I have been watching children play for over 30 years now, and I still see exuberance and joy. I do however also see a technologically connected world which has allowed families to connect through voice and video calls, share laughter through sending photographs and messages, or be able to watch the stars and be able to find their names in an instant.
When I am speaking, people sometimes misinterpret what a nature kindergarten is and see it as rejecting technology. In our centre we use technology in a form that supports learning, but we do not have a computer for games.
A digital microscope links to a laptop and that allows us to film living things and photograph the magnification of a butterfly wing. Digital cameras are used by children and adults alike. When we print pictures they can be used in Floorbooks to evidence our discoveries and thinking. We started to look at the photographs and see their potential for further creative processes.
The children take photographs using a tablet and then use a variety of software to edit and transform them, such as the water, wooden pebbles or leaf above. The ease with which the five year-olds understand the process is quite startling. The image of the leaf shows detailing of several layers of the leaf veining because they could magnify the leaf to see detail often missed by the eye.
Children are surrounded by a wide range of invitations to engage in a range of media. There is a suggestion that one of our roles is to ring-fence time to stem the tide of media saturation which is available from birth. Media can be defined as communication channels through which content is delivered; it can be in the form of books and pictures, but also includes television programmes, digital games, websites and apps. When the saturation is so complete that there is no balance of perspectives, or that the child is unable to make wise choices about the content on screens, then a pervading media culture develops. This type of media culture has existed around the world since we started understanding our influence over others’ thinking. The media can be paper or digital, but includes all consumer-orientated messaging. The issue for us as educators is that media cultures are created through the messaging which staff, children and their families receive through the media, and rather than being able to walk away from it, we now carry it with us everywhere in the form of a mobile phone. The media culture shapes individual and family attitudes, values, behaviours and skills in both a positive way and in a way that challenges our values.
The technology, in the form of either the app, the software, the device or the equipment, influences how children learn and what they want to learn, as shown in Lillard & Peterson (2011) and Pagani et. al. (2010).
Not all media exposure and technology is inherently negative, as we have discovered in the use of it as a creative tool. It can allow children to photograph, film, research and investigate the natural world. However, we need to consider the value of not always photographing or capturing the natural world, but just being fully present in it; and by considering who we know who might be willing to share their knowledge, rather than just resorting to the anonymity of the internet; and also by using our eyes and bodies to look closely, rather than always seeking a piece of technology to help us see.
Our observations of children have shown some of the benefits of software as an addition to our creativity programme. We are always interested to hear about of any recommendations or experiences you would like to share about software that works well alongside natural environments.
Lillard A.S. & Peterson J. (2011) The immediate impact of different types of television on young children’s executive function. Paediatrics 128 (4): 644-62
Pagani L.S., Fitzpatrick C., Barnett T.A. & Dubow. E. (2010). Prospective associations between early childhood television exposure and academic, psychosocial and physical well-being by middle childhood. Archives of Paediatric & Adolescent Medicine 164(5):425-31