Digital Technology in Early Years

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Early years practitioners need more confidence in using technology to develop children’s literacy

Early Years technology

Technology is part of everyday life and many toddlers are using touchscreens almost before they can walk and talk. A new survey from the National Literacy Trust and Pearson shows almost all families (97%) own tablets or smartphones. Access to touchscreens in Early Years settings has increased too, from 41.4% in 2014 to 58.2% in 2015. However, the survey also shows that Early Years practitioners lack confidence in using technology.

The third annual Early Years Literacy Survey, The Use of Technology to Support Literacy in the Early Years, found fewer practitioners used touchscreens to share stories in 2015 (40.8%) than in 2014 (49.1%). Of these, only half (55.1%) are confident doing so, compared to 82.2% who are confident using books.

Although technology alone does not make a difference to children’s learning and is no substitute for adult interaction, touchscreens can play an important role in supporting early communication, language and literacy by offering new opportunities. The interactive nature and sensory stimulation of technology can help young children to learn in new ways alongside books with careful planning by Early Years practitioners to achieve specific learning goals. In addition, research has found that technology can provide an important route into reading for certain groups of children, such as those from disadvantaged backgrounds and boys.

Now is therefore an important time for Early Years practitioners to adapt their teaching methods to help prepare children for an increasingly digital future education. To help practitioners to increase their confidence in using technology, the National Literacy Trust has created a range of resources as part of its Helping Early Language and Literacy Outcomes (HELLO) programme . Funded by the Department for Education, HELLO worked with practitioners in more than 70 Early Years settings across the country to look at how technology can help to develop pre-school children’s early communication, language and literacy skills.

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