Now, writing in the inaugural issue of the International Journal of Technology Enhanced Learning, researchers in Cyprus explain how computer technology can be usefully integrated into the classroom even for the youngest of pupils learning life skills through stories such as Aesop's fables.
Nikleia Eteokleous of the Frederick University of Cyprus, and Despo Ktoridou and Dolapsakis Demetris of the University of Nicosia, explain how many worldwide efforts have been made recently in restructuring teacher education programmes to capitalise on advances in information and communications technology.
The researchers have now shown how infant school teachers can incorporate computer technology into curriculum activities and learning based around short stories, such as animated versions of Aesop’s Fables. These tales are characterised as social or instructive stories and always end with an instructive moral that often agrees with modern ethics although not always. Their case study design and in-depth interviews with the early childhood teachers reveals what barriers must be overcome to make teaching with such ICT tools viable, but also demonstrates many of the educational benefits to be gained.
"ICT has already changed the nature of work, of social organisations and institutions of education, of public administration, production, lifestyle, communication as well as the relationships and collaboration among people," the researchers explain, "It plays a significant role in all aspects of our lives today, and this role will only increase in the future."
They point out that the computer represents not only an excellent tool for education, but offers a revolutionary approach to certain classroom activities that could significantly help pupils even at a very young age. "Research has shown so far that used appropriately, technology can improve children’s thinking ability and help them learn to work in groups," they say.
The researchers explain that conventional teaching methods using Aesop's Fables often involve scattering the scenes and asking the children to put them in the right order or hiding a scene and asking the children to work out which scene is missing.
With ICT, tools become available that allow the pupils to create their own animated or multimedia version of an Aesop’s Fable and teachers can create interactive activities that run automatically. But, ICT also makes it easier to develop other learning tasks such as creating puzzles, varying the missing and scattered scenes tasks more easily and perhaps make tasks such as finding missing characters, or changes scenes altogether.
The team reports that teachers who used ICT in this way with their young pupils saw enthusiasm, improved understanding, and better skills than they had when using conventional teaching aids. "Our findings reveal the importance of integrating computer technology in early childhood classrooms," the researchers say, "given teachers’ and pupils’ positive reactions and experiences as well as the educational benefits and gains for the students."
They concede that it is not always easy to integrate ICT into teaching, particularly where teachers themselves lack the necessary training in the technology or in schools without adequate resources and equipment.
Albert Ang | alfa
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