Local preschool director, Laure Hislop, has recently been awarded the NSW Premier’s Early Childhood Education Scholarship. She has been the Director of KU Killara Park Preschool for many years, and really enjoys working on the North Shore. “I love the people, the families, the children and the location. What’s not to like?” says Laure.
It is all about engaging with children, co-viewing, co-playing
By Edwin Tomlins
Laure was awarded the Scholarship for her research work into the use of technology in early childhood education. “It is too late to say young children shouldn’t be using technology,” she says, “They are already using it. My aim is to help teachers and parents use the technology well and appropriately.”
As one of KU’s professional Learning Consultants, Laure is interested in using technology to with children in KU Preschools which allow experiences that couldn’t be provided in traditional ways. “We choose technology that supports children creating rather than consuming. By this I mean the technology is open-ended, and can be used by children creatively rather than for instructive purposes.” She loves to see children use technology to develop “Skills like problem-solving, persistence, perseverance, moving from knowledge to understanding and evaluating, creating and refining the creation to make the creation better.”
Schools on the North Shore are in the midst of the STEM revolution, as children enjoy integrated teaching in the related disciplines of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Laure, too, believes in the benefits of STEM education, even with pre-schoolers. “Having a STEM focus helps teachers to think about the higher order thinking skills that really do last a lifetime,” she says.
Her advice to parents and other teachers is to “Look for technology that offers opportunities that traditional methods don’t allow.” For example, children can be encouraged to “Combine technology with real experiences, such as science or physics apps that mix together with real life play using cogs and wheels.”
Parents should “Look for technology that is open ended and creative, without the need for one right or wrong answer. Aim to view and use technology together with your children. Use the pause button and wonder together. It is all about engaging with children, co-viewing, co-playing,” recommends Laure.
These days, screen sharing easily allows what a child is seeing on a small tablet to be shown simultaneously on a large screen. Parents or teachers can co-view what is happening, which allows “Sharing of ideas and the opportunity to revisit learning,” says Laure. “I also see real potential in tangible tech, where actual blocks link with a digital device to create opportunities for learning that traditional methods of play don’t allow.”
And for those who are worried about excessive screen time for young children, Laure points out that “Not all screen time is equal.” Children can use their screen time for creative, enriching experiences which can be of immense benefit alongside traditional play based learning. “I believe technology should be used to support learning and it should never replace traditional methods of play,” she says.
The Scholarship will allow Laure to visit the USA on a 2017 study tour. She will visit centres in Chicago and Pittsburgh, and attend the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC) in Orlando and and the Early Childhood STEM Conference (ECSTEM) in Pasadena. She will also co-present her research at the conference in Orlando with Dr Kate Highfield. While researching and learning about the use of technology in centres in the USA may be a wonderful opportunity, Laure will still be pleased to return to the North Shore. “I love the Stanley Street Cafe in St Ives,“ she says, “Best bircher muesli, and bacon and egg roll anywhere. And I can’t go past the Cook’s Garden in Turramurra. They have the best souffle ever!”