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Conceptualisations, beliefs and practices: investigating technology integration in Australian early learning environments through practitioner inquiry
thesisposted on 2022-03-29, 03:09 authored by Kelly Johnston
Digital technologies are becoming more prevalent every day and increasingly impact upon childrens lived experiences (Chaudron, 2015; Palaiologou, 2014). However, research indicates that diverse yet interrelated factors create an antipathy towards the integration of technology in play-based curriculums which poses a challenge for early childhood educators (Nikolopoulou & Gialamas, 2015a; Palaiologou, 2016). This study investigated educator beliefs and practices in relation to technology integration in their early learning services. Additionally, this research investigated practitioner inquiry as a professional learning model to support educators to integrate technology within a play-based curriculum. Rogoff’s (1990; 1995) sociocultural framework underpinned the study and was utilised to examine understandings of technology and how these impacted upon pedagogical practice. The research comprised of a collective case study of educators at three early learning services in New South Wales, Australia. At each of the early learning services one group took part in the study. This predominantly included two educators and the cohort of children they worked with as well as the service director or manager. Children were three to five years of age, and each group accommodated up to 20 children per day with regular, ongoing attendance pattern. The case studies included two phases, implemented over a 10-month period. The first phase examined the beliefs and practices of educators. This knowledge of educators and their specific contexts then informed the practitioner inquiry projects conducted in the second phase of the study. Findings from this research indicated that technology integration can be a paradox within early learning services and continues to be dichotomised between those who support it and those who disapprove of technology use by young children in early learning curriculums. A number of complex and interwoven factors impact upon educator beliefs and practices, and the subsequent integration of technology in their curriculums. Concomitant viewing of these factors acknowledged the relationships and connections that impact on educator beliefs and practices at personal, interpersonal and contextual levels. Findings also highlighted the importance of defining and reconceptualising technology integration—moving beyond more limited ideas of technology to consider the broader experiences children and educators have in their everyday lives. Acknowledgement of variations in educator conceptualisations of technology underpinned the practitioner inquiry process. Accordingly, professional learning content was adapted to be contextually relevant and responsive to interests, abilities, needs and resources within each service. A number of factors were identified as supports and inhibitors to technology integration with the practitioner inquiry process. This study identifies a need for further opportunities for professional discourse, critical reflection and professional learning to support educators to consider diverse conceptualisations of technology and to investigate possibilities for integrating technology within play-based pedagogies.