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IT's not scary, it's modern

Under-5s have no fear of technology, so explore your creative side with them, writes Katrina Tweedie

It is one thing having access to technology; it is another trying to use it constructively and creatively. However, Glasgow's 130 local authority nurseries and partners in almost 100 private and voluntary sector nurseries are trying to demystify information and communications technology with simple methods that engage children and entertain adults.

Creating interactive stories for and by children using technology has been one of the most effective ways of introducing staff and children to new advances. Using Microsoft's PowerPoint presentation software, digital photography and interactive whiteboards, the schools are compiling documents that act as a record of the children's development.

Jean McGhie, Glasgow's education department development officer, is a driving force in integrating ICT in pre-5s centres.

"Using PowerPoint and adding photoclips and sound, or scanning in drawings, children can start to put together their own stories, such as a record of a trip they have been on with the nursery," she says. "It can then be saved either on to a CD or a DVD and taken home.

"Interactive features within PowerPoint are now similar to the American Living Books series, with hotspots that link to internet sites or other related documents. The possibilities are endless.

"It might be that a child has used a digital camera on an outing. If a child is interested, it might be worth not just looking at the pictures on a computer and printing them out but making some kind of record.

"We could be outside and see an unusual bird or insect and decide to find out more from a CD-Rom encyclopedia or the internet.

"The training we are giving staff is to help the child access the tools to do all of this."

Parents, she says, are delighted when their child comes home with a personalised record of their day.

Computers, digital still and video cameras and interactive whiteboards have been available in nurseries for some time, yet are often under-used because staff are uncertain about how best to use them. But under-5s have few anxieties about experimenting with technology and the national strategy has emphasised the importance of children accessing ICT.

"It's about giving children another avenue to communicate," Mrs McGhie says. "We are building on what children bring with them to nursery in terms of ICT and we always work at each child's level.

"Some children will ask you to scribe their drawing or painting or help them make a card for mummy and daddy. The computer is simply another tool to help them do that."

Glasgow's education department is now advising nurseries to use audio equipment so a child can sing or tell their own story or compose music on electronic keyboards.

"Our children are in a technological age and it's about letting them discover the world in which they live," says Mrs McGhie.

"They have DVDs, phones, cameras, computers and so on at home. They go to shops and everything is bar code read. We're not trying to match their experience but to build on it."

At the Budhill Pre-5 Centre in Springboig, Glasgow, children use a simple video camera to make films, then view them using an interactive whiteboard.

Norman Bain, the headteacher, says: "Initially, teachers thought it was a bit scary but the children don't see it in those terms.

They explore it and have no fear. It's important children have access to these things at an early age, when they have fewer boundaries."

SETT Making Interactive Stories in Pre-5 Centres Through and With ICT, by Jean McGhie, Thursday, 9.30am

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