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Media literacy, iMovie, logical thinking, QR codes, ChatGPT, programming, digital skills…

Familiar terms in early childhood education?

What should educators know and be able to do regarding technology and digital skills? And how can these new things be tried and experienced together with children? Lapinjärvi and TinyApp set out to explore this in the New Literacies project*.

Lapinjärvi and the TinyApp team started their collaboration in early 2022 when the municipality's early childhood education eagerly seized the opportunity to use technology and develop their daily work. Soon after the partnership began, the Head of Early Childhood Education identified that broader technological competence would benefit the team.

"This project has provided staff with successful experiences and clear aha moments related to digital skills. Educators have been enthusiastic about different projects and have gained new energy and motivation for their work," says Paula Kaikkonen, acting Head of Early Childhood Education in Lapinjärvi.

Teaching content according to new literacies has been perceived as uneven. The reasons for this have been inadequate equipment or tools, limited experience in combining digital skills and early childhood education pedagogy, and varying levels of competence among early childhood education staff. In addition, the more substantial reliance on digital learning environments and tools required by the exceptional situation that began in 2020 has emphasized the role of media literacy and ICT skills in early childhood education.

Our joint New Literacies journey began in August 2022.

In the spring of 2022, Lapinjärvi municipality applied for funding to develop digital skills, and with a favorable funding decision, we expanded our collaboration to cover digital competence, programming skills, and media literacy, the so-called New Literacies.

In August 2022, we conducted a survey in which Lapinjärvi's early childhood education professionals reported their skills and attitudes toward technology. Based on the survey results, we tailored the initially planned content to meet educators' needs better. We launched a project focusing on practical digital skills and ensuring that all children can experience and practice future skills in a versatile and safe environment.

"The starting point for our activities should be the needs and wishes of the children. Children's well-being increases when they are heard and can influence things that concern them in the activities," says the team.

"Digital skills and the use of technology are already important parts of society. Children must learn digital skills already in early childhood education, as it enables equal and fair starting points at the beginning of their school paths. Multiliteracy and especially media literacy are essential skills in today's world."

The comprehensive project for the entire academic year is built around regular meetings, where educators get to know and practice digital skills and tools together with a TinyApp trainer. Each month has its theme and concise theoretical part, but it is mainly used for hands-on experiences. In small groups, together with colleagues, educators get to test, for example, how iMovie works or how to support a three-year-old's computational thinking.

The program also includes planning a group-specific project, which educators implement together with children between the meetings, and the theory becomes a reality. So far, the project has included practicing a tablet for recording and filming everyday life at daycare, more versatile use of images and videos and their storage, QR codes, computational thinking, and movie-making. At the end of the project in spring, the shared results and instructions collected during the project will be presented. These tips will also be compiled into a workbook for the municipality's future use.

"I have become more open to devices and their use with children. For example, QR codes can be used for many things, and we can also share daycare notices or weekly letters using codes."

"I have gained more confidence to try and use different devices. The module on logical thinking was truly eye-opening, as we have done similar exercises in the group. Still, we did not think it would involve early childhood education programming."

There have been a few bumps along the way. Early childhood education environments are susceptible to change, so ensuring that everyone can participate and that each educator has time to practice new things before bringing them to the children's group and making sure everyone knows where they stand have been vital development areas. The TinyApp team's trainer has flexibly adjusted the operating model during the project to ensure that information spreads within the organization between project meetings.

"Full-day meetings and especially face-to-face meetings have been perceived as important, as then each educator gets to learn and try new things themselves. Even adults need a little time and teaching to learn. Seeing the enthusiasm for doing things together and the growth while experimenting!" Early childhood education teacher Heini Mäntynen tells from the perspective of the TinyApp expert.

Doing things has inspired both educators and children.

Filmmaking is in full swing in groups, and the project takes on entirely new dimensions when educators and children utilize their special expertise. QR codes have also found their place in many groups. Children create their codes, or educators make riddles and instructions behind the codes. Codes are also sent to parents, who can read weekly letters or watch videos through them.

The project continues.

This spring, we are practicing making an electronic newspaper, animations, and everything else exciting. Along the way, we have certainly learned a lot of new things, but we have also become aware of and verbalized the actions and skills already taken. We eagerly await to share the learnings and insights from the remaining part of the journey with you.

Stay tuned!

More information of the project


CEO Taina Mikkola

*This project was following the framework of the New Literacies development programme. The program is to strengthen the media literacy, ICT competence and programming skills of children and young people in ECEC and pre-primary and basic education. The New Literacies development programme is part of the wider Right to Learn development programme (2020–2022) of the Ministry of Education and Culture, Finland. More information from here

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