We Think Everywhere Video

As the research comes to an end we have assembled a short video that gives a flavour of the energy, engagement and playful inquiry of the children and adults involved in the preschools and nurseries in Sweden and the UK. Follow the link here: 

We Think Everywhere – examples of children’s creative learning using digital media in transdisciplinary and transcontextual environments


Playfulness and Gameplay

The gamification of learning is on the increase and is in our opinion something we need to be mindful about. In game play, play and thus learning as the two are intertwined, are often developed through progressive mechanics such as the use of leaderboards, points and badges or personal bests.  There is very little that holds the value of learning as something that is intrinsic to the learner, or as a right and a condition of being alive in the world.

In Reggio Emilia, Loris Malaguzzi always said that all children were born rich and competent from birth and were as such ready, willing and able to learn in many diverse ways.  I don’t think he was thinking of a rewards based system though…  which is what our problem with some forms of game play is.  We believe that,  “every child has an innate ability to learn from birth.  We believe  that every child has an incredible capacity to learn and develop through engagement with others and with the world.”

(Taken from Madeley Nursery Schools Principles of Practice, one of the five UK based schools involved in the joint Erasmus + funded research together with schools in Stockholm, Sweden.  

Gamesplay is usually driven at the individual level, you may well act as team, in seemingly collaborative ways, but, it is always to reach a goal set within the context of the game.  In learning contexts such as the ones we support, collaboration is sought and contexts generated for it to be nurtured, grown and evolved.  We show that we value children’s ideas and thinking by acting on what they say and do and working in ways that makes visible the connections and relationships between the children’s thinking and actions.  It is a philosophical perspective that we hold that is not about an externally set curriculum, or sets of linear goals but by our pedagogical views of how we consider children’s learning to be ever evolving, multidirectional and following a pattern more akin to a rhizome than a linear set of progressive steps .

Some games could be seen as playful, but again we are cautious as to the gamification of play.  We would underline that for us, play and playfulness is about engaging in meaning making – that through play we gain something of intrinsic importance, that isn’t rewards based.  Stephen Nachmanovitch (1990) talks about improvisation as a means of play, and this is something we find of deep value in our work with children.  We fear that many games (including so called educational games) are goal/rewards oriented and follow a linear and narrow pattern of play where improvisation is weaker due to the narrow gameplay.  Nachmanovitch says;

“Improvisation always has its rules… As living, patterned beings, we are incapable of producing anything random…Our body-mind is a highly organized and structured affair that has evolved over hundreds of millions of years.  An improvisor does not operate from a formless vacuum, but from three billion years of organic evolution; all that we are is encoded somewhere in us…As our playing, writing, speaking, drawing, or dancing unfolds, the inner unconscious logic of our being begins to show through and mould the material.  This deep, rich patterning is the original nature that impresses itself like a seal upon everything that we do or are.”

Improvisation therefore enables us to dig deep to our ‘rich patterning’.  Our play is infused with who we are, our context, our culture, our unique experiences that pattern us.  Our meaning-making is richer because of the complexity of who we are and what we experience.  Learning therefore is always situated in a context of meaning-making that is flexible, permeable, transformable and in a constant state of flux.  There is no separation of mind-body and everything is learnt where there is an intense relationship with the material and ideas of the world.  Games can take us to many worlds both known and imagined but they do so through bounded rules and patterns of the games makers, through screens and VR masks, though other lenses than our own.

When young children form intense relationships with the world, though play and meaning-making they also form strong  bonds of empathy, through being in a close proximity to something real.  In games play, we feel that close proximity is often far removed and the malleability of that play and thinking is generated at the level of the games maker even within vast worlds of play: it is controlled with a particular viewpoint, schematic and aesthetic.   There seems little or no room for building empathy with anything at all, and when you fail, there is no resolution, it’s a singular and directed journey.

The gamification of learning is something that we think may take away the possibility for intense relationships and deep empathy and thus limit the potentials of creative and expressive modalities of learning that we think are at the heart of young children’s play, learning and meaning-making.  When we are alive in a world that is also alive, we have to be careful at these intersections that can, if we are not aware or careful, filter these relationships and feelings and thus the motivations for meaning-making away.


Stephen Nachmanovitch (1990),  “Free Play. Improvisation in Life and Art”, published by:  Tarcher Penguin, USA

Digital Media and Technology and its Relations to Learning in and with Nature

© 2016 Woodlands Primary and Nursery School, Telford, UK

As a group of practitioner-researchers we are interested in how digital media and technology can be used in creative and expressive ways to create new knowledge, communicate and express learning, feelings about the world in which we all inhabit. We work with young children aged, 2-6 across two international contexts, one in the West Midlands, UK and another in Stockholm Sweden.

Funded by the European Union Erasmus + the aim of our research is to explore areas of real/virtual/ imaginary contexts, 2D and 3D dimensionality, graphics, sounds, musicality, dance, drama, and storytelling, seeking the unexpected and diverse ways of children’s meaning making. We aim to look for relationships and patterns between the phenomena under investigation that challenges traditional categorisation and schema’s of learning. We welcome complexity and the idea that there are many multiple and simultaneous ways of seeing and thinking. We see uncertainty as a place of possibility and knowledge as a fluid and ever evolving state, open to variation, diversity and change.

We want to work with digital media with a vibrant and dynamic relationship to the world that holds a a reflexive malleability to support a dialogue with learning.

Stephen Nachmanovitch (1990) reminds us that:

“The teachers art is to connect in real time, with the living bodies of the children with the living body of knowledge.”

Children’s learning in and about nature is at the heart of their own research into the world of ideas about what it means to be alive and growing within a context of other things and beings that are alive and growing also. In using digital media and technology, we are finding out the ways in which that can mirror and reflect the diversity of ways of learning, knowing, seeing and communicating in expressive ways to others. We want to avoid the use of digital media that claims to ‘capture’ children’s knowledge at the beginning of a cycle of learning or topic/theme that then reuses that same media at the end to capture what is now known once the learning is seen as ‘complete’.
We share here three brief examples of how digital media i.e. a data projector and an iPad have been used to embody an experience for children to explore in creative and expressive ways.

© Madeley Nursery School, Telford, UK

In this first example, the language of shadows brought narratives into the children’s play as they responded within a large-scale  projected image of a tree they had been taking photographs of in their nursery school grounds.The children shared stories and ideas as they danced, sang and moved between each other and around the screen, interacting with shadows.


“There’s a monster in there, watch out it’s hiding.” Archie-Lee

“No there isn’t – they [the trees] are singing ‘I love you.” Eowyn



This idea of the trees singing became a strong focal point within their meaning-making as songs were composed and re-presented in clay tablet forms and drawings that were given back to the tree as a gift from the children and community.



Hillfields Nursery School, Coventry, UK

In this second example, children have been invited into a projection tent where an image of a flower and butterfly have been projected. One of the children picks up a camera to photograph with intent a part of what she sees. In this way she uses the camera as a framing device whilst also experimenting with the language of photography and the technical functionality of the camera as tool.



p1130791In this third example, we can see how the child is creating meaning and beauty in nature, by capturing in photography something that in real time or in future time can be transformed again and added to. She has carefully collected and arranged her subjects and is actively framing these through the lens of an iPad. This image through photographic editing apps, drawing and painting apps, or multimodal screen casting apps can be changed and transformed again with a new energy, where we can begin to see increased intention in the creative and expressive modalities.

We might say that in all of these examples, a context of desire has been generated that enables the children to explore and express what they are becoming to understand and know. They combine learning processes that are cognitive, metaphoric, imaginative and logical. Gunilla Dahlberg (2016) has said of working with young children that;
“Our starting point is that children are exploring the world and trying to create meaning. Being attentive to their creation of meaning creates desire, and when children have desire, they also learn other factual knowledge. A learning teacher must listen to the child with all senses.”

We are trying hard to be learning teachers, actively listening to the processes of children’s meaning-making using digital media with all of our senses. In some contexts of learning, such as the above they are static within a space and the ‘stuff of nature’ is brought into that context for further contemplation and elaboration. Other times, the digital media has arrived in nature in portable ways. In this we have found tablet technology a valuable resource because of its portability.


Gunilla Dahlberg (2016) speaking at the Sightlines Initiative and Institute of Education
conference titled “Loris Malaguzzi in the UK: what future for early childhood education?”, London, February 2016

Stephen Nachmanovitch (1990), “Free Play. Improvisation in Life and Art”, published by: Tarcher Penguin, USA


Technology in Early Childhood Education: Tools and Languages


digital-map-fullIf we are to develop new pedagogical approaches that value digital and technological ‘tools’ as capable of expressive and creative potential then we must look to the digital landscape as a range of possible languages rather than ‘tools’.  In this, I mean, how can we view digital languages as poetic and aesthetic, as a means of narrating stories of life and the world and constructing new ways of knowing and knowledge. 

If we consider clay, we can view this substance as both a material/tool and language.  It can be used as a material/tool in which to develop fine motor skills through exploration of its properties, or it can be used in a context of ideas and thinking, where it is used to narrate and communicate meaning.  It is the latter context in which myself and a group of UK and Swedish early childhood centres (see About Us) are currently researching.

Certainly, when I began working in ECE 20 years ago, where computers were present they were often used to develop skills in mouse control and page navigation.   I remember then testing the boundaries of possibility by taking in my then huge laptop and being surprised at how 3 year olds were capable of exploring image manipulation in early versions of Adobe Photoshop.  I could see the shift happening from the “What if” exploration of the material (in this instance, laptop and Photoshop) to the emergence of ideas of expression that communicated a thought about something within a realm of what Anna Craft would call  “Possibility Thinking”.

As a network of researchers we are particularly interested in those types of apps, their usage and modalities that Howard Gardener discusses that can promote a strong sense of identity, allow deep relationships, and stimulate creativity. Our challenge is to go beyond the ways that apps are designed to be used so they can make visible the diversity of children’s experiences and thinking, and become capable of narrating and expressing new ideas.  This is not easy as many children’s app developers create apps, for example animation apps, but with pre-loaded characters and backgrounds that children can use.  These apps, although intuitive for children to use are creatively constrained already in the use of templates and pre-loaded material. They are easy to make a simple animation with but often without the depth of thinking that children are capable of.

Other digital modalities such as digital projection and green screen can be as playful in nature as role play and open ended materials and these form a great potential for multi-modal expression with children.   Also, the ways in which digital endoscopes and microscopes can enable the re-proposal of the familiar world of nature in unexpected and complex ways that offer curious new worlds and environments to explore to generate new, imaginative ideas and questions.

As a research group we are interested in Gregory Bateson’s ideas of cybernetics, of systems, patterns and relationships, and will look for those connective patterns generated in the in-between spaces between children, digital languages and the natural world.  Children already have a wealth of knowledge and an openness to ideas, we are interested in these new patterns of thinking that digital languages propose to children as we suspect that these will transform our pedagogy and approaches to learning.

In a weeks time, 10 educators and myself travel to Stockholm, Sweden for our first exchange in this research project.  It is a blended approach that uses social media networks as well as offline, realtime exchanges together with digital and non digital materials.   We are exchanging learning stories and reflecting on each others work in a process of active professional learning about children’s relationship to the digital and natural world.  We are seeking and exploring ways for young children to connect across classrooms and across verbal and non-verbal languages.  We aim to create a body of research in the form of case studies, publications, a conference and a range of online resources.  It’s a very exciting time!

A possibility of a beginning…

“It’s starting to grow…slowly…it’s not growing yet, no not yet because the leaves haven’t come out.” 
“It growed by itself because it’s invisible.”
 Dancing with beans that grow. Ashmore Park Nursery, Wolverhampton
Dancing with beans that grow. Ashmore Park Nursery, Wolverhampton

Two children are interacting with a  full screen moving time-lapse projection of a growing bean.  Their own projected shadows become as one with the projected image, both projections combining as a single image.  As children discuss their movements and the beans moments they consider what growing is, both in language and through movement.  It is this coming together, this blending of modalities that we are most interested in.


“You pull this lever and this lever and this lever and then it will be grown… and then it lifts up.” 
Experimenting with wire levers to make the plant grow. Ashmore Park Nursery School, Wolverhampton

Alongside of these children, and interweaving amongst all the languages available for the children to express their ideas were others generating ideas of germination through drawing and clay.  The clay offered opportunity for mechanical and physical expression of showing how the bean might grow.  The drawing offered opportunity for visualising the ideas through imagery and ‘talk and draw’.  All of these interweaving languages lend themselves to future ideas of stop motion animation (amongst others). Therefore we can begin to see where a traditional material such as clay may begin a dialogue with a digital language rather than concentrate solely on the app, the pre-loaded story characters and pre-generated backgrounds.  In this way, children’s own creative and critical thinking creates both the context and the content.



Aesthetics of the Digital Landscapes: Emergent Lands of Possibility and Transformation

Aesthetics of the Digital Landscapes: Emergent Lands of Possibility and Transformation


I want to begin by underlining again the concept of the rhizome, as a root system that differs from the botanical image of the tree whose roots are connected to the trunk, with the trunk connected to branches to which leaves are connected in a linear and direct pathway that one could argue is upwards in motion and akin to a model of learning that is considered as progressional, upward, and mono-directional. The rhizome as argued by Deleuze and Guttari is multiple, evolves along ever replicating networks and angles where there is no direction or movement towards a specific end point. Instead it is a complex web of interaction, that is knotted and tangled with no specific entry or exit point just like as Loris Malaguzzi said, resembling a tangled bowl of spaghetti. It is a difficult image to comprehend in terms of children’s learning because ‘development’ is traditionally seen as this root and tree model where children are assessed in terms of rising upwards through universal bands and hierarchies of development. Indeed many methodologies of assessment are constructed on this model, where children’s experience is normalised and standardised against set progressional benchmarks.

This complex rhizomatic image can be used to describe the internet and the place(s) of the digital and offers educators working within the context of early childhood a challenge to re-see children’s meaning-making and representation as something rather more complicated than we currently consider it to be.   I write ‘place(s)’ to denote that it is both a place and places at one and the same time, it is both a thing and many things, it is not this or that, either/or but as Gunilla Dahlberg argues a state of AND, AND and AND.

10fe2d1In terms of children’s learning and making sense of the world around them, I consider the rhizome the best fit model of trying to understand the place(s) of children’s meaning-making and the role of the educator in their quest to try to understand this meaning-making. Often we try to over simplify, or to reach a single and shared interpretation of what we think is going on for the child. If we say, that we consider children’s thinking to be more complex than their vocabulary then we must also challenge ourselves to see that thinking itself is something far more complex too.


Working with young children now, I am interested and once again in a researchful and playful mode of trying to understand the landscape of the digital world in the hands and minds of children. There are many more tools in which to express oneself and to communicate with here. The digital paintbrush offers children a different way of applying paint, where paintbrushes can be loaded with self-replicating images. Scale and size can be explored, the macro and micro world, the surface of a tiny seed projected at an immense magnification where children can quite literally enter into an image blurring the physical and digital worlds. Tablets are a window upon which to see and research the world – information is out there waiting to be discovered and a critical eye is required to navigate the truths and untruths out there. Social media and digital photography offer ways to explore and manipulate identity(ies) and (re)construct knowledge whilst collaboration is increasing in potential as gamers share platforms to defeat enemies and over come problems (World of Warcraft, Destiny) and create new worlds of possibility (Minecraft, Simms, Little Big Planet).   The visual languages are expandable and sharable across time zones and continents, and images, sounds and patterns are beamed beyond our world and out into space. Where once the cave walls were our canvas of communication, now the global interface to the solar system and beyond are possible.

So where does this leave us in the classroom? From my observations and with conversations with educators across the world there is often a wide gap in terms of skills of using IT (and thus being able to see their potential) and in pedagogical understanding of such concepts as creativity, innovation, enterprise, critical thinking, imagination etc). If one still struggles to see the creative, thinking child then give that child an iPad and it will be foggier still. We jump too easily to devaluing them as mere entertainment centres, or that they are harmful to children’s communication and social skills. I challenge us all, myself included to begin to look again, at these new and emerging languages and tools, which means immersing ourselves into this digital world. We must ask ourselves what does the digital landscape mean, how does it feel in and of itself, and/or to be part of it, what can be done with it, how can we create with it, for it? Is it beautiful, ugly, worthy, worthless, how is that good or bad, how does it change us?

digital-connectivityI spend a lot of my time, training teachers and I often find myself saying ‘if you want to understand how children connect their ideas then spend your Saturday mornings watching what they watch, become immersed in the world of cartoons, animated adventures, desirable action figures and toys as then it might begin to make sense.’ I actually see this as genuine research, and essential too. At Ashmore Park Nursery in Wolverhampton, UK, we held a pedagogy meeting to watch Ben 10 as it appeared to hold a strong identity with the children in the nursery school. How else could we begin to understand the concepts at the heart of their play, if we didn’t give value to what they found interest in?

And so the same is with the digital world. I have recently purchased Minecraft after watching a group of children engrossed in Minecraft in creative mode in a school in Singapore. I could just begin to grasp through my observation that something important was going on, but not understanding the game play itself was problematic to me being able to understand the children’s problems they were trying to solve and thus I was unable to know how to intervene in effective and beneficial ways.

In all of this I ask, what is the beauty in the digital that is harmonious with other aesthetic approaches and also those that offer something that is becoming something new. We need to begin to become familiar with these ideas if we are to understand how the digital landscape can be of benefit in the ECE context. The Digital world offers a new consideration of aesthetics, some of which I outline below.

digital-brain-1Network Culture

This is a relational concept, where individual and individualistic methods are relegated to the back of the cupboard. Relations are everything; it is what makes things happen. Relations between people, groups, materials, devices. It is a world of connection and mobility with those connections. It is no longer the world of the individual desktop computer plugged into its own dialup network, where one user inputs to their own system held on that computer. This is the world of DropBox and Google Docs with its abilities to construct and work upon things together, to share, and to collaborate. Connection is now more important than division; we can do more together than competing as individuals against each other. We connect through shared ideas, through people and via machines that move, are mobile, and are portable.

The Internet is a place of discovery of knowledge, where knowledge is connected, sharable, and transformable. Take a look at Wikipedia, a place of knowledge about people and places, or theories and experiences written by a network of people, who have not and will not meet in the real world. Knowledge is shared, cited by others, peer reviewed of sorts, amended and transformed with immediate affect within the Wiki community. With each click on a page, there are links that take you elsewhere, to other thoughts and theories that are connected. It holds the very possibility to become lost, and this becoming lost is not considered as a bad thing either, it is what it is, a tangled web of spaghetti like information and knowledge to be dived into at any given point. The network and community of Wikipedia enables you to jump out of that network and into the world of other networks that interweave and connect, orientate and disorientate as you seek understanding. Network culture allows you to collaborate when not even sat around the same table.

Collective Intelligence

The ability to be able to work not just collaboratively but as a collective group from diverse fields, in infinite ways and multiples of. An interdisciplinary approach that values the shared growth of knowledge of the collective rather than the individual. It can be understood as an outcome of the synergy between data-information-knowledge), the software-hardware, and experts i.e. those with insight as well as recognised in their field). The collective continually learns in a reflective and symbiotic feedback loop to produce immediate ‘just in time’ knowledge that is greater than what could be produced by any of the 3 elements working alone.

Crowd Sourcing

A way in which companies, institutions, organisations offer out an open call for help, opinions, or for tedious tasks to be done by a collective. A recent example I came across was for Cancer Research. An App was developed that appealed to gamers. It was based on the identification of emergent patterns. The gamer progressed through levels based on identifying colours, amounts and shapes in a given ‘slide’. The slide was in fact a growth pattern of cells from the urinary tract of people with cancer. The gamer was identifying patterns in the cells that helped to determine what would be the best treatment for the cell growth. It was a skill that could only be done by the human eye (and not the digital one). For the gamer, the benefit was interesting game play that was entertaining and valuable in terms of relaxation. For the outsourcer i.e. the cancer researcher, it enabled a process of ‘reading’ medical/biological microscopic slides that was unable to be produced in the digital world, and too costly to employ human endeavour. It is also another example of the blurring of digital and physical worlds identified below.)

Open Sourced

Refers to the design and distribution of digital tools that are free to use by others to share and contribute to the greater knowledge/experience of others. You are reading this blog on an open source coded program ‘WordPress’ which enables me to write and publish work without the need to know how code a program to chronologically order posts, keep text inline with images, create ways of enabling others to share what I write on their own blogs, or in different open source contexts such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and Twitter.

From a workshop in Reggio Emilia.  Light, projection and video camera - materials in dialogue that invite exploration of digital/virtual and multiple/real selves
From a workshop in Reggio Emilia. Light, projection and video camera – materials in dialogue that invite exploration of digital/virtual and multiple/real selves

Digital and Physical World Relationships

The blurring of the digital world and physical world (often referred to as the New Aesthetic) e.g. Google Liveview maps, a digital resource and tool but blended with the real and very physical world. 3D printing transverses the two planes by creating a physical and real object that came from the digital world. Possibilities exist to print your own medicines (not prescriptions), print working guns, bone sections for medical grafts after accidents, skin.

For the early childhood educator there is much to consider. The landscape is complex. Emma Mulqueeny coined the term ‘the 97’s’ a generation born into the world of open source, collective intelligence and social media networks. They think different to us analogue types…in 3-4 years time they will be our new teachers and will approach things so differently. It requires for us now to become acquainted with this new landscape and for our children we cannot afford not too.

The digital landscape offers so much, digital projection, immersive environments, green screen transformation, networked global platforms, connectivity across continents and time zones with other children, in other classrooms. Communication is vast, viral and rhizomatic in form. It is more apparent and economical to write an email, to Skype than to write a traditional letter. The days of writing a letter and posting it in the postbox are long gone. I cannot remember the last time I licked a stamp. Gaming is play, we value play, we value traditional games but maybe we are reticent in our thinking about the value of Minecraft, Destiny or other collaborative game play. The hashtag is new symbol of the alphabet, a communicative code of itself that connects. Our challenge as teachers, educators, leaders is to see how the digital landscape can create new ways of expressing and constructing knowledge rather than replicating current ways of communication and expression. I for one am keen to explore these possibilities with our youngest of children, for they are born into it and cannot afford to wait for the generation of the 97’s to qualify as teachers.

More to follow on the digital aesthetic and the world of ECE as we begin to delve deeper into practice.

Pedagogy in a Digital World

I am a pedagogical point of connection and provocateur of thinking of a network of schools in the West Midlands UK and in Stockholm  Sweden.  As a group of educator-researchers we are committed to exploring the digital world in relation to social, constructivist practices in both the UK and in Sweden together with questions of relevancy and ethics.

Opposing Points of View about the World of Digital Tech

The landscape of thinking about digital literacies, modes and tools of technology is as wide as it is diverse. On one side of the spectrum are the educators who see no place for the digital world in the classroom, where iPad’s for example are rejected in favour of exploring ‘real’ and not ‘virtual’ worlds and materials and where games, apps and screen time are relegated to appropriate use at home for their entertainment value and quasi educational benefit but not a tool of education in the classroom. Researchers at this end of the spectrum are concerned with the effect on children of excessive screen time, the effect on their interaction and social skills, their lack of being and exploring of the ‘real world’ and its materials as well as the quality of apps that appear highly addictive but yet offer little in content. There are many concerns. (See Aric SigmanSue Palmer for arguments against digital tech in early childhood education).

At the other end of the spectrum are the pro-digital advocates who consider technology and the digital landscape as rich, offering new ways of approaching thinking and the construction of knowledge upon collaborative platforms that enable connection between different time zones and geographical possibilities. No longer is it required to be in the same room, at the same desk to engage in a learning dialogue. Indeed its enthusiasts would have us embrace the digital world as a whole new way of being, not just one of becoming more efficient, able to share what we each do in easier ways, but offers a new way of collaboration that simply was not there before. Information is out there, both good and misinformed and it behooves the seeker to critically reflect and research wisely the available data. Advocates of the digital world include Jackie MarshEmma Mulqueeny, Guy Merchant and Dr Rosie Flewitt).


The Interests of a Digital Pedagogical Immigrant

Our current area of research is upon the creative and expressive uses of digital languages and tools in the early childhood arena of education. For children with whom we are  working with now, they are immersed into this digital rich context of social media, coding, research, platforms, and hacks, where books are downloaded and games played online with multiple players in different continents. They will have been digitally scanned in the womb, their birth records entered onto digital platforms and their first images of ‘self’ posted across social media sites by their well meaning parents before they were even born. Their social identity already public, multiple and complex.

At 42 (at time of writing) I am considered a digital immigrant, someone born prior to 1980 that was not born into the world of computers and tech. I was 11 when I dipped my toe in the digital water with a Commodore 64, a simple home computer used mainly for gaming which gave me my first glimpse into programming and coding where I would spends hours of my time entering lines of binary code to make a cursor jump across the screen or a line of text self replicate down the screen. The film War Games (1983) inspired me with ideas of becoming a ‘hacker for good causes’ and showed me the possibilities offered by the world of computers when hooked up to telephone lines. It was my Mum who, as a mature arts degree student, who helped me navigate the world of spreadsheets and word processing and taught me to turn on my first PC that had significantly less power than the mobile phone I have plugged into me now. I was 22 when I installed a dial up modem at home, and the landscape of the digital world opened up further for me.

web-30So it is into this world that our youngest children are born and by the time they reach 11, iPad’s will be a historical piece on display at the Design Museum in London and replaced with smaller, more intimate devices capable of so much more…maybe. What lies ahead in terms of new technology is a thesis in itself, and after watching the film ‘Transcendence’ and seeing news headlines from Stephen Hawkins on the BBC about Artificial Intelligence being the destructive end point of humanity, you can see why technology is an increasing and volatile subject.

The Research of the Aesthetic of the Rhizome of Digital Languages

I am not sure of my position in all of this, hence the need for research. I think everything has possibility for danger, abuse and desensitising of the human experience so the landscape of the digital is not excluded from this possibility. However, as a group of researchers we want to seek out and research instead its possibilities for humankind to use technology to enhance our human experience, that gives us new (rather than replacement or more effective) ways of communicating and expressing our discoveries and that creates a new kind of aesthetic experience that has at is heart, a life and a connection to the human spirit.

DCF 1.0We have questions, of course that will frame our thinking. I don’t think it will be an easy task that will result in a clear decision of yes or no but one rather akin to the rhizome, an image of learning we are increasingly drawn to, resembling a tangled bowl of spaghetti as Loris Malaguzzi.  Indeed the internet itself is a model of the rhizome, with there being no sense of a beginning or end, no entry point or exit, rather it is a web of interaction and connectivity, a state of being, becoming and of in-between things where materials are not easily ordered or navigated through but yet offer an immense, rich tableau of knowledge, practice and experience that is ever growing and evolving.

Our questions relate to several areas and possible concerns including but not exclusive to:

  • Educators’ perceptions of technology and digital landscapes in the early childhood classroom.
  • Educators’ own knowledge and understanding of digital literacies and tools.
  • Children’s immersion into the digital world from pre-birth to early experiences of school.
  • Children’s practices of home based learning and development in the use and application of digital devices and apps
  • Children’s practices of school based learning and development in the use and application of digital devices and apps
  • The aesthetics and sensitivities of a technological/digital modality of expression and creativity in the early childhood classroom (and its relevancy to a increasing and wider world of a digital landscapes and possibilities).
  • The ethics of the digital world, for children, families, educators and end users.

Orientating and Articulating Our Thinking…

It seems a huge piece of work, a PhD even, but by the time of publication of such research, it will be out of date and irrelevant, such is the pace of technology. Our world is changing and the educational landscape will require new conditions of healthy growth. We need, as do teachers across the world need to embrace a type of research that is immediate and enables ideas to be shared quickly, worked upon in live contexts of exchange and dialogue, clarified and then reworked, constantly being co-constructed and ever evolving as time passes, in a state of constant motion. Why, because, our research, our pedagogy has to be relevant now to our children, it is too late when they are grown up.

There is a huge gap already in terms of educators who embrace technology and those who can’t and won’t because they are either opposed to it, or that they just don’t know how. This journey is as much about all of us digital immigrants who have much to learn from the 18 month old baby who can already navigate an iPad and who thinks a traditional picture book is broken. Or, the child whose fingers have by the time they enter school have developed a whole new vocabulary of gestures that help them in their world of data and digital research that is strange and unfamiliar to us. And of course the child who is comfortable and embracing of a social media based world where they can play with, manipulate and continually construct their identity(ies) whose knowledge of such worlds help them to encounter, seek out and apprehend the very dangers of it, rather than attempt to deny or block the use of it as ‘inappropriate”.   As Emma Mulqueeny of ReWired State said at TEDxBrum 2014 it is the children of this digital, social age that will seek out the perpetrators of international terrorism, paedophilia, and fraud who use such platforms to do harm to others and be the ones who can stop and eradicate it. By denying children and ourselves of digital possibilities we may be in danger of ending humankind through our fear and ignorance rather than artificial intelligence after all. Sorry Stephen Hawkins, but we think we disagree!