YOU'RE NEVER too young to become digital learners as Bow-more Primary's pre five unit has proved by winning the BT Scot-land ICT Learning award.
The Islay school's nursery has 32 pupils aged between three and five all of whom are as at home with a digital pen and whiteboard as a piece of chalk and blackboard.
Florence MacDougall, headteacher, feels the technology has had a dramatic impact on the young children's attainment, as well as their social and communication skills. "Skills I see children exhibiting at three or four now are skills I saw in children aged seven or eight before," she said.
"They are adapting much more quickly. They are sailing through the early years curriculum and are up to one-and-a-half years further on. The motivation from IT in pre-five education has turned the system round, giving them autonomy from three upwards. Because they are growing up with the technology, they don't see it as new or difficult. It's just part of their resource as they go through life."
Two years ago, the unit did a project on digital photography and video work which won a silver award in Argyll and Bute Council's excellence awards. That led to the unit being chosen to pilot a Promethean interactive whiteboard and voting system.
Catherine MacMillan, the unit's nursery teacher, said: "The whiteboard quickly became a valuable learning tool in all areas of the curriculum, particularly communication and language."
The angle of the whiteboard allows children to use a better grip when they are holding the special pen instead of using the "fist" grip that many are tempted to use with traditional pencil and paper.
Miss MacMillan describes how one child asked what "the funny mark" was on the board as she wrote down a question she had been given by the children. She replied that it was a question mark and explained why it was used. So when the next child came up with a question, he said: "Remember to do that mark because we need to find an answer to that."
On another occasion, the class read Michael Rosen's story We're Going on a Bear Hunt and followed it up with an adventure in the woods. The children took photographs and movie clips, incorporating skills they were familiar with from their previous project. Then, using the whiteboard software, they recorded themselves telling their version of the story while the staff typed what they said.
So keen were the children to share with others their prowess on the whiteboard that they made a short newsclip for the local schools' newsroom project boosting their presentation skills in the process.
Children learning through the medium of Gaelic have also benefited as the whiteboard technology has allowed staff and pupils to create their own written and spoken resources based around their interests, skills and needs.
Staff in the unit are particularly excited by the interactive voting system which they are piloting. Each child has his or her own personalised "pod" with which they can vote allowing staff to obtain all the children's views and ideas, not just those of the most confident and outspoken.
"It has allowed the quieter, less confident children to thrive as they recognise that their ideas are equally valued. It has been an excellent way to develop citizenship skills children have voted on important decisions, such as the purchasing of resources," said the teacher.
The ACTIVote system was also used in a voting session at a parents' workshop to gather views and update policies. "It gave a better overall picture than traditional paper questionnaires because the responses from the votes led to valuable discussions," she added.