Young children integrating technologies with play objects

Year: 2013

Author: Danby, Susan, Davidson, Christina, Given, Lisa, Thorpe, Karen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Australian national and state preschool curriculum documents promote learning through technology. For example, the national Early Years Learning Framework (EYLF) “Belonging, Being and Becoming” highlights the importance of young children having access to and use of digital technologies.   Within the EYLF, one learning outcome is “to identify the uses of technologies in everyday life and use real or imaginary technologies as props in their play” (Learning Outcome 5, Children are effective communicators, p. 44). This Outcome proposes that educators can support learning by providing children with opportunities to “integrate technologies into children’s play experiences and projects.” To date, however, there is little evidence of how technologies are being introduced into preschool classrooms as play and learning resources, nor about what children are doing with technologies and play objects, and for what purposes.

This presentation investigates the social and learning practices of children aged 3-4 years in preschool classrooms, as they interact with technologies, such as tablets and computers, and also with objects and play props, such as toy cars and building materials.  The study employs an ethnomethodological perspective to investigate how young children’s spontaneous activities can be understood as social life in action. Their games and activities present opportunities to prepare for and practise everyday social life. Examining children’s actions as they use objects can help to understand objects as resources in spontaneous activity, and implications for learning, social structure and peer relationships.

The data for this paper are drawn from a larger Australian Research Council study of preschool-aged children engaging with technologies in preschool classroom and home settings. The focus is on investigating video-recorded data of children interacting with each other, and their teachers, when using technologies and also play props. Ethnomethodology and conversation analysis are used to explore how children integrate ideas from the technology into their activities with the props. Investigating these interactions sequentially will show how ideas are introduced, maintained, or discarded, and transitioned into new activities. How gestures and gaze, as well as talk, are used within the social interaction will also show where there are contestations or how alignments are formed. This presentation builds on previous work investigating young children’s existing practices with new technologies as a way to to help understand the role of play and learning in these practices.