360 storytelling in early childhood education: a case example from the Kellarpelto preschool in Finland

The students of the Kellarpelto preschool in Eastern Finland make regular visits to a forest nearby. Inspired by another project called “Teacher’s Forest” at the University of Eastern Finland, some of the teachers at the Kellarpelto preschool had decided to try creating 360 images in a group of 13 students between ages 10 months and 2 years.


During the time we have developed the new 360 editor, I had not heard of use cases in early education, so I was thrilled to get an opportunity to connect with teacher Kati Roivio from the Kellarpelto preschool to learn more about their project. Here is a summary of our discussion:

U: What made you try 360 images instead of regular images?
K: Looking at regular images from our walks and activities is something that children can easily do on the iPad screen, but 360 images gave us a new kind of opportunity to go back in the forest, move there “with the finger” and touch the “spots” on the screen to hear sounds. Images became alive.

U: Why did you want to return to the forest experience?
K: At this age, many of the children have a very limited vocabulary and some do not yet speak at all, but their speech develops fast. In this project we wanted to give the children an opportunity go back to these shared outdoor experiences together as a group, and engage even the smallest children to remember the animals and insects we saw. We also talked about things like what a tree may see, what it may smell and feel. This kind of collective remembering supports the development of their vocabulary, and it is also a good practice for things like waiting your turn to speak. The idea for the second project came from a student who suggested that they could create their own forest and put all kinds of animals and characters in it.

U: Where did you find materials for the fictional forest story?
K: We used Pixabay and let children choose an image they wanted to use. Then we also let them decide where in the image the animal should appear. Through this process of image selection, the child often started describing what the animal would and say and do in the forest.

U: How did the children react to 360 images?
K: Although our children are very young, they where enthusiastic about helping to edit the images and touching the spots to see the animals and hear their sounds. This also encouraged them to come up with stories about the animals. Smaller children participated by imitating the sounds of the animals.

U: How would you evaluate the overall experience using 360 images in early education?
K: 360 images served as a new way to memorize experiences in nature, better than regular images. We also got positive feedback about sharing these experiences with the parents on our blog. The new kind of documentation increased possibilities for further activities, for example observing the change of the seasons in familiar places.

U: What were the challenges?
In this group children’s young age was a challenge, since in the beginning of the fall season many did not yet know how to speak, so we had to be creative in how we use and apply the images.

U: What do you think worked the best?
360 storytelling made it possible for us to document children’s thoughts and ideas and make them visible for collective memorizing as we practiced the curriculum-related knowledge areas such as the new literacy skills and the use of mobile digital technology. I would encourage trying it out. But it is important to remember your colleagues and to work with them, it is so much easier to work together, and have someone to discuss with and document students observations and reactions. In the beginning, I would recommend giving children enough time to just observe things outside, then you can write down what their individual interests are. This makes it also easier to find topics for 360 projects. The best in my opinion is seeing children to express their creativity and use their imagination, their reactions are rewarding and memorable experiences in the course of the work we do!!

Kati Roivio works as a teacher at the Kellarpelto preschool with children from 0 to 5 years old.

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