Should children in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) learn about technology?
Currently, the statutory framework for the EYFS lists seventeen Early Learning Goals (ELGs) that children are expected to attain by the end of the EYFS (the stage that runs from birth to five years). The ELG for technology sits within the Understanding the World area of learning and requires that – ‘children recognise that a range of technology is used in places such as homes and schools. They select and use technology for particular purposes.’ To me, this ELG is age appropriate and sits well within the Understanding the World area of learning as it is about children understanding the place that technology has in their lives and the world they belong to. It is about them using some simple technology like remote control cars, talking postcards, cameras or simple computerised tools and games.
This year the DfE is running a pilot for a new EYFS profile and framework. In the pilot materials, the technology area of learning has been removed and the word technology is not used at all in the pilot materials. This raises the question of whether it is appropriate for children of age five and younger to be learning about technology. Certainly we often see children of this age using technology. However, there have been some concerns raised about the appropriateness of technology for this age group.
For me, this is not about the technology itself, but rather, how it is being used. I would have no desire to see children of age four or five, watching screen technology, passively receiving content, in educational settings. However, when teaching in Reception classes I found that it can be very empowering for a child to be able to take a photograph with a camera or use a sound recording device or app to communicate their thoughts and ideas. This is something that a child of three or four can achieve, long before they can write their ideas.
Technology, used in moderation, can enable children to create and problem solve. When used well it is something that can encourage collaboration and communication. We cannot shut the door on technology and remove it from children’s lives. It is part of their world and here to stay.
Should education in the EYFS be avoiding mention of technology completely or be helping children to understand this significant aspect of the world that they live in and how to use it safely, within limits? I would certainly argue that it should be the latter. Therefore, I would urge the DfE to ensure that technology remains part of the framework in schools and EYFS settings in the future.