In a previous post, I have described a conversation I had with my colleague Jane Fleming, Ph.D. on culturally relevancy and children’s media. To help convey this message, in her presentations and upcoming book with Susan Catapano, Candace M. Thompson, and Sandy Ruvalcaba Carrillo, she talks about the balance of windows and mirrors in book collections and the need for children to have “more mirrors in the classroom.” This statement acknowledges both the opportunities that books have to present information about a subject in a new or different way and opportunities for children to see themselves in the content. So how does this translate into our use of interactive media and technology with young children?
The concept of seeing new media as “windows” has been increasingly a part of a larger conversation. Thanks to David Kleeman’s CynopsisMedia article “A New Window on Kids and Screen Time“, more teachers, parents, and people in the children’s media industry are starting to recognize how digital tools offer children another opportunity to learn, communicate, connect, and create. This idea is helpful when considering how to effectively and intentionally use and integrate digital tools into young children’s experiences whether its in school, at the museum, or at home.
But, what about the opportunities for new media to be “mirrors”? What are the options that children have to feel like they are represented? Last week, I spent time with 2 of my close friends who have been together for at least 10 years. They are a mixed heritage family – the husband is Czech and the wife is Mexican American. They have a toddler and have intentionally made both of their cultures a part of their daughter’s upbringing. This includes speaking to her in English, Spanish, and Czech, and finding ways to incorporate both of their cultural practices in their daughter’s daily experiences.
Recently, we have had more discussions about the use of technology and media with their daughter and the appropriate time for them to integrate new digital tools in their daughter’s life. While I am helping them think through which technology to use to support their daughter’s healthy growth, development, and learning, I’m increasingly wondering if there are “mirrors” for her in the terrain of interactive media and new technologies. What will I tell the mother and father when they ask me about recommendations of digital tools that reflect their daughter’s life experiences and culture? Beyond the use of creative tools, such as story creating apps, interactive whiteboards, and other constructivist tools, I’m curious if there are quality and appropriate apps, programs, media or any other form of software that allow her to see herself and her life?
While we are moving towards including more digital tools and interactive media in the classroom and in the home, we have to consistently ask ourselves if we’re providing a balance of windows and mirrors for young children. The work of Jane and her colleagues reminds us about the importance in culturally relevancy to support children’s learning and holistic growth and development. As early childhood professionals and parents, we need to create opportunities to work with one another along with app developers and children’s media designers to create more mirrors for children so that all children feel recognized and represented.