I have been looking @ various packages over the last few days and a series from Granada Learning/SEMERC has caught my eye.The "At the . ( Post Office, Toy Shop, Vets etc) is designed to work alongside the real role play area and could be inspired by a visit to a Toy shop/ Vets/ Cafe etc. At first glance these are not particularly amazing pieces of whizzy software and the navigation is quite linear, but for their purpose i.e. a small group activity sited in or near the role play area they work!.
Children enter the shop or other setting and purchase items based on quantity and size. They end by receiving a bill, which they can pay for using a swipe card or cash.This bill can also be printed out. Each environment can also be customised, so that the name reflects the class, hence Ant's Toy Shop below.
At The Vets is described in A Guide to Developing the ICT curriculum for Early Years by Siraj and Iram Blatchofr.They mention this package in relation to some of the school work they were involved in the Northampton EYFS ICT Strategy. In chapter 1, we learn how 'At the Vets' encouraged emergent writing. The children were apparently 'desperate' to have a go at demonstrating on the whiteboard and during the use of the packages some 'excellent cooperative play' was observed.
Everyday situations such as getting dressed, shopping, walking or driving
to the setting provide rich contexts to encourage conversation and to
extend the use of language. Children’s surroundings offer natural
opportunities to look at and learn about printed language, such as on food
packets, road signs and labels.
QCA Foundation guidance 2000 Page 46
I was able to customise the name of the Garden Centre- the accompanying booklet suggests also changing the sign of the role-play area to 'open' when the software is being used.
ICT in foundation should never just be about computers, it should also be about learning about Information, communications and the technology that drives and dleivers theses in the real world. The Scottish ICT strategy appears a lot stronger at delivering this message than the often miscntrued lines in the Foundation Stage profile. By using such packages within and around the role play area, and by viisting a supermarket (with all its barcodes and scanners) , we are helping children develop good attitude towards ICT. they are seeing it in its real context and for a purpose. I ownder if they develop such good attitudes and associations towards ICT by sitting with 29 other for an hour in a stuffy ICT suite- 'doing Colour Magic'.
The notion of emrgence in ICT, that children should play, experiment and explore a wide variety of applications has been with us for some time. This has been strongley argued by Blatchford (see above) and in the European DATEC project. It was also raised in the INTERPLAY project from Sterling University and mentioned in the TES last week.
The Interplay report said:
"Desktop computers were originally designed for adults to use individually in the workplace. They are not ergonomically suited to very young children because of their size, position and fixed location."
At the Garden Centre and others in the series are available from Granada Learning `One Stop for Eduaction'