Reflections on Quality – The Ethics of Technology Use in the Early Years

Reflections on Quality is an invitation to reflect by Anna Nguyen-Sgro, Quality Specialist, Children’s Services, Halton Region

For many educators, documenting children’s learning and experiences has been a foundational part of their practice, particularly for those inspired by Reggio Emilia, an emergent approach or project-based curriculum. Ontario’s Pedagogy for the Early Years, How Does Learning Happen? has increased expectations for all educators to make learning visible, as the document emphasizes quality programs that foster children’s learning and development “use pedagogical documentation as a means to value, discuss and make learning visible (p. 16).

With this increasing interest in making children’s thinking and learning visible through documentation, many early years educators and programs have begun engaging with a myriad of technological tools as a way to document and communicate children’s learning to others. Technology found in early years classrooms or to bridge classrooms to the outside world range from computers, tablets, video recorders, scanners, printers, digital cameras, phones, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, web-based blogs and diaries, and mobile applications (apps).

Many educators, who use technological tools in their classrooms and their practice with children and families, report immense benefits:

  • saving time
  • supporting team communication and collaboration
  • increasing children and parent engagement
  • endless opportunities for accessing information
  • preparing children for a positive disposition towards technology in a digital age

In what ways has technology strengthened the quality of your program?

While technology has proven to be a valuable tool in teaching and learning, there is also evidence suggesting there are potential risks for users that could cause harm to children, families and educators. For example, in a National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) institute on technology and ethics, educators showed concern with adults using cameras on their phones inappropriately, photos being shared to social media sites without parental permission and educators being distracted by smartphones when they should be focusing on children’s learning, safety and well-being (Feeney & Freeman, 2015). It is crucial to ensure any technology used protects the privacy of children, parents and practitioners. This is reinforced by Standard VI of the College of Early Childhood Educator’s Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, which lays out the principle of confidentiality, release of information and duty to report as “Registered early childhood educators (RECEs) respect the confidentiality of information related to children and families and obey all laws pertaining to privacy and the sharing of information.” Furthermore, while technological tools have the potential to increase engagement and build relationships beyond the classroom walls, educators have a responsibility to remember Standard V: Professional Boundaries, Dual Relationships and Conflicts of Interest and must understand the importance of maintaining professional boundaries with children, families and colleagues. It is critical for educators who utilize technology and interactive media tools to use their professional judgement and implement practices and policies grounded in the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice, in the best interest of children, families and professionals.

For further reading: NAEYC Position statement on Technology and Young Children

Invitation to Reflect

  1. What technology is available to you and your program? How might these tools be used to strengthen the quality of your program and foster a sense of belonging, well-being, engagement and expression?
  2. In what ways can technology be utilized to strengthen relationships with children, families and your colleagues?
  3. What risks might arise when utilizing technological tools in the classroom? How will you mitigate these risks?
  4. When using technological tools, how might you ensure professional boundaries are maintained and managed with children, families and colleagues?
  5. Reflect on some of the challenges that are described in the in NAEYC article, Focus on Ethics. How do these challenges link to the CECE Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice? What policies and practices might you put into place to ensure the best interests of children, families and educators are protected?

 

Anna Nguyen-Sgro, RECE, MAlogo_new
Quality Specialist, Child Care System
Halton Region, Children’s Services
[email protected]

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