Digital natives or digital immigrants? an examination of the claims about children and caregivers in Kampala ECD centers
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This study investigated the anecdotal yet problematic claims, which were generally being made about todays’ children in urban Early Childhood Development Centers (ECD) centers. Also called “Digital Natives”, today’s children in urban ECD centers are said to be spending their entire lives while surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, cell phones, social media, and so many other Emerging Technologies (ETs) and tools of the digital age. This study contextualized and investigated such claims because they create a sense of crisis that caregivers and indeed the entire education system in urban ECD centers is underprepared to enhance the learning and development of today’s children. In light of these claims, the following questions were raised: i. To what extent are the claims, which are being made about today’s children in ECD centers in Kampala true? ii. To what extent are nursery teachers/ caregivers in ECD centers in Kampala capable of utilizing ETs to enhance the learning and development of today’s children? iii. How can tutors in ECD teacher-training institutions better cultivate caregivers’ capabilities to appropriately utilize ETs to enhance the learning and development of today’s children? In order to obtain answers to these questions, this study employed an amalgam of Case Study data collection methods including questionnaires, direct observations as well as interviews. Data was conveniently collected from fifty (50) nursery teachers, seventy (70) children, and 10 tutors spread in 12 ECD centers and 5 ECD training institutes in Kampala. Quantitative data was presented in tabular form using Ms. Excel and was analyzed using Descriptive Statistics. On the other hand, qualitative data was analyzed using Theory-Driven Thematic Analysis (TDTA). More specifically, the themes form qualitative evidences, were aligned to Copple and Bredekamp (2009)’s theoretical model and characterization of Developmentally Appropriate Practices (DAP) for Early Years. Contrary to the above anecdotal claims, findings of this study revealed that children in the 12 ECD centers in Kampala are by large, Digital Immigrants. While 33.4% of children in studied ECD centers had a fairly good access to technologies, their ability to use available technologies for learning and development purposes is limited and not identical. This result provides evidence that these children’s lives are not immersed into technology. On the other hand, a big number (77%) of children preferred technology-based to print-based methods of learning. For this reason, the claim that there is a distinctive new generation of children with different learning preferences was regarded. With regard to caregivers’ capabilities to use ETs, it was established that big percentages (53.2%, 59.9% and 61.8%) of teachers have little or no capabilities to utilize ETs to enhance children’s socio-emotional, cognitive, and linguistic development respectively. Conclusively, this study noted that not all children in urban ECD centers have access to technology, and while majority of children are Digital Immigrants, the there is need to cultivate teachers’ capabilities to utilize ETs in developmentally appropriate ways to enhance these children’s learning and development. Drawing from tutors’ views and literature on ETs and DAP, a Seven-Step Model of cultivating nursery teachers’ capabilities to appropriately use ETs to foster the learning and development of Digital Natives was generated.