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Creative Technology to Support Storytelling in Early Years

In her first #NexEdBlog, Anna Knowles uses her experience to talk about the use of creative technology to inspire an early years classroom.

I have always been interested in the integration of technology in my classroom. It has been impossible to ignore the advance of digital technology, particularly over the last decade. As an EYFS teacher with a passion for finding the best ways to follow the interests of my children, it has been essential to embed digital technology within a quality classroom environment.

The children I teach in a mixed foundation unit come into school with a degree of proficiency in the use of tablets and devices. However, I noticed that the children often chose to engage in digital
technology activities that were isolating. Apps were stopping talk, rather than encouraging it! I couldn’t ignore that digital technology motivated the children, it captured their interests and offered the opportunity for some of my class to become “expert leaders.” This presented a challenge which led to a technological journey. I sought to find apps that would help talk rather than hinder it. Apps that would support practice, rather than dictate it and would also enhance the existing provision.

This technological journey led me to great and fun places! It began with the deletion of any apps that involved isolated use of the devices and ended with children using QR codes for problem solving when mixing colours in the art area! We worked in small groups, using apps such as “iMovie” to capture children’s learning and “Puppet Pals” to recall their experiences. The children were also given opportunity to practise their skills independently.

One of the finest moments of this journey occurred during free play.

A group of five year old children, made it their mission to create the most wonderful digital video entitled “What I like at school.” They assigned each other roles of ‘filmer’ and ‘talker’ and devised a verbal script. We shared the amazing video they had made at the end of the day. Technology within the context of the classroom environment had undoubtedly provided the catalyst for learning.

Negotiation, communication, sharing, co-operating, critical thinking… it was all presented in that short video. It was a video that we watched time and time again at the children’s request, and each time we watched it, it stimulated further language. The technological journey also led me to great people. I met inspiring individuals along the way who fully supported me in harnessing the very best uses of technology in my early years classroom. I was also invited to collaborate with them on an innovative digital storytelling project called “Once App On a Time”.

The concept uses richly told traditional tales to enables children to use stories as a basis for creating their own apps. Apps that can be used and viewed time and time again. The approach is rooted in collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. It combines many of the very best approaches I have used during my EYFS digital technology journey along with the knowledge and expertise of award winning developers.

The technological journey supported my practice. I am a lover of books! Actual books, ones that can be held, with pages that can be turned. I will always love and promote books in my classroom.

There is no richer resource. What I love about using a resource like “Once App On a Time”, is that it makes a written story book the central feature. It then uses digital technology to spark stories within a story and to ignite children’s interests around the content, plot and Characters.

The technological journey allowed me to maintain my principles. It is my fundamental belief that a rich quality environment and resources are essential for early years learning along with an astute awareness of the interests of children. I will always hold this belief, it drives my early years practice. This journey has enabled me to blend a quality learning environment with the technological demands of 21st century learning. I am starting with the youngest children and enabling them to be the digital enthusiasts of the future, in following their interests and supporting them to succeed.

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The author

Anna Knowles has been working in early education for almost twenty years. She is an experienced early years teacher and has lectured to degree level in her field. She now balances classroom teaching alongside working with the team at Mr Andrews Online. Anna is obsessed with high quality provision and an enabling environment but is also a tech nerd! A love of technology drove her to explore the very best ways of engaging children in a digital era. She is proud to be involved in supporting the creative use of technology in early years settings.

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