Arts education and digital culture in the early years

Year: 2013

Author: Gattenhof, Sandra, Knight, Linda

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The term ‘screenager’ was coined fifteen years ago by the author Douglas Rushkoff in his book Playing the Future (1999). He used the term to refer to young people reared from infancy on a diet of TV, computers and other digital devices. ‘Screenager’, like the term ‘digital natives’ (Prensky, 2001) denotes the first generation that has never known a world without the internet, and access to digital devices. As a result of this ubiquitous technology-infused environment today’s children and young people think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors. This change has implications for all aspects of education.
With the imminent implementation of the Australian National Curriculum - The Arts providing an historic mandate for entitlement in the all five art forms (dance, drama, media arts, music and visual art) for children in the early years (Foundation to Year 2) it is timely to re-imagine the way in which children will be engaged in arts experiences through the interrelated processes of making and responding. Mobile technologies such as iPads are at the forefront of becoming the most innovative and dynamic tool in arts education. The iPad can enable young children to create and share digital content focusing on art forms and cross-curricular learning. Children can explore drawing and painting, digital photography, digital storytelling, animation, and more through the various applications.
This paper reports on preliminary findings from a research project conducted by four researchers at Queensland University of Technology investigating the use of iPads for creativity and literacy readiness undertaken in three community kindergartens in the greater Brisbane area. The project was interested in developing learning strategies for young children to use the iPad as a creative device rather one on which they consumed content in the form of games, on demand television and streaming video. The project regards digital culture as embedded in the every-day life experiences of many contemporary Australian children both in home and educational contexts.
The paper describes the process of university researchers, kindergarten teachers and parents working together to identify how iPads and associated creative software (apps) may ignite arts-based experiences with a particular focus on photography, storytelling and drawing. We ask critical questions around creative ecologies and creative production that develop with iPads through activities such as digital photo-taking and painting. Data collected during the year helped to develop models of ‘best practice’ for iPad-based arts and creative education in kindergartens.