Empowering children to use technology to be active and creative

The Wee Care Kindergarten (and early learning centre) at Bondi Junction NSW is an independent centre run by owner/director Ruth Weinstein following Reggio Emelia principles. The philosophy of the centre is to view children as unique individuals who have ‘rights as protagonists in their own learning and right as citizens’. The care and education of young children is viewed not in isolation but in relation with family, peers, education, the environment and local community. A continuous dialogue among children, educators and families facilitates a reflective curriculum: children being, belonging and becoming.

Wee Care incorporates the use of technology into their program in a way that stimulates the children’s and the educators’ imaginations, creativity and physically active participation.

Ruth Weinstein, Wee Care owner and director says ‘When we first talked about using technology, we thought that children spent too much time on screens, so we challenged ourselves to find technology that we could use in new and different ways that support our program and the pedagogy of what we're doing at the centre’.

‘It was challenging for some of us, we’ve all had to learn to use the technology ourselves first and then be able to use that with the children. It’s meant that we ourselves have found new, interesting and creative ways to enhance our program with the technology.’

Most families entering Wee Care Kindergarten find it nothing short of walking into a wonderland of exciting possibilities for children. Walls and corners filled with interactive project and experiences—ranging from what the children have created, or inviting them to engage in creative experiences.

Children from Wee Care engage in technology experiences with each other and centre director, Ruth Weinstein. Ruth assisted one group gathered around a colourful ‘Cubetto’ mat, helping them to map out the route of a square shaped ‘bot’—the children design a path for the bot and step it out themselves, this way the children have a tactile experience of learning directions. Once the children have sourced the path, they then lay out the colourful direction programming pieces on a board and the bot follows the path they have mapped out.

Wee Care Director Ruth Weinstein guides children in use of Cubetto bot

One of the children who attends Wee Care is, Eli. His mother Carla Stern was assisting Eli and his peers with programming the bot. Carla says ‘Technology is never really used in a passive, static, stand-alone way here, it is all very interactive and engaging. If the children are learning about directions, colours, or shape recognition, technology is used to propel them forward with their cognitive development and their learning.’

Carla helps her son, Eli, code the bot

Ruth continues, ‘The children already seem to know a lot about technology, we felt as a team that if we encouraged the children to see technology as something more than just a passive activity, that might be good for them in the future when they’re using technology in their own lives.’

‘For example, the children have been using cameras as magnifying glasses, using iPhones to film things and take photos of objects outside that look like a face. They then use an app to create that face talking and another app to create a QR code to put on the wall. Children can then take the iPhone to go find the code with a QR reader and photograph the QR code and see the actual video that they've made.’

‘We have had the (four and five year-old) children doing stop-motion videos, where they used an iPhone camera to film each other whilst designing their own yoga pose. They start by doing a slow-motion video of the child doing the pose, then project it onto a large screen. The children then created models from clay that showed each step of the yoga pose to create a stop-motion video of the clay model.’

Carla says that she appreciates this approach to using technology: ‘It is engaging the technology with a broader idea in mind … it is always linked to other skills that the kids are learning or a broader topic that they're exploring.’

All the experiences the children enjoy are interactive and engaging. Carla says ‘One of Eli’s favourite involves setting up an iPad with a mirror so the children can film coloured blocks of different shapes and sizes, and then tessellate the pattern to match.

Children at Wee Care using an iPhone to create stop-motion film of clay figure

For the children at Wee Care, their opportunity for involvement in digital technology has been taken beyond zoning out in front of a video or game. These learning concepts and activities have been taken to a whole new level, sparking creativity, learning new skills and being active instead of passive participants.