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Learning is a process that involves thought, vision and imagination. A camera can help spark these very same qualities in the minds of young children. They capture a world from their view point.
Cameras can provide children with the opportunity to be innovative and offer a way to communicate their ideas, thoughts and feelings, while making experiences meaningful and enjoyable.
In 2014, childcare provider The Old Station Nursery Ltd, equipped its nurseries with the latest technology, including tablets and digital cameras. Since their introduction, the children have developed a keen interest in taking photographs from their own perspective. Once captured, these photos are shared on social media.
Explaining the inspiration behind the idea, Sarah Steel, managing director of The Old Station Nursery, said: “I went on a marketing course about Instagram and decided to introduce our ‘child’s view of nursery’ account, with the children taking the photos.
“The children love to look at their photographs after taking them, always asking to see their picture on the screen. This is also really good for developing their ICT skills, as they are all comfortable with swiping the screen and enlarging the photo.”
Photography is an outlet for children’s creativity and self-expression
Besides the self-assurance gained from creative expression and mastering a new skill, learning to take pictures can support the social and emotional development of children who are shy.
Previous research has suggested that photography is a skill that encourages children to take part in group activities that otherwise might leave a shy child hiding in the background. Focusing on others can remove self-consciousness and improve confidence.
It has also become increasingly recognised that ICT has much to offer a child; it supports their conceptual development and puts them firmly in control of their own learning.
Development Matters in the EYFS states that at 22–36 months children show an interest in ICT and seek to acquire basic skills in turning on and operating some ICT equipment. At 30–50 months they know how to operate simple equipment, and at 40–60 months, children will use ICT to perform simple functions.
The results of children’s photography can be intriguing. Out of focus objects and images with hazy backgrounds are sure to be created once a child begins to experiment with a camera.
“The children tend to take photos of really random things, their favourite toy, or something they enjoy doing. If prompted by staff, they may take a photo of a friend or their favourite place in nursery.
“We have cameras and iPads in each room, so the children are encouraged to take photos of things that particularly interest them. If it is something that relates to a topic or an interest of the child, then it may be loaded on to their e-learning journey by the key carer,” Ms Steele said.
According to Dr Alex Morgan’s ‘Using ICT in the early years’, parents are beginning to have higher educational expectations for their children. In effect, cameras can be a valuable tool to develop children’s overall learning and development, particularly their language and communication skills, physical coordination and knowledge and understanding of the world.
Digital technology is more than a passing trend
The role of ICT in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) is much more than simply a passing trend. It provides an opportunity for practitioners to explore pedagogical practice alongside the children’s approaches to learning.
Early years experts believe cameras should become part of the setting’s continuous provision, enabling children to have endless opportunities to use the devices within their play, prior to using them formally.
During this play, the children can work out for themselves how the cameras work, which can be supported by an adult using open ended questioning.
Photographs taken by children can be used by early years practitioners in a variety of ways to enhance an individual’s learning. These include: topics of interest, role play and storytelling, outdoor investigations and interactive photo/digital display boards.
Commenting on the importance of ICT in the early years, Ms Steele added: “At The Old Station Nursery ICT is really important and offers great learning opportunities, but it still needs to be facilitated by good practitioners and not just consist of children sitting with a device playing games.”
Asquith day nurseries IT director, Jeff Stanford, believes “being exposed to digital technology at an early age is extremely important. It makes children comfortable and familiar with the technology and that is extremely useful when they start school.”
Social media can offer reassurance for parents
Recent research has revealed that more than half of British parents use social media to keep tabs on their children as they grow up in nursery.
For working parents, viewing their children’s photos on social media can offer reassurance and peace of mind.
At The Old Station Nursery, the children’s photos are uploaded onto a variety of social media platforms, including: Facebook, Instagram and Twitter on a daily or weekly basis.
Ms Steele explained: “The Instagram account is public so anyone can see it. Parents have a private login for their child’s e-learning journeys and receive an automatic e-mail notification if it has been updated with the children’s photos.”
Caron Mosely, marketing manager at childcare provider Kiddi Caru, believes there are many benefits for parents being able to view photos of their children via social media.
She said: “Social media is a very effective way of engaging with parents, uploading relevant and timely stories whilst giving an insight in to what nursery life is like for a child attending our nurseries.”
Although very popular, many childcare providers are against ‘public sharing’ of children’s photos on social media.
Ms Mosely added: “It has been known for early years practitioners to be told to ‘keep well clear’ of social media due to child protection concerns and some nursery managers have in the past been worried about this. However, these concerns are largely unfounded; the perceived risk of social media is blown out of proportion compared to the community-building benefits.
“When new families register their little ones with us they have an extensive photography permission form to complete, giving the parent total control over where photographs taken within the nursery are used for marketing purposes.
“The form is split out into different levels of permission, for example: photographs can be used only in the secure parent portal of our website, can be used on the front end of our website and then finally can be used on all online channels.”
Today’s young children are growing up in a world in which technology is so pervasive that to them it has become the norm. As reflected by The Old Station Nursery, it is not uncommon to walk into a nursery and see children independently taking photographs of each other using a digital camera. As if by magic, children have a way to capture special interests, people and events with just a click of a button.