16 SES 05 B, Fostering Learning by ICT
Young children’s play is changing. Digital media and popular culture are now significant features of children’s play in home environments (Chudacoff, 2012; Gutnick, et al., 2011; Verenkina & Kervin, 2011). This has important implications for play-based learning in early childhood education. Early childhood educators have a long-standing commitment to basing educational programs on children’s interests and experiences in the home (Hedges, et al., 2011; Moll, et al., 1992). But international research suggests educators are struggling to identify and mobilise educational opportunities arising from children’s engagement with digital media and popular culture (Yelland, 2011).
Our program of research is investigating the effects of introducing a new strategy – known as ‘web-mapping’ (Edwards, 2016) – into early childhood teachers’ repertoire of practical and conceptual tools for fostering children’s learning. Web-mapping is based on the concept of convergence (Marshall, 2010) between traditional forms of play in early childhood education and children’s interests in digital media and popular culture. We use the term ‘new play’ to represent the converged nature of children’s contemporary play activity (Edwards, 2013). We are implementing web-mapping as a strategy to ask: What teaching practices and children’s learning outcomes together comprise a pedagogical approach to ‘new play’ in early childhood education?
This paper reports from our first cycle of data analysis. A feature of this early analysis has been the identification of the theories, concepts, and practical tools that teachers bring to processes of observation, assessment, and planning for children’s learning. The paper asks: What is the significance of web-mapping in relation to early childhood educators’ existing repertoire of concepts and strategies for fostering children’s learning?
The project is anchored in cultural-historical theoretical perspectives (Kozulin, et al., 2003) on how human practices develop and change. Cultural-historical theory understands collective social activities, such as early childhood education, as distinctive forms of cultural practice. These forms have their own specialised language, norms, and motivations. A key claim of cultural-historical theory is that cultural tools (both as practical artefacts and mental models) mediate the relationship between people and the goals of their activity (Kravstov & Kravstova, 2009; Wertsch, 1994). In the context of teaching practices, practical and conceptual tools (including important theories) are understood as mediating the relationship between teachers’ subjectivity and their goal of fostering children’s learning.
Historically, teaching practices in early childhood education have primarily been mediated by theories of learning through play. But these theories were developed prior to the digital age and no account for young children’s contemporary play with digital materials and artefacts. Cultural-historical theory suggests that play-based programs in early childhood education will become increasingly disconnected from children’s home environments unless a new theory of play (and allied practical tools) is developed to capitalise upon children’s changing forms of play in the digital age. Development of this new theory is the overall objective of our project.
A second important claim of cultural-historical theory is that using a new tool changes the object of activity, thereby generating new outcomes (Vygotsky, 1997). This is process of change is driven by the dialectical relationship between an initial stimulus (in this case, the desire to base the curriculum on children’s interests) and a new secondary stimulus (the web-map). In this paper, we explore how the web-mapping provides a new practical and conceptual tool for understanding children’s converged play. Our aim is to support teachers to develop more complex and sophisticated understandings of children’s play in the digital age, and therefore change the objects and outcomes of their pedagogical practices.
Chudacoff, H. (2011). The history of children’s play in the United States. Chapter in A. Pellegrini (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of the development of play, (pp. 101-110). Oxford: Oxford University Press. Edwards, S. (2016). New concepts of play and the problem of technology, digital media and popular-culture integration with play-based learning in early childhood education. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 25(4), 513-532. Edwards, S. (2013). Post-industrial play: understanding the relationship between traditional and converged forms of play in the early years. Chapter in J. Marsh., & A. Burke (Eds.), Children's virtual play worlds: culture, learning, and participation, (pp. 10-26). Peter Lang: New York. Gutnick, A. L., Robb, M., Takeuchi, L., & Kotler, J. (2011). Always connected: the new digital media habits of young children. New York: The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop. Hedges, H., Cullen, J., & Jordan, B. (2011). Early years curriculum: funds of knowledge as a conceptual framework for children’s interests. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 43, 185-205. Kozulin, A., Gindis, B, Ageyev, V. S., & Miller, S. M. (Eds) (2003). Vygotsky’s educational theory in cultural context. New York: Cambridge University Press. Kravstov, G., & Kravstova, E. (2009). Cultural-historical psychology in the practice of education. Chapter in Chapter in M. Fleer., M. Hedegaard., J. Tudge (Eds.), Childhood studies and the impact of globalisation: policies and practices at global and local levels, (pp. 202-213). New York: Routledge. Marshall, D. (2010). Introduction. Chapter in D. Marshall and S. Todd. Understanding children as consumers, (pp. 20-39). London: SAGE. Moll, L., Amanti, C., Neff, D. and Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into Practice, 31 (2), 132-141. Verenikina, I., & Kervin, L. (2011). iPads, Digital Play and Preschoolers. He Kupu, 2(5) (eJournal)), 4-19. Vygotsky, L. (1997). Research method. R. Rieber (Ed.), The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky. Volume 4. The history of the development of higher mental functions, (pp. 27-65). New York: Plenum Press. Wertsch, J. (1994). The primacy of mediated action in sociocultural studies. Mind, Culture and Activity, 1(4), 202-208. Yelland, N (2011) Reconceptualising play and learning in the lives of young children, Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 36 (2), 412.
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