he technical advances of the last thirty years and the introduction of the internet, globalisation has made the world a smaller place and Information and Communication Technology (ICT) has become increasingly important part of everyday life. Today, it is reported that over eighty percent of households have a personal computer (PC), with sixty eight percent Internet enabled. (Marketresearch.com, 17/05/09) Subsequently, government has recognised the need to reflect this increasing use of technology by ensuring that ICT is to enable children to participate fully in the rapidly developing technological world around them, whilst in others it is the need for children to be competent users of technology to better exploit their potential, (DFES, 2001, cited by O’Hara, 2004, p5).
The Early years Sector has long debated the relevance of ICT, with views ranging from those who believe it could result in socio-economic benefits (DFES, 2001) to Oppeinheimer’s opinion that ICT is wholly inappropriate in early year’s settings, being detrimental to both children’s health and standards of education (O’Hara, 2004 p1). We must also remain mindful that there is a digital divide, with some households not having up to date ICT or where adults are not confident or able to use the equipment. As Early years practitioners it is pertinent for us to reflect on the range of opinions from Government, Professionals and colleagues in considering the use of ICT in our practices.
Effectiveness in Children’s Learning
The range of educational resources available for the foundation stage is extensive and many theorists have offered their opinion as to the most suitable for children of this age. ICT resources are certainly no exception. Typically, people think of PC’s in isolation when ICT is discussed and I too initially considered little else. However, having undertaken research into this field I have and discovered a plethora of equipment, ranging from interactive games and CD-ROMs to robots and programmable toys. Whilst ICT resources vary greatly, closer consideration to one piece of equipment is worthwhile and provides an insight into the application of ICT within my setting. Consequently I undertook the research and assessment of a reading support toy, namely the leap pad. Cook and Finlayson (1999) discuss the merits of reading support toys and recognise their potential to encourage children to read but also comment that the graphics can be distracting from the story line (P15).
The leappad first came to my attention when I was looking for different methods to support the children’s learning, particularly in relation to communication language and literacy. I sought to inspire an interest in letters and sounds with children aged three and four years as well as providing a resource that would be suitable for our toy library which involves children borrowing toys to take home for a week at a time and using them with their parents. My rationale was to provide an opportunity for children to ‘show off’ their new skills to parents, which is good for the children’s self esteem and confidence as well as being a useful home/setting link.
The product is hardwearing, portable and easy to use and therefore met my key criteria. Montessori recognised the importance of resources being child sized and this is no less important when considering ICT, the leap pad is light and fits easily on a child’s lap with appropriately sized stylus. In 2006 it gained a ‘Practical Preschool’ silver award. I canvassed the opinions of parents within my setting and my colleagues, they all gave positive feedback. Particularly liking the fact the voice was British. Many reading support toys have an American accent and I felt that this was less confusing for the children to hear letters sounds in a more familiar accent. Additionally I felt the bright graphics and different sounds and music would combine to...