“You Are Not In There”: Young Children’s Experiences Using Google Earth™

Year: 2015

Author: Danby, Susan, Ekberg, Stuart, Davidson, Christina, Breathnach, Helen, Thorpe, Karen

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

This paper investigates how preschool-aged children explore and manage their knowledge worlds and their social worlds when using Google Earth™ mapping service. These episodes are drawn from an Australian Research Council study that investigated how young children participated in the use of digital technologies, including web searching in classroom and home settings. The children, aged 3-5 years, were enrolled in preschool in Queensland, Australia. The study collected 170 hours of video data of children accessing and using technology in preschool contexts across nine preschool classroom sites. The video recordings showed children’s interactions with the Internet and Web searching as they worked individually and in small groups, and with the teacher present or not.
Few studies specifically consider how children use Google Earth™. Most studies are oriented to practitioner concerns, such as how to use Google Earth™ to achieve specific curricular learning outcomes. The focus of this paper, however, is on how the children themselves make sense of what they are doing, and contributes empirical evidence showing young children’s everyday classroom practices of using Google Earth™ (https://www.google.com/earth/), a downloadable mapping app from the Internet.
Using ethnomethodological and conversation analytic approaches, the focus on the children’s talk-in-interaction directs analytic attention to how they jointly produced and accomplished displays of knowledge. Analysis highlights three ways in which the children formulated their spontaneous activities when using Google Earth™: (1) searching for community and place (2) exploration of what happens when manoeuvring the mouse and screen, and (3) shared peer interaction. Analysis of the classroom episodes shows that there is value in children having access to the Internet without the teacher always present to direct the search. The children were able to direct their own searches on Google Earth, follow own interests by searching and finding places of meaning to them, such as where they went to school, and there were opportunities for them to interact with each other. The paper contributes understandings about the role of digitally mediated interactions in early childhood classrooms, by showing how children bring their local knowledge and technological understandings to create and understand their everyday and virtual worlds.