Children’s play with imaginative technologies

Year: 2018

Author: Bird, Jo

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The provision of technologies in early childhood settings is increasing in prevalence. How technological devices are provided influences what the children can do with them and the type of learning that can be achieved. Research has focused on children’s use of working technologies, those that require a power source and respond to children’s input, but educators also provide imaginative technologies, those that no longer work, or which are a replica of the real device. These types of devices are often absent from the literature and rarely receive a research focus. The imaginative play spaces that are set up by educators are stocked with objects that imitate those that are present in real-world environments in the child’s social context. What the children expect to be in imaginative spaces and how they use them was explored within this qualitative study. While the research explored the children’s use of both working and imaginative technologies in their imaginative play, this paper will just present the findings related to the children’s use of imaginative technologies.
The ethnographic study was undertaken in two kindergartens (the year before formal schooling) in suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. The study took a cultural-historical perspective and used Vygotsky’s concepts of imagination (Vygotsky, 1966), mediation (Vygotsky, 1978) and play (Vygotsky, 1966) and Gibson’s (1979) concept of affordance. Data were collected via video recordings, observations, photographs, conversations with children, interviews with educators and researcher journal, and were analysed using the Imaginative Affordance Model (Bird, In press). The findings showed the educators know how to support children’s imaginative play with these devices because the play aligns with their current understandings. It also demonstrated that the play could be extended or used by educators to teach children digital competence and literacy skills. The implications of the findings for pedagogy and practice are also discussed.
Bird, J. (In press). "This is pretend". We are just playing." Exploring young children's imaginative play with working and non-working technologies and educators' provision of these devices in early childhood settings. School of Education. University of New England. 
Gibson, J. J. (1979). The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1966). Play and its role in the mental development of the child. Voprosy psikhologii, 12(6), 62-76.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in Society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.