, one conducted in family homes and the other in preschool settings, with the aim of comparing the ways in which children's learning with technology is supported in these different settings. The studies conceptualise learning within a sociocultural framework and use the concept of guided interaction to focus the discussion. Three areas of learning that can be supported by the use of technologies are outlined (extending knowledge of the world, acquiring operational skills and developing dispositions to learn), with the addition of learning about the cultural roles of technology in the home context. Both studies took place in Scotland and families were selected according to socioeconomic factors. The first study, of eight preschool settings, involved practitioners in implementing two interventions involving learning with technology. Findings were based on video analysis, interviews with practitioners and a process of guided enquiry. The second study, of children's homes, involved survey responses from 346 parents and five visits over about 15 months to an initial 24 case-study families. The paper also draws on a discussion with educational experts to discuss the policy and practice implications for transition to school. There were differences in terms of the human and technological resources available, the motivation and opportunities for providing guided interaction and the types of learning that were supported. Children encountered a more diverse range of technologies at home, were more likely to request help and could benefit from observing family practices. The limitations on the technologies available in most preschool settings and their lack of use for authentic activities meant that there were fewer opportunities to develop children's awareness of the different cultural and work-related uses of technology. Preschool and primary school staff have limited knowledge of children's home experiences with technology.


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