Reframing Learning: Our Image of the Child in an Online Environment

Thus far, 2020 has presented us with unprecedented challenges and uncertainties as educators and human beings.  It is necessary and essential during these times to reflect on what we believe about children and education to ensure that we uphold the image of the child as a citizen with rights.  An article translated from a seminar given by Loris Malaguzzi in 1993, carries the title, ‘Your Image of the Child:  Where Teaching Begins’ and we would like you to carry this concept with you as you reflect on the reframing of learning that has been evident by necessity during these times.

Photo courtesy Wee Care Kindergarten

‘There are hundreds of different images of the child.  Each one of you has inside yourself an image of the child that directs you as you begin to relate to a child.  This theory within you pushes you to behave in certain ways; it orients you as you talk to the child, listen to the child, observe the child.  It is very difficult for you to act contrary to this image’ (Malaguzzi, 1194, p.3). Along with the image of the child, is the image of early childhood centres.  In Reggio Emilia, their early childhood centres are ‘schools for young children’, not a ‘childcare’ service or a place for ‘wiping noses and stopping the kids from killing each other’ (Leyonhjelm, 2017). Malaguzzi stressed the importance of using professional ‘terminology as crucial to creating a new image for the early childhood institution’ (Moss, 2019, p.79) contesting other terms that do not emphasise the pursuit of education for children.

So, as many early childhood services and schools reframe learning in an online digital environment, are we as educators reflecting on the right of the child to be agentic; to maintain their right to be a producer of this new culture rather than a consumer?  Online environments can shift learning from active to passive, from participatory to transmissive, so educators could critically reflect on this when designing and reframing learning.

Critical reflection questions are essential in this new frontier, and we have posed some below for you to consider:

  • Who is making decisions about the design of the learning offered online? Is it the adults or are the children involved in the decision-making?
  • Are you listening to children and their ideas or is the content flowing one way?
  • Are you using technology to ‘entertain’ children or ‘educate and engage children’?

Perhaps you could ask the children and families questions to be shared later in the online forum?  For example, what might the future look like?  What do you wish for? Children’s responses could be recorded through words, drawings, construction or any other materials that families have access to at home.  The group’s responses can be documented and interpreted with the lens of creativity, imagination, empathy and hope.

Photo courtesy Wee Care Kindergarten


Leyonhjelm, D. 2017.  Accessed from:

Malaguzzi, L. (1994) Your Image of the Child.  Where Teaching Begins in Child

Care Information Exchange 3/94 Translated by Baji Rankin, Leslie Morrow and Lella

Gandini, Child Care Information Exchange U.S.A.

Accessed from:

Moss P. (2019).  Alternative narratives in early childhood:  an introduction for students and practitioners.  Routledge. UK.


If you are a member and would like to discuss this further there will be a facilitated online session coming soon.

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