‘Horrible or happy – we’ll have a little grey now’: aesthetic judgements in children’s narration with an interactive whiteboard

Skantz Åberg, E.
International Journal of Early Years Education, 25(1), 72-88.


The purpose of this study is to investigate what happens when 6-year-olds are instructed to create digital narratives with an interactive whiteboard. The study focuses in particular on the interactions that take place between the children, a preschool teacher and the digital tool, and what the children and the preschool teacher, respectively, are oriented towards in activities with digital story-making.



Overall, the results show that the preschool teacher primarily focuses on the verbal aspect of the story-making, whereas the children are oriented towards visual elements. According to the author, this result indicates that preschool teachers should recognise to a higher degree the important role of aesthetic judgement in the way in which children create narratives using an interactive whiteboard.

The analysis shows that the preschool teacher struggles to raise joint attention in the digital story-making activities, whereas the children are more likely to create intersubjectivity in the activity. Even though the preschool teacher recognises the children's creative work through their illustrations on the whiteboard, she primarily encourages the children to formulate their narratives verbally. The study shows that even when the preschool teacher attempts to support the children's narrative learning, the children direct their attention towards the visual elements on the board, which occasionally means that the preschool teacher and the children fail to achieve sufficient intersubjectivity in the activity. According to the author, this may be related to the digital tool chosen. An interactive whiteboard has an open interface which enables unlimited drawing/writing on a big screen. However, because the preschool teacher has visually defined the screen by dividing it into four numbered fields, the children's creativity is guided indirectly by a specific narrative structure. According to the author, this may have influenced the children's narratives.

The study also shows that the children often use aesthetic judgements in story-making activities, both when they assess actions and visual objects. The analysis indicates that aesthetic judgements play a more important role than merely expressing the children's preferences and tastes. According to the author, aesthetic judgements are primarily important because they can serve as indicators of what children learn in an activity. Thus the children use aesthetic judgements through verbal expressions such as "weird" and "better" to identify what is relevant in their photo material. For example, this is seen when the children discuss the background colour of their illustrations and thereby learn that an object appears more visible with a light background colour.


The data was collected in a Swedish preschool class, and the study includes one preschool teacher, four 6-year-old children and one 7-year-old child. The children were observed while they carried out the digital story-making activities in pairs. Specifically, the study examined how the children and the preschool teacher communicate and interact with each other and with the digital tool. The activity was prepared by the teacher, who had sketched four empty, numbered fields on the whiteboard using the Notebook software programme to give the activity a narrative structure. The children could draw illustrations for their narratives in the fields. During the activity, the preschool teacher gave the children verbal instructions and pointed at the fields.

A total of six narratives were recorded on video with two cameras; one aimed at the whiteboard and one aimed at the children's faces. The empirical material was analysed using the concepts scaffolding and aesthetic judgement. Scaffolding describes how the preschool teacher supports the children in gradually carrying out the task more independently, whereas the author defines aesthetic judgement as how the children assess something on the basis of preferences and tastes. Based on interaction analysis, the study focuses particularly on the children's verbal expressions in their search for meaning-making and narrative learning.


Skantz Åberg, E. (2017). ‘Horrible or happy – we’ll have a little grey now’: aesthetic judgements in children’s narration with an interactive whiteboard. International Journal of Early Years Education, 25(1), 72-88.

Financed by

The Swedish Research Council