Digital Landscapes

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Inspired by the work of the schools of Reggio Emilia, I have immersed in a self-study on the progression of Light for Inquiry. In particular, I am reflecting on how digital images can be pulled from the flat surfaces of screens (computers, tablets, and phones) and projected into a 3-D representation - a digital landscape. There are many strengths and concerns about how we offer these digital provocations and the impact on young children. So, I have been spending time thinking about a theoretical framework for the digital environment with the main question being… 

In digital environments, how do we assure that the child is protagonist of their own learning? In thinking about this question, I realized that I needed to go back to the beginning of how, we as early childhood educators think about young children and their connection to the world. This raised the question for me of not only what my image of the child as protagonist of their own learning, but how the child is situated in their ecological context. If I could clearly articulate the relationship between the child as protagonist of their own learning, the teacher as a co-learner, and their shared relationship to the world around them (the ecological context) as fundamental to learning, then I could start to construct a framework for thinking about how digital landscapes exist in relationship with child, teacher, and ecological context. 

Throughout the emerging literature on dimensional digital landscapes are the concepts of…

Ecology: “We acknowledge through ecological thinking that learning is based in relationships and when a person is separated from their relationships, learning is reduced to almost nothing.” Reggio Emilia

Context: The acknowledgement that children form relations with the world around them that is locally focused.  

Multiplicity: And the idea that there are many multiple and simultaneous ways of seeing and thinking. 

Digital Tools: Through the lens of ecology, context and multiplicity---can provide unique perspectives to support and make visible young children’s complex thinking. The use of digital tools can foster sustained work on ideas over weeks and months. This sustained work, supports children to go deeply into their thinking. We, as educators, can foster children’s complex thinking by using these tools to record both our own and the children’s experiences. We can use our own reflections to continue to add prompts, provocations, and questions to children’s explorations. In this way we fully embrace our role as co-learners with children.

Children use the languages of digital tools to communicate their perspective and their proficiency. For many young learners, this kind of communication is not readily available through other means and so digital representations becomes a valuable tool providing the teacher with a window into the child's mind. When their vision is valued, their understanding of self grows, accordingly, as does their learning. 

I think as an educator working in digital narratives, that we (especially as technology evolves) will enter into places of not knowing. It therefore becomes important to become comfortable with these spaces, allowing them to breathe (and ourselves as well). As we enter into the spirit of co-learning, we can trust in the capability of children to help guide the way.