A mother holds the hand of her child while another child watches a large screen. They are silhouetted against the vibrant colours of the screen. Photo: Paul Jones

Early Start’s Festival of Digital Play focuses on opportunities and challenges for technology

Early Start’s Festival of Digital Play focuses on opportunities and challenges for technology

Families encouraged to come along for a day of play with digital-themed activities

The role of technology and data in children’s lives will be in the spotlight tomorrow (Tuesday 7 March) when the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Early Start Discovery Space and the Children’s Technology Play Space hosts the Festival of Digital Play.

Hosted by Early Start and the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child, the inaugural event is a family-friendly day of play and research focused on the changing digital space.          

Children and their families from across the region are invited to take part in the Festival of Digital Play, which will include a range of fun experiences informed by current research from the Centre.

The day will add a digital twist to the Discovery Space program (including multimodal story time and digital art), Digital Playgroup sessions in the Children’s Technology Play Space (including augmented reality, digital microscopes and robot play) and many other pop-up experiences (including The Great Discovery Space Treasure Hunt, Making Music, a vox pop, digital toys and many more).

All activities will be co-facilitated by Discovery Space educators and Early Start researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child, the world’s first dedicated research centre to create positive digital experiences for children from birth to the age of eight. UOW is one of six research institutions involved in the centre. 

Professor Lisa Kervin, Director of Research at Early Start and a Chief Investigator in the Centre of Excellence, said the Festival of Digital Play would celebrate the opportunities of technology for children’s play and education while at the same casting a critical lens on how it impacts children’s lives.

“In contemporary society, digital literacy is incredibly important to the lives of children and their families. The digital space is rapidly changing, and it can feel overwhelming, as the adult in a child’s life, to stay ahead of each development. Technology presents immense opportunities but at the same time, we must learn how to safely navigate the challenges that technology also brings to young lives,” Professor Kervin said. 

“The Festival of Digital Play is a unique initiative that brings together play and research, with activities that will appeal to all ages and interests. The digital research space is rapidly changing, and this is a great way to support, engage and connect with children in a relaxed and fun environment.

“It is also a wonderful way to share with the community all of the wonderful research expertise we have in the Centre as more than 15 of our researchers will work alongside educators in the Discovery Space. Together they have planned and shaped a wonderful range of digital experiences.”

Josef English, Manager of the Discovery Space, said the festival provides terrific opportunity to showcase research happening while at the same time making this research accessible to the Discovery Space community.

“We encourage all families to get involved with the Festival of Digital Play! This is a fantastic opportunity to play with a technological twist.”

The Festival of Digital Play is free to members of the Discovery Space but bookings are strongly encouraged. Casual visitors are also welcome to attend. Tickets are available via Eventbrite: https://www.earlystartdiscoveryspace.edu.au/whats-on/events/