Do Vygotskian concepts explain children's play with technologies?

Year: 2017

Author: Bird, Jo

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Vygotsky presented his thesis in the early 20th century and while it wasn't a unified theory of play, his ideas have been used to support the provision of play-based curriculum in early childhood settings. As the field calls for more understanding around children's play with technologies (Edwards, 2015; Marsh, Plowman, Yamada-Rice, Bishop, & Scott, 2016; Yelland, 2011), an unanswered question remains, can Vygotsky's theorisation of play adequately explain what is occurring with technologies or does his theorisation crumble when applied to play with technologies.

This presentation is based on a doctoral study that explored children's imaginative play with working and non-working technologies (Bird, 2017) and the educators' provision of these devices in play-based settings. Using a cultural-historical theoretical framework and in particular, Vygotsky's concepts of the requirements of play (1978), separating meaning from object (1978) and imagination (2004), were used to explore children's responses to the provided technologies. The research was conducted in two kindergartens in Melbourne, Australia, with children between four and six years of age. An ethnographic study was undertaken, with the data collection phase lasting 12 weeks in each of the two settings. Data analysis involved deductively coding (Pope, Ziebland, & Mays, 2000) the examples of children's play to Vygotsky's concepts from the theoretical framework and then inductively coding (Creswell & Miller, 2000) the examples that did not fit with his theory. The result is an extension of his theory that incorporates the children's responses to technologies and moves his ideas into the digital age.