Childhood in a digital age: creative challenges for educational futures

Craft, Anna (2012). Childhood in a digital age: creative challenges for educational futures. London Review of Education, 10(2) pp. 173–190.



The early 21st century is characterised by rapid change. Commentators note how permeating digital technologies engage increasing numbers of children, young people and adults as consumers and also producers. In the shifting technological landscape, childhood and youth are changing. Connectivity around the clock, with a parallel existence in virtual space, is seamlessly integrated with actual lives. Young people are skilful collaborators, navigating digital gaming and social networking with ease, capably generating and manipulating content, experimenting virtually with versions of their ‘social face’. They are implicit, inherent and immersed consumers. They are digital possibility thinkers posing ‘what if?’ questions and engaging in ‘as if’ activity. This paper seeks to theorise such possibility thinking in a digital, marketized age, using two competing discourses: young people as vulnerable and at risk; or alternatively as capable and potent. The former perspective imbues anxiety about the digital revolution; the latter embraces it as exciting and enabling. As education providers seek to re-imagine themselves, neither is sufficient. Local and global challenge and change urgently demand our creative potential and wisdom, recognising three further key characteristics of changing childhood and youth: pluralities, playfulness, and participation. Drawing from work with schools, the paper argues for co-creating with students, education futures through dialogue to nurture the 4 p’s: plurality, playfulness, participation and possibilities.

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