Kangaroo Paw Learning Story

As an experienced educator, Mellissa was confident in the first process of information literacy, finding, and regularly incorporating words such as “investigate” and “research” into her discussions with children. What she had considered less, however, was the element of evaluating and applying the information that the children found or sourced.

Read the following learning story to see Digital Play for relational information literacy in a real-world setting.

Choosing a name for next year’s group of children

This journey begins with children at a Kindergarten centre engaged in the process of choosing a name for next year’s group of children.

The Queensland kindergarten learning guideline (QKLG) discuss the ways children thrive when they take an active role in their learning. With this in mind the learning intent was to encourage the children to think about the elements of kindergarten that were special to them and could be incorporated into the class name. The children collaborated and shared their ideas and decided to choose a name from amongst the native flora in the kindergarten garden.

The process of naming was facilitated by the class teacher and begins by showing the children pictures of native plants from the garden. After some discussion and collaboration a verdict is reached between two plants and it is decided to take a democratic vote.

The children are encouraged to record and share their findings on a whiteboard. As each child casts their vote a magnet was placed under the column of their chosen native plant. It was unanimous next year’s kindergarten group would be “Kangaroo Paw”.

Teaching Point

The choosing of this native plant led to a learning experience where the children were able to make links between their ideas and experiences, collaboratively investigate, explore and jointly construct new ideas about the native flora within their garden via the use of digital technologies. Through digital technology and targeted pedagogical practices the teacher encouraged curiosity, investigation, problem solving and collaboration.

In the QKLG, emphasis is placed on children being active learners and using technology to support effective communication, creative thinking, to support investigations, to source information and to engage in research. These elements are seen throughout the learning story.

Outdoor learning in a digital age

This learning experience is set outdoors. It begins with the educator using questioning to link to children’s prior knowledge and ideas by reflecting on a previous conversation about the naming of the Kangaroo Paw and the native plants in the garden.

To connect to their previous experience they begin by looking at a photo of the plant from their garden and are reminded that they chose kangaroo paw as the name for the following year’s kindy class.

The children are encouraged to notice what the plant looks like and are urged to explore the garden in order to find the kangaroo paw from the photo.

Using digital documentation of children’s learning, for example, exploring the garden for native plants, was an effective way to link children’s previous learning experiences and use this as a stimulus for new learning.

This supports the Early Years Learning Framework’s concept of Belonging as children connect with their world, and the concept of connectedness for learning and development in the Queensland Kindergarten Learning Guideline.

Garden exploration

The children explore the garden and are encouraged to collaborate and share their ideas and discoveries in their pursuit of the same coloured and textured plant they see in the photo.

The children use all of their senses as they search, they are looking and feeling as they observe the plants and comments such as “No.”; “Can’t see anything?” are heard. In one child’s pursuit you can hear him share his knowledge of the other parts of the garden “We’re growing carrots aren’t we?”.

This exploratory experience encouraged the children to collaborate, investigate, share ideas and problem solve through the use of their senses.

The discovery

After some time of searching, the teacher encourages the children to keep looking and eventually the children find the kangaroo paw but encounter a problem.

The children and educator look closely at the photograph and the plant to check the features are the same. She acknowledges that although some features of the plant are the same there are major differences to the photo taken at the start of the year.

The teacher models thinking strategies and says “I wonder why it’s not that colour? Have you got any ideas?”.

Through this process the educator invites children to draw on their own ideas which promotes critical thinking and problem solving. Posing questions challenges the children to hypotheses as to why this happened. The children happily offer up their ideas “it died”; “because it hasn’t rained for a long time”; “maybe it’s the bee’s that come?” there are suggestions to take another picture “how about we take a picture of it now?”.

This is where the educator becomes purposeful in bringing in the use of digital devices.

Asking the children to theorise, supports both the EYLF and QKLG notions of children being active, curious and investigative learners.

Digital Play 3C Questioning Framework

At this point, the Digital Play 3C Questioning Framework for Relational Information Literacy, designed for educators to support children in order to develop information literacy practices, comes into play.

In the 3C Questioning Framework, relationally information literate practices include Connect, Contest and Create.

Making connections and asking Questions

With the intent of building the children’s emerging interest and bringing in digital devices, the educator poses the question “is there a way we can find out?”. This challenges the children to become critical thinkers and problem solvers and make decisions about their own learning.

The children suggest different ways to explore why the kangaroo paw plant is brown, including drawing the plant or looking at it with a magnifying glass.

Rather than dismissing these ideas the educator extends the children’s thinking and encourages them to investigate by using different methods for information gathering, acknowledging that information can be found from many sources. She encourages them to think about what they do when they want to find out information or when they do their research. One child then makes the suggestion to look it up on the computer.

Here the children are already engaging in information literate practices of finding information. As they are doing this in a relational and contextual way for them, their learning is engaged in meaning making practices. For example, if the children had drawn the plant or looked at it under a magnifying glass, information would have been gathered around possible causes for the plant to go brown, such as an insect.

The children also suggest investigating using the search engine, Google. It was evident that the children were already used to finding information in this way when they suggested they could look it up on the computer.

These activities promote children to take active roles in their learning and help support children to make meaning of information in a relational way.

Checking information

Checking information

Next up we see the educator and the children collaborate and decide on a question to use to solve their query and examine the results.

The educator models the use of the device and demonstrates the input of the search question, after the search she reads out the information displayed and evaluates it with the children. She thinks out loud and mentions there is not much information related to their exact query which is about the kangaroo paw turning brown. The teacher suggests they need a different question and acknowledges that asking a different question may change the information they receive.

This way of modelling the use of technology helps the children to understand how they can effectively engage with digital devices and evaluate the information presented. With the teachers guidance the children share their ideas and knowledge and devise a new question which is inputted into the search field.

Applying the information

In the final process of this learning experience the children are viewing the previously taken image of the Kangaroo Paw on the TV screen.

Through this process the educator continues to make connections to their ideas and experiences and is extending their learning. This is evident as she provides opportunities to create new knowledge by offering a chance to explore, imagine and recreate with their own choice of materials.

This final process also supported the children’s agency as she linked back to the children’s initial request to draw and paint the Kangaroo Paw.

Digital Play 3C Questioning Framework

The learning experiences might be extended further by introducing the process of reflection and refining to create new knowledge around the kangaroo paw and native plants in nature in general.