The use of digital technologies are routinely used in Early Childhood Education (ECE) centres. When used meaningfully and as part of a strategic approach, we see powerful use of technologies in the early years.
This can be seen in sharing new learning with parents/whānau, connecting to other ECE professionals and engaging our tamariki/children in using online content to grow their understand of the world around them.
For most families, ECE is the first time they have experienced the use of technologies as part of formal learning for their children – so it is vital that centres plan for and model effective and safe ways of using digital technologies.
Four important principles to underpin your plans
The following principles can help shape effective and safe use of technologies in ECE centres. Think about:
- A shared, community-wide approach: Our tamariki learn about the use of technologies from whānau and teachers. What happens online is an extension of what happens offline. Creating an inclusive approach is vital.
- Your vision for learning: It’s also important to think about how your vision leads to decisions about the use of technologies.
- Children must be in a safe environment: This is created through a combination of secure use of technology and growing the skills and understanding of everyone in your ECE community, together.
- There is no quick fix: The most effective approach goes beyond prohibition and technical ‘solutions’ to developing a whole centre strategy that helps everyone develop and model their digital smarts.
How do we manage permissions, privacy, and security?
Juggling permissions, privacy and security around information can feel challenging, however, there are a few key places you can start. Most importantly, your community use of online spaces – social media, digital portfolios, website – needs to be guided by clear agreements related to use, privacy, permissions and security.
Every ECE centre needs to maintain a safe environment and that includes keeping information secure and managing access to online content. Think about:
- Software and platforms: Ensure your software and platforms provide clarity and assurance about security of your data.
- Password security: Consider the security of important passwords and who has/can access these.
- Data storage: Know where your data is stored and how you securely back it up – do you securely back up data to the cloud (e.g. using Google) or an onsite server?
- Access to online content: Think about the use of filtering, levels of permissions and access.
- Device use: What permissions and expectations are there in place for staff, tamariki/children, whanau and parents?
How do we manage the use of images / information?
There are many times in our centres when a camera or video can capture a precious moment in time. However, consideration needs to be given to the way in which any information and images of children are taken, stored, shared and distributed. A consent process is needed between parents/caregivers/whanau and centre staff. Think about:
- Who is taking the images? Some centres and families share this, in other places only staff can take photos on ECE equipment.
- Why/when are they taking images? There should be a clear purpose for capturing images, such as learning stories for the portfolio or a celebration.
- How are they being taken? Be aware of which devices are being used, how children appear, and cultural sensitivities.
- Where are those images stored? If photos are taken on a private device, how can your centre assure families that they are secure.
- Where will images be shared? Agree on guidelines for on-sharing images across social media and whether this will be part of a communication plan for your community.
What is important for our professional practice and reputation?
“Social media can be an effective tool for engaging with learners and communicating with parents, whānau and communities. Teachers who model good social media use will grow learners who apply positive, respectful values in their interactions on social media platforms.” — Education Council NZ
The skills and understandings of our staff and families are the most important consideration when maintaining a safe community for learning. Think about:
- Growing staff capability – how are staff supported to grow their skills and understanding so the technologies serve the learning experiences.
- Modelling ethical behaviour – this includes what we as staff do online. Encouraging staff awareness around online social media, and thinking carefully before posting content that might impact on their place of work.
Where do we start?
- Talk with your staff, whānau and community together. Work towards helping everyone develop shared understandings about how digital technologies can support learning and how everyone has a role to play in supporting safe positive behaviours.
- Put a strategic plan for managing technologies in place.
- Review what you are doing so far to support the safe, effective use of technologies.
- Put together an action plan for next steps and consider for example, curriculum development, professional learning, security, incident management, and community engagement.
- Develop a policy (your guiding principles and approaches) and shared use agreement (processes and practices) and keep these alive and relevant through review and conversation.
- NetSafe Use Agreement templates (Currently under review)
- Grow your expertise. There are many ways you can do this. For example, a small community group could work with designated staff and together, take a lead in guiding professional learning and keeping the centre up-to-date.
More advice and information
Resources and links that may be useful as you plan, implement, review your vision for digital technologies in the learning and community of your centre:
- Commonly-used portfolio platforms should provide online safety advice; for example, there is guidance provided by StoryPark and Educa Portfolios.
- Teachers and Social Media Guidelines
- Resources to Engage Parents and Community
- ECE Play Idea and ICT
- Digital Technology Guide for Schools
- Netsafe Kit for ECE (2011 resource for ECE)
- Contact Netsafe if you’d like further help on 0508 NETSAFE
- Digi-parenting Netsafe have partnered with Vodafone and The Parenting Place to develop an online hub of articles, videos and guides to help kiwi families/whanau navigate and make sense of the digital world.