The chapters exploring the Atelier and use of digital media with young children in The Hundred Languages of Children are some of my favorites. They are rich with inspiring stories, ideas and innovative thinking around possibilities for empowering children in multifaceted explorations of ideas, materials and technology.
“…we have to give closer attention to the processes of learning through the digital media, a subject still little explored with children. The digital experience is much too often exhausted simply in its functional and technical form. However, in addition to its technical aspect, if it is also used in creative and imaginative ways, it reveals a high level of expressive cognitive, and social potentials as well as great possibilities for evolution.” Vea Vecchi
In the virtual education space of Zoom (via Outschool) I encounter so many child-initiated moments of innovation with digital media. Of course Zoom is a digital tool that largely occupies the functional and technical forms, but I think it is most importantly a tool that affords incredible opportunities for global social connection and ultimately, evolution in the possibilities for shared social learning. Opportunities around using Zoom as an experiential tool for creative exploration are equally exciting. Some examples of child-initiated experimentation in this space include children -especially those in the age 3-8 age group- investigating:
1.) the camera on their Zoom device in ways that include altering the angle & placement, their distance from it & their placement in the frame, modifying the distance between it and objects, turning camera on & off with intention
2.) the microphone on their Zoom devices including distance from it, volume, capturing the sound of objects and turning microphone on & off with intention
3.) annotation functions including text, emoji and drawing tools
4.) virtual backgrounds & effects including transforming the video positioning and interacting with virtual elements
The power of the environment as the third teacher, along with my academic and professional background (and ongoing interest) in digital media arts serves as the foundation for how I approach designing virtual learning spaces. I utilize tools such as ManyCam, Prezi, Google Earth & Google Arts & Culture into these experiences to create fantastic spaces that, while somewhat novel, remain rooted in intentional design. As Tiziana Filippini’s points out “educators in Reggio Emilia speak of space as a “container” that favors social interaction, exploration, and learning, but they also see space as having educational “content”- that is, as containing educational messages and being charged with stimuli toward interactive experience and constructive learning.” (Filippini 1990) I’m eagerly embracing opportunities for fostering expressive, cognitive and social learning through digital spaces/ tools like Zoom. I feel very fortunate to be working in this creative laboratory with young children from all over the world at this point in time.
While the future of distance learning is somewhat unclear (like any vision of the future is!), it seems unlikely to completely disappear after things go back to “normal”- especially for homeschoolers & “after school” learning. I acknowledge the fact that there are barriers to access to virtual learning spaces and notable differences between physical and virtual, but I think there are so exciting possibilities for both settings. In addition, there are many valiant efforts being made to provide greater access for all. I’m eager to continue Reggio-informed experimentation and innovation in the virtual space.