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Te hangarau matihiko me te reo ā-waha

Digital technologies and oral language

Many digital devices have functions that encourage children’s talk and interactions. However it is kaiako, not the devices, who determine how well they will be used for this purpose.

Assessing the value of digital technologies for oral language learning starts by distinguishing between the devices and apps.

Some devices and apps invite tamariki to consume content – watch, listen, or play.

Others invite tamariki to create content – record their voice or author their own stories.

Using digital technologies, including augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, can remove communication barriers and promote inclusive practice.

A tamariki takes a photograph with a digital device while a kaiako talks to them about it

Choosing and using digital technologies for oral language development

  • Choose devices and apps where tamariki create their own content, such as those for making audio stories and books. These offer greater opportunities for tamariki to actively use and practice language, including te reo Māori. Hearing and seeing their voice recorded increases confidence and a sense of agency to use language.
  • Make good use of digital platforms that offer the opportunity for tamariki to hear, evaluate, and re-record their voice. This feature, built into most content creation apps, encourages the experimentation and playfulness with language, which is so beneficial to increasing vocabulary.
  • Encourage tamariki who are bilingual or multilingual to record their voice using both or all their languages. This will help to strengthen their sense of identity as well as their language competence.
  • Share ebooks with tamariki in an interactive way, for example, tamariki taking turns and kaiako using descriptive language approaches, so the technology becomes an engaging way to promote conversations and peer interaction.
  • Use fewer apps more often. Tamariki benefit from multiple opportunities to practise and build up skills. Once they are familiar with what’s possible, creativity and language will flourish.
  • Think of digital devices like a paint brush; one of the many means available to tamariki to express their thoughts and ideas.

Story of practice: Whose feet are these?

A pair of tamariki feet with shoes on.

After reading a blog on digital devices in early years settings, kaiako from an early learning service decided they needed to shift the way iPads were used by tamariki. Instead of using game apps made by others, kaiako made a point of working with tamariki to create their own. They began with an app that enabled voice recordings to be associated with the pictures tamariki took. These were then made into a digital book. And so, Whose feet are these? began – a guessing game that could be played through the LCD screen during group time. It encouraged lots of interaction.

Kaiako noticed tamariki confidence and motivation grew with the voice recording feature. Over repeated opportunities, making similar games, tamariki experimented with intonation, different languages, storytelling voices, and funny voices. Hearing themselves, evaluating, and re-recording became part of the fun. Voice recordings also helped kaiako with their assessment of language development. 

Professor Claire McLachlan shares her thoughts on digital technologies and oral language

  • Transcript

    Transcript Transcript

    Professor Claire McLachlan: Okay, so there's been a lot of questioning recently about the place of digital resources in early childhood settings. And whether this is something which should be encouraged.

    We know from the research that actually children's engagement with digital literacies is really very little different to the engagement with hard copy. There's a need to have either peers or teachers to support children to engage with that so that they get maximum understanding. It's like any other curriculum resource. It stays sitting on the shelf and inactive without somebody to bring it to life. So it's important that we think about our principles of access and mediation in relation to digital resources.

    We might also think about how we would use digital resources to support children to do their own storytelling or their own story writing. It offers both opportunities doesn't it for children to look for ideas, to encourage imagination, and for them to come up with their own version of what is important.

    You can also encourage early writing by using digital resources. It might be that children are narrating their own story. They might be writing their own story.

    There's a whole raft of ways in which you could use digital resources powerfully within the early childhood setting. There's a lovely study that was done recently that we published in Early Education that came out of the TLIF work, which looked at this in one of the Samoan community centres. And I think we've underestimated the usefulness of digital resources in relation to oral language and literacy.


Further strategies

For further strategies see:

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