A place to share ideas about play in a Prep classroom

Posts tagged ‘play’

Technology in the Early Years – A Philosophical Discussion

We live in a digital age. An age in which information is rapidly changing and a society that is communication focussed. Our world is networked and whilst networks have always existed, they are now more prominent, as well as more global.  This connectedness, the shrinking half life of information and the challenge of keeping current, as well as the current social trends in the rise of the individual, immediacy and now, and the notion of internationalism all need to be considered by educators when planning for the children who live in, and are the future of, this rapidly changing information and communication focussed society. The new national curriculum also recognises these changes and whilst it’s focus is on content, this content includes multimodal texts and their analysis through the development of higher order thinking in all areas and subjects.

When I think back to when my current prep children were born, 5 or 6 years ago, many homes still had dial up internet connection, laptops were heavy and bulky, social networking sites were very new and and iPods were the latest thing on every teenagers wish list.  Now they have started school and “smart phones” are common, broadband and wireless internet is the norm; people communicate via email, texting, tweeting on twitter and/or posting on Facebook and the children can use an iPod/ iPad/iPhone as easily as they can build with blocks.  These children should they attend University will graduate in 2027. What will the world  look like then? What kind of technology will be the norm in society, at home and…… in education?

As far back as 1986, when computers and ICT were just beginning to  appear in homes, Bruner wrote we are living through bewildering times where the conduct of education is concerned. There are deep problems that stem from many origins-principally from a changing society whose future we cannot foresee and for which it is difficult to prepare a new generation (The Language of Education p.21). The idea that we as a society, and in particular as educators, need to prepare children for a future that we can only guess about, has made me think and reflect more deeply on my pedagogical practice than any other.

In the 30 plus years I have been an early childhood educator, my teaching and learning philosophy has been based primarily on the Constructivist Theory and the typical early childhood setting provided children with opportunities to participate in group and individual activities which were open to a variety of approaches. Children are able to experiment in an open ended manner, explore their ideas and experiment using  first-hand experiences, rather than relying on the teacher’s authority. The theorists upon whose work these ideas are  justified included Bruner and his work on inquiry and discovery learning; Ausabel- who highlighted the centrality of the learners existing knowledge structures in designing curriculum; and in particular Piaget and Vygotsky who believed that children “were not empty vessels to be filled with knowledge”. Constructivists believe that knowledge and learning are based on prior knowledge and learning, and the process of building upon prior knowledge is an active one, one in which the learner must be engaged. They believe that learners fit together new information based on what they already know. Piaget and Vygotsky emphasised the idea that ‘knowledge is actively constructed by the learner, not passively received from the environmentand defined the role of the teacher as facilitating the learners own activity. Constructivist learning experiences nurture curiosity and emphasise authentic tasks in a meaningful context, where these tasks are real-world learning situations and settings.(Jonassen,1994 p.34)

 Other researchers who have influenced my pedagogy include the brain researchers who believed that children take in information through all their senses and that early childhood is a critical period for brain development and Bronfenbrenner who believed that children live and learn within multiple social and cultural contexts and their development and learning is greatly influenced by their backgrounds, lifestyles, culture and prior knowledge. He also believed that learning is a reciprocal process and interactions with people, objects and symbols affect children’s understandings, capabilities and dispositions. I also believe that we need to give children agency and a voice, with “agency” being children having the power to make choices and decisions and “voice” defined as children having their ideas and opinions heard and their diverse experiences valued and responded to.(Early Years Curriculum Guidelines p.96)

Many of these educational theorists were working in a time when learning and society was not impacted through technology but now “including technology and connection making as learning activities begins to move learning theories into the digital age. Connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the shifts in society and provides insights into learning skills needed for learners to flourish in a digital age.(George Siemens, 2005). Interestingly, these skills of making connections using technology, syhnthesising  information to make decisions and choices, and learning where to seek information are the kind of “learning to learn” skills and thinking that fit very well with the Constructivists theories and my play and enquiry based philosophy. 

With all of this in mind, for me it is not a question of do I use ICT in my classroom but how I use it.

My classroom is full of open ended resources and materials for everyone to use, many of which have been traditional components of an early childhood environment for a long time. They encourage children to be active participants in a variety of social contexts and are open to a variety of approaches, allowing for individual learning styles and stages of development and learning. They are all carefully selected and changed according to my children’s needs and interests and this is how I also use ICT. In my classroom the children have access to lots of different kinds of ICT including a digital camera, an iPod Touch, Talking books with stories written and illustrated by the children, 3 Bee Bots, a digital microscope, 2 computers, an Interactive Whiteboard and a laptop and they are all integrated into the curriculum and learning just like any other resource. They are not used in isolation and I make professional judgements about them just as I do anything else. Some things such as the iPod touch are used in similar ways to older technology such as tape players and listening posts (especially with the addition of a multi-plug head phone device) but we also embrace their additional capabilities for recording learning and ideas. Other ICT’s such as the IWB have opened up endless opportunities for co-constructing learning in an active and social way (whilst developing fine motor skills as the children use their finger on it as well as motor co-ordination as they move their arm across their midline when going from 1 side to another.)

As you have read this discussion you will probably have noticed that I haven’t mentioned play. Vygotsky states that play is of critical importance in children’s cognitive development (Early Years Curriculum Guidelines p.95) As an early childhood educator, I believe that play is, for young children, the most important context for learning as it provides opportunities to organise and make sense of the social world, actively engage with people, objects and representations, problem solve and experiment, and involves pleasure and imagination. This kind of play can be supported through the use of the wonderful resources available on the internet and other interactive technologies and activities. ICT’s can help children make connections between what they know and new knowledge. ICT’s  provide them with opportunities to develop higher order thinking as they play and experiment with them, just as they would play and experiment with anything else. This learning through experimentation and problem solving can also be related to adults who, if asked about how they learnt to use their new iPad or phone will usually tell you that they just played around with it. I don’t think many adults read the manual, although they might search the internet for video tutorials, often made by a tween or teenager.

Over the last twenty years, technology has reorganized how we live, how we communicate, and how we learn. Learning needs and theories that describe learning principles and processes, should be reflective of underlying social environments.(George Siemens 2004)

 So can Constructivism and Connectivism work together? I think they can, because a 21st classroom that nurtures children’s innate curiosity and ability to play, is supportive and flexible, embraces it’s traditional components as well as ICT’s, and integrates them both into the curriculum wherever possible,  will provide children with the opportunity to make connections and to develop the knowledge, skills and attitudes for being lifelong learners – essential for living in our rapidly changing world.

Twinkle Twinkle Little Stars

Draw a star shape on the plastic side of some clear contact. Peel off the paper and encourage the children to use their index finger to pick up sequins and place them on the sticky side of the contact , staying inside the star shape. When they are satisfied with their sequin collage,  place another piece of contact over the top and press them together. Older children can cut out the star themselves but younger children may need some help. Punch a hole in the star and hang from some ribbon. Now that the weather is cooler I have hung some tulle from the ceiling fan and suspended the stars from this. A very easy and decorative activity and if you turn the fan on slow the stars rotate slowly. Much to the children delight. Glitter sprinkled aroung the sequins prior to covering with the top piece of contact adds extra sparkle.

Stars hanging from the tulle over the ceiling.

A closer look at a star.

Once upon a time some children built a castle and found a dragon!

Once upon a time some children in a prep class built a castle. They researched castles on the internet and in books, They learnt the names of the different parts of a castle and problem solved how to create a draw bridge and portcullis. They learnt about the castle keep and the different roles people played in castle life.

They made thrones with  fabric decorations for the kings and queens to sit upon “because thrones are special chairs for kings and queens. They need decoration.”



The fair maidens wanted to wear tall hats and spent a lot of time making, and painting them to their own designs.

The castle was decorated with palace portraits to celebrate the learning of the /p/ sound.

Everyone needed a Coat of Arms to identify the castle family they belong to. (I gave them templates of varying shapes to choose from and we discussed their initials and family names. All the children used their initials and painted things they thought represented their family.)


Every castle needs a dragon, and this castle had one that liked to swoop down upon the battlements.

The Dragon


The dragon was soon joined by other dragons who needed a place to live, and so they made a dragon cave.

This dragon made wings using crepe paper and patty pans.


Some of the dragons in their cave.

Now that there were lots of dragons swooping the castle, the people of the castle were puzzled – What were they to do to stop the dragons swooping? How were the dragons to be tamed? they pondered. The people of the castle decided to ask the dragon. The dragons left the people a “P” for a clue. What could this mean?  they all thought. What could begin with the letter p?  Popcorn?  Peaches?  Pears? Plums? Pasta? Pumpkin? People??????? (As I said earlier in this story we were learning about the sound /p/.) As the people of the castle suggested these things to the dragons, the dragons continued to fly around, until they heard the magic word…….. pizza! This was the secret food that begins with p that tames a dragon. The people of the castle promised to make the dragons some pizzas and so they all became friends

The knights and dragons played together in the tower.

To celebrate their friendship it was decided that a feast needed to be had!!!! But in medievel times there were no phones to order pizza and no shops to buy the ingredients, so the people of the castle set up a farm to supply the ingredients. (Again more internet research and information books.)

The water well and stables for the knights trusty steeds.

The farm animals.Some of the orchards

More farm animals!

More of the orchards.



 After a lot of preparation the day of the feast arrived. There were goblets and placemats and a long banquet table. We did lots of counting to make sure there were 25 of everything that was needed including chairs. The menu was published for all to peruse (lots of literacy) There were pizzas to make  and fruit to be cut up. (Life in medieval times was difficult!)

The pizzas were made using muffins, tomato sauce, cheese, ham, pineapple, olives and mushrooms. The children made their own pizzas, selecting the toppings they wanted. We cooked them in the tuckshop oven.


A Toast! We loved using our goblets and getting dressed up.

But there was a surprise for us from our new friends ……………… they sent us on a dragon hunt.

Where will we look first?

We searched all over the school asking everyone we met “have you seen a dragon?” Lots of people said “NO” until we got to the library………..

We asked the librarian "have you seen a dragon?"


She said " she hadn't seen a dragon but she had found an interesting bag."

 When we looked inside the bag we found a dragon. Our quest was successfully completed!

 There was nothing left to do but return, with our dragon, to the classroom and share another toast.

To Delilah the Dragon!

 Our castle play was quite an adventure and was sustained over many weeks, culminating in the feast. Many of the Learning Statements from the Prep, Early Years Curriculum,  were covered, in fact far too many to list. Delilah the Dragon became our class pet and went home with a class member each night. The children drew, took photos and wrote stories about her adventures at their homes with help from siblings and parents. We collated them in a book called…………
But that’s another story and for another time! 

Hello world!

Welcome to Playing in Prep!  My name is Lynda and I teach prep in a state school in Queensland. Early childhood education is my passion and play is my pedagogy but in saying that, I am also a Connectivist, someone who has a strong belief in the integration of technology into the classroom.

Anyone who steps into a classroom with a play based philosophy will often think how can these children be learning anything connected to curriculum and achieve mandated outcomes. Where are the literacy and numeraqcy rotations…….etc.etc.?

 On this page I hope to share with you some of the experiences and adventures I have with my preppies, along with “the method in my madness”, as we negotiate our way through the Prep curriculum.