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In the 21st century, it seems that digital play is an inevitable experience for young children. Studies have claimed that digital devices can support children’s learning (Falloon, 2013) in various areas, including literacy (Marsh, 2012), arts (Terreni, 2011) and mathematics (Jowett, Moore, & Anderson, 2012). A number of international scholars have investigated how digital technologies relate to children’s learning experiences at school, arguing that constructive digital devices (such as tablet computers, cameras and video recorders) may allow children to produce more creative content, from drawings to photos and films (Stephen & Plowman, 2014). However, the role of digital devices in educational contexts has not yet been fully investigated.

A two-day video-making workshop was conducted with nine participants (children aged 5–8; one boy and eight girls) as part of a summer programme in creativity and talent development in a government-subsidised university in Hong Kong. The sample was gathered based on a non-randomised convenience sampling strategy. During the workshop, the children were taught the following concepts: (1) cinematic language (such as zoom-in, long-take); (2) technical skills (such as the methods of operating a video camera); and (3) narrative skills (such as storyboard drawing).

‘The children were able to explore the professional video camera through epistemic play, and to use film language to share their toy-playing stories and produce their own videos through ludic play.’

This study adopted the digital play framework developed in 2014 by three educational researchers, Jo Bird, Yeshe Colliver and Susan Edwards, and the extension of this work by Bird and Edwards (2015). According to Bird, Colliver and Edwards (2014), epistemic play happens when children engage in exploratory activity while ludic play happens when children use an object to create innovative or imaginative play. The findings revealed that the children who participated were able to explore the professional video camera through epistemic play. Further, they were able to use film language to share their toy-playing stories and produce their own one-minute video through ludic play. Taking a case from this study as an example, Emilie (pseudonym, girl, aged five) drew a picture as a filming background for Elsa (the main character of a famous movie), with snow and a castle. She created a theatre in which Elsa could sing and dance. In epistemic play, Emilie tried to zoom in and zoom out without a clear intention. In ludic play, she was singing and manipulating the body of Elsa to perform pretend play about Elsa.

This study introduced digital play in the early years. The children’s ludic play experiences extended to creative play activities using props and cinematographic techniques that acquired in the workshop. In mastering the video camera, the children performed epistemic play and ludic play. These digital-based learning behaviours indicated a paradigm shift in early art education that children expanded the spectrum of such practices from fine arts to media arts. Children were able to make wise decisions in manipulating compositions, angles, colours and props to attain a certain aesthetic level for their video works. Meanwhile, this study uncovered the importance of media arts education in teacher training since the teachers who were not from a film arts education background lacked the subject matter to teach effectively in this specialised area. Finally, this study supplemented the existing digital play framework with additional indicators associated with learning to use video cameras through play.

This blog is based on the article ‘Video art as digital play for young children’ by Suzannie K. Y. Leung, Kimburley W. Y. Choi and Mantak Yuen, published in the British Journal of Educational Technology


Bird, J., Colliver, Y., & Edwards, S. (2014). The camera is not a methodology: Towards a framework for understanding young children’s use of video cameras. Early Child Development and Care, 184, 1741–1756. 430.2013.878711

Bird, J., & Edwards, S. (2015). Children learning to use technologies through play: A digital play framework. British Journal of Educational Technology, 46(6), 1149–1160.

Falloon, G. (2013). Young students using Ipads: App design and content influences on their learning pathways. Computers and Education, 68, 505–521.

Jowett, E. L., Moore, D. W., & Anderson, A. (2012). Using an Ipad-based video modelling package to teach numeracy skills to a child with an autism spectrum disorder. Developmental Neurorehabilitation, 15(4), 304–312.

Marsh, J. (2012). Children as knowledge brokers of playground games and rhymes in the new media age. Childhood: A Global Journal of Child Research, 19(4), 508–522.

Stephen, C., & Plowman, L. (2014). Digital play. In S. Edwards, M. Blaise, & L. Brooker (Eds.), SAGEe handbook of play and learning in early childhood (pp. 330–341). Los Angeles, CA: SAGE.

Terreni, L. (2011). Interactive whiteboards, art and young children. Computers in New Zealand Schools: Learning, Teaching, Technology, 23(1), 78–100.