How do parents influence the way a child perceives and uses a new tool like a camera?

When new folks hear my accent, they nearly always ask the same question; “do I like it here?” My answer is nearly always the same; I love the ice-cream, I’ve adjusted nicely to living outside a major city, and I absolutely adore having four true seasons. Specifically, I LOVE the Fall in New England. This love unearths an innate interest in photography and painting, partially because I have a desire to capture the contrasting colors of the Fall foliage.

My eldest use the camera to snap pictures of his Nona and flowers. This article considers how my actions of introducing a new tool might influence his creative journey.

I never act on these feelings. I worry they will lead to another thing; making me concerned about my capacity to learn the necessary skills needed to master another tool. A paint brush is a tool. A camera is a tool. To express my feelings of the Fall foliage, I will need to master these new tools.

This introduces the topic of this blog article, a tool like camera is something that either exists or doesn’t exist in our home or in our classroom. For those familiar with this concept, you’ll know I’m beginning to play around the edges of sociocultural theory, which includes investigations into how individuals interact with tools inside their environment. This includes how a learner perceives a tool, and how a learner is influenced by other people when using the tool.

My question for readers of this article is how do parents influence the way a child perceives and uses a new tool like a camera? I thought about this question when I gave my eldest a camera and asked him to take pictures of the Fall foliage. I think this question is also something to consider as we look into gifts for  Christmas!

You may also like – Photography and Creativity: What’s the Connection? 3 Question Interview with Photographer, Dan Kane

Photography and Creativity: What’s the Connection? 3 Question Interview with Photographer, Dan Kane

I’ve been amazed about his interest; he’s been snapping away, holding it like a pro, and even switching over lenses when he wants a close-up of a flower. This experience makes me think about the action of giving a young child a tool for the first time. To what extent does this experience influence their creative destiny?

There’s a whole bunch of things whirling around in my mind as I consider this question:

  • What is the relationship between our first access to a new tool and sociocultural theory? Is receiving the tool enough to set a child on their way? Or do they need mentorship to use the tool purposefully? If it’s the latter, will my inadequate photography skills make this experience irrelevant? I think not!
  • What about equity? I remember reading how Bill Gates was fortunate enough to gain access to a computer at a young age. Access to this tool (and environment) initiated a life-long curiosity for computers, which obviously contributed to his future success. What if he never received this experience? Would he still be as successful? Here’s another crazy thought – what if he had received the same experience, but a few years later?  
  • How does this relate to gifts for Christmas? Twenty years from now, will our child recall the moment they received an electric guitar for Christmas?
  • Finally, what if we have too many of these experiences when young? Might we reduce our focus of exploration on one single tool? In Malcom Gladwell’s book Outliers, he uses Beethoven as an example of what is known as the 10,000-hour rule. This is considered the approximate time it takes for an individual to master a set of skills at the necessarily level to produce majors changes within a field. What if we have a child who is destined to become Beethoven with a Piano, or Gates with a computer, but we keep giving them new things to try out that they never have an opportunity to put in the hours needed to master one single tool?

Clearly, I’m enjoying my Thanksgiving week and allowing my mind to wonder on a bunch of thought experiments. To conclude, I’ll simply say that my boy has enjoyed access to my old camera and has responded well to my inadequate mentorship. I’ve suggested he stay in auto settings for now and focus on capturing “interesting” images of the Fall foliage. However, I’ve given him complete creative liberty of what he chooses to photograph.

I’ll conclude on this – if he becomes the next Beethoven of photography, we can credit me as the parent who introduced him to this tool – right?

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Why parents should take a more active role in promoting multiculturalism at home

I’m busy. We’re all busy. We are all busy because we are parents, challenged with the daunting task of raising children. This is on top of all the other responsibilities we have in our lives, which might be our careers, managing the household, caring for a loved one, and in my situation, working on completing my doctorate program. I shared this information for two reasons; the first is because this is actually a social scholarship assignment that requires me to initiate a conversation via social media (hence the inclusion of references), and the second reason is because I’m about to suggest we parents take on another responsibility – taking a more active role in promoting multiculturalism at home.

SEE ALSO: Creativity Chit-Chat: I need more input Daddy

As we are busy, I thought I’d offer some context to multiculturalism and how I am approaching this subject as a white male raising three other white males, and then structure the article via a few simple questions so you can pick and skim the article if time is short.

What do we mean by multicultural?

My boys are learning that the Soccer World Cup is a big deal, and I have an expectation that they support England over USA
My boys are learning that the Soccer World Cup is a big deal, and I have an expectation that they support England over USA

When we talk about culture, we could be talking about a few different things. Rather than extend the article into another topic, let’s assume culture to be something that considers behaviors, actions, and beliefs commonly associated with a group (e.g., English culture, white culture, European culture, etc.) or a time period (e.g., 18th Century Culture) (Mason, 2014). Furthermore, let us agree that culture is something that changes and remains complex.  It is likely that we belong to multiple sub-groups associated with a culture (Mason, 2014), for example I am White; I am a White European; I am a White European Male; therefore, I most likely have behaviors commonly associated with being white, but also being of European descent, and of being a male. You see how complicated this can be… I’m going to stop…. The point is raising my boys to increase their awareness of cultural norms other than their own, is moving in the direction of promoting multiculturalism. Rather than perceiving events only from a White European Male, I want them to accept or even acknowledge that this perspective is unique perspective they offer, but it will be different when comparing an experience through another cultural lens.

Ultimately, I want my three boys to develop a capacity to expand their perceptions and understanding of the world beyond the single cultural lense of their upbringing.

What do we need to know as parents?

Pedersen (2000) explains that a major challenge to promoting multiculturalism comes from the fact that us humans like to see things almost exclusively from our perspective; so we measure difference based on how it relates to what we consider to be normal; we measure correct or incorrect behavior based on what our parents (or teachers) taught us was correct or incorrect behavior. Unfortunately, these “rules of the game” (p. 23) become our norm before we develop the cognitive capacity to reflect, compare and even challenge our expectations of the world and its inhabitants.

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Many learning theories, most notably Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, highlight how influential parents are when it comes to the upbringing of their children. They sit quietly, making observations of or actions and behaviors, they construct knowledge about their world from the questions they ask at the dinner table, to the conversations they hear on the ride up to visit their cousins. Ultimately, our children will “group into the intellectual life of those around them (Vygotsky, 1978, p. 88), and that means we need to consider how we are socializing our children to participate in a multicultural world (or reflect on whether we are unconsciously limiting their perception and judgment of the world to one cultural perspective only).

On October 31st we dress up for Halloween, and going trick or treating. I don't spend many time reflecting on the origins of Halloween, its just something I did as a child, and am passing along to my boys.
On October 31st we dress up for Halloween, and going trick or treating. I don’t spend much time reflecting on the origins of Halloween, it is just something I did as a child, and therefore something I expect my children to do as well. What other cultural habits am I passing along?

Why is this important?

There are many reasons why promoting multicultural awareness at home is essential; for a start, we shouldn’t assume that schools can tick every single box when it comes to sharing information about different cultures (which is particularly essential for me as my boys attend parochial school). We also need to recognize the influence we have over how our children are being socialized. For example, if I never engage in actions associated with preparing meals in the kitchen, and my boys only see their mother engaging in these actions, am I inadvertently, though my actions, passing on this cultural pattern to my boys? Might it develop into an expectation of all women? Likewise, as we celebrate religious and national events within our culture (i.e., Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.), what meanings do my children interpret from these events? For example, as an outsider living in the U.S., it seems that the meanings given to Thanksgiving have now assumed more of a celebration of Americanism, as opposed to honoring a historical event. Therefore, my boy’s interpretation of Thanksgiving feels very much connected to freedom, religion, and thankfulness for everything this great country has to offer, as opposed to its colonial routes. I am not suggesting I destroy their perspective of Thanksgiving, but when older perhaps I could ask them what Thanksgiving might mean for a Native American’s perspective, or help them avoid the conversation I often have to experience each year.

PERSON A: Do you celebrate Thanksgiving on the same day (I’m assuming this is because they know of a country to the North that celebrates Thanksgiving on a different day)

ME: No, we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving in England

PERSON A: Really, why?

ME: Because we’re not American

Ok, I’m not that harsh, I usually find a more respectful way to inform them that not everyone celebrates Thanksgiving.

SEE ALSO: Why parents have an important role to play in Media Literacy

Where might we start?

For this course, we are asked to read Joan Wink’s (2011), Critical Pedagogy: Notes from the Real World. What I’ve shared in this blog article would be referred to as a mess, and my challenge would be to identify something within the mess to address. I think a good starting place is to find ways to expose my children to other cultures, and then find ways to facilitate discussions through questions. For example, having them ask why I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, is an opportunity to expose them to the simple fact that Thanksgiving is part of American culture, and not something that should be expected outside of the Americas. Likewise, exposing my children to other cultural events could help generate questions about those events, and this might lead to exciting discoveries for me as well as my children. The key to promoting multiculturalism is raising my children to understand they will share likenesses and differences with people of other cultures (Pedersen, 2000); however, they must work hard to resist the temptation to limit their viewpoint and judgment to one perspective only.

For those interested, here’s a list of the citations used in the article above:

Mason, M (2014). Comparing Cultures.  In M. Bray, B. Adamson, & M. Mason (Eds.), Comparative education research: Approaches and methods (2nd ed., pp. 19-46). Hong Kong, China: Comparative Education Research Centre. 

Pedersen, P. (2000). The rules of multiculturalism. In A handbook for developing multicultural awareness (3rd ed.; pp. 23-41). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Pedersen, P. (2000). The rules of multiculturalism. In A handbook for developing multicultural awareness (3rd ed.; pp. 23-41). Alexandria, VA: American Counseling Association.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


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I like to write. I love to parent. So why not share the occasional weblog?

A random blog article for the few readers that stumble across my articles or graciously liked the DadsforCreativity Facebook page. I haven’t written for two years! My absence is not because I have lost ideas on what to write or even lacked motivation. DadsforCreativity simply found itself lower down the priority list that we all must construct to survive our busy lives as parents, professionals, and wondering humans.

In January 2017, my even busier wife gave birth to our third boy. Wow. She’s been either pregnant or nurturing babies for almost a decade. The little guy, of course, created a disruption and is now sitting on my lap as I write this article. He has a pacifier in mouth, a cuddly toy, and yes an iPad (bad Daddy!).

During this period, not only have I been adapting to life as a parent of three children under the age of seven, but I also produced my second education documentary (check it out here), collaborated on a supporting application that helps facilitate a conversation about the future of schooling (download iOS or Android), and started a doctorate so I know a little more about what I sometimes find myself talking about – education technology and changing schooling.

Here’s a clip from the documentary – Class of 2032: Schooling for a Digital Culture. Examining how children interact with YouTube speaks to the opportunity and challenges of learning in the digital age. 

I share this information because it helps add links to the projects online (always good from a digital marketing perspective), and more importantly to provide a statement on a change to how I will approach my future works on DadsforCreativity.

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My favorite thing is parenting. I love my role as a father, and it will be my greatest accomplishment. Therefore, I’m going to continue to write from that perspective, and use my blog as a creative outlet to share my thoughts, ideas, and feelings toward parenting and using technology in the home to nurture the type of skills that we value in our young.

Occasionally I might share a study or academic perspective that I think is particularly relevant for informal learning environments (e.g., the home), but I will NOT be applying APA or offering citations. These articles are not going to find their way into a journal, and perhaps my most important readers will simply be my three boys, and God willing my grandchildren, and great-grandchildren many many years from now.

I’ve realized I like to write. I love to parent. So why not share the occasional weblog?

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My Trip to the Imperial War Museum: Talking to your children about War

I’m on my annual vacation to London, the place of my birth and a city that I consider to be fantastic – especially for day trips out with the family. As always I take advantage of the brilliant museums that are on offer for FREE! This year I decided to take my two eldest boys to the Imperial War Museum to see tanks, rockets, and one Harrier Jump Jet that is currently hanging from the ceiling – this blog article is about how parents might respond to the curious minds of our little ones, and what I wish I had known prior to my visit and talking to your children about War.

My eldest had the opportunity to speak with someone who lived during WWII. This was a wonderful addition to the trip and gave him an opportunity to ask about schooling and whether he still had presents on his birthday (the answer was yes – but only one).

The blitz on London, war shelters, bombs, and tanks – it doesn’t take long for the curious minds of our little one’s to begin asking questions and making connections…

Eldest: ‘oooh Daddy, what’s that?’

Daddy: ‘that’s a rocket’

Eldest: ‘And what’s that’

Daddy: ‘that’s a bomb shelter’

Eldest: ‘why did people need bomb shelters?’

It wasn’t long until the bigger questions came my way – ‘Why did people drop bombs on other people?’ ‘Did this kill people?’, ‘Who were the badies and why did they want to drop bombs on them?’ the latter was particularly challenging!

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I wish I could say I responded to these questions successfully, but unfortunately I failed miserably and found myself encouraging more challenging questions that only dug deeper into the subject. After I returned home, I did some Googling on thought it would be nice to share some points I wish I had known prior to our visit.

See Also: Making Connections: ‘Daddy I need more input’

  1. Be Prepared, but don’t solicit – Given the media coverage of Syria or the occasional scaremongering that I think sometimes accompanies reports on North Korea or Iran, I think it’s helpful for parents to be prepared for some of the questions that might arise regarding War. One of the things I wish I had done was listen better, and respond to the question without expanding or introducing a topic. I probably introduced items that were too complex for a child of six. For example, I didn’t want my boy to perceive one particular country as the badie, so I found myself talking about the Nazi’s and this only confused him further. Ultimately, my desire to control the conversation meant that I didn’t afford myself the opportunity to see how he was processing the information and perceiving events from his perspective – and this is perhaps the main take away from my experience.
  1. Curious, Imaginative, and Sensitive Children will make connections – Making connections is a Creativity skill that we all value, but on this particular subject it will likely generate challenging questions. Again just be prepared and LISTEN more than you TALK. It’s important that we see ‘how’ and ‘what’ connections are being made with the information. We will then be more equipped to respond appropriately and avoid further confusion or untangle the weaves that they are making.
  1. Offer Love and Reassurance – When you engage in the conversation look them in the eye, get on their level, and offer them lots of hugs and kisses. If you feel the questions are getting too deep, I personally respond by saying ‘you’re too young to be worrying about these things’ but I always ask if he’s ok about me changing the subject and if he’s not I’ll take a few more questions.

I’m obviously still navigating through this topic so please feel free to offer some advice in the comments below. I also found a great article from the Guardian Newspaper that offers some suggestions on books/stories that help introduce the subject of war to children – or more specifically WWI. 


CE_FREEMOVIEV3FREE FILM on Creativity in Education

Creativity in Education: Exploring the Imbalance, is a documentary film that explores Creativity in education. The film is available on Amazon or can be access for free by simply commenting below or subscribing here.




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