Editor’s Note: Western nations place strong emphasis on early childhood education. This study examines a combination of modern technologies and early childhood education in a middle eastern country from the point of view of kindergarten teachers and parents. It resulted in significant learning for the children, and strong acceptance by teachers and parents.
An Evaluative Study of the KidSmart Program as Viewed
by Public Jordanian Kindergartens Teachers
Dr. Mayada Al-Natour and Dr. Khalid I. Ajlouni
This study intends to highlight and recognize the role of the KidSmart software in facilitating children’s accessibility to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) tools, and processing and dealing with them to describe the extent to which Kindergarten stage teachers have the necessary skills in the field of ICT in Jordanian public kindergartens. Study tool was distributed amongst teachers (266) who work in public kindergartens, and parents (719) who have children attending these kindergartens, with the collaboration of Kindergarten supervisors. Results indicating that: means concerning the items of Handling of ICT skills, Access to and dealing with ICT tools, and Ease of access and interacting with ICT tools were ranged between medium and good level. Besides, results indicated that female teachers feel very comfortable when they use ICT in kindergartens. Outcomes indicated that the percentage of users having devices and software at home were acceptable; there was disparity between parents’ viewpoints regarding the appropriate age to introduce computer to children in kindergartens and at home. The researchers provide some recommendations to improve early childhood education in Jordanian kindergartens.
Keywords: evaluative study, KidSmart, kindergartens teachers.
Introduction and Theoretical Background
The transformation in the teachers’ role, within the system of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), has become a vital requisite today. Teachers are no more mere conveyers of information with the sole task of instructing the learners. To the contrary, they are expected to utilize this ICT to help students interact and participate with a view to learning the required information. Education is focused on developing learners’ minds, skills, and scientific thinking rather than simply passing the exams. Teachers should also change their traditional (typical) role and play various roles according to the learning situation. The teacher of today may be an advisor, a director of the learning situation, a designer of the teaching / learning process, a producer of the learning materials and an evaluator of the teaching / learning process altogether. Therefore, teachers need constant academic training as well as the traditional educational and professional development and qualifications (Wheeler, Waitte and Bromfield, 2002 ; Odin, 1997).
Today's successful teacher is by no means the person who is either experienced in his/her specialty or who is simply skillful in the subject he/she teaches. A successful teacher in a technology rich teaching environment will be capable of utilizing, modern educational techniques (Weinbrgy, Collier, and Reivera, 2003). Teachers’ professional development is a great responsibility of the universities and the Ministry of Education through both pre-service and in-service training. This training helps qualify teachers with the required standards that enable them to facilitate the process of learning to achieve its goals (Simpson & Colon, 2001).
Access to the knowledge age, which is based on full exploitation of modern technology in all fields, requires promoting the future vision and reviewing all typical methods of instruction. ICT has become a way of living and not a mere luxury tool restricted to a certain domain or a social prominent class. Amidst the global propensity within the knowledge economy, which is mainly based on modern technology to upgrade the social status and utilize resources completely, ICT can well be termed now as a means of existence. Thus, it has become an essential and inevitable tool that teachers cannot manage without in an open world where competitiveness is a criterion for progress and prosperity. Within this framework, the education system is considered the most prominent motivator for dramatic and revolutionary change in the type of life and thinking we live nowadays (Kim, 2003).
New variables have been introduced in the educational fields as a result of utilization of modern technology in the field of education and considering it a way of thinking and taking action as well. Modern technology is also a problem-solving technique and a methodological process that involves a combination of many factors: equipment and tools, views and opinions, action methods, management and human resources (Goodison, 2001 ; Mackes, 2004 (
In modern society, alphabetical illiteracy is no longer considered a difficulty for children, especially under the new laws, education requirements and the mass media. However, attention is given to technology which is now a major concern for many parents and education stakeholders. Since childhood is considered the most appropriate stage to help kids acquire concepts and skills. The size of support being offered for kids regarding access to information at present, does not meet their daily needs, amidst the vigorous quantitative and qualitative flow of information. Books and references are incapable of meeting satisfying such needs involving knowledge, practices, and professional skills. Thus, it is imperative to provide children with up-to-date methods to get information properly by computer technology. In addition to their usual role in eliminating children’s alphabetical illiteracy, modern educational institutions, which are supposed to be leaders in societies, should now play a more efficient role in eliminating children’s technical illiteracy. Performing the role that requires preparing children from infancy is considered a real asset that builds up people’s capacities. This is accomplished through full and optimal investment and guidance of all available potentials to achieve the desired interest and aspirations (Turow & Nir, 2003; Brubaker, 2004).
Therefore, kindergartens are considered important social and educational institutions in any highly aware society, as they aim at preparing children properly to enroll in the basic education. Thus, kindergartens help children acquire and develop new skills and experiences. At this stage in their life, children need continuous encouragement from their teachers to love teamwork, with the objective of implanting into them the spirit of cooperation, active participation, self-reliance and self-confidence. In addition, kindergartens enable children to acquire language, gain social skills and build up appropriate attitudes towards the educational process. Hence, intensive efforts should be exerted constantly to qualify female teachers in kindergartens and develop their professional skills, through pre and in-service training (Mackes, 2004).
Teachers at all education stages should master certain scientific subjects and have successful classroom management as well as other skills. However, the situation in kindergartens is somehow different and has special significance. Based on its importance in preparing children for the next generation, kindergartens need teachers who take into account children's needs and competencies, including the skills of information and communication technology. The kindergarten teacher is one of the most important factors affecting children's ability to adapt to and like the kindergarten life, as she is the second adult person with whom children deal directly outside their families. Thus, she plays an essential role in encouraging children to combat all barriers facing them and, enhances the growth of their talents and skills. Nevertheless, she might have a negative impact on children, and subsequently, they may be shocked or frustrated (Weinbrgy, Collier, and Reivera, 2003). So, the importance of the kindergarten teacher ranks second after the family with its role in nurturing children. Children are more responsive and inclined to the instructions of their teacher compared with any other person because of her closeness to them and their emotions towards her. Therefore, selecting good teachers and providing them with pre and in-service training are basic prerequisites for achieving success of the pre-school education. Educators agree that the degree of the interest gained by children through joining kindergartens depends - largely – on the personality and competency of the teacher (Ali, 2002 ; Turow and Nir, 2000).
Kindergartens in Jordan
The policies adopted by the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan - supported by all required laws and legislations- give special importance to early childhood stages from pregnancy up to nine years old. Intensive efforts are exerted at the highest levels for the advancement of Jordanian children, safeguarding their interests, providing them with special care, protecting their rights and enabling them to live decently. The services provided for these children are of high quality and are included in a comprehensive national and multi-sectoral policy for early childhood stage. Such policy, launched by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah, was translated into the National Strategy for Early Childhood Development in 2000. As a result, the Jordanian National Plan for Childhood was prepared for the years (2004 - 2013). It aims at providing a safe environment to develop children’s capacities through the provision of legislations, policies and programs that deal with all issues related to children including their physical, mental, social and emotional aspects. It also seeks to activate cooperation and partnership between public and private sectors to achieve integration while planning, because such planning adopts the approach of true participation and exchange of roles and tasks. The Ministry of Health is responsible for providing health care for mothers and infants starting from pregnancy, whereas the Ministry of Social Development takes care of children (from birth, to 3.8 years) in kindergartens (Imad Al-deen, 2005 ; Aldumairy, 2007; Ministry of Education, 2007).
Providing children with care and education builds up future generations who are fundamental in the development of human resources, and thus, leads to the achievement of sustainable and comprehensive development in all lifestyles. Moreover, planning for early childhood care is also considered as planning on sound basis that secures an integrated vision for the future. Therefore, children's psychological and social development and the act of raising them on adequate educational, cultural, and educational basis contribute to a large extent in achieving the objectives of a highly competent and efficient educational system (Plowman & Stephen, 2005).
The care given by the Ministry of Education to kindergartens is driven by its belief in the importance of this stage as a basic element that instills positive educational values and attitudes in kids. This interest is in harmony with the Ministry's educational development plan and falls within the framework of the ERFKE project, which involves the principles of "Education for All". One component of ERFKE is focused on the development of learning readiness, starting from early childhood. Education Act (No. 3) for 1994 was endorsed to stress that education in the kindergarten stage is formal education, though it is not mandatory. The Act defined the 'kindergarten' as any educational institution that provides pre-school education for children for two years. The same act also outlined kindergartens' goals and objectives (Ministry of Education, 2007).
The Ministry is responsible for establishing and licensing kindergartens attended by children at the age group (3.8 - 5.8) years, according to legislative standards and basis. Article 8 of the Act, identified the objectives of the kindergarten stage (providing a balanced and appropriate environment for child education involving personal , physical, mental, spiritual and emotional aspects) .This helps instill healthy habits in children, develop their social relationships and enhance positive attitudes and love of school life. The Ministry established the Division of Kindergartens in 1994/1995 to support educational institutions concerned with early childhood stage and to upgrade their performance. In 1999/2000, the Ministry piloted some kindergartens in public schools distributed in nine districts covering (15) sections, and accommodating some (375children and (15) teachers. This project was expanded to increase the number of kindergartens in 2008/2009 to (700) public kindergartens distributed all over the Kingdom with a capacity to accommodate 15,000 children. Studies indicated that students who enrolled in kindergartens’ education showed a greater willingness and readiness to learn in first grade compared with their peers who did not enroll in kindergartens (Imad Al-deen, 2005 ; Aldumairy, 2007).
Children and ICT
Facing the challenges and complexities of today's life calls on developed societies to change the methods they adopt in teaching kids in kindergartens by means of using new approaches that are expected to replace traditional teaching. This entails the introduction of modernized curricula that implements the methodology of integrated technology, especially at this critical stage of children's education. As a matter of fact, this stage will by no means bear its fruits without a sound scientific approach built on accurate, comprehensive and technologically integrated methodology. Accordingly, this approach will suit the nature of this stage and children’s needs, in addition to providing an educational environment with trained and qualified technical cadre at all levels. Kindergarten teachers are sometimes unable to achieve the desired goals, as a result of the insufficiency of and shortages in modernized and developed curricula and other supportive educational activities which meet kids’ needs. In addition, they themselves (teachers) are not adequately or sufficiently qualified to perform their task and mission (Lally, 2001; Samaras, 1996).
Studies show that pre-school stage is very important in the evolution and development of children, as it helps in the formation of their personality and ensuring their lifelong learning. Specialists agree that children's personalities (in all aspects) are formed in the first five years, and 60% of their intelligence becomes mature in the first four years. They also think that the first five years are critical in the growth of kids’ basic developmental skills. Since childhood is the most fruitful stage which prepares children and enables them to acquire various concepts and skills, it is advisable that educationalists and teachers work together and cooperate to develop such practices from the earliest stage, taking into account the advantage of using computer software as an amusing and didactic tool. This sort of software will indeed help in managing and exploiting children’s energy and potential to satisfy their desires and attitudes, rather than wasting efforts in trivialities. Modern technology has become a necessary means to keep pace with the era of knowledge and development. In the case of children, it helps them to develop positive attitudes towards learning, and prepares them for future life in the age of information and concepts. Being aware of children teaching methods, educationalists and teachers are obliged to invest in technology to achieve this goal. Children learn through methods that satisfy their curiosity, playing and doing various activities that encourage them to use their senses, experimentation and positive social interaction with their peers and the adults around them (Samuelsson, 2001; Samaras, 1996).
A study (Plowman, and Stephen, 2005) conducted on children and the Internet, recommended introducing computer in teaching children in kindergartens and to selecting devices that suit young learners, such as touch screens, colored mousses, keyboards, paintings and artwork which are attractive and fascinating for children. Moreover, the study recommended: allocate specialized gates for children that can be easily opened and navigated, use audio guidance and directives, design attractive and specialized sites for children’s education and provide teachers in kindergartens with pre and in-service training on using computer and the Internet.
(Samaras, 1996; Shade, 1996) indicated that the three-year old or even the two-year-old kid could use the computers and the Internet. Software makers have taken advantage of the increased interest in pre-school learning and plunged the market with software and programs that address children who are, even at the age of 9 months, learning to deal with the mouse and the keyboard to identify shapes, numbers, colors, etc. Although experts do not agree when it comes to identifying precisely the minimum age of the child to be exposed to technology, the following questions dictate themselves: What do these programs teach? Can children learn what they have learned from these programs in the same way they learn from a book or a real experience? However, no one denies that making children familiar with computer software and the Internet is very essential for their success in school and their ability to communicate in the twentieth century (Shade, 1996). In the pre-school stage, children learn the relationship between motion, vision, and sound. So, the utilization of the computer (mouse and keyboard) is very useful. Children may learn most of their education through activities related to senses and motions, and therefore, they must be given freedom to feel things in many ways: touching objects, grabbing them, assembling, and disconnecting them, throwing and re-arranging them, etc. In addition, they need to learn by looking and listening, and this learning cannot be imposed on children, as they acquire it through exploration and trial and error (Conway, 2006; Brubakers, 2004). Thus, the computer world is surprisingly impressive and amazing as it develops in children the sense of observation, imagination, and recognition of shapes and sizes (from 3 - 6 years). It also develops the creative capacity of infants two-year old or more, and develops their ability to control, design and innovate from 5 years and older. Children can also discover numbers, words and images (from 3 - 7 years) (Samuelsson, 2001).
Several studies (Plowman and Stephen, 2005; Smeet, 2005; Goodison, 2001) have also stressed the importance of integrating technology in the educational process at all school levels, including kindergarten, because it helps to facilitate the learning process and saves time and effort of the teacher and learner as well. Therefore, in view of the importance of ICT in the educational process, the Ministry of Education in Jordan has given great importance to the technological dimension in all aspects of education including hardware and software, human resources and others. Technology is a modern method that helps promote knowledge. Children discover objects from the world around them. They see tape recorders, tapes, T.V. sets, and phones and they recognize computers because they see them. There are some children who master the utilization of computers by using the painter software. This indicates that providing every classroom in kindergartens with a computer has become a necessity and essential to the enrichment of the classroom environment by providingmore educational and supportive activities. Such activities are targeted at achieving fun and entertaining children as well as developing their higher capacities and achieve integration and inclusiveness in expertise provided for children (Ministry of Education, 2007).
Computers have become an essential tool in modern life, as their usage has increased rapidly at all levels; however, they have not been used in the early childhood education on a large scale until recently. Computers empower children to develop positive attitudes towards learning and prepare them for future life in a knowledge-based world. IBM is a pioneer company in this area, through its provision of the KidSmart program for early education that includes secondary and basic schools of all age groups including those at the age of three to six years old. Launched in the United States of America in 1999, the program focuses on the implementation of strategic initiatives that help improve the educational achievements in less privileged communities with support from the talented and efficient technology of IBM staff. The program has now spread to more than 50 countries including 22 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Due to the importance of technology in developing children’s thinking and instilling positive attitudes towards learning, the Ministry of Education in Jordan signed an agreement relating to KidSmart program on 21/11/2003. It is the first initiative of its kind in the Arab countries, and it was initiated by the Ministry of Education in Jordan on September 2, 2004 under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah. Under the agreement, some 266 KidSmart kits were provided for 2003/2008. The program is one of the most important newly projects that is now being implemented in public kindergartens in Jordan.
The KidSmart initiative includes the donation of equipment specifically designed by IBM for early education in collaboration with Little Tikes Co. which manufactures equipment for children. The kits are designed in a way that enables two or more children to work together. The program responsible for introducing this approach in learning was developed by the River Deep Company. The software that has been Arab-enabled includes basic skills in arithmetic, science, methods of thinking and creative writing. KidSmart program offers opportunities for continuous training and development for teachers in the area of early education in Jordan. This is achieved through KidSmart website which was developed in cooperation with the Center for Childhood and Technology in the United States of America. The KidSmart website accessed at http://www.kidsmartearlylearning.org offers permanent resources and technical support for teachers and parents who are proficient in computing and communication through a multi-language website.
KidSmart Project initiatives aims at:
- Providing all children with equal opportunities to acquire modern technology, regardless of differences in culture and social status.
- Backing up the use of modern technology with kids and creating a stimulating learning environment that enhances their cognitive and social development.
- Supporting children of families with low income and making them aware of various computer techniques.
- Developing new methods of stimulating students to learn computer technology.
- Upgrading the educational experiences of children at the beginning of education stages.
Using Computers in Kindergartens
The general aims of computerizing education in kindergartens are:
- Enhancing the role of computers at all education levels whether computer is being taught as an individual subject or used as a tool that facilitates students’ comprehension of other school subjects.
- Enhancing children’s awareness of the importance of using computers in all aspects of their life, and enhancing this technology role in increasing production and achieving success throughout their life.
- Providing minimum computer knowledge to children in order to enable them to deal with the requirements of this era.
- Enriching the classroom environment with more purposeful educational activities that facilitate learning and provide learners with high mental enjoyment.
- Producing developed computer software that uses multimedia so that children can interact with it easily. This will help children develop their different mental abilities.
- Integrating computers with other experiences used with children in order to:
- Achieve the educational process goal in all its dimensions.
- Encourage learners' use of computers at the higher stages.
- Help teachers use computers in all activities they implement.
- Benefiting from the huge number of educational softwares available in the local, Arab and world markets which serve this stage.
- Participating in programs of development and reform of education by using computers and enhancing their role in the entire educational system. This can be done through:
· Introducing computers as an individual subject in the school curriculum,
· Using computers in improving teaching methods and teaching technologies for
the different school subjects areas, and
· Utilizing computers in school and teaching management.
It is a unit for children made of hard plastic with attractive colors. A computer is inserted to it with its display, colorful keyboard, and attractive mouse designed to suit children’s small hands. The chair is designed to enable two children or more to use the computer at the same time to enhance mutual cooperative learning. Moreover, the unit is designed in a way that suits children’s height and takes into consideration safety and security conditions, such as:
- All electrical cables are hidden so that children cannot reach or touch them.
- There are no sharp edges.
- Holes from its all sides are provided for ventilation.
- It is designed as a ready corner that can be easily added to the available teaching corners (Siraj-Blatchford and Siraj-Blatchford, 2004).
- It is designed for the technology era that children live in. Children from age 4 years can use it independently to develop their abilities, skills and competencies.
- It is designed in a way that it helps children to implement tasks.
- It is designed in a way that helps children to be trained in different education skills such as problem solving and investigation. The teacher can find links between the software and the applied curriculum to support and enforce education dimensions.
- Activities in the software are presented in different and fascinating ways. There are children characters and a variety of reinforcement expressions. This motivates children.
- KidSmart software contains many different activities (science, art, music, math, sport etc.). These activities help the teacher to choose the suitable implementation that enriches children's activities.
- The software does not use language extensively; instead it depends in presentation methods including sounds, pictures, movements and children’s characters.
- The availability of the software in Arabic and English languages helps children learn English letters and numbers.
- It is designed so that children easily master and control their learning.
Many researchers attest to the fact that cooperation of parents, teachers and children to achieve the common goals leads to a tangible improvement in learning at all curricula stages. School reports indicate that parents’ participation in teaching their children at home is reflected on their children's positive attitude towards learning and better behavior in school. There are also encouraging indicators which show that KidSmart increases parents’ participation in teaching their children at the kindergarten stage. The study results conducted by (Siraj-Blatchford and Siraj-Blatchford, 2004) indicate that the use of KidSmart program in Germany led to:
§ Enhancing the relationship with parents since there is communication with them.
§ Parents’ use of teachers’ room to work with their children on the computer proved very useful.
§ Children enthusiastically accepted KidSmart centers for early education.
§ Children acquired great confidence in themselves when using the previously available programs on the computer, since this encouraged self-reliance and gave children the freedom to choose without scattering the CDs everywhere.
§ Helping both children and workers in the program to build confidence since it is easy to use.
§ Children like it since they do not fear using it and the program seems a fascinating game to them.
§ The good features of KidSmart program go in line with researches’ opinions concerning the inclusion of ICT standards in computer programs in an accurate and controlled way; that is to increase children’s awareness of computers and technology and make them part of their daily life.
Materials (Subjects) Included in KidSmart Software
The software contains many applications that children can use and operate by themselves. This generates self-confidence and self-respect because children are responsible for their learning. These applications are 1-Mathematics House (The Good Cow), 2-Science House (House of Sami the Snake), 3-Social Life House (House of Miss Crocodile for the Place and Time), 4-Intelligent Beings Games Set 1, 5-Intelligent Beings Games Set 2, and 6-Intelligent Beings Games Set 3
Study Problem and its Questions
The Ministry of Education has taken a pioneer step by including Information and Communication Technology (ICT) into the Jordanian schools for all education stages. It is a new experiment that was initiated few years ago. The Jordanian Government has taken the responsibility of implementing this initiative and exerted efforts to make sure that it will prove successful. The Ministry also spent a huge amount of money on this project. This work needs cooperation and the participation of all sectors to guarantee its successful outcomes as any dereliction will cause a defect in the work. Therefore, it is very important to follow up on the work with a view to identifying obstacles that may hinder its implementation. There is an urgent need to evaluate kindergarten teachers’ use of information and communication technology presented by KidSmart. As a result, this study intends to highlight and observe the implementation of KidSmart in kindergartens.
In order to facilitate children’s access to ICT, the study raised the following questions:
- In the teaching/learning process in kindergartens, what are the most important tools and skills used in KidSmart software?
- Do female teachers feel comfortable when using ICT in kindergartens?
- Do children have computers and software at home?
- What is the appropriate age for children to use computers in kindergartens and at home from the point of view of parents?
Importance of the study
The importance of the study is derived from the timely, crucial and significant subject it discusses which is related to the degree of kindergarten female teachers’ use of ICT (KidSmart). ICT is a new field employed in all aspects of life in developing countries since it has already achieved success in all sectors in developed countries. Based on the conviction that education is the base of any society's progress and development, Jordan sought to utilize ICT in the teaching/learning processes and to incorporate it in every single element of the educational environment elements.
Thus, the beneficiary group from this study is kindergarten children whose age category forms a critical period in shaping their psychological, emotional and social development. Generally speaking, Arab societies do not attach much importance to the education quality of children at this early stage of their education, compared to advanced countries where due importance and concern are particularly attributed to the quality of education. Given the immense technological advances in the field of ICT, this technology should be integrated in all evels of education. Employing ICT has its impact on involving the learners’ senses since it embodies any activity through using multimedia such as sounds, pictures and motion. ICT also motivates children to learn through playing, thus, integrating such technologies will be useful in the educational process, as a whole, and in the kindergarten stage, in particular. A successful educational process in the kindergarten stage bases on senses (Vivankos, 1997). Imad Al-deen recommends in her study (2005) that working on employing ICT effectively in implementing and developing curricula enables kindergarten teachers’ basic skills such as planning and using technology.
Methods and Procedures
The Descriptive Analytical Method is used in this study with the aim of recognizing the role of KidSmart software in facilitating children’s accessibility to ICT tools, and processing and dealing with them to describe the extent to which Kindergarten stage teachers have the necessary skills in the field of ICT in public kindergarten. With the collaboration of Kindergarten supervisors, the study tool was distributed amongst teachers who work in public kindergartens.
The study sample encompasses all (266) public kindergartens which have KidSmart distributed among the various districts, parents who have children attending these kindergartens, and Kindergarten teachers. These kindergartens were provided with KidSmart units for the years (2003 – 2008). Some (266) questionnaires were distributed amongst teachers and the number of filled in questionnaires that was received reached (262). About (25) questionnaires were distributed among parents in each kindergarten that had a KidSmart unit. Student numbers in each Kindergarten reached (25). The number of questionnaires filled in by parents amounted to (719).
This study aims at determining the role of KidSmart software in facilitating children’s accessibility to ICT tools processing and dealing with it, with a view to describing the extent to which Kindergarten stage teachers have the necessary skills in the field of employing ICT in public kindergarten. In order to achieve this aim, the study applied the same items of the questionnaire that were applied in many kindergartens provided with KidSmart software in other countries such as (France, Germany, Italy, Portugal and the UK) after getting the license from IBM , (Siraj-Blatchford and Siraj-Blatchford 2004). The objective is to identify the role of this software in supporting the teaching/learning process. The study tool was translated into Arabic and submitted to a group of ICT and English Language specialists to verify and check the accuracy of translation and to make sure that the questions did not lose their meaning with translation. The specialists’ viewpoint and comments regarding this tool and its applicability were put into consideration before putting it into its final format. This tool included three sections:
First: the first section explains the study in terms of aims and general idea on its main pivots. It also includes the primary demographic data needed for the study; namely (scientific qualification, majoring, and experience in the field of kindergarten.
Second: It encompasses the main pivots of the study:
§ Pivot One: information processing and communication skills and it consists of eleven (11) items
§ Pivot Two: accessibility and dealing with ICT tools and it consists of eleven
§ Pivot Three: learning how to use ICT tools and it consists of eleven (11) items.
The measurement used in this study is scaled into seven levels (1=inadequate, 2=adequate, 3=minimal, 4=fair, 5=good, 6=very good and 7=excellent). The high degree indicates that it is a positive degree and expresses good use whereas the low degree indicates that it is a negative degree and expresses little use.
Third: Teachers were asked to answerer some questions related to the importance of KidSmart in supporting the teaching/learning process and to provide more examples of subjects and concepts discussed through using this software. This section works on explaining many positive aspects of the training course held in this domain and teachers have the opportunity to offer their viewpoints regarding the use of computer in kindergarten.
In addition, a tool was used for parents. Many questions were asked to parents with regard to the answer to the sixth and seventh questions of this study related to the availability of hardware and equipment in kindergartens and at home and to the appropriate age for the introduction of computers to children in kindergartens and at home.
Study Tool Validity
To check the study tool external reliability, it was submitted to (10) arbitrators form the Faculty of Educational Science in the University of Jordan who have vast experience in various domains and who are majoring in education technology, child care, measurement and evaluation and statistical education. The study tool was offered to arbitrators to learn about their views on the various items that appeared in the questionnaire in terms of cohesion, and to verify that the statements were linguistically correct. Arbitrators’ viewpoints were put into consideration in order to have the best format.
Study Tool Reliability
In order to calculate the validity of the study tool, “Test and Retest” were used. The study tool was implemented on 20 teachers chosen randomly and within interval time of two weeks then the study tool was implemented again on the same teachers. Pearson-Correlation was used to calculate reliability factor. Table (1) shows the total values of the study reliability and subsidiary domains among the pre-tests and post-tests.
Values of study reliability and subsidiary domains among pre- and post-tests.
Reliability Coefficient (Repetition)
1) Data processing and communication skills
2) ICT accessibility and dealing with its tools
3) How to use ICT
Procedures of the study
After setting the study tool in its final form and after testing its reliability and validity, the following procedures are taken:
Applying the questionnaire on female teachers in public kindergartens from different education directorates. These kindergartens have KidSmart devices and the teachers were previously trained on KidSmart software. Kindergarten supervisors distributed the questionnaire on (266) kindergarten female teachers in (266) kindergartens and they explained to them how to fill it out.
Counting and assorting the received questionnaires which were complete (262 questionnaires) in order to be statistically studied. (4) Incomplete questionnaire, were excluded since they were not completed.
(20) Questionnaires were taken randomly and were retaken after three weeks from the first application to check the reliability of the study tool.
(25) Parents’ questionnaires to be filled by the children’s parents were distributed to each kindergarten that had KidSmart devices. The teacher received the questionnaires and sent them to the kindergarten supervisor in the Ministry. (719) questionnaires were received.
Inputting the data into the computer using SPSS statistical software and enabled a statistical analysis to answer study questions and derive the results.
Results and Discussions
Results of the First Question
“In the learning/teaching process, what are the most important ICT skills and tools
used by female kindergarten teachers in KidSmart software?”
To answer this question, the means and the standard deviations of the responses of teachers who were trained on KidSmart software were calculated. (262) kindergarten female teachers answered the questionnaire in its three domains. Tables (2, 3 and 4) show the results of each domain. The measurement used in this study is scaled into seven levels (1=inadequate, 2=adequate, 3=minimal, 4=fair, 5=good, 6=very good and 7=excellent). The high degree indicates that it is a positive degree and expresses good use whereas the low degree indicates that it is a negative degree and expresses little use.
1- Handling of Information and Communications Skills
Table (2) shows the means and the standard deviations concerning the items of Handling of Information and Communications Skills:
The means and the standard deviations concerning the items of
handling of Information and Communications Skills:
Children are encouraged to choose their own applications during free play.
Children are encouraged to provide initial instruction and to help each other in using new programmes and applications
Children are encouraged to use only the supplied and pre-installed software on the computer (e.g. drill and practice literacy and numeracy programs).
Children are not encouraged to operate the ICT themselves (e.g. any computer, video, television, cassette, telephone etc) that is available
There is no or little use made of ICT in the setting
The Programs available include open-ended problem solving, adventure games and draw/paint software
In applying the ICT children make their own choices to produce different outcomes
ICT is applied by staff to enhance the print and number environment throughout the setting (e.g. printouts used in emergent literacy/numeracy/labels)
Staff uses the computer during story telling and/or other group activities (e.g. multimedia, talking books, programmable toys, encyclopedia).
Children are encouraged to use generic software and other applications for their own purposes (e.g. using a paint program to make a birthday card for a parent).
Children are encouraged to use ICT to share their ideas and discoveries with peers (e.g. displaying their painting in a display or the centre's web page).
Total (Handling of Information and Communications Skills)
* 1=inadequate, 2=adequate, 3=minimal, 4=fair, 5=good, 6=very good and 7=excellent
The results in table (2) above show that the means ranged between (4.11) and (5.32). The means of seven items concerning information processing skills and tools and communication skills were more than or equal to (4.99) (good and above). The means of these seven items are sorted from the highest to the lowest (descending) as follows: “Children are encouraged to choose their own applications during free play.” (5.32); “Children are encouraged to provide initial instruction and to help each other in using new programmes and applications.” (5.23); “Children are encouraged to use only the supplied and pre-installed software on the computer (e.g. drill and practice literacy and numeracy programs).” (5.22); “Children are not encouraged to operate the ICT themselves (e.g. any computer, video, television, cassette, telephone etc) that is available.” (5.19); “ There is no or little use made of ICT in the setting.” (5.06);“ The Programs available include open-ended problem solving, adventure games and draw/paint software” (4.99) ; “In applying the ICT the children make their own choices to produce different outcomes.” (4.99). The means of the other remaining items ranged between (4.11) and (4.97) (medium level). The total degree of this domain items was (4.96) (high medium level close to good level). Comparing this percentage with the percentages mentioned by (Siraj-Blatchford and Siraj-Blatchford, 2004), it was higher than Britain (4.9), Spain (2.4), Germany (3.9) and France (4.0) whereas it was lower than Portugal (5.9). This is due to the Ministry of Education (MoE) efforts in qualifying all teachers (males and females) including kindergarten female teachers. MoE held many training courses for ICDL, Intel, SISCO and other ICT courses. The training course on KidSmart program was easy so kindergarten female teachers benefited from it a lot. These positive results concerning information processing and communication skills are reflected in children’s learning.
2- Access to and Dealing with ICT Tools
Table 3 shows the means and the standard deviations concerning the items of Ease of Access and Interacting with ICT Tools:
Means and standard deviations concerning
Ease of Access and Interacting with ICT tools:
1. Children have the opportunity to play with computer programs and/or programmable toys (e.g. Paint).
2. Children have access to, and operate for themselves, cassette recorders, video, computers
3. Children routinely select and load their own computer software
4. Children are rarely or are never given the opportunity to operate ICT (e.g. TV, cassette, video, computers etc)
5. Computer software is employed to support learning in a range of subject areas (e.g. music and science as well as literacy and numeracy).
6. Children occasionally select and load their own computer programs under adult supervision
7. Computer software is available to support learning in all subject areas across the curriculum
8. Children are encouraged to operate ICTs and to appreciate that signals and instructions are required to control them
9. Children are encouraged and supported in information retrieval (e.g. accessing a CD-Rom encyclopedia) to answer a question.
10. Children are encouraged in their play to control a wide range of real and/or pretend technologies (e.g. alarms, washing machines, video recorders etc).
11. Very little pretend or real technology is available for the children's use in the setting
Total (Ease of Access and Interacting with ICT Tools)
* 1=inadequate, 2=adequate, 3=minimal, 4=fair, 5=good, 6=very good and 7=excellent
The results in table (3) above show that the means ranged between (4.38) and (5.16). The means of three items from the items concerning access to and dealing with ICT tools were more than or equal to (4.99) (good and above). The means of these three items are sorted from the highest to the lowest (descending) as follows: “Children have the opportunity to play with computer programs and/or programmable toys (e.g. Paint).” (5.16); “Children have access to, and operate for themselves, cassette recorders, video, computers.”(5.10); “Children routinely select and load their own computer software.” (5.06).
The means of the other remaining items ranged between (4.38) and (4.98) (medium level). The item “Very little pretend or real technology is available for the children's use in the setting” (4.38). The total degree of this domain items was (4.85) (high medium level close to good level).
These results are due to lack of ICT tools (such as televisions, videos, electronic games etc.) in kindergartens that children can use except for KidSmart units and in some cases one computer without accessories. This goes in line with the results of Al-Dhumeri study (Al-Dhumeri, 2007).
3- Learning the Use of ICT
Table 4 shows the results of the domain “Learning the Use of ICT”.
Means and standard deviations for learning the Use of ICT Skills:
The staff sometimes draws children's attention to the ICT in the setting and in their homes.
Children never see staff using ICT for their own purposes
No references are made to the ICT in the children's homes, the early childhood setting or local environment
Children are encouraged to provide narrative accounts of their own and others interactions with ICT (e.g. of scanning products through a supermarket checkout, using a cash point, ICT at home).
Staff provides instruction in new applications as a direct response to a child or to a group of children's interests or expressed needs.
ICT is integrated into a range of socio-dramatic play environments (e.g. in a 'shop' or an 'office' play environment).
Play with pretend or real ICT is encouraged and often included in socio-dramatic play.
Children's attention is specifically drawn to the ICT in their local environment (e.g. through reading stories about technology, visits to supermarket checkouts etc.).
Children sometimes see staff using ICT (e.g. a school secretary using a word processor)
Pretend or real ICT resources are provided for children to use in socio-dramatic play environments (e.g. home corner).
Children routinely see staff using ICT in pursuit of educational aims of the setting e.g. searching on the WWW, programming a video recorder, making labels for display, using a mobile telephone).
Total (Learning the Use of ICT)
* 1=inadequate, 2=adequate, 3=minimal, 4=fair, 5=good, 6=very good and 7=excellent
The findings illustrated in table (4) indicate that the means range from 4.55 to 5.34), however, the means of the two items related to learning through ICT were 4.99 or more (more than good).The item “The staff sometimes draw children's attention to the ICT in the setting and in their homes”, recorded the highest mean (5.34) followed by the item “The children never see the staff using ICT for their own purposes” which recorded a mean of (5.16). For other items, the means ranged from 4.55 to 4.95 and the lowest mean was for the item “The children routinely see staff using ICT in pursuit of the educational aims of the setting e.g. searching for information on the WWW, programming a video recorder, making labels for display, using a mobile telephone).”as this item recorded a mean of (4.55).
The total average of the items included in this domain was (4.83) which is high and almost close to the satisfactory average of the domain of learning the utilization of ICT. The reason behind the low level of these results is that many teachers in kindergartens don’t use technology tools in class such as TVs, videos, computer games and others. Moreover, these tools are insufficient and this is clear in the results mentioned in table (3).
Generally speaking, the findings illustrated in tables (2,3and 4) conform with the visions of (Plawman and Stephen, 2005; Smeets, 2005 ; Goodison, 2001 ; Al-Dhumeri, 2007) as they stressed the importance of technology inclusion in the teaching/learning process, including the kindergartens’ stage. ICT facilitates this process and saves time and effort of both the teacher and the learner because it is one of the modern means for augmenting knowledge in the developed era. Children experience technology in their everyday life through watching tapes, videos, TV, phones and they master using the paint program on the computer as well. Thus, providing every classroom in the kindergartens with a computer has become a necessity and an essential factor to enrich the class environment with constructive educational meaningful activities. These activities entertain children as well as develop their thinking capabilities as they are supported by comprehensive and integrated experiences.
Results of the Second Question
“Do Female Teachers Feel Comfortable when Using ICT in Kindergartens?”
Table 5 shows impressions, frequency, percentages and standard deviations of teachers’ responses regarding their impression about the use of ICT in Kindergartens:
Frequencies, percentages, Means and standard deviations of teachers’ responses
regarding their impression about the use of ICT in Kindergartens
Table 5 demonstrated that the mean degree of teachers’ impression about using ICT in Kindergartens was (1.46). This value referred to the degree of teachers’ satisfaction as a result of using ICT in Kindergartens was “very comfortable”, “comfortable”, "not comfortable" were 56%, 42% and 2% respectively. The reason of these results were the training that teachers received through attending ICDL and Intel and other courses relevant to ICT in the Ministry of Educations followed by a training on KidSmart software. All of the above mentioned contribute to kindergarten’s great satisfaction.
Results of the Third Question
Question three: "Do children have computers and software at home?"
To answer this question, percentages of parents’ responses, who provides answers on this question, were extracted. They were (719) parents. Table 6 demonstrates that the percentage regarding the availability of computer was (%62) which was higher than medium. Percentages regarding games, internet and e-mails and educational software at children’s homes were, (%52.9), (%17) and (%43.8) respectively as indicated by children’s parents. In general, these results indicated the percentage of having devices and software were acceptable which in turn played helpful role in employing ICT in the teaching/learning process especially KidSmart in kindergartens.
Shows the percentages of parents’ responses regarding
the availability of devices and software in children’s homes
Devices and programs used at home
Internet and e-mail
These results were attributed to the collaboration of parents, teachers and children in the process of achieving mutual objectives which in turn worked on having concrete progress in the children’s achievements in all phases of the curricula. A report on schools indicated that parents’ participation in teaching their children at home and the availability of devices reflected on children’s attitude positively toward their learning and behaviors at school. This was clearly demonstrated through the encouraging indicator as spotlighted in a study conduct by (Siraj-Blatchford and Siraj-Blatchford, 2004). The study results indicated that the use of KidSmart program in Germany led to:
§ Enhancing the relationship with parents since there is communication with them.
§ Parents’ use of teachers’ room to work with their children on the computer and the parents found this very useful.
§ Children highly accepted KidSmart centers for early education.
§ Children acquired great confidence in themselves when using the previously available programs on the computer since they encourage self-reliance and give children the freedom to choose without scattering the CDs in every place.
§ Helping both children and workers to build confidence since it is easy to use.
§ Children like it since they do not fear using it and the program seems to them as a fascinating game.
§ The good features of KidSmart program go in line with researches’ opinions concerning including ICT standards in computer programs in an accurate and controlled way. That is to increase children’s awareness about computers and technology and making them a part of their daily life.
Results of the Fourth Question
Question four: "What is the appropriate age for children to use computers
in kindergartens and at home from the point of view of parents.
To answer this question, the percentages of responses provided by children’s parents who were 719 were extracted. Table (7) indicates that the percentage of the appropriate age to introduce computer to children in kindergarten whose age were less than 5 were (20.9%) and it was (44.2%) for those who were more than 5 years old and (34%) those would be ready to use computer regardless of their age. Regarding percentage of the appropriate age to introduce computer to children at home whose age was less than 5 were (30.3%) and it was (42.8%) for those who were more than 5 years old and (%44.8) for those who would be ready to use computer regardless of their age. Results indicated that there was disparity between parents’ viewpoints regarding the appropriate age to introduce computer to children in kindergartens and at home.
Responses provided by children’s parents regarding the appropriate age of introducing computer to children in kindergarten and at home
When ready to use computers regardless of their age.
I feel that the appropriate age for children to be provided with a computer in the kindergarten is
I feel that the appropriate age for children to be provided with a computer in the home is
The highest percentage was for children whose age was more than 5 with (44.2%) while the percentage for those children who would be ready to use computer regardless of their age was (42.8%) and this percentages were approximately the same. In general, the viewpoints of the children’s parent regarding the process of introducing computers to children in kindergarten and at home, the percentages were not significantly different between those children who were more or less than 5 years old according to the studies conducted by (Shade, 1996 ; Samuelsson 2000 ; Brubakers, 2004 & Conway, 2006). There was no consensus among experts and researcher about putting minimum age to introduce such technology to child; nevertheless, no one can deny that familiarity between computer programs and the use of internet on behalf of the child is important in order to succeed in school besides his/her ability to communicate with the twenty-first century development. Knowing pre-school stage helps children develop their ability in terms of coordination between movements, vision and sound so that it will be useful to use the mouse and keyboard. The child can has most of his/her learning through physical and sensor activities so that he/she needs great sense of freedom in terms of having opportunities deal with objects through touching things, pushing, collecting, separating, throwing and rearranging them. The child also needs to learn who look and listen to things but this can’t be imposed on the child but he/she acquires it thorough experiment, discovery and sometimes through trial and error method.
The study provides the following recommendations to improve early childhood education in kindergartens:
§ Vocational training resources should be elaborated through integrating ICT tools in early childhood education and to put into consideration the need and benefits that KidSmart software spotlight on.
§ ICT tools should be provided at a large scale in early childhood education and integrated in curricula to get the desired benefits in order to develop early childhood education.
§ Parents should be supported in teaching their children through establishing partnership with them. ICT tools encompass the process of urging and motivating parental participation.
§ There is an urgent need to support the process of building knowledge and collaboration on all levels. Resources should be provided to support effective networks of fathers and teachers.
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About the Authors
Dr. Mayada Al-Natour is an Assistant Professor in Special Education with emphasis on Learning disabilities at the University of Jordan in Amman, Jordan.
Dr. Khalid Al-Ajlouni is an Associate Professor in Educational Technology at the University of Jordan and Staff-Tutor at the Arab Open University in Amman, Jordan.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; email@example.com