“Learning and teaching should not stand on opposite banks and just watch the river flow by; instead, they should embark together on a journey down the water.” -Loris Malaguzzi

Tag: ECEgrad

Joining in the Drama: Role-Play in the Practice of Learning

“Through process drama, children do not simply absorb knowledge; they construct it, learning best when they are actively engaged, organizing knowledge and experiences in new ways towards a desired goal” -Brown & Pleydell (as cited in Brown, 2017, p. 165)

Working with children aged 18 months to 5 years old, in a designated Reggio Emilia learning centre, where we believe children are capable, active agents in their own learning (play being imperative for such), it can be difficult to imagine incoporating many of the structured, scheduled, educator driven drama exercises described in some literature concerning drama education. In addition, from a very early age, young children can be observed naturally generating, and participating in, dramatic play scenerios as one way of “ordering and making sense of their experiences” (Booth, 2005, p. 18). These playful dramatizations and sequences of role play are often elaborate, spanning days, weeks, months, and even years. The children transform themselves and their environments to suit their imagined characters, events, actions, and worlds. Immersed in such seemingly inherant dramatic productions, incooporating structured dramatic exercises can feel inconsequential and possibly disruptive.

On the other hand, knowing that children are naturally drawn into, and enjoy, drama senarios of their own making, makes them a valuable medium for inquiry and communication. By joining in these dramas, educators can help edge children, as well as themselves, towards to a type of play, creativity, inquiry, and learning that is fragile, that questions, wonders, attends, whiles, and that generates contemporary understandings. Joining in, and taking on a role within them, educators are able to observe, attend to their learning, while also extending, and inquiring into, their thinking, reflections, and explorations. We become collectively attentive to the choices, experiences, and perspectives of those who are a part of the drama. When educators are encouraged to approach children, not as leaders, but as important figures in their play, children are able to fold into active and/or director roles with ease and fluidity.  The typical balance of authority is altered.

“Educators therefore need to be ready to take on roles which are less powerful than children’s roles to give them the experience of power.” (McGabe, 2020, p.10)

As McNaughton (2004) has written, when educators support children to learn through drama they are given an opportunity to “take action” within the safety and confines of the make-believe (McNaughton, 2004, p. 144). Accordingly, if we recognize children as competent, creative, producers, then we should offer them opportunity to experience, extend, and dwell on the act of becoming. Becoming opens doors to different worlds, to different ways of knowing, to a generative way of perceiving, always welcoming anew.

Consequently, when I am next at work with children and I observe them playing together in acts of becoming, I will step into a new place of possibility. I will join them.

Until next time. Thank you for reading,



Brown, V. (2017). Drama as a valuable learning medium in early childhood. Arts Education Policy Review, 118(3), 164-171. https://doi.org/10.1080/10632913.2016.1244780

Brown, V., & Pleydell, S. (1999). The dramatic difference: Drama in the preschool and kindergarten classroom. Heinemann.

McCabe, U., & Farrell, T. (2020). Play, pedagogy and power: A reinterpretation of research using a foucauldian lens. International Journal of Early Years Education, 1-13. doi:10.1080/09669760.2020.1742669

McNaughton, M. J. (2004). Educational drama in the teaching of education for sustainability. Environmental Education Research, 10(2), 139-155. doi:10.1080/13504620242000198140

Generating Encounters for Change

“The teaching of any arts subject […] is a cognitively sophisticated and demanding activity. It involves a subtle attention to detail, nuance and implication; the ability to exploit the unpredictable in the course of the work; the confidence to shift both educational and artistic goals where appropriate; and the security to deal with disappointment and possible failure.” (Dunn, 2016, p. 129)

As I venture into the last fews classes of my summer intensive course, Drama Education in Early Years, thoughts and ideas articulated during the composition of its two assignments, linger at the edges of my thinking. They move alongside questions, new thoughts, experiences, mingling and conversing with previous notions and those enkindled through my concurrent participation in Development and Implementation of the Curriculum in Art.

For the purpose of meeting the expectations and requirements of the above courses, I delved into an examination and overview of arts integrated activities meant to support children to think and learn with more-than-human-others (eg. trees, plants). As I had been previously acquainted, in both my research and practice as an early childhood educator, with notions of thinking “with materials” (Pacini-Ketchabaw et al., 2017, p. 1) and eradicating contradistinctions between human and natural worlds (“About the Collective”, 2020), it had been the content gained through Drama Education in Early Years that triggered questions, incited connections, and engendered new lines of thinking.

Questions, considerations:

The story-drama structures outlined in the course syllabus and required text, as well as the drama practices and exercises described in the course’s first required reading, incited the question: Can these structures and techniques be translated into my own teaching-learning environment? After encountering that first work from Lundy and Swartz (2011), whose drama techniques closely resembled those I had been acquainted with in high school, I wondered at the value of such within my free-flowing, malleable, inquiry-rich, emergent work with young children (see The Blog). However, further readings, class-work, and knowledge gained during research for the course’s first assignment, demonstrated the multifaceted, process focused, boundless nature of drama education. Soon, my concerns regarding the benefits of drama structures, were exchanged with considerations connected to how, when, with whom, where, and within what context could they be supported and implemented.

Making connections:

At the same time as I had been thinking and learning with Drama Education in Early Years, I had been thinking and learning with arts education and its required text. As I reacquainted myself with the material encounters of Pacini-Ketchabaw et al. (2017), I became acquainted with process drama through the work of Brown (2017) and Kana and Aitken (2007). At once, cross-curriculum experiences began to formulate, while connections in experiential, art, and drama theory and practice took hold. Progressing further into the course, more hypotheses, documentation, understandings framed those inclinations.

A material encounter (Pacini-Ketchabaw et al., 2017), as well as a process drama experience,  generates space, setting, and opportunity for children to collectively, confront, construct, organize, challenge, and naturally expound predicaments and tensions, knowledge and experience, ideas and typical modes of understanding (p. 36; Brown, 2017, p. 165; Kana & Aitken, 2007, p. 700).

Brown (2017) has written:

“Role-playing through process drama activities promotes taking on multiple perspectives and provokes genuine open-mindedness; it facilitates construction of more fully elaborated and unique problem-solving models, and encourages cognitive and personal flexibility.” (p.169)

Within BC early learning (2019) contexts, educators are researchers and collaborators, rather than purveyors of knowledge. In process drama or a material encounter, the typical transfer of knowledge is altered, educators are supported to join in and become a part of the learning experience. Accordingly, children become active, rather than passive, participants in those moments of tension, problem solving, collaboration, understanding (McNaughton, 2004, p. 154)

Early childhood educator, Linda McDonell, in the below short video,  briefly and fluidly articulates her transformation from expert to guide and the value of not knowing:

In a process drama experience, children are engaged and drawn in only when educators are prepared and willing to be spontaneous and take risks, to be equally immersed and affected by the experience, and to learn alongside them (Dunn, 2016, p. 129; Kana & Aikten, 2007, p. 700). Educators do not decide or hope for a particular outcome, but direct the focus of children’s experience by determining what materials to set out, which role to play, or seeking to answer a specific question.  For this reason, neither a process drama, nor a material encounter, should be understood as a demonstration of what either should look like. As Dunn wrote: “Simply using the strategies of process drama does not constitute doing process drama!” (p. 134). Instead, the unknown, unexpected, unpredictable are exploited and embraced, and the aim is to engage children in encounters, moments, scenerios that might encourage them to develop an understanding and awareness of other perspectives, to support them to think critically, and generate space for them to further inquire, question, consider (Dunn, 2016, p. 129; Kana & Aitken, 2007, p. 700; Pacini-Ketchabaw et al., 2017).

New contexts for change:

The process of overviewing numerous arts and drama resources, aimed at supporting children to think and learn with plants and trees, apprised me of the potential for drama practices to promote social change and environmental awareness.

Pondering over drama activities and diving into research, I became  immersed in a variety of imagined drama scenerios. I formulated structures that offered children opportunity to become plants or those creatures that live amongst them. I pictured myself generating “Formal Gatherings” (Booth, 2005) to save the plants with the children, . We’d ask ourselves: How can we help plants? What type of behaviours are respectful of plants? Together we’d facilitate a pretend protest to help save the plants. What would our signs say? What we would say? How would we say it? Who could the protesters be? What part would everyone else play? I reflected on these structures, wondered at these storylines: Would they more deeply engage children in learning and support them to think with the lives of more-than-human-others?  Could they inspire change?

“The power of the drama is not simply that it teaches facts about the environment but that the narrative is a metaphor for environmental issues.” (McNaughton, 2004, p. 154)

In response to current environmental crises that include “climate change, species extinction, risks to […] food and water supplies, [etc.]” (BC Ministry of Education, 2019, p. 29), many pedagogical approaches have been reformed and reconsidered. The First People’s principles of learning and common worlds research collective have been introduced into BC’s updated Early Learning Framework (2019) in order to respond to both the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action (2015) and pressing environmental issues.

Some of the First People’s principles include:

  • Teaching and learning that is relational, patient
  • Focuses on connectedness and place, that supports family and community
  • Involves recognizing the responsibility in one’s actions

(BC Ministry of Education, 2019, p. 14)

While, sustainability curriculums in Scottland include competencies such as:

  • Sensitivity to and appreciation of the social and natural environment
  • Knowledge/understanding of the social environment
  • Skills to find out about and explore environmental issues

(McNaughton, 2004, p. 141)

Like McNaughton (2004), I began to carefully notice and consider the possibility that drama strategies might benefit teachers and learners by addressing many of the above principles and outcomes (p. 141).

In their work, Kana and Aitken (2007) explored the value of process drama in examining issues surrounding cultural exclusion and social injustice. They found that when exploring ideas related to injustice, such as the un-heard voices of specific Peoples or more-than-human-others, is it pertinent that both educator and student take on a range of positions, through role play, so that the complexity and diversity inherent in such issues might be recognized (p. 701). In addition, by providing oppportunity for learners to become immersed in dramatization they are able to develop a fresh perspective on the real-life situations resembled within (Kana & Aitken, 2007). While Brown (2017) also wrote, “the experience of believing and delving deeper into role can facilitate the development of empathy by provoking a deep awareness of other’s perspectives.” (p. 169)

Green (2017) also examined how role-play can support children to engage in empathetic reasoning, “to think about how it might feel to be someone or something else” (p. 14). By engaging children in role-play and encouraging dramatization, children are supported to carefully notice and pay attention to the characteristics of their environment and how they interact with it (Green, 2017, p. 6). Green felt that perspective taking and role-play orchestrated outdoors would generate further social engagements, stories, and dramatic play scenerios that incorporate elements of the natural world (p. 14).

These understandings, ideas, imagined scenes lingered, and continue to inch their way back into my reasoning as I move into different thoughts, am introduced to new ideas, and continue in my every-changing, emergent work with young children.

Until next time,


Coming up…  My final reflective post connected to Drama Edcuation in Early Years. I will look more closely at how my learning might affect my current practice as an early childhood educator. 


About the collective. (2020). http://commonworlds.net

Brown, V. (2017). Drama as a valuable learning medium in early childhood. Arts Education Policy Review, 118(3), 164-171. https://doi.org/10.1080/10632913.2016.1244780

Booth, D. (2005). Story drama (2nd ed.). Pembroke Publishers.

Dunn, J. (2016). Demystifying process drama: Exploring the why, what, and how. Nj: Drama Australia journal, 40(2), 127-140. doi:10.1080/14452294.2016.1276738

Green, C. (2017). Four methods for engaging young children as environmental education researchers. The International Journal of Early Childhood Environmental Education, 5(1), 6-19. https://naturalstart.org/sites/default/files/journal/ijecee_5_1_green.pdf

Kana, P., & Aitken, V. (2007). She didn’t ask me about my grandma: Using process drama to explore issues of cultural exclusion and educational leadership. Journal of Educational Administration, 45(6), 697-710. http://doi.org/10.1108/09578230710829883

Lundy, K., Swartz, L. (2011). Building community. In K. Revington (Ed.) Creating caring classrooms: How to encourage students to communicate, create, and be compassionate of others (pp.13 – 44). Pembroke.

McNaughton, M. J. (2004). Educational drama in the teaching of education for sustainability. Environmental Education Research, 10(2), 139-155. doi:10.1080/13504620242000198140

Ministry of Education (2019). British Columbia early learning framework. Victoria, B.C. Retrieved from https://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/education-training/early-learning/teach/early-learning-framework

Pacini-Ketchabaw, V., Kind, S., & Kocher, Laurie L. M. (2017). Encounters with materials in early childhood education. Routledge.

Projectors as Digital Tool and Medium in Practice

Besides it’s use in pedagogical narration, digital technology most often appears in my learning environments in the form of computer projectors. We also regulary use non-digital light projectors. Both types of projectors have constitently been photographed as present in Reggio Emilia schools.

Photo retrieved from https://wordpress.wiu.edu/ilaecte/2016/10/16/let-there-be-light/

Over the last several weeks, we have been collecting digital photographs from our families via email, which are representative of our children’s lives outside of our classroom. Our intention is to have the children’s “home” photographs projected onto our walls and on our projector screen (which hangs from the ceiling in the middle of our room).

We are beginning to develop a hypothesis connected to empathy and hope that our wall projections will spark converstations, thoughts, considerations of self and the other.  The art, construction, converstations, play etc. that takes place in our class will be recorded using our phones’ photo, video, and voice applications. We also have hard-copy family photos and pedagogical narrations interspersed in our classroom and continue to use pencil and paper to record our observations.

As we continue down our current path of inquiry myself and my co-educator explore different ways to point the children’s focus inwards towards discovery of self and outwards towards the relationship between self and others.  Though much of our investigation so far has included conventional mediums such as mirrors, tape measures, markers, pencil crayons, pencils, charcoal, paper, scissors, converstations, clay, sticks, blocks, literature etc. we are invariably searching for new methods and materials to connect in.

In hunting for digital mediums to draw into our inquiry, I came across a post by a fellow classmate that included the article by Cowan (2016), Digital Languages: Multimodal meaning-making in Reggio-inspired early years education. Her article outlined some digital languages in practice and happened to include an exploration of body and movement entitled: Exploring the body in digital and non-digital combinations. The arts space (atelier) used for the inquiry provided opportunity for numerous forms of expression, as it set out digital tools that inlcuded an iPad (set up with motion capture software), webcam, digital microscopes, and a computer projector, alongside non-digital materials such as wooden figures, mirrors, magnifiers, clay, wire, paper, and paints.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

Art spaces (ateliers) that include a host of mediums, materials, and disciplines are common practice in Reggio Emilia inspired environments, as they allow for multiple modes of thought and expression. However, I have drawn connections to my own inquiry with the body exploration presented by Cowan (2016) and hope to bring some of the digital ponderings into our classroom. One specific experience described educators projecting digital images onto an art easel that had been set up with paper and paint. I hope to transplant the latter into our class, by offering the children an opportunity to ‘paint’ on their digital self-portraits.

I feel priviledged to be able work in an Early Learning environment that fosters the inclusion of unconventional materials and refrains from following learning schedules or timelines. At the same time, I am also aware that the approach that allows for such beautiful fluidity in teaching and learning also tends to keep digital technology on the periphery of its philosophy. Digital tools and mediums are as essential to the Reggio Emilia philosophy as any other tool or mediam. Yet, digital technology plays a much bigger role in our worlds than does a paint brush, a wooden block, or a piece of paper or clay (though each depend on natural resources as digital technology does). At present, nearly every person on the planet keeps some sort of mobile device on there person at all times, but not everyone carries with them a pen or a piece of paper.

My current practice, and the practices presented in Cowan’s article, remain focused on how to incoporate and use digital technology, rather than how to generate a deep and critical understanding of its production and purpose in our lives. It requires an outstanding amount of natural resources to produce one ‘smart’ phone. Still, despite the recent calls for environmental action and nature focused outdoor education, digital technology appears to play a perfunctory role in teaching and learning.

Consequently, I will continue on my hunt for a holistic approach to digital technology in ECE. In my next post I will present the MakEY Project, a Europe-wide project the considers how ‘makerspaces’ can contribute to the development of children’s digital literacy.

Once again, happy Sunday. Thank you for reading,



Cowan, K. (2017, March 19). Digital Languages: Multimodal meaning-making in Reggio-inspired early years education. Retrieved from http://digilitey.eu/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/STSM-Stockholm-Final-Report-Kate-Cowan.pdf

Digital vs. Analog. In Person vs. Online. Inconceivable in Application or in Education?

My first encounter with Dr. Puentedura’s (SAMR) model came from the YouTube video posted below. Initially, Puentedura’s model led to personal feelings of insecurity with regard to the type of digital technology used in my practice. Rarely, if ever, have I attempted to use digital technology beyond its most basic application.

Pondering over ideas presented in the video, I couldn’t help but draw a connection between my initial feelings of cluelessness in EDCI: Multimedia Learning and Technology and the basic, outdated, and often limiting version of digital technology present in my Early Learning environments. I started to wonder: Perhaps I am not well versed enough in the capabilities of modern digital technology to be including it in my pedagogy? However, after more carefully considering some of the statements made in the video and reading a critical review of the (SAMR) model by Hamilton, Rosenberg, and Akcaoglu (2016), my feelings about my personal practice tranformed into critical notions regarding Puentedura’s model.

The critical review  presented by Hamilton et al. (2016) broke down Puentedura’s (SAMR) model into what they considered to be three challenges: (1) Absence of Context, (2) Rigid Structure, and (3) Product Over Process. However, the common criticism presented throughout their review suggested that the (SAMR) model undercuts the complexity in teaching and learning (Hamiliton et al., 2016). According to Hamilton et al., (SAMR) disregarded the complexity present in the learning settings within which technology is introduced, overlooked the variance in pedagogies by confining technology integration to four specific categories, and excluded the intricacies connected to the process of learning about technology by placing significant importance on the type of technology that is used (Hamilton et al., 2016).

While I agree that the (SAMR) model, in general, oversimplifies the process of technology integration in education, I found the steps of the (SAMR) ladder [model below] especially misleading.

In their critical review, Hamiliton et al. (2016) highlighted the fact that the (SAMR) steps oppose research that suggested that enhanced learning outcomes were more dependent on teacher and student interaction rather than the type of technology used.  The (SAMR) model assumes that using technology in “redefined” or “modified” ways will generated improved learning outcomes. However, research suggests that classroom practices and teacher pedagogy play a more significant role in the level of learning comprehension (Hamiliton et al., 2016).

I also find the language used in the description of the (SAMR) steps misleading. The notion that specific digital technology can allow for “significant task redesign” or the “creation of a new, previously inconceivable task” is entirely subjective. The following examples can all be understood as subsitutions with “no functional change”: an in-class drama exchanged for a digital video recording, in-class discussions and peer editing switched out for a Google Doc, or small writing groups replaced by individual Blogs. Instead, one might consider an interactive, 3D computer simulation substituted in for a 2D diagram as redesigning educators roles in teaching rather than transforming student tasks.

Like much of what I have read about digital technology in Early Years education so far, the (SAMR) model focuses on how to best incorporate digital technology in one’s current educational practice or how to best use it in said practice, rather than ‘why’ use it at all. There appears to be an absence of literature, and examples from pedagogy (including my own), that explores teaching and learning technology holistically.

In my next few posts I will examine technology in my own classroom, the Maker Movement, more European pedogogies, and Henry Jenkins’ approach to “New Media Education”, in the hopes of better understanding how to educate on, rather than incorporate in, digital technology.

Until Next Time,




Hamilton, E. R., Rosenberg, J. M., & Akcaoglu, M. (2016). The substitution augmentation modification redefinition (SAMR) model: A critical review and suggestions for its use. Techtrends, 60(5), 433-441. doi:10.1007/s11528-016-0091-y

Spencer, J. (2015, Nov 3). What is the SAMR model and what does it look like in schools? [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtube/SC5ARwUkVQg




Welcome readers, visitors, and classmates to my blog. Thank you for joining me as I document my learning progress in the MEd course entitled “Interactive and Multimedia Learning” offered through the University of Victoria.

It has been over two weeks since the off-campus course commenced and I feel like I am only just beginning to understand its operations, expectations, and components. Having educators interact with current technology used in post-secondary institutations seems a perfect way to begin a course that considers technology’s role in education. Learning how to learn in “Interactive and Multimedia Learning” is a great reminder of how knowledge is co-constructed between educator and student, adult and child, and classmates.

In my current practice digital technology is present and embraced, however, this is almost entirely because I work in a Reggio Emilia learning centre, not because digital literacy is a priority in our community or province. Consequently, in the next few months, I hope to find new and accessible ways to incooperate ideas regarding technology that come from communities outside of North America. Keeping in the mind that though the education practices in Finland, Sweden, and Reggio Emilia, Italy are often appealing in their intentions and results they are also often practiced in much less culturally diverse demographics than Vancouver. My aim is to become well versed in such educative practices but to also think practically about how they can translate into a much more diverse community.