The use of digital devices is prevalent in education today. Smart phones, tablets and laptops are commonplace in classrooms where they are often used to support academic learning and facilitate communication. However, use of these devices is often absent in the planning and implementation of programs in the out of school hours care (OSHC) settings the same children attend.
Excessive screen time is a valid concern and service leaders, educators and families alike may be concerned that the use of digital devices in the service may lead to a culture of unrestricted screen time. However, service leaders and educators are encouraged to reflect on the learning and development opportunities digital devices offer, how they are made available to children, and how they can be used appropriately. It is also important to collaborate with children and families when considering the opportunities.
The benefits for children’s learning
Digital devices offer access to a range of information, programs and software applications. These can provide children with rich, open-ended experiences that nurture creative expression and promote opportunities to extend their learning. The outcomes include school age children developing a host of learning dispositions such as curiosity, perseverance, problem solving and confidence (Framework for School Age Care, Outcome 4, p.33).
Children can enjoy experiences such as:
- music production – inviting children to compose, record and mix sounds and tracks, or experiment with different sounds
- photo manipulation – providing children with images to edit
- animation design – children can use their creativity to tell stories of the day
- movie editing – educators can support the creation of a film festival where children can script, audition, film and edit short films
- coding and robotics – workshops and specialised games and activities can be planned to build children’s knowledge of writing scripts and programs.
Many experiences involving the use of digital devices in leisure-based learning can promote a high degree of social interaction, supporting children to collaborate, learn from and help each other (National Quality Standard (NQS), Quality Area 5). When digital devices are used as a basis for collaborative project work, educators can use intentionality in their practices to enhance children’s learning. Quality Area 1 of the NQS refers to intentionality specifically for school age children and how educators can use strategies to extend on children’s learning. This is also explored further in the Framework for School Age Care (Intentionality, p.15). Examples of how educators can be deliberate and purposeful in their practices when children work in groups could include:
- Facilitating conversations that give children an opportunity to express their ideas in a group setting.
- Posing challenging questions and assisting children to clarify thinking with each other.
- Providing support for children to negotiate, compromise and accept different ways of doing and being.
- Identifying the many ways that children can engage in group decision-making.
Inclusion in processes
As children move through the school age care setting, their capacity for independence and self-direction increases. Educators may observe children’s growing interest in digital devices and may need to respond to requests from children about access to these. Some service leaders and educators may start to look at their own use of technology, and consider ways to include children into some of the processes at the service. Children in OSHC settings may be able to be involved by:
- recording their own learning and planning experiences using a digital device
- researching planned experiences
- assisting with service procedures, such as online grocery shopping or resource purchasing.
Engagement for effective decision-making
Children’s sense of becoming can be further enhanced when educators support children to identify, understand and acknowledge potential risks when using digital devices. Engaging children in this process gives them an opportunity to participate actively in their ongoing learning and make decisions which influence their world. Educators can consider this when initiating open and honest conversations that alert children to potential risks, and provide opportunities to discuss strategies children can use to keep themselves safe online.
Service leaders and educators may wish to consider how they can collaborate with children, families, and their broader school and community connections, to establish guidelines and aspirations that support the use of digital devices both at the service and in the home. This collaboration and consistency will prepare children for their high school years when they frequently engage with these devices, often outside of the supervision of adults.
Before embracing the use of digital devices, service leaders and educators can thoughtfully consider how they can engage with devices in their unique settings. Some reflective questions to consider may include:
- How do our philosophy and beliefs about children underpin our leisure-based program? In what ways do our beliefs support the use of digital devices?
- In what ways can we engage children, families and the broader community regarding the use of digital devices in our service? How can we advocate for the benefit to children’s learning at this time?
- How can we adjust our practices to make sure the children are given an opportunity to enjoy the learning benefits that come from using digital devices?
- How can we manage any potential risks associated with the use of these devices?
- eSafety Commissioner website
- Department of Health: Australian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children and Young People (5-17 years) – An Integration of Physical Activity, Sedentary Behaviour and Sleep
- ACECQA We Hear You blog: Using digital touch technologies to support children’s learning
- Playing IT Safe website: includes resources to help parents, carers and educators teach prior to school age children how to stay safe online.