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Vision for ICT in early childhood education

Vision for ICT in early childhood education

Speech to Teachers' Refresher Course, St Cuthberts College, Epsom, Auckland
Thanks for your invitation to speak to you today about developments in early childhood education.

I regard the development of the strategic plan for early childhood education as a very exciting and significant achievement. Pathways to the Future: Ngâ Huarahi Arataki - A 10-year Strategic Plan for Early Childhood Education represents the shared vision of the early childhood education sector and the government.

You are probably aware that this year's budget represents a significant injection of funding into early childhood education of $365 million over four years - meaning that since we came to government, funding for early childhood education will have increased by a massive 79 per cent. By 2012, annual funding for early childhood education will be $750 million.

This is huge, and reflects the Labour-led government's strong commitment to quality early childhood education and our desire to make it more and more accessible and affordable for New Zealand families.

The research shows that if children receive quality early childhood education, then they do much better in comparison to kids who have not had that chance. Labour is intent on making sure as many of our children as possible get this critical opportunity.

One of the initiatives that is part of the overall early childhood education strategy is the development of an early childhood education ICT strategy. Information and communication technologies are not new to early childhood education. Video cameras, digital cameras, faxes, computers and the like are familiar to many and are often being used in innovative ways in early childhood education services.

The Ministry of Education is in the early stages of developing an ICT strategy for early childhood education. The child will be the central focus.

Improved education outcomes for children is what we’re focussed on achieving.

I’m really excited about this project because the potential of ICT in teaching and learning in early childhood education is so great.

ICT is already being used in the sector in some very exciting ways. An example is the centre where digital photos, taken during the day are being shown as a slideshow on a computer at children’s pick up time.

Use of digital cameras and video in early childhood education is proving to be a powerful tool for the development of visual literacy by young children.

Visual documentation also has the advantage of being equally accessible to people with English as an additional language.

We have seen how the use of ICT in early childhood education can strengthen relationships between adults and children, and between children and children, how it can support the involvement of families and communities in early childhood education, and provide a means of making visible and valuing the experiences of families and communities.

The principles of Te Whâriki and key learning dispositions relate both to children and adults. We are all learners and teachers together.

As the strategy development progresses, with the sector and the Ministry working in partnership, we will develop an understanding of the best way to move forward, and of the roles that we each have to play in integrating these technologies into early childhood education in a meaningful and purposeful way.

Over the past few months the Ministry has been collating information from the sector, talking to early childhood organisations and visiting some centres that are using ICT.

A writing team has recently come together to draft consultation documents to share with the sector. From September to November there will be extensive consultation, and it is anticipated that a finalised strategy will be produced early next year.

ICT in early childhood education can be used to bridge the “digital divide”. It is important that we ensure it works to reduce the gap, not widen it.

We have to be prepared both to lead, applying our best knowledge and understanding, and to follow. In many ways these technologies are much easier for our children to understand and learn than they are for us.

We also need to bear in mind that technologies will develop in ways that we cannot even begin to imagine. We need to maintain an open mind.

Our aspiration for all children is that they “grow up as confident and competent learners and communicators, healthy in mind, body and spirit, secure in their sense of belonging and in the knowledge that they make a valued contribution to society”. We want them to develop strong learning foundations and 21st century skills.

The work that we are undertaking together in developing the early childhood education ICT strategy will play an important role in achieving these ambitions. I look forward to seeing the results of our collective efforts and the benefits our children will receive.

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