ICT in Pre-School: A 'Benign Addition'?: A review of Literature on ICT in Pre-school settings.

ICT in pre school

This literature review was commissioned to inform the development of a national strategy for the provision and use of ICT in pre-school education in collaboration with the Scottish Executive Education Department. The review was first published in 2002 by Learning and Teaching Scotland.

What the resource is:
The review is separated into four main sections. The first section highlights the debate in the literature on the use of ICT in early years settings. The second section discusses the use of technology in the home and school, and the difference between education and entertainment. The third section investigates the provision for ICT in early education and finally the fourth section examines the issues surrounding learning with ICT in the early years.


The aims of the resource:
The principle aim of the document is to investigate the effectiveness of using ICT in an early years setting, in terms of its relevance to young children, and the benefits it brings to their learning. The report aims to inform the development of the national strategy in the use of ICT in Scottish early years settings.


Key findings or focus:
Findings within this review focused on the four areas investigated.

  1. Should children use ICT?
    Key findings included a consideration of the use of ICT in terms of children's health and development. It is argued that the vetting of software and other safeguards are needed to ensure safe access to internet sites, which must be free from violent and sexual content. The review argues that children should be carefully monitored so that practitioners are aware of their engagement with ICT.
  2. Media and ICT, including new literacies
    Key conclusions highlighted the need to view ICT within the wider vista of a child's media experience. Practitioners should be more aware of the children's home use of technology and of their media awareness before planning experiences in school. This report highlights the need for children to learn the new literacies of technology and argues that practitioners should approach this in much the same way as emerging 'print literacies'. Finally the review concludes that practitioners need to develop ways of effectively observing and recording children's developing ICT literacy.
  3. Provision for ICT in early education
    Key conclusions within this section are mainly based around  adequate training for practitioners and managers, which includes formal training of skills in a range of software and hardware, and opportunities to consider ways in which they can use ICT in their settings in an inclusive and effective way. This section concludes that when planning for ICT, practitioners need to be aware of the children's confidence with ICT, and that they need to integrate ICT  into the setting in such a way that allows all abilities to be included, so giving all children opportunities to use ICT as a tool for learning and for problem solving
  4. Learning with ICT
    Key implications for practice in this section include the need for ICT to be seen as a playful experience.  Ways need to be developed to facilitate this aspect of ICT within this setting. The key area of motivation is discussed here, in terms of the way motivation for using ICT can be utilised to nurture the development or the attainment of specific skills. Also, the cross-curricular nature of ICT is highlighted, for example in the area of literacy, ICT should be used to enhance their emergent reading and writing skills.

The quality, authority and credibility of the resource:
This research report looked at the literature available on the effectiveness of ICT in the early years and so the quality of the report lies in the review of literature. There is a large amount of literature and this allows a good exploration of the issues from both sides of the debate.  One of the conclusions of the report is the scarcity of good quality research findings. Most of the literature claims that there are benefits for using ICT in an early years setting but the evidence base for this is weak. Also, many of the claims lie in assumption and assertion rather than empirical study. It would be a stronger report if a more systematic review of the literature was undertaken which had set inclusion criteria to rate the quality of the research before being included in the report.


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
This report allows ITE tutors and mentors to quickly become versed in the debate regarding ICT and the early years. This report is a very good resource to introduce a discussion and debate either in an ICT or early years forum. It is also a very useful resource for anyone tutoring a student who is doing research into this area and needs a review of the subject in a clear and concise way.

The relevance to ITE students - how and why it has importance:
The subject of ICT in the early years is still a rich debate which has not been resolved and is a very important issue in ICT education. ICT continues to be a subject that does not have an associated pedagogy, which limits its creativity and its role as a tool for learning rather than a 'magic bullet' for education. This review will help students assess their position in this debate as it critically evaluates the research that has been done in this area. An example of this is the critical evaluation of Fools Gold (2000) which, it can be argued, did a lot of harm for ICT education as it claimed that children were losing out on other skills such as play and hands-on experiencing. The report puts this into context and criticises the agenda behind the Fools Gold position. This report is important for students in that it shows a good example of the sort of debate that we should be encouraging in ITE settings through student discussions and assignments.

Reviewed by:

Graham Parton

The following might be useful to read in conjunction with this resource:

Parton,  G. (2000) ICT in the Early Years. Milton Keynes: Folens Publishers

Papert, S. (1994) The Children's Machine: Rethinking School in the Age of the Computer. New York: Basic Books


Alliance for Childhood (2000) Fools Gold: A Critical Look at Computers in Childhood, www.allianceforchildhood.net/projects/computers/computers_reports.htm