A conceptual framework for developing the curriculum ...

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Sep 24, 2009 - and delivery of technology education in early childhood ... aims to enhance gender sensitive technology education in the continuum from early ...

Int J Technol Des Educ (2009) 19:353–365 DOI 10.1007/s10798-009-9093-9

A conceptual framework for developing the curriculum and delivery of technology education in early childhood Leena Turja Æ Martina Endepohls-Ulpe Æ Marjolaine Chatoney

Published online: 24 September 2009  Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Abstract The purpose of this article is to provide an overview of the analysis of the Early Childhood Education (ECE) curriculum in six countries involved in the UPDATE-project, and on that basis, propose a conceptual foundation for technology education in ECE that aims to enhance gender sensitive technology education in the continuum from early years to adulthood. The existing ECE curricula in the participating countries were analysed according to the general pedagogical approach as well as the contents specific to technology education. In many cases technology education was presented generally or implicitly, embedded in various curriculum content areas, and the existing curricula did not offer much support for teachers to figure out the nature, aims and pedagogical means of early childhood technology education. The comparison of the curricula raised some common key-issues which are important to construe more theoretically. In consequence, the article also focuses on the contemporary view of child-centred pedagogy and the conceptualisation of technology education fitting into the scope of ECE. Play is highlighted as a fundamental way of learning seldom studied in the context of technology education. In addition, a gender perspective on technology education deals with equal possibilities of both sexes to acquire knowledge, abilities and attitudes needed in technological agency. Keywords Curriculum  Early childhood education  Gender  Play  Technology education L. Turja (&) Department of Education/Early Childhood Education, Faculty of Education, University of Jyva¨skyla¨, P.O. Box 35, 40014 Jyva¨skyla¨, Finland e-mail: [email protected] M. Endepohls-Ulpe Institut fu¨r Psychologie, University of Koblenz-Landau, Universita¨tsstr. 1, Koblenz 56070, Germany e-mail: [email protected] M. Chatoney University of Provence-IUFM-Technopoˆle de chateau Gombert, 60 rue Joliot Curie, Marseille cedex 13 13453, France e-mail: [email protected]



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Introduction We live in an increasingly technological world, where people constantly need to acquire various technological skills and knowledge for daily living and work-life. Consequently, it is important to expand formal technology education to encompass young children. Early childhood is a time in which the foundation for effective and enduring learning is built, and is thus becoming an increasingly important topic in many countries (Fthenakis and Oberhuemer 2004, p. 9). The development of self-image and attitudes towards gender roles begins early, before children reach school-age. Consequently, the endeavors to provide both girls and boys with better and more equal possibilities for technological literacy have to start from the early years. Children have an inner capacity to imagine, invent and create, which gives them the potential to develop as technologists from the beginning of life (see Stables 1997). It is difficult to give a precise definition of early childhood education or its alternatives such as pre-school education and pre-elementary education because the terminology and age-limits differ according to the various educational systems in different countries. Here the term ‘‘early childhood education’’ ECE refers to all education and care of children realized before 8 years of age, focusing mainly on the ages from three to seven. There are countries, e.g. France, where formal ECE has a long-established, independent curriculum, whereas in several other countries a common, national level curriculum for ECE is lacking or has only recently been developed for the first time. The underlying concepts in those curricula may differ to a great extent with respect to several criteria such as the age-range at which the curriculum is aimed, the extent and specification of content or methods or even the basic pedagogical approach and aims (see Oberhuemer 2004). The label for this document also varies, e.g., curriculum guidelines, frame curriculum, and educational framework. Here the term ‘‘curriculum’’ refers to all of them. The inclusion of technology education in the curriculum of ECE is still a new idea in many countries, and teachers are often confused by what technology education would mean at this age (e.g., Alama¨ki 1999; Early technical education 2003; Stables 1997). Technology itself has various definitions. To sum up in few words the definitions of several authors (e.g., de Vries 2005; Rasinen 2000; Stables 1997; Standards for technology… 2000), when we are looking for technology, we are looking for such activities in every area of human existence where people use and develop tools, machines, materials, techniques and processes for solving problems and reaching set goals in order to fulfill human needs and aspirations. This article aims to examine, how technology education is included in and guided by the national curriculum texts written for early childhood education in some European countries involved in the branch of early years of the UPDATE-project, and compare these analyses in order to identify diversities as well as common elements. Since the focus on technology in the early years should be based on sound educational principles and thinking, the educational philosophy as well as sensitivity to gender issues are therefore also considered. Guided by the results of the implemented comparative meta-analysis, some key-issues are, moreover, explored more theoretically in order to enhance and steer the development of technology education in early years.

Method Participating authorities in technology education from the contributing countries—i.e., Austria, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany and Scotland—were asked to analyse the


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content of their own national level curriculum according to the general character of the curriculum, the educational philosophy it is based on—including issues of equality and gender sensitivity—and the elements of technology education to be found in the text of curriculum documents. The age of admission to compulsory primary education varies among the participating countries from 5 years (UK) up to 7 years (Estonia and Finland). Only some of the countries had a national curriculum for 0 to 3-year-olds in 2007. Consequently, the analysis was limited mainly to the education of 3 to 6/7-year-olds. Both in Finland1 and in Scotland,2 the information was collected from two different curricula to cover this age range. Austria, moreover, had a curriculum only for preschool (5-years-old), and in Germany the analysis was based on the examples of a curriculum (for 6- and 7-years-old) taken from five federal states,3 although the federal states of Germany have also agreed on a general framework for early education. The meta-analysis across the preliminary country analyses was carried out by the project coordinator of the ECE branch.

Findings Each sub-chapter begins with findings from curriculum analysis and continues with more theoretical and conceptual considerations.

Pedagogical approach The overall character of the national curriculum varied among the countries and federal states in terms of their specificity, strictness and binding nature. Many of the analysed curricula serve as general frameworks or guidelines in local curriculum work giving flexibility and educational latitude for teachers (Finland, France, some federal states of Germany, Scotland). In the more detailed ones the content and the objectives of learning and even the amounts of teaching for separate subject areas were specified. In some cases additional examples or separate booklets and handouts complemented the curriculum to open the contents for practice implementation (some federal states of Germany, Scotland). The national curricula for primary education and in most cases for preparatory pre-school classes (i.e., 1 year before the start of formal education) were obligatory to follow in local curricula. The state level curricula for younger children, however, had a character of recommendations giving latitude to local authors and centres with their curriculum work. Most of the analysed curricula included at least some features typical of the childcentred and (socio-)constructivist approach, such as a holistic view of the child, an integrative approach to learning contents, an emphasis on social interactions, and playful, explorative, child-initiated, ‘‘learning by doing’’ activities, which enhance children’s own thinking, questioning, problem solving and imagination. Focus on strict learning targets and a less playful and more academic orientation was in the minority (e.g., Scotland). Instead of disciplines, with the exception of Scotland, the content of learning was classified under ‘‘content orientations’’, ‘‘educational/subject fields’’, ‘‘key aspects of development 1

The National Curriculum Guidelines on ECE (for day-care in Finland); The National Core Curriculum for Preschool Education (for 6-years-old).


Framework for children 3–5 by Scottish Consultative Council on the Curriculum; National Curriculum in United Kingdom (for key stage 1: ages 5–7).


Baden Wu¨rttenberg; Bavaria; Berlin; North Rhine-Wetphalia; Rhineland-Palatinate.



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and learning’’ or ‘‘areas of activity’’, which, nevertheless, are not supposed to be taught as separate subjects. A coherent description of the practical implications derived from this kind of educational approach is given by National Association for the Education of Young Children, NAEYC. The promoted approach called ‘‘Developmentally appropriate practice in ECE’’ reflects the well-known work of authors such as Jean Piaget, Lev Vygotsky, Barbara Rogoff, John Dewey, Abraham Maslow, Lawrence Kohlberg, Erik H. Erikson and David Elkind. Essentially, learning by children is seen as a result of the active interaction between the child and the environment and the child and the community. Children learn many ideas from concrete hands-on experience which cannot be directly taught. Thus, children are viewed as constructing their own system of knowledge, intelligence, morality and personality. ECE practices need to take into account the age and the predictable sequences of development and growth as well as the notable variation within children at the same chronological age. In addition, practices need to be sensitive to the cultural–social variation. Thus, educators need knowledge of the social and cultural contexts in which the children live in order to ensure that learning experiences are meaningful, relevant, and respectful for children and their families. Practices should favour authentic learning and thematic approaches to learning contents, and respect children as holistic human beings (Bredekamp and Rosegrant 1992).

Status and content of technology education The analysed curricula could be divided into four main types according to their focus on technology, i.e., ‘‘Dedicated’’ (e.g., Scotland), ‘‘Conscious but general’’ (e.g., France), ‘‘Conscious but narrow’’ (e.g., Austria), ‘‘Faintly oriented’’ (e.g., Finland). In the faint orientation the existence of technology was implicit in the text and the only singular area of technology recognised was information and communication technology. However, some technological contents and objectives were to be found—with careful examination—in the context of arts, handicrafts, natural sciences, cultural–environmental studies and mathematics, the same areas with which technology education was connected in all of the curricula. Dedication means a diverse and detailed presentation of technology education with extra examples for practical implications, whereas other curricula gave either a general overview or a detailed but narrow description focusing only on some issues. In the examination across the analysed contents, the core of technology education was seen to lie in the following issues: Knowledge of and skills with • Objects (technological appliances, daily articles, simple tools, constructions, designs)—their functions, properties, components and purposes. • Materials, substances (natural and manufactured), and physical phenomena. • Systems and processes of productions. • Techniques and scientific/technological ways of working (e.g., problem identification and solving, mathematical operations, record keeping, documenting and communicating of ideas and solutions). Understanding of • Man-made world (past and present) and human needs. • Technology as a help in everyday life. • Ecological, economical and social viewpoints in evaluation of technological products (sustainable development, consumer behaviour).


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• Adult work-life and technological organisations and professions. • Self as a technologically capable person. These issues correspond well to the definition of technology given above. Yet, in many cases the curriculum text does not offer much detailed information about how to act in the educational reality: where children’s attention should be directed to, what kind of knowledge and skills should be addressed, and in what order. These choices remain to the teachers. The early childhood pedagogy has over 100 years’ history, where handicrafts and creative and explorative activities have formed the basis for modern technology education. Thus, it is understandable that without up-to-date knowledge of technology education teachers tend to stick to these familiar activities of science, craft-work and construction play without progress towards more conscious technological aims and learning processes (Alama¨ki 1999; Chatoney 2003). It is also important to integrate those quite discrete technological activities to the surrounding society through phenomena familiar and close to children Alama¨ki (1999, pp. 40–41). By quoting from the Scottish curriculum (Curriculum Framework for children 3–5 2001, p. 23): As children use blocks, put on a warm jumper, look through a magnifying glass, clamber on to a climbing frame, use a computer or travel by train, they become aware of the everyday uses of technology in the home, in transport, in communication and in leisure. According to the holistic approach educators should gauge the physical, social, emotional, and cultural distance of planned learning contents and experiences from the individual child’s immediate daily reality. Holt (1989, pp. 118–119) has pictured this approach with a circle of a child’s life experiences specific to early science education. This idea is modified here to suit early technology education. In infancy the child has relatively few and concrete sources of experience concerning present time, parents, food, care, warmth and shelter. Gradually s/he extends the interactions with the environment becoming aware of future and past, distances, toys, pets, neighbourhood, clothing, domestic work, travelling by car and riding a tricycle, etc. With the growth of abilities and personality, and experience of more fine-tuned and exact ideas and technological concepts and constructions, the child gradually approaches more abstract and conventional thinking about the world. An awareness of human needs (e.g., Maslow 1954/1987) and aspirations to be fulfilled with the help of technology similarly develops. These sources of technological interests are individual and change over time (Fig. 1).

Methods in technology education The accuracy of the guiding principles given for embarking on technology education in practice varied among the curricula, thus the overview here is based on a collection gathered mainly from the detailed descriptions. The features in children most valued and nurtured in the context of technology education were natural curiosity, creativity, innovativeness, critical and ethical thinking, social competence, risk-taking ability, and selfconfidence. Activities for handling technological contents and objectives followed general ECE pedagogy. Teachers were recommended to provide children with: • Opportunities to observe with all senses, use, explore, experiment, test, investigate and evaluate objects, materials, etc.



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Fig. 1 Child’s immediate daily experiences as a source of technological interests

• • • • • •

Project works to produce and design. Experiences of information and communication technology. Technological orientation in the context of daily routines. Excursions in neighbourhood and working places. Playful activities, technological toys. Arrangements of environment for child initiated explorations and play.

Teacher organised and directed learning tasks and projects are typically seen as a means of promoting technology education in schools, whereas in ECE, where the approach to learning is holistic, all the other activities of the day—especially play (e.g., Stables 1997)—are equally important. Learning cycle Every learning process begins with an awareness of a new issue and continues with more detailed explorations to construct one’s own understanding. In inquiry the learner compares his own thinking with others and acquires diverse knowledge and skills. In the utilisation phase—e.g., when solving technological problems—the child uses the acquired learning in various ways, applies it to new situations and formulates new hypotheses. As a result, the cycle repeats itself on a new level of learning (see Fig. 2). The teacher’s role is to focus children’s attention, to help them make cognitive connections and reflect on their own actions, as well as to guide them in how to utilise their new skills or knowledge (Bredekamp and Rosegrant 1992). Children as technological agents Since children learn through action, it is important to determine the ways in which they can act as active technological agents. To sum up, technological action consists of producing— designing, inventing and constructing/fabricating—, maintaining and troubleshooting, and using and selecting technology (Mitchham 1994, p. 209; Standards for technological… 2000, p. 210). These activities can be transformed into technological roles which children can try both in play—seen as an activity for itself—and in ‘‘conventional activities’’— having certain outward purposes (Table 1).


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Fig. 2 Learning cycle

Table 1 Children’s technological agency in activities of ECE Rolea

Nature of activity

Learning cycle



Experience and awareness

- Designer

- Practice/explorative play

- Inventor

- Symbolic play: constructive and dramatic play


- Constructor/manufacturer

- Games with rules


Maintainer, repair person User

‘‘Conventional activities’’

Utilization and new awareness

- Included in a play activity, e.g., by constructing play environments or by using real machines and tools

- Consumer: selecting and using technology in everyday life

- Learning activities, design projects, excursions

- Professional user

- Physical activities and artistic self-expression - Daily routines, personal care and tiny domestic tasks


All roles above include evaluation tasks and ethical considerations

According to the learning cycle children: (1) become aware of tasks, (2) experiment with and acquire knowledge and skills included in those roles, and (3) utilize their learning in various contexts. Despite young children’s limited technological knowledge and abilities they can already practice all these roles from an early age through play, which allows them to cross those limits through imagination. Children explore technological activities and roles by imitating them. The other activities in which these technological roles are applied, aside from play, can be called ‘‘conventional activities’’ which refers to learning activities, project work and daily routines, though these usually have playful elements as well because of young children’s tendency to involve play in all their activities. Reciprocally, play activities may include components of conventional activities. Technical tools, appliances and methods can be used alongside pretend activities and in order to build interiors and prepare equipment for play.



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Importance of play Different modes of play (e.g., Singer and Revenson 1978) offer their own kind of opportunities to enhance the objectives of technology education. In practice/functional play children acquire knowledge of objects, materials and physical phenomena, and learn to master the use of tools and techniques through explorations and rehearsals. They learn to use their senses, and their vocabulary grows by naming concrete things and activities. Routine practicing of sawing, cutting, hammering, etc., without any production aims, interests children. Make-believe/symbolic play leads to an expansion of imagination and creativity. It enables the child to see events in his mind and be anyone and do anything in his imagination. With imagination one can work out alternate plans and means for problem-solving, and combine things in new ways, never seen before. In symbolic play children also start to pretend that one object stands for another and gradually the substituting objects become more and more symbolic (Van Hoorn et al. 2007). This is the basis of constructive play that enhances learning of design. Children like to use concrete objects like Lego or recycling material to create a representation of another object. Constructive play as well as practice play usually overlaps with dramatic play as children create imaginary roles and situations accompanied with their constructions and rehearsals. Dramatic/role play is an arena of exploration and utilization of knowledge, skills, attitudes and emotions. Children play with the meaning of gender, test different role categories, and build their own gender identity (Bredesen 2004). Thus, it is important to offer children worthy and multifaceted technological experiences of the adult world to use as ‘‘raw material’’ for imaginary play. We ought to pay more attention to the impact of media, toy marketing and commercial toys on children’s assumptions about social groupings according to, e.g., gender, race and ethnicity, and subsequently modify children’s developing identity through the role models they adopt for play (Van Hoorn et al. 2007). These guide girls’ and boys’ differentiating play behaviour and define what is to be a male or female one—this issue will be discussed more at the end of this article. Excursions in the child’s surrounding community provide occasion to experience and become aware of the existing technology and technological professions and obtain valuable material for pretend play. Play environments should also include replicas of the adult world representing real, everyday technology. Furthermore, teachers should be concerned with how children can use real technology—domestic appliances, construction tools, cameras, etc.—as a part of their play (Van Hoorn et al. 2007). At 5 years of age and onwards children begin to master games with rules, including computer games. Learning to set explicit rules for an activity beforehand also helps children also to conduct processes of technological production incorporating certain rules. Process of production Play, characterised by intrinsic motivation, free choice, pleasure and flexibility (Rubin et al. 1983), remains as the main activity across early childhood. However, tiny duties, learning activities and projects with extrinsic rules, challenges and ends have an increasing emphasis in ECE curricula as children approach school age. Accordingly, technological problem-solving tasks and the production of objects providing children with appropriate cognitive challenges were to be found in some of the analysed curricula. As Mitchham (1994) states ‘‘making’’ is an essential part of technology. In France, for example, learning about technology is advised to start with activities based on the use, observation and creation of technical objects/aids in the context of real


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life situations, construction play and production workshops among others (BOEN 2002). These three types of activities are even more interesting, given that they lead children to ask questions which focus on the relationship between man and product. Activities based on usage of objects lead children to study their functions and usability, promoting questions regarding the environment in which the product is to be used (e.g., conditions for use, ergonomics, repairs, maintenance, energy, transport, safety, packaging, etc.). Observational activities are more centred on technical solutions (e.g., transmission, assembly, resistance and used materials). Activities for making things allow one to think about work, techniques, tools, procedures, safety, organisation of production tasks, and conformity of the product in relation to the initial specifications. All of these activities also provide opportunities for practice in oral and written activities, and to familiarise children with technological vocabulary (e.g., Parkinson 1999; Schoultz 1997). Despite these rich possibilities to focus on various technological questions, technological studies tend, however, to remain centred mainly around the result, i.e., the finished product (e.g., presents and decorations for Christmas). A task to produce a paper puppet with moving parts serves as one example of possible ways to carry out technological processes with some constraints, choices and certain strictness (Chatoney 2003). Children were asked to create the puppet by making adequate choices concerning figures, forms and colours and by using and choosing from specific materials available to them. In the task, puppets represented characters from a fairytale. The main aims were: • To lead the pupil to undertake the project and stick to it (i.e., to be aware that s/he is bound to produce a puppet in accordance with given peculiarities and descriptions of the fairytale). • To pay attention to appendages which link the parts of the puppet together. The matter of appendages addresses the more general and central technological knowledge relating to ‘‘assembly/putting together’’. Assembly deals with such viewpoints as functioning, aesthetics and the cost of the product. • To communicate and exchange ideas with others in accordance with the given guidelines, and to introduce pupils to the technical vocabulary. This is one possible way to shift the focus from the finished product to the entire production process. Pupils may learn, for example, that there are two kinds of components between parts: fixed and moving joints and that they are named as such. They will see that in both cases several technical solutions are available and that some of them are more suitable than others. Pupils also learn that there are methods for holding different kinds of joints in place, some of which work better than others. In other words, teachers could act more purposefully in providing children with opportunities to acquire knowledge of and skills with objects, materials, physical phenomena, processes of productions, and technological ways of working (see above). Nevertheless, in terms of developmentally appropriate practices, teachers should also consider the meaningfulness and playfulness of the tasks as well as the possibility for open-ended solutions.

Technology education and gender The analysed ECE curricula texts did not include any special guidance to ensure equal opportunities for male and female learners to grow and develop according to their potential. Some general statements only were found concerning equal and fair treatment of



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pupils or, more specifically, treatment of girls and boys with different needs and interests. These included: • … education towards equality of men and women (Austria). • … take the special needs of girls and boys into account (Finland, preschool). • … differentiate… according to the needs and the abilities of the pupils—for example to the different interest of girls and boys (Germany). • … non-discrimination and equal treatment (Finland, child care). • … opportunities for all pupils to learn (Scotland; France). Attitudes and behaviour toward technology and gender role development Technology is a field which is strongly connected to the male gender. Preschool children start to develop gender role stereotypes at the early age of two. Indeed, the process of females turning away from the field of technology also seems to start at that time. By the age of two or three, children begin to show preferences for toys which are earmarked for their own gender. In kindergarten boys already show more interest in playing with construction materials and vehicles, while girls prefer playing with dolls and soft toys. By the age of four to five children show preferences for gender-typed vocational or domestic activities. The development of these early gender-typed attitudes and behaviours, on the one hand, seems to be a consequence of positive reinforcement of gender common behaviour and punishment of gender inappropriate behaviour by significant others like parents, educators, peers. On the other hand, attitudes also seem to appear as a consequence of the child’s own cognitive activity. After having built a concept of self as male or female, children scan their environment for information about which things, activities and attributes might belong to being male or female and are eager to behave in a gender-appropriate way (see Trautner 1997; Huston 1983). Promoting interest in technological topics and activities in early childhood for girls and boys Even though technology as a topic is somewhat neglected in the educational system, boys seem to be able to maintain their interest in technological topics and activities while girls turn away from technology at an early age. Feministic approaches to gender-appropriate pedagogy in early childhood, which have been promoted since the early 1970s (see MacNaughton 2004), assumed that it would be sufficient to raise girls’ interest in technology by creating equal opportunities for them—i.e., by giving them equal access to all materials such as tools, building materials, vehicles, etc. By considering the theoretical approaches which explain gender differentiation, it is not surprising that all these wellintended approaches of giving equal chances to girls and boys have failed. When girls and boys have a choice between toys and materials that are typed to their own and to the opposite gender they prefer things and activities typed to their own gender. It is their own cognitive activity and their need to form a stable identity as a male or female that predisposes children to choose gender-typed materials and activities. A general approach to a gender-fair education in the preschool sector is based on social learning theory and focuses on sensitizing kindergarten teachers to their different treatment of girls and boys. Kindergarten teachers for the most part are deeply confident that they are treating boys and girls equally. In the meantime there is a lot of support for the opposite


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view (see Fried 1990). Of course different ways of treating boys and girls can reinforce the development of gender-specific interest or disengagement with respect to technology. Hence, it definitely makes sense to emphasize the gender mainstreaming idea in early childhood education. There are some gender differences with respect to achievement-related personality traits which may also play an important role in the context of early technology education. Girls are generally less self-confident and this is especially the case with respect to male stereotyped tasks, such as activities from the field of technology. They tend to attribute failure to their own lack of abilities and success to circumstances like luck or other aspects they cannot influence, while boys attribute failure to external circumstances and success to their own abilities (Hannover 2007). Ross and Browne (1993) notice that girls often have less experience with construction play because it is typed to the male gender. As a consequence, girls have inhibitions to participate in construction activities. For boys, moreover, competition, dominance and power are important, whereas girls do not like to compete. They prefer to cooperate in small groups in which all members have equal status. Considering the fact that it is obviously more difficult to get girls interested in technological themes and taking into account the processes of gender role development and the gender differences illustrated above, the following principles for a gender equitable early technology education can be suggested: • All children, boys as well as girls, should have the same access to all activities or materials. In terms of need this access may have to be regulated to give equal chances for boys and girls. • Educators should carefully monitor their own behaviour with respect to the attention they pay and the encouragement they give to boys and girls. • Themes and materials that are offered should possibly be gender-neutral or attractive for boys as well as for girls. • Activities, e.g., conducting experiments or building and constructing things, should be offered in social forms which don’t discourage either the girls or the boys. • If necessary there can be gender-segregated groups that work on different topics. • All activities should lead to a feeling of success and personal competence for all children. Success should be attributed to competence and effort. • The outcome of technological activities should not be valued as being right or wrong. • Especially for the girls it might be helpful to encourage construction play by starting with familiar topics or activities they feel secure with. • Preschool teachers, who are mostly female, should act as competent role models with respect to technological themes and activities. This means in fact that they may have to develop their own knowledge and competencies before teaching technological topics.

Conclusion Many of the analysed curricula reflect a postmodern if not even transmodern way of thinking according to which a nationwide curriculum should offer only general guidelines and thus allow pedagogical latitude to take account of individual differences and local cultures, values and conditions in its implementation. At the same time local administrators and educators have received both a greater independence and an increased responsibility to construe, define, extend and detail these general frameworks into appropriate curriculum texts and educational practices. Consequently, local educational organisations will require



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to develop new kinds of expertise that will reflect both the local and national aspects of curriculum development. This will demand a need for continuous professional development in order to learn to identify local conditions, negotiate with all stakeholders, and keep their own pedagogical and subject related knowledge updated. In relation to technology education, early childhood educators seem to need more support to consciously include technology in their pedagogy (Alama¨ki 1999; Early technical education 2003).Guidelines concerning technology education in contemporary ECE curricula tend to be implicit or very general, or they may be fragmented and narrow in their scope. A comprehensive outline is missing. On the other hand, according to the societal trend of decentralisation a national level curriculum for ECE is not expected to be very precise with its content. However, the term technology education ought to be at least mentioned and defined briefly—perhaps with some concrete examples—in the curriculum text. This would be a signal for ECE teacher education and for material producers to focus more on this issue. It also follows that more experts of early childhood technology education are required to teach it and develop it conceptually and pedagogically as well as to produce new educational material for teachers and children. Most of all, it is a question of how the educators in ECE develop their own technological orientation, i.e., how they start to observe the everyday life of children and adults through ‘‘technological spectacles’’ (Ha˚rdemark 1989). Several activities and themes in early childhood education can be used to promote the aims of technology education if educators only start to spark children’s interest, direct their attention and pitch around discussions about technology. There are various opportunities to create challenges to solve problems technologically and experience different technological roles. Adults can support both girls’ and boys’ positive selfimage as technological agents by organising playful and meaningful activities which motivate and offer experiences for children’s own success and learning. Acknowledgements We wish to express our special thanks to Josef Seiter (Austria), Kristi Paas (Estonia), Judith Ebach and Janine von Zabern (Germany) for their input in curriculum analysis.

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