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)
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 …
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