In order to work actively and creatively with the media and to pass on this knowledge to children, it makes sense to acquire a few media technology basics. The aim is not to understand the technology down to the smallest detail but to gain a basic understanding of the functionality and networking capabilities of media technology.
This module is aimed primarily at technically inexperienced ECEC professionals in order to enable them to work actively and creatively with the media. It is recommended to also use the module to refresh and deepen already existing knowledge.
About this Module
When studying this course you will…
- Gain knowledge about the components and functions of a computer
- Get information about various devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones) as well as hardware and software
- Be enabled to work actively and creatively with the media
- Find basic information for technically inexperienced ECEC professionals or refresh existing knowledge
In this module…
- You will take a look at various technical devices
- Activities will support you to better understand the content and to prepare for the assessment
- Further links will guide you to more information
What is a Computer?
A computer is an electronic device used to process data and information. It can store, process and retrieve data. This enables the user to write texts, send e-mails, play games and surf the Internet. It can also be used to create and edit presentations, spreadsheets, photos and videos.
All computers have one thing in common: they consist of hardware and software.
Hardware is any part of a computer that has a physical structure, such as a mouse or a keyboard. Hardware also includes all parts inside a computer.
Picture 1: Hardware – desktop computer and internal components
Software is a term for programmes and their associated data. This means it is a collection of instructions telling the hardware what to do and how to do it. Examples of software are digital games, word processors or web browsers.
Picture 2: Software Examples
Everything that is done on a computer depends on both the hardware and the software it contains. For example, it is possible to browse a web page in a web browser (software) and navigate through the page with the mouse (hardware). Differences of hardware are shown in the different types of computers. Different types of computers usually use different types of software.
Quiz – Software vs. Hardware
Drag and drop images to the right place
Different Types of Computers
When most people hear the word computer, they think of a personal computer (PC) such as a desktop or a laptop. However, there are computers in many shapes and sizes and they perform many different functions in our daily lives: withdrawing cash at an ATM, scanning food at the supermarket or using a calculator are also functions of a computer.
A well-known type of computer is the desktop computer, which is used by a lot of people at work, at home or at school. Desktop computers are designed so that they can be placed on a desk, and they usually consist of different parts such as a computer case, a monitor, a keyboard and a mouse.
Picture 3: a desktop-PC
Another well-known type of computer is the laptop computer, or laptop for short. Laptops are battery-operated and portable computers. They are therefore more flexible than desktop computers and can be used almost anywhere.
Picture 4: a laptop
Like laptops, tablet computers are designed to be portable. However, they offer a different computer experience. The most obvious difference is that tablet computers don’t have keyboards or touchpads. Instead, the entire screen is touch-sensitive, so a virtual keyboard can be touched and the finger can be used as a mouse pointer. Tablet computers can’t necessarily do everything traditional computers can. Many people prefer to work with certain programmes on a traditional computer like a desktop or laptop rather than on a tablet. However, the convenience of a tablet computer makes it ideal as a second computer.
Picture 5: a tablet
A server is a computer that sends information to other computers in a network. For example, when using the Internet, someone looks at something stored in a server. Many companies also use local file servers to store and share files internally.
Picture 6: server networking
Many of today’s electronic and media devices are basically specialised computers, although they are not always associated with them.
Smartphones : a smartphone is a more powerful version of a conventional mobile phone. In addition to the same basic features, phone calls, voicemail, SMS, smartphones can connect to the Internet via wireless LAN (Wi-Fi) or a mobile network. This means that smartphones can be used for the same things normally done on a computer, such as checking email, surfing the Internet or shopping online. Most smartphones use a touch screen, which means there is no physical keyboard on the device. Instead, we tap a virtual keyboard and use our fingers to interact with the display. Other standard features include a high-quality digital camera and the ability to play digital music and video files. For many people, a smartphone can even replace media devices such as a laptop, a digital music player, and a digital camera, all in the same device.
Picture 7: a smartphone
Inside a Computer
At first glance, the small parts inside a computer may look complicated. The interior of a computer case is not particularly mysterious, though. In the following section some basic parts are introduced and explained so that anyone not familiar with computers can understand what is going on inside a computer.
Picture 8: Inside a computer
The motherboard is the main board of a computer. It is a thin disk containing CPU, memory, a hard disk and optical drive connectors, expansion cards for controlling video and audio, and connections to the computer’s ports (e.g. USB ports). The motherboard connects directly or indirectly to any part of the computer.
RAM (Random Access Memory) is the short-term memory of the system. Whenever a computer performs calculations, it temporarily stores the data in RAM. This short-term memory disappears when the computer is switched off. When working on a document, spreadsheet or any other type of file, it is necessary to save it in order not to lose it. When saving a file, the data is written on the hard disk, which serves as a long-term memory. RAM is measured in megabytes (MB) or gigabytes (GB). The more RAM a computer has, the more things it can do at the same time. If not enough RAM is available, the computer becomes sluggish when several programmes are open. That’s why many people add extra RAM to their computers to improve performance.
|1 Byte||1 letter or digit|
|1 Kilobyte (KB) = 1000 Byte||1 page of a book|
|Megabyte (MB): 1 MB = 1000 KB
|Gigabyte (GB): 1 GB = 125 MB = 125000 KB
1 movie in DVD quality
|Terabyte (TB): 1 TB = 125 GB = 125000 MB
Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA
Table 1: Compare volume/size
Software, documents and other files are stored on the hard disk. The hard disk is a long-term memory, which means that the data remains stored even if the computer is switched off or disconnected from the power supply. When a programme is run or a file is opened, the computer copies some of the data from the hard disk to RAM. When a file is saved, the data is copied back to the hard disk. The faster the hard disk, the faster a computer can start and load programmes.
Most computers have expansion slots on the motherboard, allowing the addition of different types of expansion cards. These are sometimes referred to as PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect) cards. It may not be necessary to add PCI cards because most motherboards have built-in video, sound and network cards.
Ports and Buttons on a Computer
Every computer is different, so buttons, ports and sockets are different from one computer to another. However, there are some ports and buttons that are found on most desktop computers. Learning how to use these ports helps when something needs to be connected to the computer, such as a tablet, a printer, a keyboard, or a mouse.
Picture 9: Front side of a desktop computer (************ is not royalty free)
On the back of a computer case, there are connection ports that are designed for specific devices. Their location varies from one computer to another, and many companies have their own special ports for specific devices. Some of the ports may be colour-coded, which helps determine which port is used with what particular device.
The following picture shows the most important connections on the back of a desktop PC that may be needed in everyday work at ECEC centres.
Picture 10: Back side of a desktop computer (************ is not royalty free)
The most basic computer configuration usually includes a computer case, a monitor, a keyboard, and a mouse. Apart from these, many different types of devices can be connected to the additional ports of a computer. These additional devices are called peripherals. The following paragraphs explain the most important ones that may be used in the daily work of an ECEC centre.
Printer : a printer is used to print documents, photos and anything else that appears on your screen. There are many types of printers, including inkjet, laser and photo printers. When working at the ECEC centre, children’s self-made photos and collages can be printed easily and quickly and the children can take the results of their media work home with them.
Picture 11: a printer
Scanner : With a scanner, a physical image or document can be copied and stored on the computer as a digital (computer-readable) image. Many scanners are part of an all-in-one device which can scan and copy documents, but are also available as separate flatbed or hand-held scanners. A scanner in the ECEC centre can be used, for example, to digitalise the children’s hand-painted pictures on the computer which can then be used in digital documentations or collages.
Picture 12: a scanner
Speakers/Headphones : speakers and headphones are output devices and send information from the computer to the user. In this case, they allow you to listen to sound and music. Depending on the model, they can be connected to the audio port or the USB port. Some monitors also have built-in speakers. Tablets and smartphones have built-in speakers. The speakers can be used, for example, to play free online radio plays or to listen to environmental and animal sounds from an online sound database.
Picture 13: a speaker
Microphones : a microphone is a type of input device that receives information from the user. Microphones record sound or are used to talk to someone else over the Internet. Many laptops and tablets have built-in microphones. In ECEC centres, a microphone can be used for creative work with children, for example, to record a special radio play with the children. It can also be used to record the language level of a child and evaluate it later together with their parents.
Picture 14: a microphone
Digital camera : With a digital camera you can take pictures and videos in a digital format. If you connect the camera to the USB port on your computer, you can transfer images from the camera to your computer. In the ECEC centre, for example, photos can be collected or processed in photo editing programmes and then printed out.
Picture 15: a digital camera
Tablets and smartphones : Today all tablets and smartphones are equipped with a USB cable so that the devices can be connected to the computer. This allows photos, videos and audio recordings to be transferred for further processing or backup.
Picture 16: tablet and smartphone
Excursus – Tablets in ECEC centres
It is recommended to purchase tablets for the Kindergarten learners. The tablet is a multifunctional device that can be used to take photos and shoot videos. It also has an integrated microphone for audio recordings, for example to produce your own radio plays, and provides other creative applications and tools. One device is sufficient for a small class of children. For larger classes, though, several devices would be necessary to be purchased.
Tablets are a child’s play to operate. They are wiped, typed and zoomed, and even two-year-olds can use them. Children often know how to use a tablet from home.
In addition to the arguments in favour of an all-in-one device and easy operation, there are other aspects that are in favour of purchasing tablets in ECEC centres. The devices are space-saving, light, easy to use and flexible. The advantages for media education in ECEC centres are low susceptibility to faults, relatively high robustness of the devices and a battery life of up to 18 hours. For iPad and some Android tablets there are also child-friendly cases made of solid foam, which are equipped with handles and are therefore very easy to be handled by children.
A basic attitude in dealing with tablets in ECEC centres should be: the devices represent a complementary offer which does not displace other central pedagogical elements but improves and supplements them.
For example, in the past a picture book was used to prepare for forest exploration, now a corresponding app or Google search is being used. The tablet can then of course be taken into the forest so that plants, animals and traces can be photographed and nature sounds can be recorded.
When the tablet is used as a deliberate tool in everyday pedagogical work, many creative possibilities open up to complement the previous pedagogical work. When researching and playing with the tablet together, stimulated communication about the contents takes place. The children help each other to master tasks and to understand connections.
Together with the children, you can produce picture and sound puzzles, light paintings, photo collages and stories, cartoons, radio plays and much more with a tablet.
The tablet offers numerous media pedagogical possibilities in ECEC centres. The success of the tablet in everyday ECEC centre use depends mainly on the media pedagogical competences of the ECEC professionals and their know-how. Just try it out. How the tablet can be integrated creatively and actively into everyday pedagogical practice is shown, for example, in our practical examples.
Software Basics – Operating Systems and Apps
The operating system (OS) is the most important software that runs on a computer. It manages the memory and processes of the computer, as well as all software and hardware. It also allows communication with the computer. Without an operating system, a computer is useless. Usually several different computer programmes run simultaneously and they all need to access the CPU, RAM, and hard disk of the computer. The operating system coordinates all of these to ensure that each programme gets what it needs.
The operating systems are usually pre-installed on each computer. Most people use the operating system that comes with their computer, but it is possible to update or even switch operating systems. The three most common operating systems for desktop computers and laptops are Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux. For tablets and smartphones, the most common OS are Android and iOS modern operating systems that use a graphical user interface (GUI). A GUI allows clicking with the mouse on icons, buttons and menus, and everything is clearly represented on the screen by a combination of graphics and text.
The user interface of each operating system has a different look and feel, so switching to a different operating system may seem unfamiliar at first.
Modern operating systems are designed to be easy to use, and most basic principles are the same.
Picture 17: Operating Systems
(********* new pictures should be produced, or pictures that are royalty free must be found)
An application (app) is a type of software that allows performing specific tasks. When an app is opened, it runs within the operating system until it is closed. Multiple apps can be open at the same time. There are countless desktop apps or programmes. Some are more extensive (i.e. Microsoft Word), while others can only do one or two things (i.e. a clock or a calendar application). Desktop and laptop computers aren’t the only devices that can run apps or programmes. Apps for mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets can also be downloaded.
Picture 18: various apps
Using a computer
A computer is much more than just another conventional device. The wealth of information and possibilities it offers can be overwhelming, but there is a lot to achieve with a computer, and using it can be a good experience. The following are some basic things a user can do.
Learning a new programme
In the following modules, new programmes and apps are introduced, which support creative media education with children and are very helpful. Not all of them are explained in detail, but only recommended. Therefore, it makes sense to take a look at how to learn a new programme yourself.
The first thing to do when opening a new programme is to look for familiar features. It may not be immediately obvious, but most computer programmes have certain basic functions in common – things that have been learned with one programme will help you when learning a new one. For example, many key combinations remain the same from one programme to another. Most programmes also have file and editing menus, and they’re usually in the same place: at the top of the screen, either as a drop-down menu or in a menu bar. The file and edit menus usually contain similar functions in each programme. Knowing that the print function is displayed in the file menu in Microsoft Word allows a first idea where to search it in other programmes.
When searching in a new programme for some functions but cannot find them, it can help to search for hidden menu bars. Many programmes have toolbars, sidebars or panels that can be hidden or made visible, and they are often hidden by default when starting the programme.
If the programme to be used contains many unknown elements or if there is a function which is simply unknown, stay calm. There are still some simple things to do to find a way around a programme.
Software companies know that most users will have questions about how to use their programmes, so they include built-in help features. Normally it is possible to access the help function of a programme by clicking on a help menu (sometimes represented by a question mark symbol) at the top of the screen. It provides instructions on how to proceed, troubleshooting tips, and answers to frequently asked questions. Some help features even include links to online help forums where users can post answers to each other’s questions.
Picture 19: Word help function
Downloading files to the computer
In the following modules and also in the practical instructions, it will be mentioned again and again that photos, videos or other files can be loaded from a medium, e.g. from a tablet to a computer.
The first step is to connect the media device on which the files are stored (e.g. the digital camera, tablet or smartphone) to the computer. The easiest way is to connect the device to the computer via a USB cable.
Picture 20: USB cable (left) and USB port (right)
For the Windows operating system, the device should be displayed under “Computer” / “My PC” or under “Devices and drives”. To get to the directory of the chosen device, double-click on the displayed device on the screen. It is possible that the device (often with PIN-protected smartphones or tablets) must first be unlocked. For newer tablets and smartphones (with the Android operating system), a message “Device is charging via USB” also appears on the device screen. Click for more options. Here it is possible to select how the device is to be used via USB. By selecting “Transfer files” it is possible to access all data of the device.
Picture 21: data transfer (************* will be provided by Eva-Maria)
Then the appropriate folder must be selected. In this case photo files should be transferred from a smartphone to the computer. In the directory for the device, several folders are now available on the computer. Photos are located in the folder DCIM (Digital Camera Image), which is opened by double-clicking.
Picture 22: photo transfer (************ will be provided by Eva-Maria)
Now the photos can be copied from the device memory to the computer. To do so, mark all the photos to be copied. One way is to mark all photos by making a “frame” with the mouse around all photos. Now the photos can be copied with the right mouse button into the desired folder of the computer. By right-clicking on the marker, a small window opens. Now clicking with the left mouse button on the field “Copy” is possible. The folder into which the photo files are to be copied can then be opened. In the desired folder again click the right mouse button and then select with the left mouse button the option “paste”. Now the files are transferred to the computer. Depending on how large the files are and how many files have been selected, this can take some time. In this case, a loading bar opens and shows the transfer progress.
This way of transferring files from a media device to a Windows computer is just one of many. Copy and paste can also be done using “drag and drop” or keyboard shortcuts. With other operating systems on the computer (e.g. macOS) or the media device (e.g. iOS) things can vary a little.
Using the Internet
The Internet is a global network of billions of computers and other electronic devices. With the Internet it is possible to access almost all information available, communicate with everyone else in the world and much more. It can all be done on the home computer. A device must be connected to the Internet before it can be accessed. When planning to use the Internet in ECEC centres, it is usually necessary to purchase an Internet connection from an Internet service provider that is likely to be a telephone or a cable company. Other devices usually connect via Wi-Fi or mobile Internet connections.
Most information on the Internet can be found on websites. Once connected to the Internet, a programme called web browser can be used to access websites (the most popular are Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge and Opera).
A website is a collection of related text, images, and other resources. Websites can resemble other forms of media such as newspaper articles or television programmes or can be interactive in a way that is unique to computers. The purpose of a website can be almost anything: a news platform, an online library, an advertisement, a forum for exchanging images, or an educational site.
Picture 23: web browser
A web browser allows people to connect to and view websites. The web browser itself is not the Internet, but displays pages on the Internet. Each website has a unique address. By entering this address in the web browser, it is possible to connect to this website and the web browser will display it. Websites often have links to other websites, also called hyperlinks. These are often part of the text on the site. They are usually coloured blue, and sometimes they are underlined or bold. When clicking on the text, the browser loads another page. Web authors use hyperlinks to connect relevant pages. This network of links is one of the most unique features of the Internet and it is called The World Wide Web (WWW), commonly known as The Web. Each Web site has a unique address called Uniform Resource Locator (URL). The URL changes when clicking on a link and the browser loads a new page. Entering a URL in the browser’s address bar makes the browser to load the page associated with that URL. It’s like a street address telling the browser where to go on the Internet.
One of the best features of the Internet is the ability to communicate almost instantly with anyone in the world. Email is one of the oldest and most universal ways to communicate and exchange information on the Internet, and billions of people use it. Social media allow people to connect in many ways and build communities online. There are many other things which can be done on the Internet. There are thousands of ways to be up to date or shop online. It is possible to pay bills, manage bank accounts, meet new people, watch TV or learn new skills.
Almost everything can be learned or done online today.
What is a Computer?
1. What can a computer do?
2. How can you define hardware and software?
Different Types of Computers
1. What are the 3 main types of computers?
2. What is the function of a server?
3. How can smartphones be connected to the Internet?
Inside a Computer
1. Can you name some hardware parts that are inside a computer?
2. In which hardware part are software programmes installed?
3. What does PCI stand for?
Ports and Buttons on a Computer
1. Where are the connection ports located on a desktop PC?
2. Where are the audio ports located on a desktop PC?
3. What are the front USB ports used for on a desktop PC?
1. What are the peripheral devices of a computer?
2. Can you name some types of printers?
3. Which device can you use to digitalise hand-painted pictures on a computer?
4. How can you connect a smartphone to a computer?
Excursus – Tablets in ECEC centres
1. What are some of the advantages of using tablets in an ECEC centre?
2. What tasks of the children can be supported by tablets?
3. What different tasks can children perform with a tablet on educational outings?
1. Can you explain the difference between operation software and application software?
2. Can you name the most common operating systems for desktop PCs?
Using a Computer
1. What are hidden menu bars?
2. What can you do by accessing the help menu that the software companies provide?
3. Explain the procedure of transferring photos from a digital camera to a computer.
Using the Internet
1. Can you explain to another person what the Internet is?
2. Can you name some well-known web browsers?
3. How can you access a website?
4. What can you do on the Internet?