9 September 2021

Alone-Together: Exploring children’s material / digital / analogue engagements through intergenerational research during lockdown

This event was part of the Digital Child Seminar Series Engaging(socio)materially: Critical literacy, children and media. Watch a recording of the seminar below.

The ARC Center of Excellence for the Digital Child acknowledges the First Australian owners of the Lands where this seminar was recorded and the Lands where presenters and participants work, live and walk. We pay respect to their Elders, lores, customs and creation spirits. We recognise that these Lands have always been places of teaching, research and learning. The Centre acknowledges the important role Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people play within our communities.


Professor Jennifer Rowsell and Harriet Hand (University of Bristol) and Mark Shillitoe (International School Delft)


Chief Investigators Professor Annette Woods and Professor Michael Dezuanni


About the seminar

The 2020 pandemic forced teachers around the world to dramatically change how they organize pedagogical spaces for children. With a sudden movement online, children not only grappled with the precarity and uncertainty of COVID-19, but also, they adapted in short order to digital spaces and virtual learning. In these uncertain times, as researchers, we recognised a need to find ways to help children make sense of a world “already out of control” (Somerville & Powell, 2019).

Observing, documenting, thinking, and writing together across two contexts, we observed how children are entangled with objects and modes with little adult input other than occasional chats, reinforcements, and inquiries. In this year four classroom, Shillitoe has transformed his primary teaching context into a space where “serendipitous concurrences” (Burnett et al, 2020) happen, spark, and take flight. With the twists and turns into and out of lockdowns, as a primary educator, he moved from online teaching, back into the classroom, back online, and a return to ‘everyday’ in his classroom.

From February until May 2021, we found new ways to observe these steady unfoldings as sparks, flows, and pulses when children came to grips with what has taken place over a year. For this seminar talk, Rowsell will frame this exploratory and experimental research study within socio-material theory followed by a dialogic presentation between Hand and Shillitoe about our research creation activities and their implications for the notion of ‘the digital child.’

About the speakers

Harriet Hand has a background in developing art- and design-led projects that seek to improve people’s everyday experience of cities, working closely with communities and city stakeholder organistations. Within arts education, Harriet has worked in secondary, higher and further education settings as well as collaborating in community arts projects. Now studying as a PhD researcher at the University of Bristol, Harriet’ doctoral project explores the affordances of mapping as a generative and performative method for mobilising thinking among 16–18 year olds.

Jennifer Rowsell is Professor of Literacies and Social Innovation at University of Bristol’s School of Education in the United Kingdom. Her research interests include multimodal, makerspace and arts-based research with young people; digital literacies research; digital divide work; and, applying posthumanist and affect approaches to literacy research. Dr. Rowsell has worked and conducted research in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Her most recent co-authored books are: Living Literacies: Literacy for Social Change (MIT Press) with Kate Pahl and Maker Literacies and Maker Identities: Learning and Playing Through Modes and Media (Routledge) with Cheryl McLean. She is a co-editor of the Routledge Expanding Literacies in Education book series with Carmen Medina (Indiana University).

Mark Shillitoe is an experienced inquiry learning practitioner, researcher and maker currently residing at International School Delft, the Netherlands. His work invites learners to question, be critical and construct understanding through mixed media, material inquiry. He has practiced throughout Europe, combining his craft as an educator with a recent practice based research Master at the Piet Zwart Institute, Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam. His research explores how critical making and multimodal inquiry reveals thinking and creates unfolding opportunities to explore the relationship between technology and everyday life. His practice is reflected through emerging experimental humanities, inquiry learning, critical making, DIY subcultures and environmental exploration.