Updated: Apr 6
Should the Aistear Curriculum Framework for Early Childhood Education in Ireland provide a strategy for the use of digital technology in the ECEC curriculum?
This week we heard news from China that regulators were imposing limits on minors who play online video games to 3 hours per week . Their reasoning for this is cited as addiction concerns and reported increased rates of eye issues such as myopia (near-sightedness).
Always Craving More
Research on the impact of screen time and digital technologies on child development have maintained that excessive use can negatively impact children’s social and emotional regulation. In fact, when children experience excitement while playing with digital devices, their brains release the “feel good” hormone dopamine, this hormone response leaves them in a state of craving, a response also observed during heroin and cocaine use (Kardaras, 2016). As a result, children become overstimulated and struggle to calm down resulting in potential behavioural problems. Over time, children’s brains acclimatise to this frequent overstimulation and they can experience difficulty concentrating on less stimulating activities such as reading (Christakis, 2011).
Recommendations without Guidance
I find it interesting on the back of such research, that the Aistear Curriculum Framework recommends that, as part of the development of early literacy and numeracy skills, that children should have the opportunity to engage with a variety of forms of information communication technology (ICT) yet Aistear provides little to no guidance on how to appropriately integrate technology effectively into the curriculum in a healthy and age appropriate way. Children engage with digital technology on an increasing trajectory from the age of 3 (Marsh et al, 2015) and before children even being their early childhood education journey, they are already proficient in the use of technology such as touch screen devices. In addition to this, research by has found that digital technologies support children to develop STEAM skills (O'Mahony, 2020), which are vital in today's modern world. So why is there no digital strategy within Aistear?
ECEC Overlooked in Reports on Digital Learning
The Government’s Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020 (DES, 2017) provides a framework, along with funding, for the integration of ICT into the primary and post-primary education, however, the ECEC sector would appear to be overlooked in this regard. Last year the Department of Education and Skills published the Digital Learning 2020 – Report on Practice in Early Learning and Care, Primary and Post Primary Contexts. This report provided data on the various ways that children in primary and post primary education utilise technology within the curriculum. In relation to ECEC the findings of the report concluded that “further research and engagement with the…..sector is needed in order to develop guidance as to what constitutes good practice in young children’s use of digital technology within (ECEC) settings”.
Aistear - Lacking Direction & Out of Touch?
Surely it is incumbent on Aistear to provide direction and guide practitioners on how to effectively incorporate technology in an appropriate manner in preparation for their continued engagement with technology in education at primary school and through methods that support healthy digital habits and minimise the potential negative impact on their social and emotional regulation? The fact that Aistear has not yet been updated since it’s 2009 publication is most likely a significant factor here.
Listening to The Voice of the Child?
The Aistear theme of Identity and Belonging highlights the importance of children seeing themselves, their lives and culture reflected in the ECEC setting and Síolta Quality Standard 1 purports the importance of the child’s agency and power within their own life. If we do not effectively embrace cultural developments, such as the prevalence of technology in the lives of children today, through a failure to incorporate such developments into quality ECEC practice, then are we perhaps failing to appropriately represent the voice of the child in the ECEC curriculum?
About the Author: Paula Walshe is an ECEC trainer and placement assessor in the further education and training sector and a freelance writer. She currently holds a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Education and will complete her studies for a Master’s Degree in Leadership for ECEC in 2022. Paula has extensive ECEC experience in both pedagogical practice and ECEC management. You can learn more about Paula’s work at her website (www.thedigitalearlychildhoodeducator.ie), where she writes a weekly blog on current topics in Early Childhood Education and Care in Ireland and provides useful professional and academic resources for students and professionals in this sector. Paula is also one of the creators of an ECE community of practice based on Twitter: ECE Quality Ireland (@ECEQualityIRL) / Twitter Contact Paula: LinkedIn: Paula Walshe / Twitter: @digitalearlyed / Instagram: @digitalearlychildhoodeducator.
Christakis, D. (2011). ‘Media and Children’, available at http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=BoT7qH_uVNo.
Department of Education and Skills. (2017). Digital Strategy for Schools 2015-2020. Dublin: Stationery Office.
Department of Education and Skills. (2019). Digital Learning Framework for Primary Schools. Dublin: Stationery Office.
Kardaras, N. (2016). Glow Kids: How screen addiction is hijacking our kids and how to break the trance. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Marsh, J., Plowman, L., Yamada-Rice, D., Bishop, J. C., Lahmar, J., Scott, F. & Thornhill, S. (2015). Exploring play and creativity in pre-schoolers’ use of apps: Final project report. Technology and Play. [online], available: http://techandplay.org/reports/TAP_Final_Report.pdf