Pre-service early childhood teachers’ attitudes and intentions: young children’s use of ICT

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2021

Source: Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 42:3, 203-218

(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study is one part of a mixed method research project involving a questionnaire and interviews.
The paper reported here aimed to examine preservice EC teachers’ attitudes and intentions related to young children’s use of ICT in a Chinese northwestern city.
The targeted participants in this research were preservice teachers enrolled in ECE programs at a local university.
Three research questions were framed to guide the development of research instruments and data collection.
● What are preservice EC teachers’ attitudes toward young children’s use of ICT?
● What are preservice EC teachers’ intentions about supporting young children’s use of ICT?
● What factors influence preservice EC teachers’ attitudes and intentions regarding young children’s use of ICT?

Research Method
The questionnaire adopted in this study was designed by Dong (2014) for studying inservice teachers’ perceptions and pedagogical practices in her doctoral study.
The original questionnaire investigated preschool teachers’ perceptions of young children’s use of ICT and measured the frequency of their pedagogical strategies to support children’s ICT use.
Considering Chinese preservice EC teachers’ limited practical experience in the field, the researchers modified Dong’s questionnaire to examine preservice EC teachers’ attitudes toward young children’s ICT use and to explore their intentions regarding supporting children’s ICT activities in their future practices.
The questionnaire mainly consists of three parts, including 30 closed questions and one open question.
Closed questions and rating scales generate an overview of preservice EC teachers’ attitudes and intentions.
The open question provides further insights into participants’ perspectives on the use of ICT in ECE.

Research population
The targeted population was 732 preservice teachers enrolled in the early childhood education program and they were mainly from diverse ethnic backgrounds (e.g. Han, Hui and Yi minorities) in northwestern China.
A total of 410 preservice teachers responded to a questionnaire, providing a 56.1% response rate.

Results and discussion
The majority of the participants had a low level of positive attitudes toward the value of ICT for young children and particularly many maintained neutral stand toward the potential of ICT for early learning and development.
The results of this study support previous data that in-service and preservice EC teachers were uncertain about the positive effects of ICT on young children (Dong & Newman, 2016; Lindahl & Folkesson, 2012; Preradović, Lešin, & Boras, 2017), but in contrast with other studies where in-service and preservice EC teachers expressed positive views about young children’s use of ICT and think that technology can support children’s learning (Brown, Englehardt, & Mathers, 2016; Hernwall, 2016; Nikolopoulou & Gialamas, 2009, 2015).
About 70% of the participants reported that they did not own ICT devices and did not use them daily.
Further, many of them (79.8%) reported they rarely used ICT for their learning and practicum.
These findings align with previous research that preservice EC teachers’ use of ICT for learning and teaching is limited and they mainly used ICT for leisure and social communication (Konktanen et al., 2016; Lei, 2009).
The participants in this study were reported as new ICT users and their confidence and skills in using ICT were developing.
Although these participants were born after the 1990s, they do not fit the feature of “digital natives” who would spend a significant amount of time using technologies every day (Lei, 2009).
This provides valid evidence to challenge generation related assumption about “digital native” preservice teachers as naturally competent and confident ICT user and shows substantial variations in the extent to which preservice teachers have access to ICTs and are able to use them (Gudmundsdottir & Haltvik, 2018; Teo et al., 2016).
Notably, these participants came from north-western regions of China where overall socioeconomic status and high technology infrastructure in this region are lower than that of other coastal areas (Sun, 2013), which might contribute to their limited ICT experience.
The preservice teachers’ limited ICT use raises concerns about a potential digital divide and equity among preservice teachers from different families and cultural backgrounds.
The preservice teachers’ less positive attitudes toward young children’s use of ICT might also relate to their limited knowledge of the role of ICT.
Although there is growing interest in the use of ICT in ECE internationally, most participants in this study were not informed by contemporary ICT research or policies in the field.
Such finding reflects that research-based evidence on the potential of ICT in the early years has not been taught to or understood by this group of participants yet.
Though the participants held less positive perceptions of ICT use, they expressed much higher intentions to support young children’s use of ICT.
Considering that many inservice EC teachers rarely used pedagogical strategies to support children’s use of ICT (Dong & Newman, 2018), it is surprising that the participants indicated they would encourage and facilitate children’s ICT activities.
A possible explanation for this finding could be that participants, being distant from actual classroom practices or lack of sufficient teaching experience, do not consider possible future obstacles that might arise in everyday ECE practices (Hu & Yelland, 2017; Nikolopou & Gialamas, 2009).
Among all the identified factors, ICT training plays a crucial role in influencing the preservice EC teachers’ own ICT use and their attitudes and intentions, as well as in developing preservice EC teachers’ capability of integrating ICT into teaching and learning. (Gudmundsdottir & Haltvik, 2018; Lim et al., 2015).
In China, although EC teachers were starting to be expected to use ICT and develop modern technology, ICT training or professional development is mostly available for primary and secondary teachers (Ministry of Education, 2004, 2012b).
In response to the ubiquitous presence of ICT in the early years, it is timely for the Chinese policymakers to develop specific policies that recognize the role of ICT in ECE and emphasize the importance of enhancing EC teachers’ ICT competencies.

Recommendations
The results have implications for initial teacher education programs in China and somewhere else with similar situations.
First, as this generation of preservice teachers is not a homogeneous group with the same technology experience, they might have different ICT access and experiences prior to their initial teacher education.
Accordingly, ICT training programs for participants during their teacher education phase could identify their existing ICT competencies and provide appropriate levels of ICT training to meet preservice teachers’ different learning needs.
Second, EC teacher preparation programs should reflect the changing nature of young children’s living environments and provide a comprehensive analysis of the effect of ICT on young children’s learning and development to inform future teachers’ practices.
Last but not the least, initial teacher ICT training programs need to focus on enhancing their pedagogical knowledge and skills in ICT integration and enable them to explore the possibilities and flexibilities of maximizing the potential of ICT for young children (Hu & Yelland, 2017).

References
Brown, C. R., Englehardt, J., & Mathers, H. (2016). Examining preservice teachers’ conceptual and practical understandings of adopting iPads into their teaching of young children. Teaching and Teacher Education, 60, 179–190.
Dong, C. (2014). Young Children’s Use of ICT: Preschool teachers’ perceptions and pedagogical practices in Shanghai (Doctoral Dissertation). The Universisty of Newcastle, Australia.
Dong, C., & Newman, L. (2016). Ready, steady … pause: Integrating ICT into Shanghai preschools. International Journal of Early Years Education, 24(2), 224–237.
Dong, C., & Newman, L. (2018). Enacting pedagogy in ICT enabled classrooms: Conversations with teachers in Shanghai. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 27(4), 499–511.
Gudmundsdottir, G. B., & Haltvik, O. E. (2018). Newly qualified teachers’ professional digital competence: Implications for teacher education. European Journal of Teacher Education, 41(2), 214–231.
Hernwall, P. (2016). ‘We have to be professional’-Swedish preschool teachers’ conceptualisation of digital media. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy, 11(01), 5–23.
Hu, X., & Yelland, N. (2017). An investigation of preservice early childhood teachers’ adoption of ICT in a teaching practicum context in Hong Kong. Journal of Early Childhood Teacher Education, 38(3), 259–274.
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Lei, J. (2009). Digital natives as preservice teachers: What technology preparation is needed? Journal of Computing in Teacher Education, 25(3), 87–97.
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Lindahl, M. G., & Folkesson, A.-M. (2012). Can we let computers change practice? Educators’ interpretations of preschool tradition. Computers in Human Behavior, 28(2012), 1728–1737.
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Nikolopoulou, K., & Gialamas, V. (2015). ICT and play in preschool: Early childhood teachers’ beliefs and confidence. International Journal of Early Years Education, 23(4), 409–425. Preradović, N. M., Lešin, G., & Boras, D. (2017). The role and attitudes of kindergarten educators in ICT-supported early childhood education. TEM Journal, 6(1), 162–172.
Sun, Z. (2013). Explaining regional disparities of China’s economic growth: Geography, policy and infrastructure. Berkeley: University of California.
Teo, T., Yurdakul, I. K., & Ursavaş, Ö. F. (2016). Exploring the digital natives among pre-service teachers in Turkey: A cross-cultural validation of the digital native assessment scale. Interactive Learning Environments, 24(6), 1231–1244.

Updated: Nov. 25, 2021
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