‘I wish I was small enough’, How could a green screen make this a reality? 

Image provided by Author

‘I wish I was small enough to go inside the house!’ (Audrey, age 4) 

Statements like this open the door to think differently about how children engage with technology. Why couldn’t they shrink and jump into or out of an imaginary world they may have thoughtfully constructed from blocks or boxes? Why can’t they insert themselves into a painting or newly crafted book? 

These wonderings can become a reality with green screen technology and simple apps like Green Screen by Do Ink. This is one way children can play with technology. Green screen technology can be a tool that illuminates the intersection of traditional and digital pedagogies. Being small enough to move inside a block building or a painting is achievable, now doesn’t that sound like fun? 

But isn’t this adding to a child’s screen time? The short answer is yes… However, this kind of time on a screen is interactive and open-ended. It promotes curious engagement and invites others to share or contribute to the movie-making process. It stimulates children’s creativity and explores the possible, insisting that children become producers, not simply consumers, in a multimedia landscape. 

How do you start? Wait for the magic moment. A question or idea proposed by the children will often be the spark that ignites a sense of wonder. Educators who observe closely and listen intently can respond with the right provocation. How might this idea become visible? Ann Pelo, renowned teacher, consultant and author would remind educators to match the materials to the question and green screen technology could allow children to be researchers, theorists, authors, and actors.  

The practice of representing and re-representing an idea or experience using art media and digital technologies often sparks a transformation of children’s thinking (Pelo, 2017)  

‘A child can give an idea form by drawing, painting, sculpting, or building it. In doing so, she begins to clarify her ideas; she considers details and wrestles with inconsistencies. When her idea is visible, other children and adults can engage with it, thinking with her about its nuances and complexities, its gaps and incongruities.’ (p. 245) 

Educators must then know how a green screen works and be ready with the right technology tool to match the question. This is a slow process with an aim of ‘joining our attention to the children’s attention’ (Pelo, 2018, p. 245) to show a commitment to inquiry and thinking. 

Before you start creating any movie, draw on 21st Century foundational literacies—core literacy and numeracy skills—and create a draft or outline of the story the child wants to tell. An initial story draft leaves space for re-calibration and encourages reflection and revision. Revise and revisit this draft often. 

You can’t green screen alone, you need cameramen and a crew of filmmakers and actors to work with you. Making a movie can only be done with collaboration and communication, two 21st Century competencies identified by the World Economic Forum. Children also need an interested and attuned adult to walk alongside them, supporting them to utilise critical thinking and problem-solving skills and trusting them to co-design their own learning. 

Start with reality and add the digital to create a new world only possible when the digital and traditional languages are used together. The result can be so much fun but listen closely and go slowly. Make sure the movie that is made draws on the child’s vision and guard against hijacking children’s thinking. 

What does a green screen look like? A green screen is a screen made of a specific shade of green—Hex colour value #00b140. This specific shade of green is the colour furthest away from human skin and the most common colour used for green screening. Your green screen size will depend on the size of what you want to put into your story. If you want to put a person into the story, all the person needs to fit onto the green screen. This means the screen works best if the person can stand on the green screen and have the green screen behind them. A screen made of green fabric makes a sustainable and economical choice. Sometimes you might need two. 

If you want to start green screening with small objects, like Lego or small toys, a green screen could be made from a cardboard box. Line the base and back of the box with green paper. Add a lamp for lighting. Does this make a difference? Shadows are the enemy when green screening, so try to avoid them. 

Do you really have to pay for the app? The paid app comes with greater functionality and importantly, no advertising. In 2023 the app costs under eight dollars and can promote hours of creativity and thinking.  

Braiding traditional pedagogies, like blocks and drawing with digital tools like green screening offers a whole new dimension of play. This invites complexity as children are asked to complicate their play—to expand, explore and experiment with the new. It supports lifelong learning and helps build persistence and grit, qualities that are necessary to make an idea a reality. It becomes an opportunity for children to enter a digitally augmented world. The complement of traditional and digital pedagogies creates space for children to play with possibility, explore big ideas and create grandiose plans. It is a place for creative thinking and imaginative pursuits. A place that welcomes educators as co-thinkers and theorists, and playful collaborators. 

ECA recommends: Technology and digital media in the early years: Tools for teaching and learning

By Chip Donohue

Technology and digital media in the early years offers early childhood educators, professional development providers, and early childhood educators in pre-service, in-service, and continuing education settings a thought-provoking guide to effective, appropriate, and intentional use of technology with young children.

Laure Hislop

Laure Hislop is a member of the Learning and Development Team with KU Children’s Services. An advocate for learning opportunities that enable the braiding of traditional experiences with digital affordances, Laure promotes children’s engagement with digital initiatives that both complement and sustain children’s capacities as thinkers and theorists, problem makers and solvers.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top