The Future Of: Early Childhood Education and Technology [FULL PODCAST EPISODE]
David Karsten This is the Future Of, where experts share their vision of the future and how their work is helping shape it for the better. I'm David Karsten. Our children today navigate a world where the boundaries between digital and physical worlds are increasingly blurred. As they tap, swipe and interact, Australian parents wonder, how does this digital immersion shape a child's growth? David Karsten How do we differentiate constructive digital engagement from detrimental? And above all, how do we ensure their safety in this vast digital expanse? In this episode, I sit down with Emma Cross to chat about the role of digital technology in early learning.
Emma is an early childhood specialist who has previously worked as a centre director for Australian Early Childhood Service Providers and now works as an associate investigator at the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child, which Curtin University is one of six partnering universities. David Karsten Emma and I spoke about the impact of digital technology on young children's creativity and connected learning experiences. If you'd like to find out more about this research, you can visit the links provided in the show notes. Emma, can you share the positive influences of digital technology on early child development and discuss whether that digital literacy is now as crucial as traditional literacy? Emma Cross Yeah, absolutely. I think it's important, firstly to recognize that children's use of digital technology is actually a fundamental right that they have. So, in early childhood and generally across the world, we have the United Nations rights of the child, which is the most widely accepted treaty, essentially that acknowledges the rights of children.
And there's a specific article in there that talks about their ability to access and use digital technologies. Emma Cross So again, that came out in 2021. It's super. It's exactly what we're working on. It's what we're driving. But I think importantly, with all things with young children, they don't necessarily have the ability to access their rights independently.
And that's where adults and parents and caregivers come into play, and they have to support these young children to actually access their rights. Emma Cross So having the rights to use digital technology is one thing, but actually being able to access them is a whole different matter. So, I guess in terms of the digital literacy versus general literacy conversation, it's quite an interesting one, I think, because you'd never you would never hear somebody say, what's you know, what's more important? Literacy and numeracy, you're just never hear that conversation.
David Karsten They sit side by side. Emma Cross Yeah, they're two completely different concepts. So, when we're looking at digital literacy, it's a completely different concept to just literacy, you know, but looking at the skills, the capabilities, the competencies of these children and how they can use digital technologies to create and to access information and all of these different things. And I think it's really important that we kind of look at them very separately, because if we start comparing that to the problems come about and people start to question whether digital literacy is as important as literacy. Emma Cross But I mean, the way that we refer to it is instead of digital literacy, we talk about digital competencies and digital capabilities, and there's a whole range of them that come out in children that are accessing these technologies.
So, and I don't know if you've heard of the 21st century skills. Bring us all up to speed, Emma. Emma Cross So, the 21st century skills, a range of different skills that they're now saying that we are looking for these skills for young people to continue on the workforce and all of those sorts of things. There's a whole range of skills that sit within that umbrella and most of them actually either fostered by accessing digital technologies or they're specifically related to digital technologies. Emma Cross So, I guess that's a main positive of children accessing technology.
David Karsten Emma, should we take a step back a little bit? And for those of us, and that would be the vast majority of those of us listening to the podcast would be thinking, well, the classroom environment must be a very different place today than it was even ten years ago. Can you explain to those of us who don't know how much influence and how much of a presence digital technology actually has in the modern classroom? David Karsten From a very early age. Yeah. Emma Cross Well, I am an early childhood specialist, which means I specialize in children from birth to eight years. I've actually never worked in a traditional classroom setting. I've only worked in what the government call long day-care.
But we would rather be referred to as early childhood services. So that's mainly children birth to five. In the last ten years, we've actually seen governance of that sector come into play. Emma Cross Previously it was more like glorified day-care, I guess, or childminding, but now it's actually educational and there's a lot of emphasis on that education.
We actually see in our version of curriculum, which is the Australian earliest learning framework, there's a whole learning outcome specifically dedicated to children's use of digital technologies and how that's used. So, I guess in that sense, yeah, digital technology has not taken over, but it's certainly present and it's here to stay. David Karsten So, it's a part of everybody's future, whether you're old or young from here on in.
Right. So, Emma, you're working with the Digital Child Centre on the Children's Creativity and Connectedness with Digital Technologies Project now. Could you update us on its progress and address concerns about the potential negative effects of digital technologies on young minds, including language development and privacy issues? David Karsten Is a real push pull. The digital technology will be a part of everybody's future. Yet on the flip side, there are these concerns.
Where do you find that balance? Emma Cross Yeah, that's a really good question. So, in terms of the update on our projects, we actually started off the centre. So, the Centre of Excellence is a seven-year project where three years in now. So, this year we actually looked, and we started to consolidate what had been done.
We originally had to call projects, so one of them was that connectedness project that you mentioned, and the other one is Digital Sci-Tech. Emma Cross So, we work really closely in partnership with Sci-Tech, which is of course a science discovery centre. So, we actually combined the core projects because we realized that the work we were doing sat really nicely with Sci-Tech and we were partnering with Sci-Tech in all of those projects anyway. So, it was an overview, I guess, in terms of the nature of the centre. Emma Cross So, we have what we think of as the PI and the pi is the digital sci-tech core project, and then we have multiple slices of that pie.
So, we have at the moment two projects, one and Phil Masses of philosophy, and we also have two main projects being led out of WA as well as a range of collaborative projects with Queensland University of Technology. Emma Cross So, the two main projects that come out of WA and that we're leading here, the first one is Move It, which is actually one of the exhibits that we co-designed with Sci-Tech. People might have been out and had a go on it. It's really fun, but basically, it's using whole body kinaesthetic learning to code a mouse through a maze to get some cheese. Emma Cross So, if you think about like time zone, the dance revolution game used that uses that same sort of floor mat and the children use their feet or the parents as well.
I see plenty of parents lining up. They use their feet to insert the code and to navigate the mouse through the maze. So, we've actually built that exhibit. Emma Cross It's running, it's fantastic.
So, we're still now in the point of analysing that data. But the creative Cove is the other project, which is the one that I've been coordinating. So, The Creative Cove is a digital play experience for four- and five-year-old children, and we sort of run it in three iterations now.
So, the first one was with a group of children and their parents out it. Emma Cross So, I take the second one. We've actually just completed because here on campus we now have the Children's Technology Cove, which is in building to our nine. For anybody that is on campus. We should go and check it out. We should.
All of us. Emma Cross Yeah, but essentially it is a living laboratory, so it looks like an early childhood centre, but it's a functional research space that can be used for professional development. You know, teaching our students here on campus so many different opportunities. But most recently, we've run the Creative Cove program, which is an eight-week educational program. We've run that with the children who are here on campus in the early childhood centre. Emma Cross And then the other thing that we've been doing is we actually were fortunate enough to receive part of the Paul Andrew Digby Robinson Endowment Fund, which has allowed us to be able to go into Avon Vale Primary School, which is in the wheat belt of WA.
And we've been working directly with those children and their teachers to bring in this Creative Cove program, but mostly to empower their staff to be able to continue that program. Emma Cross Once we finished. David Karsten Look, look in relation to that push pull of needing to embrace digital technology for an informed future versus too much screen time. What are these different areas of study revealing at these early stages. Emma Cross Yeah so, the notion of screen time is a funny one.
So that concept actually came out of research in aged care and people have grabbed that as a buzzword and they have applied across all different disciplines. David Karsten My apologies. No, no. Emma Cross Not at all. It's so common. But it's actually an area of research that is being applied to education into early childhood education in particular, but it has no founding.
So, I guess our research, we're not afraid of screens, we're not afraid to use screens with children. But it's more about what they're doing with them. So, you know, we would like to see children shifting away from consuming the content on screens, whether that be, yeah. David Karsten TV or to, to actually interacting with it. Is that being that what you're getting? Emma Cross Yeah, absolutely. So, we really support children, their parents, the educators, whoever's working with them to really see the affordances of technology.
So, we like to see children using it to create and to represent their thinking. So, you know, I had four-year old s developing their own AI movies with amazing titles and of course, all the sound effects and everything else that comes along with that. Emma Cross And they were engrossed for an hour doing that, but they were actually doing something that was meaningful and creative as opposed to just consuming, you know, already pre-produced content.
So, I think there's a lot of things that a positive that can come out of digital technology use. David Karsten What about the notion of the negative effects that digital technologies may or may not bring? I mean, there's plenty of discussion in the community about the effect of these technologies on young minds. I would like to know about what you found out about the effects on site language development and of course, the privacy issues that are that are attached to children accessing technology. David Karsten How much access to others have to our children? Emma Cross Yeah, yeah, definitely. So, in terms of language, I guess it again comes back to how the technology is being used.
The work that we do and the programs that we run actually is more about children using technology as kind of a springboard for collaboration and for communication. So, what we're seeing is actually children are being more collaborative and engaging in more conversation because of the digital technology. Emma Cross So, it kind of becomes a central point of interest that brings people together. So, we're not really seeing so much impact on language, but I think that's the way that we're using the digital technologies when not, you know, having children using them in their bedroom by themselves like we're not in those sorts of environments. So yeah, we're not really seeing negative impacts there.
Emma Cross In terms of the privacy, I think that's a really interesting thing. And like you said, you know, who can see the children online, for example? You know, I kind of think that it's a concept that's always been around. We've always been mindful about general privacy in public places, about, you know, I went to school and was raised with that stranger danger concept. Emma Cross Those concepts are all still very real, but it's just that the medium has now changed.
So now I can't necessarily see the person behind the screen, but it's no different to me being walking down the street. You know, there are certain things that you do to protect yourself and all of those things. So, the research that we do focuses on how parents can support their children to understand those concepts, the same way that you would teach them about, you know, being safe in public environments. Emma Cross But I think, really importantly, children don't always listen to what we ask them or what we tell them.
But I see everything that we do. So, it's really important that we're actually role modelling these safe behaviours and talking about them and almost narrating your life. You know, I'm going to put my phone away now because it's time for us to spend time as a family.
Emma Cross So, I think parents need to actually have these open relationships and communication so that their child knows it's safe to come and say, hey, I got this message, what should I do about this? But we also know that children are accessing the Internet at far younger ages because they don't have to be able to read or write. They just ask Siri. Emma Cross And what we're seeing is that some of the children actually think Siri's a real person and series their best friend. So, I think also having those communications about Siri's not a real person and there are only so many things that are appropriate to ask Siri. David Karsten That's absolutely frightening, isn't it? It's if for those of us that perhaps haven't had children yet, that is, I guess, a frontier that we might not have thought about Siri being an actual real person to some impressionable minds.
Yeah, that's phenomenal. Emma Cross So, my best friend. David Karsten So, Emma, you spoke earlier about your work in connectedness and, and equity, uh, in terms of digital connectedness for all young people.
Given the challenges of funding and geography and potential disparities, how can we ensure that that equitable access to digital technology and early childhood actually occurs? Emma Cross Yeah, that's a really big and pressing matter and it's something that is quite timely in the work that we're doing. Like I said, we did receive this endowment fund which we were so fortunate to have been awarded part of that fund, but part of that actually supported us to run a like a roundtable discussion, basically a whole day event with stakeholders from all over WA, but with particular interest on digital technologies and digital inclusion in regional and remote WA. Emma Cross And a lot of the conversations that came out of that, you know, the things I was aware of, but I hadn't really thought about or it was in the back of my mind, and it was actually really fantastic to bring all of that right to the forefront.
So, some of the conversations that came out of that were, you know, saying that some of these remote communities don't even have sealed roads. Emma Cross So, when they have their monsoonal rains that come in the dry season or the wet season, I should say sorry, but they read they roads actually flood and they can't get their cars in and that they can't even get groceries, let alone having any electricity. Forget about, you know, Internet connection. So, there are really, really big geographical problems there. Emma Cross And I think that that's something that we need to actually kind of unveil more people need to be aware that these disparities are taking place and the government needs to be more accountable for them and to support those communities to have digital inclusion.
You know, again, we talk about digital divide a lot, but there's not a lot being done to actually bridge that divide. Emma Cross So, the fantastic thing that happened in that discussion was we ended up talking in small groups about four key questions. So, what are the enablers, what are the barriers and what are the future hopes and what are the policy recommendations? So, some recommendations that came out of that discussion, and I don't want to take credit for these as my own because it was such a collaborative conversation. Emma Cross So, these people, like I said, they came from all over.
They came from different departments, you know, like Catholic Education. We had a representative there from mental health, nursing, we had people from Medallia, we had, you know, educators from remote and regional areas. It was fantastic. David Karsten And so many perspectives, right? Emma Cross Yeah. And it was amazing to have those different voices.
And because of all those different perspectives, the richness in conversation was amazing. So, you know, we kind of spoke about thinking about the design of the infrastructure for technology. So, you know, like I said, there's more pressing issues, I guess, in terms of these people just don't have resourcing full stop. Emma Cross So actually, as they starting to look at these digital inclusions, working really closely with those communities who actually may who know what they need, and they know what's going to work for them.
So, getting that point of view from those individuals as well, and we spoke about investing so that because at the moment there's certain areas that are getting more investment because, you know, perhaps this mining investment in those towns. Emma Cross And so, they are already getting a lot of support. But the government need to then recognize these more remote communities that have absolutely nothing and just bringing them up to par before we can look at excelling everybody else. David Karsten It is almost like a utility really isn't. I mean, in fact, it is it is as important now is as being connected to plumbing, having water, access to electricity, gas and Internet, Internet connectivity.
It's for the future, especially of the next generation, really, to remain informed and relevant. Definitely. And to, I guess, increase they re their chances of just participating in modern society. Emma Cross Yeah.
Yeah, definitely. And then, you know, even it's one thing to go into a remote and regional area and say his Internet, these iPads, he is, you know, a computer, his whatever you want. But if the people in those areas actually don't know how to use those devices, they're still going to be unused. And so, I think there needs to be investment into people as well as the facilities and the infrastructure, particularly when we're looking in educational contexts.
Emma Cross You know, if you've got these teachers that aren't trained and they don't feel confident to teach about digital technologies, well, I'm sorry, but they're not going to. So how can we invest in supporting those people and not just going into a school and, you know, doing a one hour per day session and saying, well, you're set for life? Emma Cross It's not how it works. Not no.
So there needs to be a lot more consideration for the multiple complexities around the problem. David Karsten The upshot of that fantastic coming together of different perspectives obviously resulted in a discussion and also a really great visualization of what was discussed and what and I guess what some of the challenge challenges are that that that that lie in front of us and also what some of the potential solutions and strategies could be. And it's this this visualization. David Karsten Is that going to be a tool for illustrating what we're up against and what we're working with into the future? Emma Cross Yeah, absolutely. I mean, the illustration and again, I can't take credit. It was one of our research assistants, Julia Seitz, who did an absolutely phenomenal job.
David Karsten Julia Yeah. Emma Cross But she basically did a form of semantic analysis. So, we had these large butcher's paper sheets that had scribbles all over them, as I'm sure you can imagine.
We then translated them into huge documents, just full of doubt points, and then she collected them into themes and then illustrated those themes. But the real goal and what we the reason why we chose to illustrate these instead of just putting out a journal article or something like that, was actually because, you know, academics and researchers are aware of these issues. Emma Cross So, we were wanting to have a way that we could share this and share what came out of it with people that aren't academics but are still really invested in in the area. David Karsten So, Emma will have to make those available to listeners on our show notes.
Emma, you've been part of the curtain fabric for, for some time. What is your background? If you could talk to us a little bit about your background in early education and leadership and what drew you to this area in general and to the digital technology side of education in particular. Emma Cross So, I actually started my journey doing a Bachelor of Commerce in management and marketing. I thought that I was going to be some marketing whiz because I really enjoy graphic design and all of the concepts that sit around marketing. I worked in a marketing job for health and Fitness Company that was going through IPO, and I enjoyed it.
Emma Cross But I also thought, oh, I can't sit in an office for the rest of my life. So, I finished my undergrad actually at the same time as doing my undergrad, I went to the early childhood centre on campus because I was teaching music and singing at and dancing at the Young Talent School. David Karsten You are such an underachiever. And what did you do with all your spare time? Emma Cross Singing and dancing? Yeah, mostly. So, yeah, I taught there for ten years, and I thought, well, this is the one thing I really enjoy.
So, I went to the centre full of gusto and I said, you know, I'd really like a job and I want to start a program for you. And the director there actually said yes, but she said the trade-off is I actually want you working as an educator as well, so you have to do your sets, right. Emma Cross So, I was doing my undergrad and was doing my set three and two while I was working there, actually. Professor Karen Mercier, who's now the chief investigator of the digital child, she was coming out and doing a project in the centre.
And just by chance, because I was working in one of the kindergarten rooms, I fell into one of those projects, which is essentially where the Creative Cove has sprung from. Emma Cross So, it was the first time we were using small, tangible coding devices with four-year-old children. And my passion for research, but also for early childhood education, really grew from that experience. So, I went on, I did my master's in teaching, and while I did that, I was working across I worked for Australia's largest publicly listed organization that early childhood providers.
Emma Cross I then worked with our largest not for profit, and I worked with our only international organization. So, I worked across all roles as an assistant educator. I was an early childhood teacher, educational leader, I was an assistant director. And then finally I got my big break, I guess, and I was a centre director, which I really, really enjoyed. Emma Cross But then, yeah, I was offered a position in my state, and I took it.
I jumped and it was a leap of faith. But I've never once regretted it. So that brought me back into the research sphere.
And while I was doing my state early on, I've never had a scholarship in that. So, I had to work, and I saw the research assistant role come up with the digital child. Emma Cross So again, I jumped at it, I applied term, I had in the ring because I already knew the work that they were doing and that's how I got involved with that. But actually, my PhD looks at quality leadership practices because it kind of brings together my undergrad and my masters and my experience as a director. So yes. David Karsten Well, it's a skill set that is obviously in great demand, particularly in your work with Professor Mensa.
Now is that where the I guess the role of digital technology in the upbringing of the modern child has that? Is that where it's really come to be here. Emma Cross Yeah, yeah, absolutely. David Karsten Yeah. So, Dr. Ms. Sorry.
So, Professor Mercia really leads the way in that field. Emma Cross She absolutely does, especially in the educational point of view here at Curtin, the digital child has four core programs, I guess you could say. So, the educated child, the connected child, the healthy child. And then there's also a long longitudinal study that sits within that. So here at Cotton, we're actually lucky we have all four of those portfolios represented. Emma Cross But Professor Messer is actually the lead of the digital child centre here at Curtin.
So, she leads across all domains. David Karsten Well, it's an interest well, it's an area that's of interest to anybody that's parenting at the moment. And we are able to access some of her expertise.
I mean, she did some she did she has a workshop that we can all access, is that correct? Online? Emma Cross Yes. So, the John Curtin Gallery do curtains corner, I think they call it. And she did a presentation that spoke about, like I mentioned, you know, children don't listen all the time, but they always see.
So, she was talking about positive parental role modelling and that whole data privacy point of view. But again, from an educational context, there are people here on campus that specialize more in the legalities of data privacy, but we focus more from the education point of view. David Karsten Well, for those of us that want to watch that, we can again provide a link in an astronaut. Looking ahead, Emma, how do you see young children's engagement with digital technology playing out in Australia? I mean, is there a uniquely Australian context up against well alongside what's happening globally and additionally can you highlight some innovative tools and resources parents can utilize now at home? Emma Cross Yeah.
I mean I think Australia isn't super unique, particularly in the early childhood sector. I feel like I guess because we've only really come into being educationally focused in the last 15 years, so we've still got a way to go. But I think now that we're seeing a lot more emphasis in our earliest learning framework and our WA Kindergarten guidelines, specifically on digital technology, I think we can expect to see a lot more implementation and a lot more successful use in educational contexts.
Emma Cross And I think a lot of children will continue to access that. I mean, we're seeing that already. David Karsten Well, the other tools and resources that parents can actually access now, I mean, you're looking well into the future, but what about the now? Emma Cross Yeah. So, you know, there's lots of different things.
I think it comes down to what the device or the software supports the children to do. One of the key components of the creative code program was I actually did a massive scale audit across all of the different types of digital technologies targeted to children of that age. But I actually was more interested in what allowed them to be creative and what allowed them to develop certain skills as opposed to you know, the apps that they follow the instructions, and they do what they're told.
Emma Cross And, you know, I think there's lots out there. It's just a matter of identifying what is serving the purpose that it needs to. I mean, there's still a time and a place for relaxation. And sometimes, you know, as parents, we are all guilty.
We just put the TV on because we need 5 minutes for ourselves. But I think, you know, if we're just really critical about what it is that we're hoping to achieve with the technology. Emma Cross So, you know, Lego have absolutely amazing products. We've got the G play coding express in the CTC and that's fantastic. But my favorited of the three favorited devices, the first one is Q Bedtime Whizzes, which is essentially a cube that has a tangible coding interface.
You insert these coloured coding blocks, and you press go and then the little cube black rolls around. Emma Cross It's matte. David Karsten Just fantastic. That sounds amazing. Yeah.
All right. I'd be happy to play with that. Emma Cross Yeah, I have to come to the CTC. David Karsten I'll be there. Emma Cross My other favorited is Blue box, so allows them to visualize their coding sequences, but Blue Byte takes that into a mechanical push function, and it provides a level of abstraction. So what abstract thinking, I should say.
So, the children actually can't see the coding sequences which allows them to have to think and memorize what have input into it. Emma Cross So that's a little B shaped robot, which is fantastic. But my new favorited, which is quite new on the market, is Boxed.
So, but C is one of these apps that so it's a hand like tangible device, but there's also an iPad app that sits alongside that. I don't love one of the parts of the app because it's one of these step by step. Emma Cross This is how you build this robot. And I like children to be able to build whatever they want to build.
So, I, I hide that. I tell the children that that doesn't like it doesn't do anything. They can't go in there because they can build their own robots. But once they're in there, they can code the robot, they can control it like just a remote control, but they can also do augmented reality with it. Emma Cross So, they can code input certain coding sequences to take their robot that they've built on different quests to find treasure.
David Karsten That's incredible. Yeah, let's see. Well, you know, this is the bit where I say when I was a kid, I had a stick and a, you know, bowl and. Emma Cross A marble kind. David Karsten Of. But you, on the other hand, are young enough to have digital tech memories from your own childhood.
Still, obviously, it can't compare to the apps and the products that you've just told us about. But what is your earliest digital memory? Emma Cross So, in my day, we had these computers that obviously, you know, you've got the big tower that turns it on. And I'm not really good with that old school language, but they had these big, big tower things. And my I was trying to turn on this in my job in the house.
I'm the youngest of three kids. I turned the computer on every day. Emma Cross That was just like the thing I love to do. I'd play on paint, on coloured stuff, whatever. David Karsten Yeah. In my day, you know, the youngest kid got water from the well.
So obviously, you know, things had moved on. Emma Cross Yeah, we were a bit more advanced, but there was one day, and I was trying to turn on my computer and it wouldn't turn on. I was like, what is going on? So, I told my parents, and they came looking. And so, the background is, well, my mum is a biologist, so we had like any pet you could imagine, birds, mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs, you name it. Emma Cross We had a.
David Karsten Farm anticipating the intersection of biology and computer tower. Emma Cross Yeah, yeah, yeah. So couldn't turn it on. And so, my parents had to fully dismantle this modem thing. And inside there was Mickey Mouse.
So, my pet mouse, he was alive. Oh, but then he became like Houdini and kept breaking out of his cage and going straight into the computer. So, it was actually quite problematic. We couldn't turn the computer on without having to unscrew it on and pull the mouse out of actually the yeah. Emma Cross The real mouse, not the computer mouse. David Karsten Well, from what you've just told me, Emma, kids these days are creating through code from an incredibly young age.
It's it. It's almost becoming behavioural when. When we're talking, what, 3 to 4 years old. Yeah. Emma Cross Yeah.
So, when we originally did this project in 2000 and I think it was about 2017, the children in that group were 3 to 4 years of age. And I mean, we had a lot more time with them, whereas now I get, you know, an hour once a week. But then I was with the children for 8 hours a day, five days a week. Emma Cross But after the program, we had these children who couldn't read, they couldn't write, they couldn't do any of those formal literacy skills.
But they could read and write sequences of code. And not just that, but they could take another child's coding sequence that they had written, and they could follow that and then act it out with the device. Emma Cross So, we had these children yet literacy, you know, had no literacy skills yet. Well, they were developing, I should say. And they were able to read and write code.
David Karsten That's phenomenal. Yeah. And let's think that would be about nine, ten years old now.
Emma Cross Yeah, yeah, yeah. David Karsten Have you been keeping track of them? Emma Cross Some of them I've been able to keep in touch with the parents because obviously being the on-campus service, a lot of the parents are staff here. So yeah, some of those parents have come in.
They've seen the site say that's been set up and it's been really lovely to keep connected with them. David Karsten And have they have they observed anything about their children, perhaps as a comparison to siblings due to that really early introduction to coding? Emma Cross I think just the general interest I'm thinking of one staff member in particular, her son was absolutely phenomenal through that program. As she said to us that he's actually now doing weekly coding club at school and for his birthdays and Christmas and everything, all he wants is more coding devices. So, I mean, there's clearly, you know, we know that it develops different thinking skills and capabilities.
Emma Cross But even just that disposition towards their learning and their engagement, it's clearly a lifelong skill that they're developing. David Karsten Emma To finish up with your field of expertise, the times in which we are living that that whole intersection, that confluence of different elements, do you see yourself in the far-flung future, having some say in policy in terms of, I guess digital tech accessibility and equity into the future? Emma Cross Yeah, yeah, definitely. And policies are a key component and policy recommendations is a key component of the work that I'm doing outside of, you know what, actually it sits within the digital child, but I've been doing more of it generally as well. So when, for example, the Productivity Commission launched an inquiry into early childhood education, I gathered up the troops around the School of Education, all of us early childhood specialists, and I actually put together a list of policy recommendations and presented that to the government. Emma Cross I was also fortunate enough last year to be awarded as the Australian Young Advocate of the Year. So that was a really exciting time in my career where I got to meet different politicians and engage in those government conversations.
So, I think long term I'm really hoping that that's a space that we're able to keep warmed up and keep that those lines of communication open. Emma Cross So yeah, absolutely. I'd love to see that. David Karsten Exciting time for you both professionally and also from a from a wider perspective, being part of a really fascinating area of development. Emma, thank you so much for your time and for talking to us today. Emma Cross Thank you for having me.
David Karsten And you've been listening to the future of a podcast powered by Curtin University. If you've enjoyed this episode, please share it. And if you want to hear more from experts, stay up to date by subscribing to us on your favorited podcast app. Bye for now.