Giving very young children the right medium to express themselves will support their “informal learning and build bridges between the children’s homes and early years settings”, according to a new report, Dream Catcher, from education innovator Futurelab.
Using digital cameras and PDAs at home and at school, children like Noah (pictured) and Summer were able to help teachers learn more about their home life and culture while giving parents a greater insight into their learning than by just asking them what they’d been doing all day.
Dream Catcher, the 28-page report and accompanying video, highlights the results from a preliminary two-week study of four-year-olds in primary and infant schools in Bath and Manchester. However, unlike the Native American model of inspiration - an artefact made of feathers, sinew strands and willow - the dream catchers used to record and discuss the children's daily activities with teachers, parents and friends, are mobile, user friendly and very 21st century.
Futurelab learning researcher Lyndsay Grant says that Dream Catcher puts children at the centre of the relationship between home and school. She says: “It's giving them control over what to record, what’s important to them to share and ultimately what the meaning is that they ascribe to those recordings.”
Despite some difficulties experienced with some of the technology, teachers and parents thought the photos and cameras were great conversation pieces. “And if we don’t make connections with the learning that’s happening discretely at school and all the learning that happens discretely at home there’s a huge potential and opportunity lost,” says Noah’s headteacher, Ed Harker.
The Dream Catcher project, which was an exploratory collaboration between Futurelab and early years creative learning consultancy Isaacs UK, also revealed that the immediacy of the captured images helped children remember and connect their learning between home and school.
“The longest chat we’ve had is when we’re looking at the pictures he’s taken of his day at school,” says Noah’s mother Jessica. “For a parent the classroom environment is one that you don’t normally have access to so this is a sort of snap shot of some of the things he’s been up to while I haven’t been there to witness it – its been a fun thing to have with us”.