The Early Start Program is a “multi- disciplinary approach to examining the earliest year of life. It involves three key elements: A state of the art facility currently under construction at the University of Wollongong’s campus; a Discovery Space housed within the main building and providing public access to children and families; and a ‘connected’ network of 38 Early Childhood Education and Care services across NSW. Through the inter-connectedness of these facilities, which are scheduled to be fully operational in 2015 Early Start aims to drive positive social change by enhancing the learning and development experiences of children, families and communities.”
Professor Paul Chandler (University of Wollongong), the Executive Director of Early Start welcomed representatives of the 38 Early Start Engagement Centres to the Early Start Forum. Early Years educators travelled from as far as Broken Hill, Lightning Ridge and Wilcannia to participate in the forum where they learned from expert practitioners, academics and technology specialists.
The Engagement Centres will also be linked by video conferencing to enable professional development and sharing of knowledge. Each centre will also receive a SMART E70 Interactive display, a SMART Interactive Table, Apple iPads and an Apple TV.
Last year Bellambi Pre-school was provided with these technologies as a trial. In an article published in the Illawarra Mercury, Chief executive of the Big Fat Smile-owned centre in Bellambi, Bill Feld said that ” since the technology was introduced, children’s literacy and collaborative skills had excelled.
The first group of children to experience the program and then move on to kindergarten were deemed the most school-ready preschool cohort with the best attendance rate at Bellambi Public School last year.
But the best part of the Early Start program and its technologically interactive focus was witnessing families bond over learning.
I remember one case of a dad coming into the centre with his child and a web address, and they worked together using the technology from the program.
We hadn’t seen such co-operative learning between this child and the child’s family before.”
The program is an outstanding example of a collaborative community creating new knowledge to improve the learning outcomes of students.