"It would have been nice to know about that piece of software!" Preparing Early Years Practitioners for the challenges of embedding the use of ICT into their professional practice - what are the challenges?


What the resource is:
The resource is a report on a TDA funded research project comparing Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) student teachers' and Primary student teachers' confidence with and knowledge of ICT appropriate for use in school. The outcomes suggest that whilst students would appreciate more hands-on experience of educational software packages in the university-based components of their courses, they valued the opportunities provided whilst in school on placement to work collaboratively with colleagues to further their knowledge, skills and confidence.


The aims of the resource:

  • To explore student teachers' experiences of and attitudes towards using ICT as a pedagogical tool across the range of EYFS settings
  • To underline the importance of student teachers taking responsibility for their own professional development with ICT
  • To compare experiences of and attitudes towards EYFS and Primary undergraduate teachers towards the use of ICT as a pedagogical tool
  • To explore the problematic interface between university-based provision and school-based experiences in applying ICT in professional practice


Key findings or focus:

  • ICT capability should be based on the idea of teachers taking responsibility for their own professional development in relation to technology
  • It is difficult for student teachers to be given hands-on experience of range of continually developing hardware and software they are likely to experience in the course of their career
  • A high number of student teachers had positive attitudes towards taking responsibility for their own continuing development with ICT beyond the university context
  • Students expressed the attitude that university-based provision should not focus on ‘basic' skills that could be used to support them in their general professional role
  • Student teachers' experiences of integrating ICT into their pedagogical practice was nuanced by a range of factors (including resources, attitudes, diverse professional responsibilities and the abilities of children in a given teaching group)
  • On-the-job learning was identified as an important factor in making effective use of technology. Student teachers frequently referred to need to make time during school placements to engage in play to explore unfamiliar ICT resources
  • EYFS student teachers consistently rated levels of confidence, comfort and enjoyment in using ICT to facilitate children's learning lower than the Primary student teachers (although the mean differences were small enough to render these differences statistically insignificant)
  • The extent to which ICT is believed to facilitate teaching and learning is significantly higher amongst Primary student teachers, suggesting an underlying perception that the usefulness of ICT increases with the age group the students are training to teach
  • Student teachers were critical of perceived pressures to incorporate ICT into teaching and learning for its own sake, and remained wary of using technological tools to replace other beneficial methods to support children's learning in the early years
  • The challenge within university-based ICT provision is to create further opportunities that challenge student teachers to take ‘control over the process' of innovating with technology


The quality, authority and credibility of the resource in relation to ITE:
The article uses clearly cited references to substantiate its underpinning hypothesis. The article draws on the findings of a clearly notated and thoroughly analysed research project, which adopted a mixed method approach. Quantitative data was gathered by means of a questionnaire with 120 respondents, qualitative data by means of a self-selecting focus group of four participants, each of whom kept an audio diary during an eight week school placement. The focus group students were prompted to reflect on how they had incorporated the use of digital cameras into their teaching practice. A final focus group interview was carried out by a research officer based in the Education Research Centre at the University of Brighton. The study is therefore relatively substantial in its scope, and adheres to generally accepted protocols for the gathering and analysis of data.

The paper is of specific interest to teacher educators involved in ICT provision to EYFS undergraduate teachers, and to EYFS undergraduate teachers themselves. It is also relevant to all students, teachers and teacher educators interested in the question of how to embed ICT into pedagogical practice in a reflexive and dynamic way.


The implications for ITE tutors/mentors:
Key issues for tutors and mentors arising from the report are:


  • The emphasis on a critical and sustainable approach to ICT in education - one centred on teachers' confidence to explore and adapt to changing technologies throughout their careers. This approach is favoured over those which ‘overload' student teachers with skills-based training in specific ICT applications.
  • It is important that the ‘complexity and richness' of students' school-based experiences with ICT is reflected in university provision. Note: the authors make some limited recommendations, but the emphasis of the paper is to provide evidence for this assertion.
  • Student teachers were largely positive about the need to take responsibility for their own professional development with technology, and accepted the need to acquire basic ICT skills outside of their teacher training course.
  • Student teachers' confidence can be nurtured by mirroring the experience they will have in schools in the university - for example, opportunities for collaborative practice could prepare students for the mutually supportive relationships which will facilitate their continuing professional development.
  • Student teachers remained critical of incorporating ICT ‘for its own sake' - a pressure they perceived to come from university and school-based mentors, expressing the importance of retaining certain ‘kinaesthetic' modes of learning.


The relevance to ITE students:
Issues arising from the paper of significance to students include:


  • The importance of on-the-job learning, and of making time during to school placements to explore unfamiliar ICT resources rather than relying on university courses to provide experience of the vast range of technologies available
  • The importance of taking responsibility for ongoing professional development with ICT, for instance by gaining basic competence outside the university context
  • The value of openness, adaptability, and collaborative approaches to successfully incorporating ICT into pedagogical practice


The paper also provides some useful examples of how focus group students responded to context to effectively integrate technology into their eight-week teaching placement.


Reviewed by:
Richard (Rik) Bennett




Useful references are provided at the end of the paper

Authors :

Keith Turvey, Philippa Totraku and Jennifer Colwell

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