Year

2017

Degree Name

Master of Philosophy

Department

School of Education

Abstract

As the availability of digital technology for young children increases, it is important to understand potential challenges educators face with its use in early childhood education. Educators play an important role in shaping children’s learning and development, but concerns have been raised that early childhood professionals feel ill-equipped to effectively integrate technology into their teaching practices. The current lack of a framework or policy for high quality technology use in the early years in Australia presents a further challenge. This situation makes it critical to learn more about early childhood educators’ attitudes and perceptions of technology as they are key agents of educational change.

The focus of this study was to explore the self-efficacy of pre-service and practising educators’ for integrating technology in early childhood education. This research advances understanding of technology self-efficacy by developing a tailored measure suitable for the Australian early childhood education and care (ECEC) context and using this to better investigate the influence that individual perceptions may have on technology use.

The study used Bandura’s theory of self-efficacy as a conceptual framework for a mixed methods inquiry into how prepared early childhood educators from varying qualification backgrounds feel to achieve effective, high quality technology integration. Document analysis was used as the foundation for the development of the Early Childhood Technology Self-Efficacy (ECTSE) scale, which was then pilot tested prior to use. Where the ECTSE scale provided a quantifiable measure of selfefficacy, qualitative interviews with a sub-set of participants provided a means to further explore the role of self-efficacy in shaping educator practice.

Findings revealed that both pre-service and practising educators have mid-range ratings of self-efficacy when it comes to technology integration. Despite this, participants in this study felt under-prepared to effectively integrate technology. In particular, practising educators reported using technology with children at a more basic level and had a limited understanding of technology integration aligned with EYLF outcomes. The results also highlight how personal beliefs may impact on levels of self-efficacy towards technology integration in early education and how factors such as training, support and personal teaching philosophies can act as further influences.

The study’s findings all underscore the influence of educators’ beliefs on achieving effective technology integration and the importance of educators’ self-perceived competences and self-efficacy. Educators need to feel they have the necessary skills to effectively use technology in their specific context. The findings suggest that future policy and program development needs to: 1) shift the teaching attitudes of early childhood educators to embrace the potential of technology, 2) acknowledge that the frequency of professional development is associated with higher technology use, and that providing educators with targeted professional learning on the use of technology in developmentally appropriate ways could help educators more effectively integrate technology, and 3) support early childhood services to develop a technology policy or plan to appropriately incorporate technology into existing practices to meet the developmental needs of young children and remain up to date.

Overall, this study intended to explore technology self-efficacy amongst pre-service and practising EC educators and from this, better understand how prepared these educators feel to integrate technology effectively. The development of the ECTSE scale is a key contribution to the field of early childhood research, lending itself to further implementation across the sector. In addition, the findings of the study offer new insights into technology integration from the perspective of educators, and starts to explore concerns about poor quality technology integration by understanding the pedagogical beliefs influencing such decisions. The results from this study offer a foundation for further research and professional-development offerings tailored to address the lack of relevant guidelines and frameworks for the early years in the Australian, as well as contextual application to existing EYLF outcomes.

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