Littles in the Forest

Exploring East Coast Forests and Nature with Children

Tag: Assignment 2

Inquiring about inquiry

“Collectively, we all view the 21st-century child as capable and competent with a particular disposition towards technology … We argue the digital habitus of children is unique given the technological culture they are a part of, challenging educators to recognize the ways in which children’s ways of acting and being are shaped with/alongside technologies … [child-world entanglements are]  dynamic, mutually interdependent agents contributing equivalently to knowing. Consequently, as educators and researchers, we are challenged to find ways to appreciate the naturalized ways children move in and out, within, between and among these formal and informal spaces, both digital and non-digital (Harwood, 2017, p. 5). “

I was recently introduced to the work of Debra Harwood. Finally, someone whose research aligns with my context and interests. I have chosen for this post to focus on a chapter from a book she edited and contributed to (Ipads and Crayons: Learning and Teaching of Young Children in the Digital World,) and an article she co-authored, Both of which focus on the use of tablets, inquiry, and preschool settings.

I have felt both curious and unsettled by the use of tablets and other smart devices in the outdoor classroom, however, I am eager to dive deeper in the research surrounding their use, and the theories and pedagogies used to critically reflect on their usage and purpose in preschool (and outdoor) environments. I have become aware of what possible biases I may hold about childhood “innocence” and natures “purity” and how these may be creeping into the way in which I view children’s usage of certain technologies (such as the Ipad). I would like to believe that as I question my own biases I have been able to think more with child-nature-technology entanglements, and the blurring of these ‘boundaries.”


 Rose, S., Fitzpatrick, K., Mersereau, C. & Whitty, P. (2017). Playful pedagogic moves: digital devices in the outdoors. In D. Harwood Crayons and ipads (pp. 16-28). 55 City Road, London: SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781473916012.n3

This study took place at a demonstration centre at the University of New Brunswick and spans over two years of pedagogical documentation, since the introduction of six ipad minis into a preschool classroom of four-year-olds. The authors, who are also educators within the classroom, reflect on the documentation through a critical lens, asking “How do iPads, children, educators and the living and inert non-human others mutually affect each other? ( Rose, Fitzpatrick, Merseau & Whitty, p. 19).”

The ipad was chosen as it was easily portable, and had a special case that kept it protected while in the forest. It was noted that the glare of the sun on the screen sometimes made the device difficult to use for photos and videos by the children, and that wifi connectivity was often tethered from a practitioners phone, as the centre’s wifi was weak or out of range.

The authors chose assemblage theory to frame their work, as a means of moving away from ecological theory, which they felt privileged the Ipad over other tools. The focus would remain on the intra-actions between agents (child, ipad, educator, stumps, moss, snow, Shakespeare etc.) and the dynamic assemblages they formed ( child-animal skull-ipad- identification chart OR educator-ipad-Macbeth-voice).

The Ipads allowed children to revisit experiences, extending the longevity of original artifacts, such as animal tracks in the snow, later destroyed by human traffic, or songs made up on the spot, recorded and played back. The camera function also allowed the children to get up close, through the zoom function, to artifacts such as animal scat and an animal skull without touching them.  Images and videos taken by children were compared with their own drawings and verbal observations, providing additional multi-modal layers to the children’s inquiries. When children’s inquiries reached beyond what was available through the ‘classroom’ resources (educator/child knowledge and texts), the children were able to search google for additional images and information.

Near the end of the article the authors turn their focus to a piece of documentation, The Evil Witches, to illustrate the way in the design of the Ipad allowed it to adapt it’s use to be a creative storytelling tool, a tool for playful experimentation, and research tool depending on context.  The Evil Witches documentation begins as one of the educators, Candace, is observing a group of children who have turned a hollowed out tree stump into a cauldron and pretending to be witches.  Candace interjects by chanting “‘Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble” from Act 1, Scene IV of Macbeth.  This propels a inquiry in many different directions – spanning many months, over different time periods, and in many different topics. For instance words and language used in Macbeth, creating a poetic poison soup recipe, observing seasonal changes in the forest, orienteering using a compass on a phone, just to name a few. Throughout the inquiry the children traveled in new directions, always circling back to the witches story-line, and again traveling out in many different directions. In this way the witches storyline was both shaped by the travelling inquiries, while also inspiring their travels.

The authors summarize the intra-actions with nature-child-educator-technology-experience-imagination, in all of their entangled configurations inspired “new aesthetic experiments and creativity (p. 11),” through co-constructed knowledge, inquiries, and multi-modal texts.

Linking to my context

I appreciated that the authors in the article were conscious to not “privilege” the Ipad over other tools for expression, reflection, and inquiry. I think for myself, part of what makes Ipad use unsettling, is that I feel as if it will become privileged over other tools within the class. However, reflecting on my own use of my smartphone I use it for reading, organizing, and communicating, however I continue to use analogue tools (paper, pencil, calendar, books, magazines etc.). I chose what I need given the context – what I am doing/trying to achieve and where I am.

This chapter has also made me more cognizant of how my intra-action with space-place-children-nature-technology intra-acts with children’s same intra-actions with these same agents.  Further, how these intra-actions deepen, extend, and link inquiries, explorations, and playfulness with(in) the space/place of nature.


Harwood , D., , Mirjana Bajovic1, Woloshyn, V., Cesare, D. M. D., Lane, L., & Scott, K. (2015). Intersecting Spaces in Early Childhood Education: Inquiry-Based Pedagogy and Tablets . The International Journal of Holistic Early Learning and Developmen, 1, 53–67. Retrieved from https://ijheld.lakeheadu.ca/article/view/1358/698

This article uses ethnographic data from a larger research project on children’s use of tablets in preschool classrooms. The focus of this article is on the coming together of tablets and inquiry based learning in five early childhood classrooms in Ontario. Three full day kindergarten programs and two childcare programs. Child participants were 2.5-6 years old. At least at the time of publishing, the authors felt there was very little research illustrating the usefulness of tablets or smart technologies for inquiry based learning in preschool/early childhood settings. 

The researchers were interested in how children position themselves in place and in relation to others with multi-modal communication and literacy tools both digital and non-digital.  Additionally, the researchers were interested in how tablets could “support communities of inquiry in early childhood educational contexts ?(p. 57-58)”. Comparisons were made between the inquiry process before and after tablets were introduced. 

As a means of evaluating the role of tablets in inquiry, the researchers followed Bruce and Bishop’s (2002) inquiry process.

    • Ask, observe, wonder
    •  Exploring, experimenting, investigating
    • Analyzing, creating, playing, and constructing new understandings
    • Discuss and collaborate
    • Reflecting, sharing, feedback

While this illustrates a linear process, the authors assert that particularly in an early childhood context the inquiry can start at any point and may not include all parts of the process.

Educators in the classrooms made apps available on the tablets based on the interests of the children, with a belief that blending concrete experiences (snow in the water table) with apps (Max and Rubies: Science! – See app preview below) would extend children’s inquiries. Further, that apps such as Fluidity were able to illustrate abstract or challenging terms such as ‘viscosity’ and ‘momentum.’ As a result, the authors argued that children were able to use these terms ‘correctly’ later, in their play. The tablets were also used by the children as a means of experimenting and expressing themselves through movie making and animation.

The article does not follow one single inquiry, and often each inquiry does not include each of the components as outlined by Bruce and Bishop (2002). The researchers believe some limitations to their research was their style of data collection (ethnography) and they speculate that  school policies of wiping tablets on a weekly basis, poor internet connectivity, and the limited number of tablets may have impacted the depth of inquiries.

The affordances highlighted within the research include:

    • the immediacy of finding the answer to children “impromptu questions (p.59)”
    • Multi-modal in design, therefore provide access to various multi-modal tools such as videos, photos, audio recording
    • Blend formal and informal learning 
    • Afford research, record keeping, communication, and review to happen throughout the inquiry process, due to their high portability  
    • Support the flexibility and unpredictability of the inquiry process.
    • Inquiries don’t even need to ‘finish” as they can be revisited and taken up again.
    • Increase a child’s sense of agency, due to their easy to navigate design
    • foster collaboration
    • Bring together playfulness and inquiry

 

Linking to my context:

While some aspects of the article piqued my interest, I felt uncomfortable with the apps chosen as a means of “extending” the children’s interest and inquiries. Each app appeared to be game based, providing little to no affordances for creative or innovative thought, and for the most part appeared to “extend” children’s inquiries in shallow ways. For instance using the ColAR Mix App to explore 2D and 3D dimensional objects and drawings, provided very little opportunities for open-ended, process based explorations of 2D/3D dimensions. I would be interested in knowing how the introduction of this app (and others) influenced children’s inquiries and what other tools/mediums (clay, wire, loose parts) were also used to explore this inquiry.

 

“Inquiry-based Learning is a dynamic and emergent process that builds on students’ natural curiosity about the world in which they live. As its name suggests, Inquiry places students’ questions and ideas, rather than solely those of the teacher, at the centre of the learning experience. Students’ questions drive the learning process forward. Teachers using an inquiry-based approach encourage students to ask and genuinely investigate their own questions about the world. Teachers further facilitate students’ learning by providing a variety of tools, resources, and experiences that enable learners to investigate, reflect, and rigorously discuss potential solutions to their own questions about a topic the class is studying,” (Natural Curiosity, 2011 as cited by Forest School Canada 2014 p. XX). 

Based on this view of inquiry-based experiences, it appears as if the children’s inquiries were hijacked by the educators responding to interests, inquiries, questions, and curiosities with the introduction of related, though restrictive (not-opened ended), and didactic. While I also see the value of many of the affordances that the ipad could provide to the inquiry process, I felt that the the authors attempted to illustrate these affordances through apps that hindered or limited children’s inquiry. Therefore my critique is not on the use of the Ipad, but on the choice of apps.

One final critique of the article was the suggestion that the immediacy that tablets afford the user to search and find answers to their questions. While beneficial at times (for instance researching the whole “witches poem” to share with the children, as seen in the previous article), relying on a tablet to find immediate answers to ‘impromptu’ questions seems to contradict inquiry based learning.


While I have found somewhat conflicting research surrounding inquiry-based learning with technology in the early years, I decided to focus my inquiry on the use of tablets and other handheld smart devices in inquiry place-based learning in natural spaces. I chose these devices because they appear to have the potential to provide the most affordances within multiple contexts.

Resources

Bruce, B. C., & Bishop, A. P. (2002). Using the web to support inquiry-based literacy development. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 45(8), 706-714.

Harwood, D. (2017). The digital world of young children. In D. Harwood Crayons and ipads (pp. 1-5). 55 City Road, London: SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781473916012.n1

Harwood , D., , Mirjana Bajovic1, Woloshyn, V., Cesare, D. M. D., Lane, L., & Scott, K. (2015). Intersecting Spaces in Early Childhood Education: Inquiry-Based Pedagogy and Tablets . The International Journal of Holistic Early Learning and Developmen, 1, 53–67. Retrieved from https://ijheld.lakeheadu.ca/article/view/1358/698

 Rose, S., Fitzpatrick, K., Mersereau, C. & Whitty, P. (2017). Playful pedagogic moves: digital devices in the outdoors. In D. Harwood Crayons and ipads (pp. 16-28). 55 City Road, London: SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781473916012.n3

What is lost .. what is gained ..

My initial goal for this week was to look into the types of digital technologies (and possible apps) that other preschool forest and nature programs were using for inquiry and place-based learning. However, after reaching out to those I know locally who run outdoor programs, as well as groups I am a part of online (Reggio Inspired Early Childhood Educators, Wildschooling, & Newfoundland/Labrador Early Childhood Educators), I decided to change my focus.

The responses I received seemed to align with what I was finding in the literature. First, there were strong opinions that technology and nature should not mix (the nature/technology binary), Second, the ways that technologies are integrated into programs/contexts varied from substitution to performing tasks that may not have been otherwise been possible without the use of technology. This informal research however, did not, give me any feedback into the critical thought that went into choosing these apps/technologies. I felt I needed to look into this binary further, and gather some tools to better evaluate the types of technologies and apps being used in preschool inquiry place-based experiences. 

The questions I sought to answer were, Where does this nature/technology binary come from ? What are ways to evaluate WHAT technologies are being used for inquiry place-based learning, and WHY ?

Curiosity Photo by Liana Mikah on Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/photos/t2ODooWyQWI)

Nature/technology binary

Rose, Mersereau, and Whitty (2017), reference,  Affrica Taylors (2013) book “Reconfiguring the Natures of Childhood” as instrumental in challenging their conception of nature and culture (technology being a component of culture), and encouraging them to think critically about the relationship between the two. Taylor (2013), encourages us to move away from a romanticized view of children in nature, and nature as purifying childhood (therefore technology is polluting this experience ?). The first part of her book explores the ways Rousseau created idealized links between children’s innocence and the purity of nature, which has continued to inform current conception of child-nature relationships. This romanticized and adult idealized view of childhood innocence and nature as good and pure, has further informed, Taylor argues, the current movement to return children to nature. Positioning nature and culture as binaries, further creates a dichotomy of children in nature and technology/culture. Instead Taylor (2013), suggests viewing nature and culture, as fluid – “naturecultures”, looking at (learning with) the entanglements of the two (their common worlds).

Taylors (2013) work provides a different lens on which to reframe child-nature-technology entanglements, one which looks at learning with and inquiring with these entanglements, instead of viewing them as separate and in opposition.


 

Pictures of the Garden
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash (https://unsplash.com/photos/iu3MkDoQXDM)

Part two of my inquiry was to gather tools used by others programs or researchers to critically evaluate the technologies and apps being used in preschool rograms for inquiry and/or place based learning practices. This inquiry has led me outside the field of education and into the fields of geography, environmental science, and beyond.

What is lost – what is gained?

Cuthbertson, Socha, and Potter (2004) made an interesting argument about the “insulating” or “filtering” effect that the adoption of modern technologies have on the ways we experience nature with nature and with others. While modern technologies such as digital technologies (though the article also discussed modern adaptations to traditional technologies – Birch bark canoe to plastic canoe), may make certain tasks easier or more efficient, what is lost in the move from analogue to digital ? Cuthbertson et al. (2004) caution that some digital technologies in nature are merely shortcuts to information or skills that already existed. Some questions they ask practitioners to question are; what messages are we sending with the technologies we choose to use? is the addition of the technology in line with the programs goals ? Is it adding to, or diminishing the experience ?

Affordance theory and learning 

The article “Technological affordances, social practice and learning narratives in an early childhood setting” (Carr, 2000) questions what is learned from the materials and tools that are made available to children. In this case Carr (2000) used affordance theory to look at the affordances of non-digital technologies in the making of hats in a preschool classroom.  However, this same theory could be used to examine the affordances of digital technologies. Carr (2000) uses three categories to analyze the level of affordances a material provides.

  • Transparency: How easily something (device,app etc.) is able to be understood or used. A person does not need to be trained how to use these devices, their design makes it obvious. Transparency can also depend on context (such as a child’s previous experiences). 
  • Challenge: How many options something has for use. The more ways it can be used, makes it more challenging. Further, it is can be combined with other materials/matters, this can add to its level of challenge.
  • Accessibility: How much social participation the device allow for, for instance can only one person use it at a time or does it allow for multiple users. 

The argument being that the greater affordances a device provides, the greater the complexity of interactions, the greater amount of learning that will take place. Perceptions of possibility surrounding a material or tool are also influenced by the experiences of the individual and other social actors in the environment, such as educators or other children (Carr, 2000).


Reflections 

While the Common Worlds framework is relatively new to me, I would like to spend more time with it, Affrica Taylors work, and others who inform this way of learning and inquiring with. In particular I wonder how it will change the way in which I frame forest school practice, child-nature interactions (intra-actions?), and how it all ties together with technology use. I imagine this inquiry will go beyond this course.

I began my inquiry with a goal to build a toolbox of technologies and apps that I could pull from to meet the context of my program and deepen children’s place-based inquiries, which I have. However, more importantly I have been gathering tools to evaluate WHAT technologies I will integrate, and WHY I am choosing to use them.

For instance, What types of technologies/apps are being afforded and what are the affordances of these technologies/apps ? How do these affordances change within different contexts (social, environmental) ? How might the technology impact the experience ? Pedagogically, what am I (and colleagues) noticing about the intra-actions between technology and nature, children and technology, and nature-child-technology ? What are children noticing ? By reframing children in nature as children with nature and technology am I increasing the affordances of space and place ?

Family and societal concerns that technology may disrupt our connection with place is valid, however, through critical refection on use, purpose, and context, could it also deepen our connections ?  Going back to seeing technologies as another language in which to express as well as decode the world around us, technologies/apps could be reframed as another tool for connecting with (nature, others in the space) and inquiring with (children, adults ect.).

Next post

Ipad-TV-Computer, created in the forest for “watching shows.”

Tablets and other smart devices appear to be the most contested in the nature/forest school context. I have gathered a few articles that look at the ways these devices have been used for inquiry-place based learning in outdoor/indoor preschool environments. Next post I plan to dive a bit deeper into these articles. stay tuned …


References 

Carr, M. (2000). Technological affordances, social practice and learning narratives in an early childhood setting. International Journal of Technology and Design Education, 10, 61–79.

Cuthbertson, B., Socha, T. L., & Potter, T. G. (2004). The double-edged sword: Critical reflections on traditional and modern technology in outdoor education. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 4, 133-144. doi:10.1080/14729670485200491

Rose, S., Fitzpatrick, K., Mersereau, C. & Whitty, P. (2017). Playful pedagogic moves: digital devices in the outdoors. In D. Harwood Crayons and ipads (pp. 16-28). 55 City Road, London: SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781473916012.n3

Taylor, A. (2013). Reconfiguring the natures of childhood. Milton Park, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

As if the two cannot come together …

Children bringing the "technological world" into the "natural world."

Mud painting: Pikachu in the Forest – bringing the “technological world” into the “natural world.”

Since starting this class, I have noticed more and more ways the digital/technological world have become entangled with children’s worlds. This week I had an interesting conversation with a 7 year old about technology and then about human-nature relationships.

She began by telling me that she gets an hour on her Ipad a day, after that, because of parental locks/controls the apps on her Ipad are no longer usable. She was excited that on this particular day she would be able to use it for two hours. A moment later she reflected on how we (the human race) need to go back to “the old ways (her words)” to help save the planet and animals. She gave examples such as making clothing from furs and skins of already dead animals (instead of killing them) and living off of berries and plants (instead of eating animals). I think what struck me most was her desire for technology with her simultaneous desire to “go back” to how “how we used to be.”

This moment came back to me this morning as I was reading through the Forest School Canada handbook (2014). I was trying to bring together my ideas of digital storytelling/inquiry and Forest School.

The child’s desire for technology and her desire to “go back” to “old ways” (a time before technology?) seemed contradictory. I wondered if this disconnect extended to her forest school experience ? Did she see her experience in the forest  as separate (like another world) from her experience in the technological world? If technology is absent from the Forest School program are we modeling that the two are binary, are we missing out on opportunities to critically think with children about the technology-nature entanglement … maybe I am thinking too much about this!

I am intrigued by my inquiry in theory, however I have been thinking a lot about it in practice. By reading through the handbook I was hoping to make connections between technology use and Forest School Principles. Sometimes it seems as if forest school programs are framed as “technology free” zones – the answer to too much screen time (See: here and here ), as if the two cannot come together. I’d like to show that they can.

As I read through case studies and research in the area I can definitely see the use of technologies such as cameras for photos, videos, and audio recordings can allow for deep inquiry and reflection (literally being able to play back or revisit for months and years to come), open-ended experiences, valuing the process of inquiry (while digital technologies provide products, they also document process), allowing for diverse perspectives, building a community of knowledge sharing, and providing another tool/voice for children to express themselves, their views, and knowledge as competent and capable learners ((O’Byrne, Houser, Stone, & White, 2018; Land, Hamm, Yazbeck, Danis, Brown, & Nelson, 2019). Further, educators as facilitators, during technology use, can encourage children to think deeper with their inquiries through open ended questions and experiences, while also prompting critical inquiry about technology, and sustainability (Sauerborn, 2015). All of which align with many of the Forest School Principles.

 

Forest and Nature School Principles:

  • takes place in a variety of spaces, including local forests, creeks, meadows, prairie grasses, mountains, shorelines, tundra, natural playgrounds, and outdoor classrooms.is a long-term process of regular and repeated sessions in the same natural space.
  •  is rooted in building an on-going relationship to place and on principles of place-based education.
  • is rooted in and supports building engaged, healthy, vibrant, and diverse communities.
  • aims to promote the holistic development of children and youth.
  •  views children and youth as competent and capable learners.
  •  supports children and youth, with a supportive and knowledgeable educator, to identify, co-manage and navigate
    risk. Opportunities to experience risk is seen as an integral part of learning and healthy development.
  • requires qualified Forest and Nature School practitioners who are rooted in and committed to FNS pedagogical theory and practical skills.
  • requires that educators play the role of facilitator rather than expert.
  • uses loose, natural materials to support open-ended experiences.
  • values the process is as valued as the outcome.
  • requires that educators utilize emergent, experiential, inquiry-based, play-based, and place-based learning approaches.

(Forest School Canada, 2014, p.21-22)

Many of the principles make reference to or are connected to place-based learning. The handbook explains:

“Place-based learning is firmly rooted in the act of connecting children to a particular place through direct experiential
contact.The ability to know a place intimately and to return to a natural space again and again, provides children with familiarity while honing their ability to recognize and understand processes of change. With connection to place comes a desire and sense of responsibility for caretaking and protection. Frequent encounters lead to an increased sense of belonging and, ultimately, to a sense of stewardship for that place, for the broader community, and beyond (Forest School Canada, 2014, p. 30).”

Again, I return to the conversation I mention at the opening of this post, technology is here to stay. If one of the goals of FS is to foster “a sense of stewardship,” in a technological world. Shouldn’t it also provide opportunities for children to explore what stewardship does (now) could mean (in the future) in a technological world ?


While I see how technologies can fit with the goals and principles of Forest School, I think it is still important to think critically about what technologies are being incorporated and why they are being incorporated.

I have been asking myself (and others in FS programs) what technologies fit the  FS context (financial, being out in all weather, being away from power sources) and values (focus on nature, not technology).

In my next post, I’d like to dive deeper into what technologies (and possibly apps) could be used in forest school that align with context and values (such as an app that would require more time editing/away from nature and focused on the product than on the process of exploring in nature).


References

Land, N., Hamm, C., Yazbeck, S., Danis, I., Brown, M., & Nelson, N. (2019). Facetiming common worlds: Exchanging digital         place stories and crafting pedagogical contact zones. Children’s Geographies, 1-14. doi: 10.1080/14733285.2019.1574339

Sauerborn, M. (2015). Place based learning and inquiry in a digital culture: Honouring student voice through digital storytelling

O’Byrne, W. I., Houser, K., Stone, R., & White, M. (2018). Digital Storytelling in Early Childhood: Student Illustrations Shaping Social Interactions. Frontiers in Psychology9. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2018.01800

Those “in-between spaces between children, digital languages and the natural world”

If 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 (Keyte-Hartland, 2016).

In my search for different pedagogical perspectives of technology in the classroom, I came across the blog post Technology in Early Childhood Education: Tools and Languages. The post provides a synopsis of a larger research project that the author is involved in, on the blending of modalities, cybernetics (Gregory Bateson, who apparently influenced Loris Malaguzzi’s thinking), and looking at “those connective patterns generated in the in-between spaces between children, digital languages and the natural world (Keyte-Hartland, 2016).

Keyte-Hartland (2016), is interested in the ways apps and digital technologies can be used beyond their intended use, in creative and innovative ways to express ourselves and explore the world around us.

Her encouragement  to think of digital technologies as not just tools for expression but a language (See 100 languages of the child), has shifted my thinking about technology and it’s possibilities in the classroom. Not just as a means for expressing oneself, but as a tool for interacting and reading the world around us.

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 (Keyte-Hartland, 2016).

Further in Keyte-Hartland’s (2016) post, an example is given to show how technology can be used to show a different perspective and a means for interacting with a growing bean that would not have otherwise been possible. The growth of a bean is sped up using time lapse, and then projected on the wall of the classroom. As a result the children are able to dance “with” the growing bean, exploring movement and growth (Keyte-Hartland, 2016)

“Dancing with beans that grow. Ashmore Park Nursery, Wolverhampton” (Keyet-Hardland, 2016)

The blog post illustrates ways technologies can allow for the layering of stories, or how stories can be “told” on top of other stories. As is shown in the image, the growth of the bean is separate from the child, yet both stories come together as the dancing child’s shadow is projected on top of the time-lapse projection on the wall.

What new perspectives can be gained by having the opportunity to re-visit photos, videos, and recorded sounds from a recent experience in nature ? How can technologies such as digital endoscopes and microscopes provide opportunities for children to “visit” worlds they have not been to ? I wonder how these technologies and devices if used in the forests where I bring children daily, would change their perspective of the space and meaning making about place? What stories would they tell about the space ? What stories would they tell about themselves in relation to the natural environment ? What new conversations and inquiries would follow ? Would their stories, inquiries, investigations, and reflections become more complex and critical in thought?

What examples exist of storytelling in or with nature ? 

Marsh, Arnseth, and Kumpulainen (2018) report on three makerspaces in Finland, Norway, and the UK, highlighting the ways in which they build multimodal literacies and what they term “maker citizenship,” which they define as “maker practices related to one or more of the three key elements of citizenship: rights, belonging, and/or participation (p.7).”

One of the projects which took place in Finland began as children were engaged in the Whisper of the Spirit literature which includes Finnish stories and myths embedded with local knowledge and teachings about the forest and sustainability. Through the multimodal reading (words and images) of the literature the children were encouraged to develop an inquiry project. The students chose to create totems of forest spirits, the stories of the spirits being captures through audio recordings. The totems and stories were then exhibited at the local library. The audio recordings attached to the totems through QR (quick response) codes. All of the totems represented spirits that were “protecting” aspects of the local forests. Of the stories included in the report, the stories also focused on the sustainability of the forests and on human-nature interactions.

From what I have gathered the Whisper of the Spirit literature appears to be inquiry activities which can be implemented into a curriculum (focused on Finnish culture, though could be adapted to other cultures), which I am not so much interested in. I am however, interested in the ways in which multimodal literacies and digital story telling can support the development of “maker citizenship” (the term “creative citizenship” is also used in the article). Marsh, Arnseth, and Kumpulainen (2018) discuss the “individual and collective agency (p. )” this particular project provided the children. The children were provided the agency to pursue what was important to them, to be makers of artifacts (digital and non-digital) and active in their community (sharing their artifacts in the library exhibits).

Reflections and connections to my context

The child-created stories in the Finnish project had themes of sustainability and environmentalism that were woven into mythical and imaginative stories of forest spirits (e.g bird spirit or tree spirit; Marsh, Arnseth, & Kumpulainen 2018). Through digital and non-digital multi-modal means the children made meaning of their knowledge and experiences with nature and local forests through storytelling. The digital component of this project allowed the children the opportunity to share their knowledge and perspective with the broader community. The act of sharing with the broader community may also broaden societies perspective on children as knowledge holders, meaning makers, agents of change, and as holding innovative and creative perspectives.

In the context of forest and nature schools, environmental stewardship and sustainability are two (of many) arguments for the importance of these types of programs. Forest School Canada (2014) states “by exposing children to areas rich in biodiversity where they can learn about environmental issues hands on, FNS can help children become well-informed and caring stewards of the natural world (16).”

The use of technologies in forest school and nature programs could be used as a means of exploring the environment, gaining new perspective, and creating stories that bring together imagination, children’s cultural and social knowledge, inquiry, and reflective questioning, in turn leading to creating a sense of place and our (human) entanglement (borrowing this metaphor from syazbeck ) with nature and the natural world.

Returning to Keyet-Hartland’s (2016) view of technologies as languages, as a means of storytelling, and providing new ways of knowing, especially when used in innovative and creative ways. I would argue that within the spaces between children-technology-nature, their are innovative and creative perspectives of nature, environmentalism, and sustainability – stories waiting to be told …

 

References

Forest . (2014). Forest And Nature School In Canada: A Head, Heart, Hands Approach to Outdoor Learning. FOREST AND NATURE SCHOOL IN CANADA: A Head, Heart, Hands Approach to Outdoor Learning. Forest School Canada. Retrieved from http://childnature.ca/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/FSC-Guide-1.pdf

Keyet-Hartland, D. (2016, January 31). Retrieved from https://debikeytehartland.me/2016/01/31/technology-in-early-childhood-education-tools-and-languages/

Marsh, J., Arnseth, H., & Kumpulainen, K. (2018). Maker literacies and maker citizenship in the MakEY (makerspaces in the early years) project. Multimodal Technologies and Interaction, 2(3), 50. doi:10.3390/mti2030050

“For what purpose(s) do we educate ?”

I realized after last week that I definitely don’t have a good sense of the current research surrounding children and technology. For myself I knew I had to start broad before I could start narrowing down a topic or topics of inquiry, and possibly finding some answers to the questions posed in my previous post.

In my search I came across the NAEYC – Fred Rodgers Center Position Statement on technology use and children under 8 (2012) followed by a chapter (Researching technologies in children’s worlds and futures) from The SAGE handbook of early childhood research (2016). While the position statement gave a good overview of recommendations based in research, the chapter gave a dense overview of the types of research being done, theories being applied, and insight into what the findings have been.

My main focus here will be to look at a critique of developmentally appropriate practice (DAP) referenced in the SAGE handbook, and a model for looking at how technology can or is applied in the early years classroom using a assimilation/accommodation model (from Piagets Constructivist theory).

Developmentally Appropriate Practice ?

The NAEYC-Fred Rodgers Center Position Statement on technology views technology as another tool for children to express themselves creatively, and use to explore and investigate their worlds, spaces, environments. Further, the statement emphasizes the importance of  educators knowledge of current technologies and research on the topic, in order to be intentional and developmentally appropriate with the use of technology in the classroom.

DAP comes up a lot in the position statement (NAEYC wrote the DAP framework), it also comes up a lot in the field in early childhood education, and I will confess I have never thought to question developmentally appropriate practice, because it is best practice … isn’t it ?

One of my goals for this class was to understand what is DAP technology use and how would I define this within the nature/forest school context. So I was particularly interested in the critique of DAP references in the SAGE handbook chapter. I was interested in how this perspective on DAP would challenge, disrupt, and possibly change how I view DAP and in particular DAP technology use.

In short, O’Brien (2000) does not have issue with DAP but that the focus on “indoctrinating” this pedagogy in pre-service teacher training puts an emphasis on certain theories (e.g Piagetian constructivist theory, 1936) less (if any) focus on theories that encourage critical reflection such as feminist pedagogy, critical theory (Friere, 1970 & Giroux 1988), and “engaged pedagogy (Hooks, 1994). No room is left for questioning “best practices,” and making room for context (social, cultural, environmental) informs these practices and how this may alter what “best practices” look like.

How are educators encouraged to  critically question their education, their own practices, pedagogy and beliefs ? These questions are sometimes  difficult, disruptive or destabilizing, and often call into question power dynamics. How are educators encouraging this same practice among children within their classrooms ?

I am interested in how this critique of the “indoctrination” of DAP and best practice, can be applied to best practices and Developmentally appropriate technology use.

O’Brien (2000) asks us to ask ourselves “For what purpose(s) do we educate (p.287)?” Recognizing that there can never be one answer to this question, she offers “one possible answer is that we ought to educate students to really see the worlds in which they live, and to be willing and able to act to effect change when necessary(p.287)”.

I went into this course with a mindset of finding out the “right answers” of how and when technology should be used, and who should be implementing it, and what devices should be used. I think my feelings of discomfort with technology in the classroom led me to loose sight of some of my core beliefs of my role in the classroom. One of which to learn alongside the children, to be reflective, encourage them to be reflective, and follow the lead of the children. How can we as a class of learners (children and adults) develop a digital pedagogy ? How can we use technology to really see  the world and “effect change?”

This article has also made me reflect on the power dynamics within the classroom around technology. As I mentioned in my previous post, technology is used sometimes in the classroom, however it is generally the adults who use the phones or cameras to document children’s work, or children ask to use a camera/phone to document or research something further (e.g if reading about a sea creature the children may ask to see an image of it). I wonder how having a camera available at the child’s level for them to access at any time would lead to more opportunities to learn alongside the children as well as engage in critical discussions important to them.

Accommodation or Assimilation of technology in the early childhood classroom 

The SAGE chapter also made reference to an article by ReinkingLabbo,  McKenna (2000), which broke down technology use in the classroom using a model of assimilation/accommodation (borrowed from Piagets Constructivist theory). Further, that the implementation of technology into early years classrooms allowed students and teachers to that subvert “traditional” methods of instruction and encourage students and teachers to collaboratively experience, view, and interpret the world differently. I was interested in how this may relate to O’Brien’s (2000) article.

As a little refresher this is a breakdown of assimilation and accommodation taken from the article:

In the familiar Piagetian model of learning, assimilation is the process by which new information is merged with existing knowledge structures without changing those structures. Accommodating new information, on the other hand,requires that existing knowledge be restructured to fit new information, which eventually transforms the way a learner views and understands the world (Reinking, Labbo & McKenna, 2010, p.111).

 

Reinking et, al. (2000) looked as ways in which technologies such as word processors, the internet, e-mail, online texts (encyclopedias), multimedia presentations, and blogs were used within k-12 classrooms to move from assimilation approaches to accommodation.

Using this model, to reflect on technology use in the spaces I inhabit with children is interesting. How can we (myself, fellow educators, and children) use familiar technology (already assimilated) in innovative, creative, and collaborative ways that encourages us to look at the world differently ? How will children’s use of technology challenge or disrupt my own ideas about learning (not just cognitive learning but social, emotional, and spiritual ) ?

I’d like to end by returning to the NAEYC position statement on technology use in the classroom. I can certainly see how technology can be used as another tool for creative expression, innovation and for exploring and investigating ourselves, the spaces we inhabit, and our greater social, environmental, cultural, and global contexts (though I would like to learn more).

Further, being aware of current technologies and research is also important, however missing from the statement is the need to also critically question our intention and purpose for implementing (or not) certain technologies in our classrooms. Do we need to have all of the answers first ? How much learning could we do along side the children in our programs ?

Questioning, inquiring, investigating, making meaning of and with our interactions with technology, collaboratively – children, educators, and families.

I think it’s important to ask again

“For what purpose(s) do we teach?”

(O’Brien 2000)


References 
National Association for the Education of Young Children, & Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning. (2012). Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media at Saint Vincent College. Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/topics/PS_technology_WEB.pdf

Freire, P., & Ramos, M. B. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Seabury Press.

Giroux, H. A. (1988). Teachers as transformative intellectuals: Towards a critical pedagogy of learning. Granby, MA: Bergin & Garvey.

Hooks, B. (1994). Teaching to transgress: education as the practice of freedom. New York: Routledge.

Leigh M. O’Brien (2000) Engaged Pedagogy: One Alternative to “Indoctrination” into DAP, Childhood Education, 76:5, 283-288, DOI:
10.1080/00094056.2000.10522114

Marsh, J. (2016). Researching technologies in children’s worlds and futures. In Farrell, A., Kagan, S. L., & Tisdall, E. M. The SAGE handbook of early childhood research (pp. 485-501). London: SAGE Publications Ltd doi: 10.4135/9781473920859

Piaget, J. (1936). The origins of intelligence in children. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul.

Reinking, D., Labbo, L.D. and McKenna, M.C. (2000) From assimilation to accommodation: A developmental framework for integrating digital technologies into literacy research and instruction. Journal of Research in Reading, 23(2): 110–122.