Ryerson University

School of Graduate Studies

Early Childhood Studies

Course Outline

Semester/Year:                       Summer 2009

Course Code:                          CS8932

Course Name:                         Children, Learning and Play

Where:                                    KHE118A

Instructor Name:                    Alexandra Bal, Ph.D.

Class Sessions:                                               Monday and Wednesday 6-9

Office Hours:                          RCC321, Monday and Wednesday,4-5

Telephone:                              416-979-5000 ext. 6880

E-Mail Address:                     abal@ryerson.ca

Fax Number:                           416-979-5139

Web:                                       https://cs8932.wordpress.com/

Catalogue Description / Introduction

This course will critically evaluate the role of technology in the lives of children. Ideally computers and online technologies are tools for putting people in touch with people and the objects they create. However, much of the technology designed for children without sufficient investigation as to how children conceptualize technology in the context of constructivist and constructionist theories of learning. Traditional learning theories have not kept pace with new technologies, and as a result, much of the content developed for online learning does not take into account either the advantages of the new technologies, or the development of children’s thinking as a result of the dramatic increase in computer-mediated experiences. This course will explore learning technologies as they relate to children from a variety of perspectives. We will consider how technology is used in formal and informal learning environments, as well as the variety of interactions children typically have with technology through the consideration of children’s theories of learning, children’s software, technical production with children (learning by doing, and performative learning).

Weekly Topics & Required Readings

Each class (listed below) will engage students in topical discussion of:

  1. Wednesday May 13th: technology and play: what are we really talking about?  (Pausch)
  2. Wednesday May 20th: Pappert’s constructionism  & the importance of play (Ginsburg; Maxwell)
  3. Monday May 25th: the history of e-learning & millennial children (Harasim; Pensky 2008)
  4. Wednesday May 27th: understanding our goals as educational thinkers: the pedagogy of technology & meaningful learning (Nolan and Weiss; Jonassen)
  5. Wednesday June 3rd: children’s software: edutainment and prosumers, social Constructivism and Open Source Education (Ito 2004, 2005, 2006; Bal, 2008; Eijkman or Warmoth)
  6. Monday June 8th: serious gaming and children as content creators (De Castell; Prensky forthcoming)
  7. Wednesday June 10th: learning technologies: robots, social networking and imaging (Bers; Khan; Sharples)
  8. Monday June 15th: cyberpedagogy: programming as play with Scratch (Prensky 2001; Prensky 2008; Luke)
  9. Wednesday June 17th: technology multi-cultural and developing environments: OLPC, Songchild.org, and the JhaiPC (Nolan (forthcoming); Hamm; selected web sites)
  10. Monday June 22nd: supporting autonomous learning and inclusion  (Illich; Treviranus)
  11. Wednesday June 24h: the digital divide, ethnicity and cultural issues (Nakamura; Nolan & Levesque; Levesque 2005)

The selection and order of topics and readings will be decided based on discussions in the first class as we unpack our ‘taken for granted’ assumptions about learning and technology, our prior experience and knowledge regarding technology and play as it relates to children. The readings will be taken from the bibliography (students will be given electronic copies of most texts, though photocopies may be provided), and all students will be expected to complete 1-2 readings for each class and be prepared to speak and contribute to the class discussion based on their understanding of the readings.

Learning and Evaluation Objectives

Teaching, learning and evaluation will provide students with the opportunity to:

  • Read and discuss selections from the scholarly literature related to weekly topics;
  • Share relevant experiences with your classmates and learn from their experiences;
  • Read beyond the prescribed selections to satisfy personal learning goals and pursue personal interests;
  • Write a response to a selection from the scholarly literature;
  • Facilitate/contribute to and lead class discussions;
  • Articulate and defend positions on issues related to children and technology in formal or informal learning environments;
  • Critique and support the appropriate use of computers, information technologies and learning tools in early childhood education and informal learning environments;
  • Critically review the role of technology and knowledge media in education, and the role that technology plays in education and the broader society;
  • Synthesize course material and critical reflection and research through the major research paper and reflective journaling into a demonstrable understanding of how knowledge media can be integrated into the child’s world in a meaningful manner.


Assignment                                                   Percentage       Due (suggested)

Annotated Bibliography                             15                June 3rd

Discussion Leader/Participant                     15               various

Critical dialog                                              15                various

Auto-ethnography blog                                15                June 24th

Major Paper                                                 40                June 24th

Total                                                                 100

The annotated bibliography will hopefully lead into the discussion leader and/or the major assignment paper and allow students to explore the literature beyond the course readings. Five items will be required in the bibliography. Students will be provided with a model length and format for producing annotations, and how to précis an article will be discussed at length in class 5. Evaluation will be based on how well the assignment conforms to the model. An excellent evaluation will be error free. Good evaluation may have minor errors in format and completeness of the précis, but will otherwise successfully engage with the articles at a graduate level.

As discussion leader, students will be expected to be sufficiently prepared to facilitate small group discussion on the weekly readings based on the format(s) discussed in class. The discussion leader is not making a presentation, but will be expected to guide the conversation, be fully familiar with the text, and be ready to ‘keep the conversation going’. All students are also expected to be supportive, prepared and present participants in all discussions and classes. Evaluation will be predicated on the preparation of the discussion leader, familiarity with the text, ability of the discussion leader to facilitate understanding of peers of the issues and ideas, and to maintain a lively discussion. Participation in discussions lead by others will also be factored into this mark.

For the critical dialog, students in pairs of two will discuss the advantages and problems posed by the ideas of the readings to technological learning. One student will have to focus on the advantages and the second student will focus on the problems. Both students will develop their arguments for or against the use of these ideas by showing examples of specific applications. Areas that students are to research include, but are not limited to, Social Media, Virtual Worlds, Open Source Educational Software, Commercial Educational Software, Games (physical and virtual).

The autoethnography blog will be composed of one entry (approximately 250 words) per class discussion. In the end, a compilation of the entire blog should be approximately 2500-3000 words in length. This technology Autoethnography blog gives you a chance to reflect on your relationship to technology. The process is designed to help you understand how you learn new technologies, and by extension, how you cope with technological impasses (those moments when things don’t work as planned). To become a better writer, it helps to understand your experience with technology so that as you gain more experience, you will bring a critical eye to bear on the opportunities and challenges of writing in the new media. Please see the file Technology Autoethnography Paper.doc for more information

The major paper will take the form of an approximately 5000 word paper that represents a formal academic critical exploration of one of the themes and/or topics taken up in class. Students will be expected to go beyond the course readings and show that they have made a significant contribution to their own understanding of their chosen topic. It is expected that students discuss topics with the instructor and peers, and bring up questions regarding the assignments in the class period. The basic format would be a paper suitable for an academic peer reviewed journal that would address issues of children, technology and play. Evaluation will be based on how well the paper is able to model the style and format of a paper that can be submitted to a peer reviewed journal. Students are invited to bring in copies of previous successful papers for discussion.

Required Course Readings

Bal, A. (2008). Communities of praxis: the SL and OLPC components of a mixed-reality primer. IR 9.0 – Rethinking Communities, Rethinking Place, Copenhagen. Retrieved May 11th, 2009 from http://imagearts.ryerson.ca/abal/pr/olpc_abal.pdf

Bers, M. (2007). Positive Technological Development: Working with Children, Computers and the Internet. MassPsych (51)1. Pp. 5-19. Retrieved July 2, 2008 from http://ase.tufts.edu/devtech/publications/masspsych.pdf

De Castell, S. and Jenson, J. (2006). Education, Gaming and Serious Play. In The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments. Weiss, J., Nolan, J., Hunsinger, J. & Trifonas, P. eds. The Netherlands: Springer Ferlag. [http://www.springerlink.com/content/wj7m1802v44168kg/fulltext.pdf]

Eijkman, H. (2004). Contingency, curriculum and solidarity: a social constructionist response to the academic divide in Australian Higher Education. Retrieved May 11th, 2009 from http://www.pesa.org.au/html/documents/2004-papers/Eijkman_PESA_%20paper%202004%20Contingency,%20curriculum%20and%20solidarity.doc

Ginsburg, K. (2007). The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child. American Academy of Pediatrics. Retrieved May 4, 2009, from http://www.aap.org/pressroom/playFINAL.pdf

Hamm, S., and Smith, G. (2008). One Laptop Meets Big Business: The big idea of giving PCs to poor children has been challenged by educators and business. Here, follow the misadventures of One Laptop per Child. Business Week, June 5, 2008. Retrieved June 26, 2008, from http://www.businessweek.com/print/magazine/content/08_24/b4088048125608.htm

Harasim, L. (2006). “A History of E-learning: Shift Happened. In The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments. Weiss, J., Nolan, J., Hunsinger, J. & Trifonas, P. eds. The Netherlands: Springer Ferlag. [http://www.springerlink.com/content/k7g58wtm11114811/fulltext.pdf]

Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling Society. New York: Harper Row. pp. 1-33. Retrieved May 4, 2009, from http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

Ito, M. (2004). “Mobilizing Fun in the Production and Consumption of Children’s Software.” In a special issue of The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science 2005 on Cultural Production in a Digital Age. Retrieved May 4, 2009, from http://tinyurl.com/5wt5uj

Ito, M. (2005). “Technologies of the Childhood Imagination: Yugioh, Media Mixes, and Everyday Cultural Production.” In Structures of Participation in Digital Culture. Retrieved May 4, 2009, from http://www.itofisher.com/mito/publications/technologies_of_2.html

Ito, M. (2006). Engineering Play: Children’s Software and the Cultural Politics of Edutainment. Discourse. Retrieved May 4, 2009, from http://tinyurl.com/5mufgx

Jonassen, D., Howland, J., Moore, J., Marra, R. (2003). Learning to Solve Problems with Technology: A Constructivist Perspective. Toronto: Pearson Education. p.p. 1-13.

Khan, J., and Bers. M. (2005). An Examination of Early Elementary Students’ Approaches to Engineering. Proceedings of the 2005 American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference and Exposition. American Society for Engineering Education. Retrieved July 1, 2008, from http://ase.tufts.edu/devtech/publications/kahn-bers-final.pdf

Levesque, M. (2005). Hacking as Play. Unpublished Video Lecture. (URL to be provided in class. For CS8932 students only. Please do not share it.)

Luke, C. (2006). “CyberPedagogy”. In The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments. Weiss, J., Nolan, J., Hunsinger, J. & Trifonas, P. eds. The Netherlands: Springer Ferlag. [http://www.springerlink.com/content/p4137nkw4w81t5g1/fulltext.pdf]

Maxwell, J. (2006). “Re-situating Constructionism.” In The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments. Weiss, J., Nolan, J., Hunsinger, J. & Trifonas, P. eds. The Netherlands: Springer Ferlag. [http://www.springerlink.com/content/h235783264q32463/fulltext.pdf]

Nakamura (2000). “Race In/For Cyberspace: Identity Tourism and Racial Passing on the Internet”. In The Cybercultures Reader, Ed. David Bell. London: Routledge. Retrieved July 2, 2008 from http://www.humanities.uci.edu/mposter/syllabi/readings/nakamura.html

Nolan, J. (Forthcoming). “Songchild.Org: Cultural Play In Open Access Children’s Music.” Toronto/Montréal/Lille: Together Elsewhere/Ensemble Ailleurs. Pierre Tremblay and Louise Poissant eds. [to be handed out in class]

Nolan, J., and Levesque, M. (2005). “Hacking Humans: Data-Archaeology and Surveillance in Social Networks”. In Nolan, J., & Hunsinger, J. eds. More of Us and Less of You: The Political Economy of Power in Narrative Virtual Communities. SIGGROUP Bulletin.  Volume 25, No. 2. New York: ACM. Retrieved May 4, 2009 from http://tinyurl.com/49lzc4 (must be on campus or logged into http://my.ryerson.ca)

Nolan, J., and Weiss. J. (2002). “Learning in Cyberspace: An Educational View of Virtual Community.” In Building Virtual Communities: Learning and Change in Cyberspace. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. P.p. 292-320.

Pausch, R. (2007). Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams. Video Retrieved May 4, 2009, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo (1 hour); Retrieved May 4, 2009, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9ya9BXClRw (10 min.)

Prensky M. (forthcoming). (Forthcoming). The Emerging Online Life of the Digital Native: What they do differently because of technology, and how they do it. Retrieved May 4, 2009, from http://tinyurl.com/aalvk

Prensky M. (2001). Fun, Play and Games: What Makes Games Engaging. Digital Game-Based Learning. Retrieved May 4, 2009, from http://tinyurl.com/6l3amq

Prensky, M. (2008). Backup Education: Too many teachers see education as preparing kids for the past, not the future. Educational Technology, Vol. 48 No 1. Retrieved May 4, 2009, from http://tinyurl.com/4a6o84

Sharples, M., Davison, L., Thomas, G., Rudman, P. (2003) “Children as Photographers: An Analysis of Children’s Photographic Behaviour and Intentions at Three Age Levels. Visual Communication, Vol. 2, No. 3, 303-330. Retrieved May 4, 2009 from http://tinyurl.com/5qy6n7 (must be on campus or logged into http://my.ryerson.ca)

Treviranus, J. and Roberts, V. (2006). “Inclusive E-learning.” In The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments. Weiss, J., Nolan, J., Hunsinger, J. & Trifonas, P. eds. The Netherlands: Springer Ferlag. [http://www.springerlink.com/content/j23w5p49h23500h8/fulltext.pdf]

Warmoth, a. (1998). Education and the collaborative construction of social reality. Retrieved May 11th , 2009 from  http://www.sonoma.edu/users/w/warmotha/awcollaborative.html

Optional Readings

Bers, M. (2007). Blocks to Robots: Learning with Technology in the Early Childhood Classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.

Crain, P. (2003). “Children of Media, Children as Media: Optical Telegraphs, Indian Pupils, and Joseph Lancaster’s System for Cultural Replication.” New Media: 1740-1915. Lisa Gitelman and Geoffrey Pingree (eds.). Cambridge, MIT Press. P.p. 61-80.

Haraway, D. (1984, 2006). “A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology and Social-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century.” In The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments. Weiss, J., Nolan, J., Hunsinger, J. & Trifonas, P. eds. The Netherlands: Springer Ferlag. [http://www.springerlink.com/content/u531k271421h4940/fulltext.pdf]

Levesque, M. (2006) Hacktavism: The How and Why of Activism in the Digital Age. In The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments. Weiss, J., Nolan, J., Hunsinger, J. & Trifonas, P. eds. The Netherlands: Springer Ferlag. [http://www.springerlink.com/content/l02u47w07137671v/fulltext.pdf]

Nakamura, L. (2002). “Cybertyping and the Work of Race in the Age of Digital Reproduction”. Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the Internet. New York: Routledge. P.p. 1-30.

Nolan, J. (2006). “The Influence of ASCII on the Construction of Internet-Based Knowledge”. In The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments. Weiss, J., Nolan, J., Hunsinger, J. & Trifonas, P. eds. The Netherlands: Springer Ferlag. [http://www.springerlink.com/content/g4338gx58r431x40/fulltext.pdf]

Sandvig, C. (2006). The Internet at play: Child users of public Internet connections. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11(4), article 3. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol11/issue4/sandvig.html

Smith, E. & Selfe, C. (2006) “Teaching and Transformation: Donna Haraway’s ‘A Manifesto for Cyborgs.’ and Its Influence on Computer-Supported Classrooms.” In The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments. Weiss, J., Nolan, J., Hunsinger, J. & Trifonas, P. eds. The Netherlands: Springer Ferlag. [http://www.springerlink.com/content/k6631773724t8961/fulltext.pdf]

Willett, Rebekah(2007)’Technology, pedagogy and digital production: a case study of children learning new media skills’,Learning, Media and Technology,32:2,167 — 181. Retrieved May 04, 2009 from http://pdfserve.informaworld.com/165813_770885140_778585527.pdf.

Zorn, I. (2005). “Do Culture and Technology Interact? Overcoming Technological Barriers to Intercultural Communication in Virtual Communities.”  In Nolan, J., & Hunsinger, J. eds. More of Us and Less of You: The Political Economy of Power in Narrative Virtual Communities. SIGGROUP Bulletin. Volume 25, No. 2. New York: ACM. Retrieved May 4, 2009 from http://tinyurl.com/49lzc4


Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association (2001). Fifth Edition. American Psychological Association.

Other Writing/Reference Materials

Other Materials

General Information

  1. Satisfactory completion and timely submission of all course requirements is required. Students should plan to organize their time so that they are able to spend the amount of time appropriate to a full term graduate course in this compressed time period. Assignment dates are firm. Assignments will not be accepted following the due dates except medical certificates or religious observation forms (below).  The maximum extension available is 5 days, unless specified in the medical certificate.



Letter Grade

Grade Point

Conversion Range

























Failed for Non-Attendance




Submitting Assignments

Written assignments will be submitted to the instructor during class meetings or office hours, unless prior arrangements have been made. Keep copies of your work. All work should be largely free of technical and formatting errors. Proofread, spell check, and grammar check all work. Writing errors will impact assessment. All written assignments are expected to be free of superficial writing errors, and all references in all assignments should conform to APA citation formats.

All work is due by June 24th, and may be submitted electronically. Work is expected on the dates given, however there will be no late penalties prior to June 24th . Work may be submitted early, and students are encouraged to bring drafts to class or when meeting with the instructor.

Students are directed to School of Graduate Studies policies and are reminded to adhere to all relevant Ryerson University policies, such as the Student Code of Conduct, set out in the Ryerson Calendar and the Graduate Student Information Guide. The following general policies supplement Graduate School policies: