LiveWires LiveWires graphic

Live Wires Online brings together extra tips and background information about young children and technology that we couldn’t fit in Live Wires magazine. It’s for anyone involved in the education and care of young children. Scroll down for more. If you are looking for resources and speaker notes from the Live Wires Forums held in October 2015, click here.

Live Wires 2017 magazine: out now!

Check for simple tools that are already in your pocket as well as activities for outside STEM explorations: Professor Susan Danby looks at google maps and preschooler explorations, Editor Dr Kate Highfield looks at coding, children’s digital producer Joey Egger future gazes, Laure Hislop, Daniel Donahoo on STEM activities with young children, plus more. Hear what parents and children have to say on some surprising STEM-themed tech time. Activate STEM thinking and skills in early childhood. Look for your copy of Live Wires with Vol. 23 No. 1 of Every Child

Hazel Grove’s approach to STEM

Educator Hazel Grove of Abbotsleigh Early Learning Centre expands on her philosophy and practice with STEM tools:

“Our philosophy with tools in STEM is that children can be trusted with real resources such as robots, hammers and batteries. They do need scaffolding and support in understanding safety and operational skills. We see children as capable and inquisitive as they dig deep exploring ideas and concepts, making mistakes along the way.

In our context the children can access STEM tools at most times of the day. Even when the resources are in the storeroom or tool trolley, children often request their use.

When we introduce a new resource relating to STEM we intentionally do not tell the children what the tools do, we instead use them as a provocation and invite the children to explore what it could be used for. In introducing the tools we talk about safety, especially when exploring building tools (hammers, saws or a drill), batteries and circuits. This means initially the educator is actively engaged with each new resource. However, as the children’s understanding develops and their knowledge of how each tool works increases, educators reduce their scaffolding and pose problems. The problems vary, depending on the children’s skills. We try to add complexity to their play and exploration. For example we might deliberately provide an obstacle (e.g. a flat battery). Our idea is that these challenges promote higher order thinking, problem-solving and encourage children to think flexibly.

While we use a range of STEM tools three frequent options are: Brain Box, Sphero SPRK and Bee-bots and Blue-bots.”

Find Hazel’s reviews of Brain Box, Sphero SPRK, Bee-bots and Blue-bots in Issue 3 of Live Wires, distributed with Vol. 23 No.1 of Every Child, and soon available for purchase on the ECA Shop.

ECA National conference reimagines the screen

smallboysproutIn a keynote presentation, a keynote workshop and an afternoon Q&A panel, participants at the ECA national conference in October were able to hear Dr Chip Donohue’s take on technology and young children’s development as well as ask some of their own questions. Dr Donohue challenged us to reimagine the screen as a mirror for the child to see their interests reflect or a window onto the world. Would we count mirror time or window time and fret about minutes spent in the way we talk about screentime? Or would we instead focus on what the child was doing and learning with the technology? If you missed Dr Donohue’s keynote we’ll be bringing you highlights, messages and feedback at Digichild and on these Live Wires pages. We’re also turning our minds to the next print issue of Live Wires magazine and what some of the newest tech developments mean for early childhood education and care.

Live Wires Magazine issue 2Live Wires Magazine: previous issues

If you missed previous issues of Live Wires you can click here for a preview article, where Daniel Donahoo shares one of his favourite tools to help young children move beyond the screen. For more reviews from Daniel and other experts on technology in early education, click here to buy issue 1 of Live Wires magazine on sale or go to the Digital Business Kit to see Daniel on video talking about educators, young children and technology.

You can still purchase issue  1 or 2 of Live Wires magazine from the ECA shop while stocks last.

Guide app-cess for young children

Live Wires presenter Dan Donahoo demonstrated a built-in tool designed to help parents and educators guide children’s use of Apps. It was so popular at the Live Wires Forums in October that we recorded it to share further afield. Click to the Live Wires resources page to see Dan explain how Guided Access works.

Live Wires Forum October 2015

Thank you Perth, Brisbane and Sydney for warm welcomes and a great response to Live Wires Forums. We have posted information and resources from the Forums at the Live Wires – Resources page. Click here for copies of presenter notes, resources and links mentioned at the Live Wires Forum. 

The Live Wires Magazine was free to participants at the Forum, sponsored by the Digital Business Kit. ECA members receive their free copy with the final issue of Every Child magazine 2015.

Thanks also to all our sponsors and presenters: Dr Kate Highfield, Dan Donahoo, Anita L’Enfant and Professor Leon Straker and the many contributors from event partner, Datacom, whose team lead by Anita L’Enfant provided spectacular support in each state. Special thanks to Tony Panetta, Daniel Groenewald in Perth and Eric Luna in Brisbane and Sydney among the many from Datacom who demonstrated equipment, lead hands-on sessions or participated in the plenaries. Datacom convened a QR-coded treasure hunt in each Forum with the prize of a Family Inspiration technology session for three lucky winners.

As part of the Live Wires events Xplor app sponsored a Digital Leadership Dinner on Tuesday 20 October, giving a chance to consider what digital engagement means for the future of the early childhood sector. The evening began with a specially recorded message of support from the Prime Minister, highlighting the role of technology in young children’s lives and the crucial part educators play in ensuring its meaningful, intentional use. Click the image below to view the PM’s message.

Live Wires Forums were held in Perth, 14 October, Brisbane, 16 October and Sydney, 21 October, with generous support from event partner, Datacom, and sponsors MTA, Xplorer, FDCA, Lady Gowrie Queensland, DBK and The Creswick Foundation.

Extras: Chip Donohue’s online tips

In this Live Wires review (republished from Live Wires magazine, distributed with Every Child Issue 042014Chip Donohue recommends Ele, The Early Learning Environment from The Fred Rogers Center as an innovative online space.

Chip DonahueEarly educators, families, and others who care for young children can come together in a safe environment to find and share digital resources that support early learning and development in children from birth to age 5. The focus of the information, media-based activities, and social networking is on Early Literacy and Digital Media Literacy. Ele brings together many of the best free trusted materials from around the web, including videos, games, ebooks, music and other interactive tools. Ele encourages caregivers to treat media more like they would treat a book: as a chance to sit with a child, share time together, and talk about what children are seeing and hearing. In this way, media and technology can be motivating, interesting, and helpful tools. Used properly, they can spur conversation and encourage children’s interaction with their peers and with the caring adults in their lives. Ele suggests ways to develop such healthy media habits. Ele is a signature program of the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College. All of the Center’s work resonates with founder, Fred Rogers’ own belief in the positive potential of media to support the healthy social, emotional, intellectual and physical development of young children. The NAEYC site ( brings three mini case studies about effective use of technology to support early learning:

Chip Donohue, PhD is the Dean of Distance Learning and Continuing Education and Director of the TEC Center Director at the Erikson Institute in Chicago. He is also a Fred Rogers Center Advisory Council Member and, as a Senior Fellow, co-chaired a working group that revised the position statement on young children and interactive media. Known as the 2012 National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) & Fred Rogers Center Joint Position Statement on Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs serving children from Birth through Age 8, it is a rich resource for educators, researchers and parents of young children. Chip has written extensively on children and interactive media and specialises in distance learning for early childhood educators. Among his many papers and publications Chip is editor of a new book, ‘Technology and Digital Media in the Early Years: Tools for Teaching and Learning published’ published by Routledge/NAEYC. Learn more about Chip Donohue, the TEC Center and distance learning for early educators, and find articles, videos and webinars at

What can a 3D printer do?

In Live Wires (in Every Child Issue 042014Karl Hessian looked at small tracking devices. Here he looks at 3D printers.

While 3D printers have been around in various forms for a couple of decades, in recent years the price has come down dramatically. A simple version was spotted locally at a large stationery retailer for under a thousand dollars, although a couple of thousand dollars is probably more typical (see for a variety of models).

CrayonCreatures_05What can it do? A 3D printer is a machine that takes an electronic design file, created using software on a computer, and turns it into a 3D object. It does this by laying a substance onto a surface, then overlaying with more material until the desired object has been executed.

There is a moderate investment in time required to become comfortable with creating a 3D object. The design process requires the most significant investment. This has seen a market emerge for design files that can be purchased and downloaded. A printer with an iPad interface specifically targeted at children ( is an interesting but non-commerical development.

The emergence of 3D printing shops has taken this technology in a different direction. Such companies take away all of the non-creative production tasks, leaving the user to focus on designing an object. Companies such as (check the how it works tab) have an impressive range of design interfaces for all skill levels and are capable of producing mind-blowing 3-dimensional objects. Other companies are emerging (e.g. that assist the design process by taking 2D drawings and turning them into 3D objects.

The potential for 3D printing as a means by which children can individually or collaboratively express themselves creatively is an intriguing one. How that environment may be created is yet to emerge.

Keep watching Live Wires online for reviews, updates and tech tips.

Bologna Raggazzi Digital Award 2015

This digital award is part of the international Children Book Fair, held annually in Bologna, Italy. The award was established to encourage excellence in children’s digital productions. It is open to publishers and developers in any language or platform in two categories: fiction and non-fiction.
The 2015 winner was a digital reworking of Eric Carle’s classic My Very Hungry Caterpillar. Special mentions for fiction went to Buona Notte Dadà by Elastico and for non-fiction, Spot by David Wiesner. Read below to see what the jury loved about these digital publications for children.

Bologna Ragazzi winner Very hungry caterpillarMy Very Hungry Caterpillar

StoryToys, Dublin, Ireland. Text and illustrations by Eric Carle.

What the Jury said: My Very Hungry Caterpillar is the overall 2015 winner, brilliantly extending a much-loved work from children’s literature into the digital world, with story-appropriate, deeply immersive interactivity. The app is full of humour and surprises, as you help your Caterpillar grow. It is also brilliantly executed, with seamless engineering and 3D visual design. It succeeds in communicating entirely without words and bring new depth to a classic work of children’s literature.

Unlike previous attempts to bring a famous children’s character to the screen, this app puts the child in the center of the action, assisting the caterpillar through each stage of life.


Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Boston, USA. Text and illustrations by David Wiesner.
What the Jury said: In Spot by David Wiesner a master illustrator has exploited computing resources to create an immediately beguiling work of infinite imagination, taking full advantage of the iPad medium. Jurors felt that may feel that the app could benefit from smoother navigation a unifying narrative, but the sheer scope of the project is noteworthy, and initially breathtaking.

Buona Notte Dadà

Elastico srl, Milan, Italy. Text by Elastico, illustrations by Valeria Petrone.

What the Jury said: Playful, powerful responsive design is expertly mixed with lively Dada characters in this interactive storybook designed to help children overcome their fear of the dark. Jurors noted that the responsive design was appreciated by child testers with a delightful discover on every screen.

Review source courtesy of

More on Live Wires contributors

Kate_HighfieldKate_HighfieldKate_HighfieldKate Highfield, Editor of Live Wires, is a lecturer and researcher at The Institute of Early Childhood, Macquarie University. Her particular interest is young children’s use of technology in learning, play and problem solving, with a focus on touch technologies, including mobile devices, tablets, and smartphones. This work examines digital play, in both home and educational settings, and the impact of interactive multi-media on learning and play. Previously Kate taught children from kindergarten to year six. Kate is part of ECA’s Digital Business Kit Reference Group and has written numerous papers and articles including co-authoring ECA’s forthcoming Every Day Learning publication on children and technology. During 2014 Kate undertook an outside study program of work in the USA with leaders in the field of education and technology at the Erikson Institute’s TEC Center, the Fred Rogers Centre and the Joan Ganz Cooney Workshop.

Warren Buckleitner Warren Buckleitner is an educational researcher and reviewer with a specialty in the design of interactive media for children. He holds a doctorate in educational psychology and is the founding Editor of Children’s Technology Review (CTR). What began as a Masters project in the 1980s with High/Scope Educational Foundation, has continued since 1993 with Warren editing a journal of reviews in one form or other to provide systematic surveys of children’s interactive media. Another of Warren’s projects is Dust or Magic—‘an idea can become dust or magic depending upon the talent that rubs against it’— is a concept, a website and an event. It was triggered in 1997 when reviewers came together to discuss, try out and demonstrate products. It is now an annual event financed by participant tuition. Learn more about Warren and his projects at and

Dan Donahoo works at the intersection of play, technology and learning. He is founder of GeekDad and Director of Project Synthesis, an ideas consultancy that specialises in digital tools and creates action and change from inspiration. Dan has been behind initiatives such as the Children’s App Manifesto, Better apps—to help developers self-assess for the educational quality of app process and design—and Deeper Richer’s open learning platform Rough Science and Starting Shakespeare for older primary school children. Dan hosted the Technology Speed Dating Hub at ECA’s national conference in September 2014. You can find out more at and For more videos featuring Dan Donahoo or technology topics go to the Digital Business Kit Video page.

Michelle Gregory is a Learning Technologist, engaging with early education and care services as part of the University of Wollongong Early Start project. Michelle has a background in Early Education as Centre Director and Room leader and has worked as a Lecturer in Early Education and IT Development officer at the University of Wollongong prior to joining the Early Start project.

Early Start ( is a $44 million transformational project coordinated by the University of Wollongong that aims to create and enrich life opportunities for young Australians. From the simple premise, ‘every child deserves the best possible start to life’ Early Start is looking to develop the most sophisticated and technologically advanced teaching, research and community engagement initiative in higher education. While Early Start engages with a host of early education and care services at its core are more than 40 ‘Engagement Centres.’ These are in regional and rural areas and will engage in all facets of the Early Start initiative through information technology. This technology package includes interactive whiteboards, interactive tables, video conference facilities and mobile tablets. Research into the growing use of technology in early education demonstrates mixed views and the implications such technology has for children, parents and educators. Within the Early Start engagement centres, the use of existing technology is varied as is the intended use of new Early Start technology. The key message is that there is no ‘one size fits all’ technology plan for early education. The individual demographic of the centre will dictate the use and indeed the success of technology integration.

Cybersmart logoWhat everyone ought to know about staying smart online

Live Wires brings different views and exciting new tools to try. So, be smart when venturing online with young children by following a few basic tips for staying safe. Learn more at and Find tips and resources for educators and parents as well as fun activities that help young children learn about staying safe online. You can also find help and resources, including a simple downloadable cybersafety button for children at the Department of Communications’ website

About Live Wires

Live Wires is a sometime collection of reviews, opinions, tips and technology experiences for anyone involved in the education and care of young children. The reviews are prepared by researchers, educators, parents and techxperts. Live Wires print edition is a technology supplement distributed free to ECA members with Every Child’s December 2014 issue. Live Wires online is produced by ECA’s Digital Business team and brings together extra reviews, author details and projects that were too good to miss but too numerous to fit the print edition.

Now available: Live Wires Summer 2014-15
Purchase Live Wires magazine today from the ECA shop.
Limited stock available

Judge for yourself

Disclaimer: All reviews on Live Wires online and Live Wires (print edition) represent the individual reviewer’s opinion. Neither ECA nor the editors endorse or have a commercial interest in the products mentioned.

Live Wires online shares these views to help you make a judgement. Consider whether the items described or opinions of the reviewer match your requirements. One educator’s apple is another educator’s lemon. ECA hopes that the many parents, educators and others who ask about best apps, approaches and protections for young children will find Live Wires online useful.

Share your opinion: To make a comment or send a review about digital tools in early childhood business, professional development or education and care email us at or follow us on facebook or twitter. We can’t publish everything but we will read everything. We won’t publish testimonials but we will consider balanced reviews that compare similar devices, tools or software or reviews that show the strengths and weaknesses of a particular tool or device.