Svein T. Heddeland

University of Agder, Norway

Digital Documentation Practices in ECEC

The aim of this study is to explore and describe ethical considerations in the on-going practice of visual documentation of children in early childhood education and care (ECEC) in a digital context. This study is based on the literature in the new sociology of childhood (Corsaro, 2005) which emphasises that children are competent and active agents, and the field of social semiotics (Halliday, 1978, van Leeuwen, 2005) to inform how early childhood practitioners use and make sense of visual documentation in preschools. To understand how the mutual relationship between technical objects, the natural environment and social practice I look to the field of Science, Technology and Society (STS) (Van House, 2011) and mediatization studies (Hjarvard, 2016). The theoretical and conceptual framework is structured as a critical discourse analysis (Fairclough, 1992) and draws on theoretical perspectives including visual grammar (Kress & van Leeuwen, 2006), pedagogical documentation (Taguchi, 1998), and ICT in ECEC (Stephen & Plowman, 2002; Bølgan, 2008).

The study is based on a social semiotic epistemology and adopts a qualitative research design using document analysis. The research was conducted in three Norwegian preschools. The data constructed consists of interview data (practitioners and parents) and multimodal texts that the early childhood practitioners shared online with parents for an entire year of preschool (210 multimodal texts including 2833 images). In the analysis I use the software UamImage-tool to annotate all 2833 images. Through the examination of the analytical categories vertical perspective, framing and salience, I will analyze how digital images of children in preschool convey certain representations and social interactions. This investigation will be useful in further discussion of children´s rights and autonomy in visual documentation practices in a ECEC-context.



Participation in the study was voluntary and informed consent was obtained from all participants. Anonymity was given to all individuals and preschools in the study to protect their identities.The study is reported to NSD (Data Protection Official for Research for all the Norwegian universities).

There are many critical issues to raise about power relations and whose voices are represented in visual documentations. In the Norwegian ECEC-context young children are viewed as competent and rational beings. Preliminary findings suggest that digital visual documentation practices are not informed by this view on childhood, which may lead to less emphasis of children´s point of view and perspectives in pedagogical documentation.

This study has implications on how early childhood practitioners document pedagogical practices in a digital context and, and in a broader sense; how early childhood education students (should) acquire skills and knowledge related to digital documentation.



Svein T. Heddeland is a research fellow at the University of Agder. His research areas are critical discourse analysis, multimodality, social semiotics and documentation and communication practices in ECEC. You can read about his research here:

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