Contemporary issues are events, ideas, opinions or topics in a given subject area that are relevant to the present day (Arora, 2016). In the area of early childhood education, contemporary issues are issues that have come to light recently and are relevant to the present day.
ICT is becoming a ubiquitous component of the physical and social worlds occupied by young children. It is an important part of the private and work lives of most people, including those who support young children’s learning and development, whether as parents, family members, caregivers, or early childhood educators. It is often argued in the literature that children’s early childhood education experiences should reflect and connect with their experiences in the wider world. Therefore, ICT matters in early childhood education, because it already has an effect on the people and the environments that surround young children’s learning and well-being. There is strong consensus across the literature that, it is timely for the role and potential of ICT for the early childhood education sector to be critically examined, to guide future development and decision-making in this area.
Since the inception of early childhood education program in 2004, there have several subjects of concern to ensure the effectiveness of the program and since the modern world is fast-paced and dynamic, these issues keeps coming into light and as early childhood stakeholders we cannot forgo these issues without discussing its relevance and effectiveness in advancing early childhood education in Ghana.
Why ICT is a contemporary issue in early childhood education
There is a growing recognition of the many different ways that ICT can contribute to or transform the activities, roles and relationships experienced by children and practitioners in early childhood settings. Much of available findings on ICT in early childhood education centers on the role and use of computers by young children. This is particularly true for most literature prior to 2006. However, in the few years there has also been a true growth in research and descriptive literature about the use of other kind of ICT in early childhood education including digital cameras, closed-circuit television, video conferencing, programmable toys, robotics and electronic musical instruments. There is also a growing focus of teachers using ICT with children, or on their own as a tool to support and scaffold children’s early childhood education experiences to investigate and build learning experiences from children’s interest or to strengthen relationships between children, practitioners and families.
Case studies and exemplars of the use of ICT in early childhood education settings are becoming more and more common. It is against this backdrop, I also wish to explore in the area ICT in early childhood education, its relevance, usefulness and effectiveness in advancing early childhood education in Ghana.
Relevance of ICT to early childhood education in Ghana
A look at researches in education over the years as well as several similar ICT frameworks in other countries indicate the emphasis being made on ICT in the early years. It can be seen from literature that a number of the studies express safety concerns with respect to integration of ICT in early childhood education and warn of several risks in this area. Some critics contend that technology in schools wastes time, money, and childhood itself by speeding up the pace and cutting down on essential learning experiences. An argument opposing early introduction of ICT is that, since children learn through their bodies, computers are not developmentally appropriate. This is because as a screen-based medium, activities at the computer are not as effective as manipulative in developing understanding and skills in the early years. He instead recommends that the developmental needs of young learners (whole-body movement, sensory interaction, focus on language, development of personal agency and the importance of relationships) take precedence in structuring effective early learning programs. In contrast to the above, current case studies and action research, such as the Children of the new millennium ICT research project, refute this view. It is widely accepted that appropriate use of ICT in early childhood settings, where there are skilled practitioners and quality ICT resources, has the potential to greatly enhance and support learning and development of young children. Some of the relevance of ICT to early childhood education in Ghana are discussed below:
1. The use of ICT provides a context for collaboration, co-operation, and positive learning experiences between children, or between children and adults. However, this will not necessarily happen of its own accord. Research indicates that practitioners must be conscious of the kinds of learning interactions they would like to occur in the context of ICT use (including between adults and children, or between children), and adopt pedagogical strategies to support these.
2. ICT provides a variety of ways for children to weave together words, pictures, and sounds, thereby providing a range of ways for children to communicate their ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Good software can allow children to engage in self-directed exploration, and can be tailored to children’s individual needs, and assistive/adaptive ICTs can reduce barriers to participation for children with special physical or learning needs.
3. Case studies show how ICT can be used to support aspects of learning, including language development and the development of mathematical thinking.
4. ICT also provides unique opportunities for scaffolding and supporting learning for children with special learning needs, and children from culturally or linguistically diverse backgrounds.
5. ICT also presents opportunities for sharing and exchange of information between different services and agencies involved in children’s care and education.
6. One of the most common uses of ICT in early childhood education settings relates to documentation of children’s learning. Early childhood education centers with access to digital media build up electronic or physical portfolios of children’s learning for assessment purposes, and to share with children and their families.
7. ICT strengthens and support family involvement in children’s learning. Technology can inform and engagement of parents by enabling parents to receive and access information about their children’s work, progress, attendance and behaviour when and where they want using , for example, secure online or even mobile access. ICT also enables parents to be more engaged with their child’s learning which drives improvement.
How ICT can be made useful and effective in the advancement of early childhood education in Ghana.
In advancing information communication and technology in early childhood education in Ghana. The following ideas must be factored.
1. Curriculum policy must be put in place to bind the use of technological tools in the teaching and learning process in the classrooms as done in other countries like New Zealand. Emphasis therefore should be on the training of ICT teachers because they are the central forces for which the integration of ICT in children’s learning will be made possible.