Our February 2020 Conference was led by Suzanne Axelsson, who helped us see technology and the “digital” with a different perspective.
“Screen-time” has become taboo in the world of Early Childhood Education or even parenthood. Of course, plenty of research indicates that too much screen time has negative effects on children. But what Suzanne was referring to was not sitting at the TV or the phone and watching mindlessly. She was referring to actively engaging with technology so we can expand our critical thinking through the many languages the digital world has to offer.
Digital media is used widely in the schools of Reggio Emilia and educators are constantly updating themselves on newly available technologies. The use of technology can “delight, surprise, and inform our understanding of early education and the competence of young children” (George Forman, The Hundred Languages of Children. Pg. 343). When we visited the schools of Reggio Emilia, this was one of the things that really got my attention and amazed me: robots, computers, mini microscopes, projectors, scanners and all kinds of gadgets were available for children to explore and express their thoughts with. Our two days with Suzanne helped us explore some of these technologies and their potentials in our own context.
For the past three years, educators and children at Frog Hollow have been exploring what it means to live with clay, getting to know it as a living material.
A few weeks after the conference, inspired by all the fun explorations, one of our educators gracefully directed children’s ideas about clay into a stop motion video that was not only fun to make, but also an opportunity to get to know a child he would not have thought would be interested in the invitation.
We invite you to read the conversation and think about three things:
- The educator’s reflections and how he used this opportunity to practice flexibility in mind and action
- The use of digital tools and the opportunities it gave children to work as a collective and as individuals
- The natural fluidity of this invitation to introduce technology as a language and how related it was to something already being discussed and explored in the program
The day began differently than most, we had a Pro-D day with one of the three schools that we service and only FOUR….yes FOUR children came from that school for the day! With TWO Educators! What an extreme difference from the 60-70 per day we are used to! If that wasn’t a shock enough, I was intrigued with the breakdown of ages as well. There were two sisters Christy 12yrs & Ella 9yrs, Olive and Fisher both aged 6. I wondered how this day would unfold with this small diverse group, and then I thought this is the perfect opportunity for deeper relationship building.
After the other two schools groups departed we were left with our small quiet group. Things definitely started off slow as I observed to see if anything would unfold.
I went to the table where Christy was and I sat down, we struck up some small talk and soon after everyone was sitting at the table sharing stories together and laughing.
“How old are you Neha?” asked Olive.
Neha: “I’m 22”
Ella: “How long have you worked here?”
Neha: “For a few months now.”
Mike: “How long have you been here Christy?”
Christy: “Since Preschool, and I am now Gr. 7….so….8yrs!”
Ella: “I went to 2yrs of Preschool, I’ve been here 7yrs!”
Mike: “WOW…I’m sure you have seen a lot of people here during your time.”
We began reminiscing about people that are not at KW anymore, both Educators and Children.
Christy and Ella remembered a group of girls making a stop motion movie with me using LEGO, and then we wondered if we did another one what material would we use.
We were talking about the movie Toy Story and how the toys come alive when the “people” are not watching. So I asked:
“I wonder what the clay does when the people aren’t watching.”
We decided that we wanted to explore the idea of making a little stop motion movie.
Olive began making the background trees by sticking little branches with leaves into clay bases so they stand up by themselves.
The others brought over some plastic animals to practice with and learn how to put it all together. The first couple of tests they tried were very interesting as they began to learn the concept of the stop motion.
At one point as I was playing a test back to them, Olive shouted out in disbelief:
“HEY LOOK!! THE BEAR JUST MOVED BY ITSELF!! HE JUST WALKED WITHOUT ANYONE TOUCHING IT!”
Christy began to explain to her:
“We are taking pictures of the bear and then moving him very little and taking another and so on until we have tons of pictures. Then we watch all the pictures quickly and it looks like he is moving.”
After a few tests and practice runs Ella decided we needed to use the clay.
I found it interesting that after about 20min or so with the clay, interest began fading, except for Ella. Ella and I continued for another 30min or so just the two of us, diligently working on her vision.
When she had decided that the scene was completed we began to edit it and she quickly stated:
“We need music for it like Jurasic Park!”
“And sound effects like dinosaurs!”
Together we sat for another 30-40min editing and choosing music and sound effects. She said the title was “Clay Monster” so we added that to the movies as well.
Once we were done she invited everyone over for a viewing, the pride on her face was incredible.
As I reflected on this I realized my initial thoughts and intentions were to engage with her older sister Christy. However, by being open to the process and not losing interest when Christy did, it allowed me to be part of something more meaningful. It gave Ella, a younger sister, an opportunity to have value within a group, to be a leader. It also introduced technology to Olive in a different way than she was used to and taught her some sophisticated concepts involved with stop motion.
I am reminded that although having intention is part of our role as Educators, we must also be flexible within that intention. The audience we target with an invitation may not be the audience that runs with it.
I am thankful that I was able to let Ella run with it, because in doing so…