COMMUNICATING ABOUT THE PANDEMIC IN EARLY CHILDHOOD: THE ALT-ER 2.0 PLATFORM
1 Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (ITALY)
2 Breda University of Applied Sciences (NETHERLANDS)
3 VIA University College (DENMARK)
4 Teachergaming (FINLAND)
5 Camera-etc (BELGIUM)
About this paper:
Conference name: 15th annual International Conference of Education, Research and Innovation
Dates: 7-9 November, 2022
Location: Seville, Spain
Abstract:The paper deals with the update of a digital platform which uses creativity and storytelling to support communication in early childhood regarding the Covid 19 pandemic. Over the past three years, literature has shown the changes that have occurred because of the pandemic have had a significant impact on children's lives: the interruption (or changes) in regular school life, changes in family life, and the limitations experienced in interactions with adults and peers have all impacted children's emotional and behavioral conditions and learning outcomes (OECD, 2021). Facilitating children’s communication regarding their experiences is fundamental because it helps them make sense of what they are living through, and of what they see, hear, and feel. Storytelling is a powerful tool because, from early childhood onwards, we use narrative creation and storytelling as a way of thinking, constructing stories, and creating explanations in our search to understand and make sense of the world (Worth, 2008). Emerging from a previous Erasmus+ action undertaken from 2016 to 2019, Alt-ER 2.0 represents continued efforts to make a clear and justified case for ICT and creative strategies to help young people in their learning and development. In the light of the above-mentioned effects of the pandemic, the Alt-ER 2.0 project has been working to enrich the platform developed within the first Alt-ER project iteration with new resources and materials aimed at triggering communications and narrative expressions on the pandemic. The Alt-ER platform was developed to enhance the efficiency of Early Childhood Education and Care, supporting children's development and motivation to learn through creativity and storytelling. The main resource of the platform is an app developed for parents and educators which triggers dialogues with children about a set of emotional and social situations. The app includes a set of animated scenes of everyday life (e.g. homesickness, brushing your teeth) that can be explored freely or selected on purpose by adults. Scenes are also endowed with dialogue options that can be activated when needed. The platform was also accompanied by a toolbox, that encompasses additional materials suggesting student-centred learning activities that can help promote socio-emotional development through creativity, agency, and collaboration. To adapt the platform to the new needs, the toolbox has been expanded with the goal of facilitating stop motion animation. This will take the platform from one that allows participants to make meaning by decoding the scenes presented, into one that allows participants to tell stories by creating short films, an important shift in the scope and dynamics of the project. The platform has been also updated with reference to the Covid outbreak and important concerns attendant to it, by having specifically dedicated scenes in the app. To this aim, the animated world has been expanded with situations dealing with the pandemic (e.g. hospital rooms, testing centre) and also social situations with characters more socially distant and wearing masks to stimulate specific learning activities about Covid-19.
 OECD (2021) Securing the recovery, ambition, and resilience for the well-being of children in the post-COVID-19 decade. OECD Publishing, Paris,
 Worth, S. E. (2008). Storytelling and Narrative Knowing: An Examination of the Epistemic Benefits of Well-Told Stories. Journal of Aesthetic Education, 42(3), 42–56.
Keywords: Early Childhood Education and Care, Information and Communication Technology, Storytelling, COVID-19.