Original Research

Digital learning in childhood: Possibilities for pedagogical transformation in South Africa

Donna Hannaway
South African Journal of Childhood Education | Vol 14, No 1 | a1422 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajce.v14i1.1422 | © 2024 Donna Hannaway | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 11 September 2023 | Published: 19 February 2024

About the author(s)

Donna Hannaway, Department of Early Childhood Education, College of Education, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa


Background: Digital technology (DT) has already changed history, and it is transforming childhood as more and more children go online around the world.

Aim: The aim of this article was to critically explore the potential of young children’s digital learning (DL), while concurrently assessing the constraints.

Setting: Early Childhood Care and Education (ECCE) stakeholders’ environments formed the setting for this study.

Methods: The critical theory of technology emphasizes the need for increased democratic involvement in technical decisions. It also explores the impact of theories on technology users, affecting design, usage, and, consequently, outcomes. This study adopted an interpretative phenomenological approach to discover 10 South African ECCE stakeholders’ experiences of DL with young children.

Results: Firstly, findings presented the affordances of DT. Secondly, the threats of connectivity, socio-economic factors, and the availability of inappropriate content were emphasised. Thirdly, there are risks and fears associated with DL, especially with young children. Lastly, the possibilities of DL, where pedagogical transformation can take place, were interrogated.

Conclusion: In the ever-evolving world of DT, the pursuit of improved educational outcomes for young children remains a paramount concern. Proven practices that improve children’s learning through DT and effect change at a systemic level should be further interrogated.

Contribution: This research contributes to the ongoing discourse surrounding DT in early childhood education by offering a critical examination of its challenges and opportunities. It provides insights for educators, policymakers and researchers on enhancing DL experiences for young children while considering the associated risks and benefits.


digital learning; digital technology; early childhood education; critical theory of technology; pedagogical transformation

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 4: Quality education


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