Teachers play a significant role in aiding learners to acquire new experiences from the environment (Aubrey, Ghent, & Kanira, 2012). Strategies that encourage learner-centered teaching should dominate the teaching-learning process. For instance, teachers should allow their learners to participate in an active manner throughout the teaching-learning process. Young children enjoy playing, which is the best way that enables them to understand their environment. Playing is extremely significant in promoting child development to the interaction with other people and objects (Kervin, 2016). In the contemporary society, teachers use information and communication technology such as computer games to foster creativity in children as well as to give them an opportunity to engage in design thinking and visual literacy practices (Vermeersch & Vandenbroucke, 2015). It has been the requirement for early childhood teachers to acquire enough knowledge and skills in the integration of ICTs in education. Australian Professional Standards for Teachers require educators to organize content into an effective learning and teaching sequence as well as demonstrate knowledge of a range of resources that engage students in their learning (Leonard, 2012). This paper will consider how teachers can build an environment with diverse play-based learning experiences, which precipitates the development of young children’s creativity and gives them a strong possibility to engage in design thinking and visual literacy practices employing computer technology.
Young children will be able to learn when they are confident and involved in the teaching-learning process (Papandreou, 2014). AITSL graduate teachers should understand that a sense of security and well-being provides children with the confidence to do experimentation and exploration, which will help them develop their competencies and become active and involved in the learning process (Leonard, 2012). In the early childhood setting, teachers should recognize the young learners’ community and family experiences and perceptions to ensure that the learners are confident and involved. The reason is that confident and involved young learners develop a disposition towards learning, including curiosity, confidence, cooperation, commitment, creativity, enthusiasm, reflectivity, imagination, and persistence (Darder Mesquida & Pérez Garcias, 2015). Confidence and involvement will enable young children to develop skills and processes such as inquiry, problem-solving, hypothesizing, experimentation, investigating, and researching. Teachers should ensure that young learners transfer and adapt the learned content from one context to another. Confident learners can foster the learning process by connecting with the environment, including technologies, people, and objects.
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Effective early childhood teachers create a secure environment with diverse play-based learning experiences to encourage young children’s creativity (Edwards, 2013). In addition, teachers should organize the content into an effective learning and teaching sequence as well as select and appropriately use various resources such as ICT resources. When selecting software, teachers should ensure that the software positively affects the learners (Dietze & Kashin, 2013). For instance, the software should be non-violent and age appropriate and should fulfill the learner’s developmental needs. Appropriate software should contain realistic peculiarities of people, including diverse cultures, ages, gender, and families. Teachers should ensure that the software is open-ended and discovery-based, which the learner can easily control Hayes & (Whitebread, 2006). The software should provide young learners with opportunities for problem-solving and creativity.
The effective use of ICT in fostering creativity among young children requires teachers to carefully consider the human-computer interface (Darder Mesquida & Pérez Garcias, 2015). A well-designed human-computer interface can enable young children to remember the activities associated with icons, thereby making them proficient in using software. Choosing the well-designed icons will avoid impeding learners’ ICT-based creativity and capability (Whitebread, 2006). Embedment of ICT activities in physical experiences is also extremely necessary because it allows children to appreciate the relationships between computer icons, functions, and real activities.
Research shows that the use of computers in early childhood education fosters children’s creativity and computing skills (Darder Mesquida & Pérez Garcias, 2015). Children begin understanding the use of icons in representing various concepts in the same way the signs and symbols represent logical and mathematical concepts in other subjects, including science, mathematics, and geography. The use of ICT in the classroom should allow learners to participate in concrete activities. For instance, drawing, painting, and pasting allow learners to engage in concrete activities since they are the combination of physical activities and mental processing (Whitebread, 2006).
Early childhood teachers use computer games to foster creativity in their learners. Teachers should select computer games appropriately because some of them are violent and may affect social development of the young learners. Computer games are useful in the classroom because they make a lesson interesting (Dietze & Kashin, 2013). Research has shown that computer games have been among the best alternatives to promote creativity and cooperation (Whitebread, 2006). Educational games keep young learners engaged and mold the imaginative and interactive element in the learners’ thinking towards creativity. Therefore, it has been necessary to incorporate computer games in early childhood education due to the need to foster creativity in young learners.
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Design thinking refers to a problem-solving approach that requires experience, knowledge, and skills to create practical solutions for real-life problems. Education provides learners with knowledge and skills to solve the problems, which they encounter frequently (Aubrey et al., 2012). In early childhood education, young children engage in play as they imitate the roles of adults. Play enables young children to understand the roles they will play when they become adults. Therefore, young children will develop design thinking practices for solving problems by imitating adults. Teachers can use ICT such as computer games to foster the development of design thinking in young children. For example, some computer games require young children to earn points, which will help them accomplish various targets such as changing the color of a car. Drawing, painting, and pasting will also help foster the development of design thinking among young children since they will use computer tools to draw and paint images (Whitebread, 2006).
Early childhood teachers use computers to promote understanding, interpretation, and evaluation of visual messages among young learners (Westraadt, 2016). The development of the young learners’ visual literacy involves the use of various stimulating images on the computer screen and provision of the opportunities to organize the images by moving them. Apparently, the activities that involve the organization of interesting images have been enjoyable and extremely educative. Although the computer images are in the concrete domain, they provide tools that a teacher can employ in supporting cognitive developments among young children (Vermeersch & Vandenbroucke, 2015). Computers can also be useful in presenting young learners with a variety of visual devices and images to support literacy development and pre-reading (Whitebread, 2006). In fact, children are able to remember the computer icons associated with drawing, painting, and pasting easier than the verbal instructions. The computer icons serve as practical objects that children encounter within their environment. Computer-based painting is extremely significant in the artistic development of young learners as they become technology-aware and creative.
Icons are useful in representing the functions of computer applications in a pictorial form. It is necessary for early childhood teachers to consider the quality of icons that they use while teaching young learners (Vermeersch & Vandenbroucke, 2015). Icons comprise a major part of the graphical user interface, which is the design method that has become the key approach for young children’s educative applications. Teachers should use the icons that clearly indicate, depict, and distinguish the commands and operations of a program. In addition, the icons should indicate and suggest a command intention instead of simply duplicating or representing a pictorial form (Whitebread, 2006). The use of icons is particularly significant for young learners who without reading skills cannot use the verbal support, including text labels for adults. Therefore, the goal of the educational software developers is to incorporate icons that are meaningful and realistic for children and that leave little or no room for misinterpretation.
Early childhood education teachers should understand that at present the icons in the existing interfaces for the young learners’ use generally reflect what the commercial marketplace offers and fail to fulfill the developmental requirement for the learners (Whitebread, 2006). It has been extremely challenging to find an icon that will be representative of concepts to the population of young learners. Therefore, it is the responsibility of a teacher to ensure that young learners understand the link between commercially available icons and various concepts through discussions and illustrations (Whitebread, 2006). Teachers play a significant role in ensuring that learners understand the learning content by using a variety of strategies.
However, it is necessary to understand that the use of technology such as computer games, drawing, painting, and pasting may affect the physical and social development of young children. Interaction with computers may make young children lack enough time to socialize with other people. Interaction with people leads to the development of empathy as well as social skills and language development (Dietze & Kashin, 2013). On the contrary, interaction with computers may make young children lack enough hands-on time. It is necessary for young learners such as toddlers to touch everything around them as they learn about the physical environment. For instance, toddlers should understand how to make mud physically by mixing soil with water. Thereafter, the use of ICT in early childhood education may cause too much stimulation among toddlers and preschoolers. Sensory effects such as loud sounds, flashing lights, bold colors, and endless action may overwhelm young learners. As a result, children who become extremely dependent on the stimulation may have a problem focusing on quiet pastimes such as drawing or reading as well as paying attention to blackboard and other less high-tech educational media (Vermeersch & Vandenbroucke, 2015). Interaction with computers may create excessive sedentary time for young learners, thereby affecting physical development. Evidently, physical play is significant to the development of young children as it helps in building strong muscles. Violent video games may make young children become violent as a result of enjoying and practicing violent actions.
Play is essential for the growth and development of young children because it allows them to interact with peers, adults, and objects. In the contemporary society, children can play using computers, which have computer games. Early childhood education teachers can use ICT to promote creativity, design thinking, and visual literacy among young children. The use of computers makes lessons interesting for young children, thereby promoting learning. It is the responsibility of teachers to ensure that they select safe, relevant, and age-appropriate technologies that will influence learning in young children in a positive manner. Computer games, drawing, painting, and pasting can be useful in fostering creativity and computing ability in young children. In addition, teachers can use computer games to foster the development of design thinking in young children. The use of icons has been useful in promoting visual literacy among young children who have not been able to read. Young children can be able to do various computer activities on the basis of their understanding of the icons. Teachers should ensure that learners understand the relationship between icons and concepts. It has been evident that the use of computers may have negative effects on children because it may affect the development of social skills, discovery of the physical environment, and physical growth due to lack of enough time for playing.