Over time, the academic environment in which a child’s full personal and professional development takes place is being modified by current changes in the global approach to learning. Over the past decades, the fields of digital knowledge have become crucial for the learning industry, and the proper, careful use of new technologies has allowed the creative framework of the educational process to be expanded and the work of educators to be simplified. Guidance on the ethical and beneficial use of different technologies in Australian schools is provided by the Australian Student Wellbeing Framework (ASWF) and its affiliated platform, the Student Wellbeing Hub (SWH). Determining the degree of compliance, which defines the relationship between official regulations and the curriculum in which children are involved, is of primary importance in this context. In other words, it is essential to demonstrate the extent to which community organizations designed to help students improve their experience in kindergartens, schools, and universities are satisfied and encouraged to use computer technology and digital culture in everyday educational practice. This essay is intended to critically review the Australian educational resources and standards mentioned above to identify the type of support for the standards outlined in the Australian Curriculums for students at year 1-3 early childhood levels and at school.
First and foremost, it should be recognized that the early stage of preschool education is associated with many radical changes that affect the consciousness of a child aged 1-3 years. This is the most vulnerable age to learning since, from the age of two, the child starts to actively repeat what he or she finds attractive behind authoritative adults. Thus, in a child’s speech, simple sentences of a few words begin to emerge, the basics of phonological awareness are fixed, and the child starts to explore the world on his or her own and perform more activities aimed at the individual (“2-3 years,” 2020). Using this knowledge, specialists from the early childhood development centers strive to promote professional, methodological programs that help children at this stage to master the necessary skills and acquire primary knowledge that has a positive impact on a child’s creative growth.
The curriculums developed for this age are based on the principles of mutual respect, obedience, and tolerance to all parties of the educational process. The work of Australian teachers for the level of young children is associated with the personal restructuring of students, so the curriculum makes maximum use of all sorts of pedagogical tools to meet expectations: this includes a play-based format of learning, continuous approach, and modern development (Phillips, 2011; Australian Government Department, 2019). Classes conducted with young children must meet the requirements of appropriate safety and partnership so that every child feels comfortable within the educational center’s walls.
A critical milestone in the development of preschoolers is the use of digital technology. The AGDE postulates that by the age of three, children develop a propensity to explore the world, including a desire to study, research, classify and collaborate (Australian Government Department, 2019). Furthermore, students who have already learned how to interact with the text format can critically analyze what they have read and use the meanings and ideas of the text to communicate between classmates. It would be a mistake not to mention that at this age group, most children demonstrate a strong desire for creativity, manifested in designing objects made of cubes, drawing primitive paintings, and editing and changing existing visual and physical constructions. Based on the above, it would be fair to say that the utilization of digital technologies is becoming an excellent solution for early childhood development centers (Berk, 2009). This is since most of the routine academic tasks take on a different shape with the potential to attract the attention of a child.
How ASWF and SWH Support the Use of Digital Technology
The technical capabilities of computer equipment to play information in parallel in the form of text, visual materials, sounds, animations, coupled with the intellectual ability to remember and process data, allow specialists in early education to design activities that are fundamentally different from existing ones. Indeed, this approach places qualitatively new requirements on preschool education and standards that impose restrictions on the use of digital technologies (Office of Educational Technology, 2016). According to the Australian Curriculum, the purpose of introducing the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the educational process is to create an environment in which students properly use the proposed technologies to access, create and transmit information within the classroom, in educational centers, in the family and in other communities (“Information and communication technology capability,” 2020). On the other hand, the decision to actively incorporate digital culture into the classroom environment through courses, seminars, and lessons allows children to develop their mathematical and engineering skills (McDonald & Howell, 2012). These statements are equivalent to the idea that school ICT can address two issues at once: transforming the academic environment and developing a child’s personal and professional potential (Steinhoff, 2016). Thus, the digitalization of the pedagogical process at the stages of education in the first three years of a child’s life solves the problem of forming a holistic personal and individual approach to knowledge acquisition.
The ASWF program, developed by Australian education specialists, lays the foundation for a safe and quality learning environment for all students on the continent. It is worth noting that the organization’s mission is to gradually change the educational culture at all levels of learning through the guiding principles underlying the ASWF: leadership, inclusion, student voice, partnership, and support (Education Council, n.d.). Of particular note is the fact that the ASWF is an official Ministry of Education-approved program that deserves to be integrated into educational practice (“The Australian Student Wellbeing Framework,” 2018). The key idea behind the ASWF defines the link between wellbeing, security, and learning: an organization’s science-based framework postulates that there is a transparent link between these categories. Thus, the program believes that a child who feels safe and supported during learning is guaranteed to achieve better results and demonstrate success in learning new skills.
ASWF’s interest in achieving favorable conditions for students justifies the need to find a connection between the organization’s activities and the curriculum, typical for children 1-3 years. As already noted, at this age, children are expected to grow up harmoniously and gradually, broaden their horizons and expand their worldviews through developing skills and learning everyday activities. The modern early education center often uses advanced computer technologies to provide children with experiences that are not technically feasible in a familiar environment (Zabatiero et al., 2018). Also, the use of computer equipment, interactive whiteboards, tablets, and augmented reality (AR) tools relieves a teacher of some of his or her professional workload, allowing him or her to direct his or her free time to the creative development of children (Steinhoff, 2016). Nevertheless, the global digitalization of the pedagogical process can pose severe risks to a child’s health and wellbeing online (Pearson, 2016).
Primarily, the use of new technologies in traditional educational settings means that teachers must learn the rules of operation and instructions, which makes the work of the teacher extremely difficult (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). Second, the threat of digitalization concerns the child’s socialization and personal safety. There is no guarantee that the data used by a child during education will not provide additional problems for preschoolers. For instance, in the first classes, when children are just learning to interact with computers, toddlers from low-income families may perform poorly due to lack of computer experience, which may lead to ridicule by wealthier families. On the other hand, excessive immersion in the technological environment cannot guarantee a multifaceted and harmonious social development of a child: real communication with classmates can be replaced by interaction with the computer world.
The solution to these and other similar problems that are obstacles to the digitalization of the educational process is comparable to the critical ideas of ASWF. While the organization does not point to the need for separate policies to develop stakeholder support programs, the ASWF’s values are focused on creating a safe and learning-friendly environment. Proper use of technology, governed by the ASWF principles, makes computers a useful learning tool to help children maximize their skills (Koehler & Mishra, 2009). SWH, an online platform from ASWF for teachers, students, and parents, has one of the current trends: it offers participants an online course on children’s online safety (“Online safety,” n.d.). The course materials include not only teaching the rules of ignoring cheaters and financial safety but also the principles of responsible use of social networks, the absence of cyberbullying, and Web-trawling. In other words, the current problems of network security for preschoolers, caused by the widespread introduction of digital technologies in the curriculum, can be solved by additional training offered by SWH.
Meanwhile, the ASWF-guided education centers create an environment in which wellbeing and support are central tenets of learning. Indeed, young children using computer technology need help, as these are probably their first lessons in acquaintance with digital culture. ASWF’s “student voice” and “student/teacher partnership” principles inhibit the likelihood of situations in which children’s opinions will go unnoticed (“The Australian Student Wellbeing Framework,” 2018). In addition, this applies to situations where a child may disagree with the teacher’s opinion about the use of technology. There is no doubt that a three-year-old pupil is hardly fluent in computer hardware, but he or she may have his or her views on the lesson strategy and degree of technology involvement: eventually, the teacher may adjust the lesson model based on the child’s opinion (Berk, 2009). Moreover, the curriculum postulates that technology should lay the foundation for a seamless flow of information between learners and different communities: the classroom, parents, and friends. Achieving such a result is positively correlated with the ideas of wellbeing developed by ASWF since a child who is free to spread his or her thoughts and has the opportunity to speak out feels comfortable (Sophia, 2020). In other words, there is a strong link between the ideas of introducing ICT into the learning environment and the principles of safety and wellbeing of ASWF and SWH students.
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