Innovation out of challenge
In recent years, the threat of Covid-19 has loomed large in Aotearoa New Zealand. In attempts to prevent the widespread transmission of the virus, the Government announced a series of lockdowns that brought about the physical closure of early childhood centres throughout the country. Encouraged to continue teaching and learning through remote technologies, the early childhood sector stepped up to the challenge to provide support for children and families at a time when many were enduring feelings of isolation and separation. In this special issue of He Kupu, we look at how the early childhood sector responded to the challenges of lockdowns. Each of the articles takes a slightly different perspective of the pandemic, recounting student teachers’ and the sector’s response at large.
Early childhood education (ECE) is a complex sector that is highly responsive to contextual demands. However, with the rapid transition from classroom teaching to online communications and remote delivery due to Covid-19 restrictions, the early childhood sector finds itself in hitherto unknown territory. Since the start of the physical restrictions prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, online teaching and learning has played an indispensable role in ECE programmes both internationally and throughout New Zealand. As one might expect, there are debates and discussions on the benefits and risks associated with engaging young tamariki (children) extensively in learning through Information and Communication Technology (ICT). This article will explore the benefits and challenges of online learning for tamariki, kaiako (teachers) and whānau (family) and offer strategies to support kaiako in developing and delivering teaching online.
Student teachers completing their field practice placement in early childhood education during the Covid-19 pandemic in Aotearoa New Zealand found themselves unable to attend their early childhood education and care centres during centre lockdowns in 2021. In order to continue to meet field practice placement learning outcomes, many student teachers, alongside their teaching teams devised innovative ways to connect with children and parents at home that enabled children, parents and whānau (extended family) to contribute their ideas and experience. As lecturers in early childhood education, the authors have been impressed by students’ use of digital technologies. One digital technology that was particularly engaging for the children and their families, were student-created online videos and online meetings. The authors contend that the value of posting videos goes beyond extending individual learning experiences of children, and opens up possibilities for parent involvement and the consolidation of children’s learning. This article will explore the potential of student-created videos as a teaching tool to promote the continuation of learning beyond the centre environment.
In this article for practitioners, the authors collaborate with student teachers, teachers, and families from early childhood settings throughout Aotearoa New Zealand to present an overview of how teaching practices were reimagined in innovative ways to promote the wellbeing of whānau during these unprecedented times. The authors discuss the holistic view of wellbeing and highlight how this is supported through a te ao Māori perspective. During the pandemic, teachers were able to strengthen partnerships with whānau and create a support system that resulted in meaningful learning and engagement for all stakeholders.
The Covid-19 lockdown experiences became the catalyst for kaiako (teachers) in New Zealand to seek new and innovative ways to establish, maintain and retain relationships with children and whānau through digital media. In the absence of kanohi ki te kanohi (face to face) interactions, kaiako have needed to extend their use of digital technologies to foster a strengthened sense of whanaungatanga (relationships and partnerships) between whānau (families), tamariki (children) and kaiako. As lecturers, we were interested in exploring how children and their families’ mana was upheld through the use of remote technologies. This led to reflecting on a sense of wellbeing which is fundamental to children’s development as it supports them to be holistically healthy (Rameka et al., 2021; Ministry of Education [MoE], 2017). A korero tahi (discussion) was undertaken by the authors with kaiako, associate teacher (AT), student kaiako, parent/kaiako in order to understand how whanaungatanga was facilitated through remote technologies. This was viewed using the conceptual lens of knowing, being and doing. The article concludes with recognised innovative and practical ways to enhance digital connections with whānau, tamariki and kaiako, whilst maintaining the integrity of whanaungatanga.
Over the past two years, the education landscape has been significantly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Restrictions placed on face-to-face interactions and lockdowns have impacted how education is both accessed and assessed. New Zealand Tertiary College (NZTC) has had a long history of embracing new technologies. The online platform that was initially introduced in 2006 has evolved over the years with robust systems and support provided for students completing Early Childhood Education qualifications. However, these systems and platforms could not completely insulate the College from the impact of Covid-19, and like many other organisations, an adaptation of previous processes was needed to ensure quality outcomes for students. Although students continued to access their academic learning through the online learning platform, significant changes to Field Practice assessment needed to be made to ensure the continuity of the Field Practice course and the health and wellbeing of student teachers, the early childhood community (children, families and teachers) and lecturers. This article will explore how the values of the College underpinned the innovative practices that were developed to support remote assessment of students’ Field Practice learning outcomes.
Following an urgently implemented Covid lockdown that took many in the sector by surprise, students enrolled in initial teaching education programs were challenged to complete practicum placements. With early childhood centres forced to close, the teaching and learning environment for teachers, children and their families shifted to the online space. This narrative demonstrates how a Field Practice course from an initial teacher education provider in early childhood education was reimagined to acknowledge the innovative care and pedagogical practices that student teachers stepped into to meet course outcomes in a radically different teaching and learning environment. Making connections to current discourse on adaptive expertise as a desirable quality for student teachers to develop, this article describes the teaching experiences of one student during lockdown and how changes in the teaching and learning context, prompted a shift in her professional identity. Through working closely with the Associate Teacher and lecturer, the student was encouraged to collaborate with families from diverse communities to foster their participation in literacy activities in the new teaching environment. In meeting the Field Practice outcomes, the student teacher was able to realise opportunities for deep professional learning. The example is taken from New Zealand Tertiary College (NZTC), which has student teachers providing support for children and whānau throughout New Zealand.
When the teaching and learning space shifted from centre to home during the level three and four lockdowns in 2021 in response to Covid-19, student teachers used family artefacts (objects) in remote teaching activities to meet learning outcomes during their Field Placements. We will explore the use of family artefacts and their pedagogical importance in early childhood education, drawing on our own stories of two artefacts. We focus on children and families from culturally and linguistic diverse (CALD) communities in early childhood education as we also come from CALD communities. We use the term CALD to emphasise the multicultural community of immigrant children and families in New Zealand who are neither Pākehā nor Māori. We propose that early childhood kaiako (teachers) could take a fresh look at ordinary household artefacts of CALD children and families in light of the unique cultural and personal meanings attached to the artefacts. Kaiako could use these artefacts in innovative and empowering ways to embrace people’s culture as everyday lived experiences.
This article supports the continued revitalisation of te reo Māori in Aotearoa New Zealand. It reports on findings from a recent survey on how early childhood education (ECE) student teachers in Tāmaki Makaurau (the Auckland region most impacted by lockdowns) utilised ICT programmes, resources and apps to facilitate te reo Māori teaching and learning experiences. During a significantly long lockdown period, ECE student teachers maintained regular connections to their early childhood centre communities remotely. In doing so, they participated in innovative ways of engaging in Māori language with young children whilst achieving a greater presence of te reo Māori in the home domain. Implications for teaching practice gleaned from this research, indicate that early childhood teachers anticipate a continuation of these technology-enabled practices in the future, thereby nurturing te reo Māori in the lives of young children and sustaining language learning connections across home and whānau contexts.
Are you looking to enrich your planning and documentation? Look no further than, From Children’s Interests to Children’s Thinking: Using a Cycle of Inquiry to Plan Curriculum. This nine-chapter book by United States early childhood academics, Jane Broderick and Seong Bock Hong offers a practical approach for supporting early childhood teachers to enrich the emergent curriculum through the introduction of the cycle of inquiry (COI). The COI process is described by authors as a tool for teachers to “plan curriculum in response to children’s curiosity and questioning” (p. 1). From the onset, readers will recognise that the COI process is cohesive in its design, with each cycle linking and building off the next. The teacher’s role is emphasised throughout as central to each phase to promote “more depth and complexity” (p. 132) in learning alongside children’s instinctive exploration. Readers will also be able to see how the COI process could be used to support the implementation of Te Whāriki: He Whāriki Mātauranga mō ngā Mokopuna o Aotearoa: Early Childhood Curriculum (Te Whāriki) (Ministry of Education [MoE], 2017). The authors classify “children as inquirers [and] teachers as researchers” (p. 1), which is reflective of Te Whāriki, as teachers follow and extend on children’s natural curiosity within planning and assessment, provoking children to “inquire into, research, explore, generate and modify working theories” (MoE, 2017, p.47).
The Routledge International Handbook of Learning with Technology in Early Childhood is comprehensive and is clearly set out with four parts. Part one sets the scene for the book and contains three chapters. Part two has seven chapters with a focus on ontology. Part three comprises eight chapters focusing on epistemology. Part four is the largest, with 10 chapters highlighting practice-based discussion. Together, the 28 chapters discuss a range of useful topics for early childhood teachers, postgraduate students and education researchers.