Project on creating digital tools for kindergartens is proceeding successfully 

A digital tool should serve also as a helping mechanism, not only as an entertainment device or something to just passively look at. About the creation of the project “Development of digital learning and methodological tools to deliver innovative pre-school education programs”, its necessity and development, in the radio show “Family studio” talks its leader Daina Kājiņa, professor at the pedagogy, psychology and art department of Latvian University and IT expert, father of three, Pāvils Jurjāns. 


A study carried out in 2018 titled “An analysis of the experience of Latvia and abroad regarding access to digital learning resources in teaching institutions” concluded that the digitalization of the educational environment is increasing and the new education principles are also entering pre-schools. At the same time, the study concludes that digital features are not sufficiently diverse in Latvian kindergartens. In order to improve the situation, Daina Kājiņa, the head of CreaKids, is implementing the “Development of digital learning and methodological tools to deliver innovative pre-school education programs”. The project is intended to prepare digital materials for pre-school institutions. It will develop 90 sets of ideas in three areas: language, math, health, and physical activity. At the same time, the project leader points out that pre-school learning content is focused on integrated skills, so they can be confronted with each other and overlapped. During the project, teachers work as authors to realize their ideas, further information technology specialists digitize the tasks so that the platform created is easy to use for every Latvian educator. When publishing the platform, both teaching and methodological materials will be available.

Necessity of the project
In today's world, when digitalization and modern technologies are increasingly accessible to children, it is important to use the digital tools to create an interesting world for a child in reality, rather than simply following the content of smart devices. And it is important that movement and creativity are promoted through the use of smart devices.
Consequently, the aim of the project is that the digital devices serve as an assistant to make the child more interested and have educators needing to prepare less for lessons. The Project Manager points out that kindergartens, who believe, that, if they bring in technologies in their kindergartens, their children will be only in the digital world, are mistaken.

Pre-school devices?
There is a belief that children in preschool do not need to learn digital skills in order to work with digital technologies. Linda Daniela, professor at the department of pedagogy, psychology and arts at the University of Latvia, says that the world needs to be divided in before and after, pointing to the Covid-19 pandemic that began in Europe in March, unlocking people from the analog world, so that the 2018 study was actually conducted on the basis of a different reality of the moment. Perhaps a large proportion of people who were previously opposed to using digital devices are now rethinking their beliefs and the need to use these devices, says the specialist.
As regards the digitization of the teaching process of a child of preschool age, the professor stresses that the presence of an adult is crucial because the belief that the child will learn everything on their own is simply not true. It should be understood that a child is not going into a virtual environment and disappearing there, but digital features are used to teach a child skills such as programming. "Digital skills need to be developed, we cannot expect them to just come up. We cannot expect that a 3-year-old will play all day with digital teaching materials. In that case, I will agree that it shouldn't be done. But if it is integrated with activities, it is integrated into an analog world to support both children and teachers, digitalization needs to take place,” summarizes Linda Daniela.

Video viewing is not digital literacy
If there is a device at the center of the event, it is a major mistake; the device, at least up to the first grade, can be an assistant, emphasizes the information technology expert, the father of three children, Pāvils Jurjāns. Children develop in different ways, their interests vary. If training materials are available to parents and educators, it will already solve some problem areas.
“With a smirk, I've looked at the parents who pride themselves on how very well the little one has mastered the ability to switch from one video to another on Youtube. But it doesn't require any overzealous skills, and it doesn't indicate intelligence. The use of devices is very simple, intuitive, and can be learned very quickly. The child's brain in general is very suitable to learn new things. The fact that a child learned to work with Youtube does not mean he is the next technology genius,” says information technology expert. He points out that touching things is very important for children, but digital devices are usually with very primitive tactile stimulation, and especially in the early age, such simplifications might be harmful to children - it would degrade development rather than help it. Pāvils Jurjāns also emphasizes that the prevailing notion is that the screen is digital, but if a child points a finger at the screen, it is not digital literacy. The depth of interactivity is important; if the only activity is viewing the screen, it is not particularly evolving.
Professor Linda Daniela draws attention to the fact that the digital features of the screen – tablets, telephones, and computers – need to be conceptually separated from those without a screen. Examples include robotics kits, digital pens, etc. Then you need to see if the child is just looking at the device or doing something. If a child does a job according to logic, it has added value. The child doesn't have to “sit” on the screen and watch it all the time, but it's not that everything on the screen is very bad and harmful. It is an adult's ability to look more broadly and understand that the development of children's ages is different.
The Project Manager Daina Kājiņa highlights that practical work will always be in the core of pre-school education, and smart devices will simply make it more exciting.

Accessibility of project materials and teacher competence
It is expected that materials developed by September 2021 will not only have passed the approval process but will already be available to all parties. Thinking about the skills of preschool teachers in their use, project manager Daina Kājiņa says, if the teachers want to use this set, it will be possible because the use of materials will require tablets: “I am sure we will intrigue educators with the content we have created, therefore learning how to use it properly will be a lot easier for them."
The accessibility of digital settings in each nursery calls for the thinking of pre-school founders. “In the pilot project, the equipment can be rented, but for others, this is not a far-reaching instrument that could not be purchased. However, it should be borne in mind that the number of digital devices does not yet indicate the skills to use. Anyway, the idea stands over where the device is just an assistant, Daina Kājiņa summarizes.

Photo: Shutterstock.com

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