What is in your head?
What is in my head?
What is the gap in between?
Digital software for use in early learning environments has transformed the way that information about children and programs is generated, documented and distributed. Advantages that are proffered with these types of technologies are that they provide to educators and families increased flexibility, greater engagement, ease of communication and collaborative opportunities. These advantages are intended to enable greater participation by all stakeholders.
This can be good. Humans grow with participation.
One of the primary goals of digital platforms in early learning services is to connect and empower the community that uses them. Digital platforms can provide ways for this to happen and for learning and development to be visible, but it is worth considering whether the true potential of an online space for participants’ to think and discuss is being fully realised in our application of digital software programs.
While these platforms have given us new ways of communicating and documenting children’s learning and development, it is the polysensory potential of these types of online platforms that is the real opportunity they provide to us. Online platforms give to us the opportunity that, if enacted well, the prospect of multiple modes of perception and community involvement.
In Italy, the Piazza is a common architectural feature in cities and can be described as an open public space usually surrounded by buildings. It is at the centre of Italian life. It is used by citizens to meet up, talk, discuss, laugh and argue. A lot of the infant-toddler centres and pre-schools in Reggio Emilia are designed around an internal Piazza space and it is often the first space that families and children enter at the start of each day. These spaces strongly reflect the culture and context in which they are situated. Members of this community can spend a little time in this place or a long time, before moving into the general busyness of the day.
The idea of a digital platform being used as a type of cyber Piazza was introduced to me on a study tour to Reggio Emilia in January 2019. In this online Piazza, the whole community can meet and the occasion for participation is real and multi-layered. You enter the space not as parents, educators or children, but as citizens that are concerned with things that concern children. In this space, this type of online participation is considered an educational strategy. By contributing you are generating an actual experience of unity and inclusion.
In Reggio Emilia, they call the type of dialogue that can be generated here ‘Confronto’, which means to exchange points of view. It can be explained in the following way: “What’s in your head? What’s in my head? And what happens in the gap in between?” (personal notes from 2019 study tour). What do we know by ourselves and what do we know together? Loris Malaguzzi, the founder of the Reggio Emilia project was convinced that the more languages we have the more opportunities for learning we have. This language of participation is crucial to this idea.
In Reggio Emilia, there is the view that the pre-school and infant-toddler centres are places of culture. Digital platforms can also reflect culture. Early learning centers should consider what is the first thing a family experiences in your digital world. What connects this online space to the culture and context of their early learning environment? The online Piazza should be a place of encounter and reflect the culture, context and the values of the service you work in and that families participate in.
When a person logs on to the online world where do they go, what do they see and what do they do? Is there a Piazza for them to meet and exchange ideas on children, on teaching or about the world? This invitation to stay a while should not be missed.
The gift that the digital Piazza offers to us is the opportunity to join the conversation. Once this happens you have created a place of relationships and relationships are everything!