Tag Archives: learning

Reflections on the Wonder of Learning Exibition (Reggio Children):What role does technology play in Reggio schools?

It is 13 years since I last visited the Reggio exhibition. Education and childhood have evolved dramatically in that time. I was interested to see how the schools of Reggio Emilia have adapted to meet the interests and fascinations of this new generation.

The projects and learning I observed 13 years ago embraced the physical world. Investigations were made through exploring physical objects and environments, through discussion and experimentation, using art, photography, written and spoken word.  The documentation of more recent projects followed a similar pattern, except for one key difference. The schools of Reggio Emilio are now embracing technology as a tool for learning and artistic expression.  This is not a piecemeal attempt to use technology to teach concepts, but rather a way of using new ways of investigating and deepening knowledge and curiosity, that were not possible before. They have fully embraced it as one of the hundred languages.

Take for example, investigations that occurred during the building of the Malaguzzi centre. The children were taken into the space. They ran and danced around the pillars, making patterns of movement. They were then invited to design their own pillars.  Once the designs were completed, they were projected onto a large screen containing an image of the Malaguzzi centre. The children saw,  that in the image of the Malaguzzi centre, some of the pillars looked smaller than the others. “Were they smaller?” they asked, “or did they just appear that way?” The children’s pillars all looked the same size when they were added to the image, so they used Photoshop to shrink some of the images and make a realistic picture. I have often seen images of how the Reggio schools use projectors to aid learning but the addition of computer technology added a whole new angle to the learning.


In another project, the children were fascinated by the sound their feet made on the metal stairs.  They decided to give the gift of sound to the stairs. To achieve this, they tested ways to make different sounds by changing shoes and using a variety of movements.  The sounds were then recorded.

The children decided how they might be able to annotate the individual sounds and used the symbols to create a sequenced map of sound. The children drew a picture of the steps and scanned it into the computer.  Using music software, they added individual sounds to each stair to create their desired sequence.

I love the way these projects can take an idea further than they ever could before. In the past the discussion and investigation would have been similar, representation in art would also have been used, but it would not have been possible to make a working model.

Many educators would uphold the Reggio approach as an example of why technology isn’t necessary in early education. Yet, when it is used as one of the hundred languages, it enriches the learning experience without reducing creativity, curiosity or discussion.

It makes me feel sad that schools are often encouraged and expected to use technology more in the classroom, but I rarely see it used in a creative or enriching way.  I mostly see teachers using screens to impart knowledge or show examples.  I have never seen teachers use music software to investigate the science of sound, use photoshop to create art projects or see it in any way as a tool for the children. It has certainly made me contemplate how we might ‘play’ with technology at home too.

The Wonders of Learning is in Boston until November 2018. Then it will move to Maddison WI.


Home Preschooling – Doing it My Way

blocksThis year I am home preschooling my 2 youngest, not something I ever thought I would find myself doing but my reasons for making this choice can be found in a previous post Why I am Home Preschooling my Children.

I get a mixed reaction from people, some give me a glazed expression as if to say really? Can’t you just send them to preschool like the rest of us?  Others wonder why on earth I would want to. Some look at me as if I am some kind of Supermum and others as if I am denying my kids a normal social life.  Some however, just want to know how it all works and what exactly I do with them – this post is for you.

It really isn’t rocket science, I don’t follow a rigid schedule and  home schooling allows us loads of flexibility. My 5-year-old said today

I’m glad we are doing your preschool because it means we can go to the zoo whenever we want.

It isn’t entirely without structure though – I plan for the learning environment and have a timetable .  I suppose it is a little like having a plan for how you spend time with your children. It isn’t an academic preschool, we play and explore together, sometimes they play alone and we share interests, questions and ideas.

What about interaction with other children?

One day a week we have no preschool the girls go to ballet class, meet with friends and help me with normal everyday things like grocery shopping.

large blocks
Building a mountain with the large blocks.

Two days a week we attend a local membership based playspace, it’s a little like a toddler group in the UK except that it is a purpose-built space and is open all day. Some  of the music and language games we play at home don’t work very well with only 2 children  so I run music and movement, craft, sensory play or storytelling sessions here which gives us an opportunity to do activities in a larger group.  The rest of the time I allow them to free play but take their learning diaries to record what they may be interested in or achieving  in a different context.  The girls get chance to play with other children and use different materials than those we have at home.

The other 2 days are home based but sometimes we will use one of them to go out on a trip.


visual timetable)One of the things I have disliked about many preschools is the rigidity of their schedules.  There seemed to be little time for the children to become absorbed in a project or flexibility about what they might do each day.  I did however feel it was important to have some schedule in place.  I created a visual timetable using printed symbols.  Certain symbols are always present – Snack, lunch, free play and others I add in based on what we might do that day.  The symbols can be moved around and often if we don’t have time for an activity I move it to the bottom of the timetable to be saved for next time.  Sometimes I let the children plan the timetable  although they don’t exactly have a realistic understanding of time so we usually end up with far too many activities to get through in one day. It is also a really good way of regulating screen time, this usually goes into the timetable for after lunch followed by outdoor choosing time and if they ask for it earlier in the day I point them to the timetable. I’m surprised at how well the timetable works , the girls really respond to it and look forward to knowing what they are doing next.

How we Plan

observation into planning

I plan, building on the children’s interests to provide next steps in their learning.  If I observe the children following consistent patterns of play, enjoying particular materials or asking questions, I record them and consider what I might plan next to enable the children to use this skill or interest in a different way or to extend their learning further.  For example, my  youngest daughter has just learned to cut with scissors and loves to  snip paper into tiny pieces.  She also loves gluing so I suggested they use the pieces to make a collage. As an extension to this we are going to look at pictures of mosaics for further inspiration and play with wooden pattern tiles. Only having 2 children to observe means that their learning experiences can be truly individualised in a way that might not be possible in a bigger setting.


Planning for the Learning Environment

environment planning

In addition to this I also have a plan for the environment.  How often this changes is fairly flexible. Using  information from the observation into planning, I might decide to include particular materials with the sand or water, put a particular craft activity out, lay out particular toys, set up a new role play area or display materials in a certain way. For example the girls were playing cafes at the play centre so at home the next day I gave them  notebooks to take orders and a chef’s hat.  I laid the table and I was the customer. This also allowed them to build on some of their other current interests like emergent writing and playing picnics. Sometimes we may just try something new and see if they like it and how they play with it – they are usually good at making suggestions as to what we might do next.

The Learning Environment

There are certain materials I like to always have available to the children

  • sand (outside)
  • water (outside)
  • craft materials
  • paper and pencils
  • books
  • loose parts
  • construction
  • small world toys
  • role play and dressing up

In an ideal world clay and paint also but this is a little messy even for me especially in the winter when we don’t use outside as much.

All these materials however are difficult to manage. I have recently reorganised our playroom but I still feel that there are too many things on view.

It isn’t as easy to have the environment you would like when it is your own home but I’m constantly re-evaluating how we display things and adding new ideas to the outside area.

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Toddler Takeover @At-Bristol

watering cans
I’ve had a really fabulous day out with my 2 year old and her friend at the bi-monthly Toddler Takeover at At-Bristol.  At-Bristol is an interactive science centre with over 300 hands on exhibits.   The Toddler Takeover is a themed day targeted at the under 5’s.   The theme for today was ‘Come Rain or Come Shine ‘.  I’ve been impressed by the amount of exhibits that my 2 year old can enjoy when visiting with her older sister in the past.  There are 2 under 8’s areas that are always available .  A role play airport including a cockpit where the children can fly a plane, passport control, luggage and an x-ray machine and a hostess trolley.  When my eldest was 4 we spent most of the session playing here.playing airports  The other has an animal theme and includes a tunnel, dressing up, storytelling and a sticky spider’s web game where the aim is to throw bugs at it to try to make them stick in the web.


I once saw a superb storyteller in this area so was disappointed to have missed the storytelling session today.

As our children were under 3 we only had to pay for the adults therefore the day was good value for money.  In addition to the usual exhibits, there were a number of theme based activities  designed with the under 5’s in mind.  These activities were on the whole well thought out and there was a mixture of child directed hands on activities and more structured adult directed activities.  Some of the activities involved making an end product – a windmill or weather wheel and some were more exploratory such as musical instruments that made weather sounds, pretend snow and water play.  These were suitable for even the youngest children and each of the exhibits included a list of  suggested questions and discussion points .

There were a lot of staff helping the children to make the most of the exhibits including a number of volunteers.  Some staff were better at engaging the children that others but in all I felt that the level of supervision was excellent.

For an extra 50p the children could watch a show in the planetarium.  This was very interactive and visual and at about 15 minutes short enough to keep the children’s attention.  It may have been better presented by someone with experience of working with large groups of under 5’s but he managed to keep the interest of most children.

My little one enjoyed running through the lights best of all and is looking forward to returning with her sister so that they can do it together.

playing with light

We had a lost child incident whilst we were there and would just like to commend the staff for the efficient way that this was dealt with.  The child had wandered from the cafe to the main exhibit area.  When  staff  observed that he was without an adult, 4 members of staff  kept in close contact  without approaching him directly, so as not to alarm him. When reporting the lost child the reception staff immediately alerted all the other staff and the child was found .

On a practical level there are a number of baby change areas and buggy parks throughout and a picnic area where you can sit and eat your own food.  The cafe has its own small play area so the children can play whilst you have a coffee break. Parking is on the expensive side but park and ride or public transport are an option.

As an added bonus to the day out, outside At-Bristol there are a number of water features that on sunny days become a great place for children to splash about in.


My only real suggestion for improvement is that there could have been better signage from outside that the event was going on . I’ll definitely be recommending this to my friends and am looking forward to the next one.

At-Bristol is also a great place to visit with older children too, my 7 year old wants to go tomorrow and is disappointed that she couldn’t come with us today. ‘I want to play with the fake snow’ she said when she found that it was only available for the toddler session.