Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Seeing the World from a Child’s Perspective

Author Bio: 

"Jennifer is a freelance writer with a passion for travel, baking, and all things cats. When she's not writing, she can be found exploring fascinating and exotic destinations with her husband and young daughter, or unsuccessfully trying to learn how to crochet."

The purpose of the camera has essentially gone full circle. Camera obscuras dating back to 5BC were primarily used for educational purposes – for the charting of solar patterns, for example – but for the past few decades, as they’ve been incorporated into the commercial sector, they’ve mainly been utilised by tourists cataloguing their travels, by parents creating memories of their children, and by students capturing their youthful misdemeanours.

Today, however, we’re starting to see cameras once again used for learning purposes; beyond the stunning photography of recent National Geographic expeditions, or the latest photography taken from space, there are numerous projects helping us make sense of our own lives, and that of our children. One recentexample is that of Surf Excel’s Kids Today project, which aims to discover more about how children learn through the use of camera equipment.

Early learning is a rather controversial subjecteven among child development experts – one that’s full of contrasting views and beliefs. Some believe that children learn by example, whereas others believe that natural progression and advancement is built in – something that’s with us from birth. Until now, there hasn’t really been the technology available to prove that one or the other is categorically correct – there hasn’t been anything which allows us to see the world through a child’s eyes, to learn more about how children learn new talents, learn social skills, or learn about the world in general.

To assist them with the project, Surf Excel commissioned the creation of a unique piece of equipment – the EyeView Camera – which gives us what we’ve been looking for: Essentially an insider's guide to how children learn. The camera, which fits around a child’s head much like a headband, films what kids see as they play, as they socialise, and as they rest. While, for example, GoPro cameras have enabled even amateur enthusiasts to capture real life as it happens – and have been particularly good for filming underwater and sports activities – finding something to suit rather than obstruct a child (which would interfere with the purpose of the project) required special consideration.

The smart design means that children can wear the camera without it impacting upon them – they can’t see it nor particularly feel it – so the images seen are, perhaps, the most natural images that can be taken of a world seen through children’s eyes. Beyond what this can tell us about learning and development, there’s a sense of scale, speed and challenge that static shots watching children play couldn’t have passed on – making the footage particularly fascinating.

With the EyeView camera, we’re starting to see more and more patterns in the way that children new skills and interact with the world around them. So far, the project has confirmed the idea that children’s learning revolves around the influence of their family and friends; time spent playing and socialising, and the ‘free’ time they’re allowed. Footage of kids learning by falling down, communicating with others, and repeating physical motions until they’re masteredthem, emphasises the importance of unstructured activities for a child’s development – alongside traditional, structured educational play – and reminds us of the utter persistence and easy fascination kids employ when dealing with the objects around them. Without the use of technology, what we understand about how children learn and their development would be much more speculative, and far less concrete. Technology such as the EyeView camera is making so much more possible than we ever thought.

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