The extent of tablet computer use in New Zealand's early childhood education services

Results from a national survey and a collective case study




tablet computers, early childhood education, New Zealand, digital media, early childhood services, iPads


In 2017, New Zealand’s revised curriculum for early childhood education, Te Whāriki, expanded reference to the use of technology for teaching and learning to include digital media and related devices. This article reports findings from a doctoral study about tablet computer use among New Zealand’s four major early childhood service types: education and care centres, home-based services, kindergartens, and playcentres. Data were gathered in 2017, initially through a national survey, followed by a collective case study. Seven services participated in the collective case study which was designed to explain the results of the survey. Descriptive statistics and inferential statistics were used to analyse survey data while cross-case analysis was used to identify themes from the responses from each service in the collective case study.

The results are presented according to two categories of respondents, services who classified themselves as non-users and services who were using tablet computers for teaching and learning at the time of the survey. The national survey results revealed that more than half of the services did not use tablets. Non-users’ reasons for not using tablet computers are discussed considering findings from both quantitative and qualitative phases of the study. Services who used tablets did so for a variety of reasons, including for documentation and assessment, to support children’s learning and teaching work. Qualitative data regarding policies or guidelines for staff about the use of and access to digital media, teachers’ and educators’ learning for how to use touchscreen tablets for teaching and learning, as well as services’ preferences on the facilitation of children’s tablet use are also presented.

An important issue uncovered in this study was the use of personal tablets within ECE services. Among non-users, teachers and educators from more than half of home-based services and playcentres used their personally owned tablet computers, raising concerns about cybersafety and screen time. Many user services did not have formal guidelines or policies regarding tablet use. The data suggest that some services relied on the use of teachers’ and educators’ personally owned tablets. Implications arising from the findings of this study are explored, including the relevance of using digital technology for supporting distance learning and learning at home as a result of the global Covid-19 pandemic.


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Author Biographies

Luke Santamaria, Victoria University of Wellington alumnus

Luke Santamaria is a classroom teacher, a special needs teacher, and a digital technology teacher at a local primary school in Wellington, New Zealand. Luke’s research focuses on understanding how technology is used to support the pedagogical practices in ECE, primary schooling, and special needs education.

Sue Cherrington, Victoria University of Wellington

Sue Cherrington is an Associate Professor in the School of Education and the Director of the Institute for Early Childhood Studies. Sue has an extensive background in early childhood education, as both a kindergarten teacher and, since 1992, in early childhood teacher education. Sue’s over-arching research focus is on professional and pedagogical practices in ECE.

Mary-Jane Shuker, Victoria University of Wellington

Mary-Jane Shuker is a senior lecturer in the School of Education at Victoria University of Wellington’s Faculty of Education. Her teaching and research focuses on young children’s literacy learning, and issues of diversity in early childhood settings.


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