In this issue of Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood we present an eclectic view of issues in the early childhood years. Once again, we are impressed by the quality of the work that is being presented from the discipline. Our current registration of almost 8,000 subscribers attests to the fact that a large number of early childhood educators are interested in new ways of thinking about early childhood practices. The critical perspectives of the early childhood special interest group at the American Educational Research Association Conference in Seattle this year were another testament to the variety and depth of work being produced, and the quality of arguments being debated. This issue, in particular, discusses topics that range from a consideration of what it means to be 'other' in a Norwegian context to the attitudes towards creativity of pre-school teachers in Turkey.
Jeanette Rhedding Jones deconstructs the discourses around being positioned as 'other', in particular, being 'white', 'foreign' or 'native'. She uses local examples from early childhood education events, sites and documents to begin the process. Rhedding-Jones links theory and practice in a new and dynamic way and begins to 'unfix' the modernist and colonial notion of ethnicity as a single or binary notion.
Jennifer Sumsion's counter-narrative interrogates the tensions that may occur in workplaces in Australian pre-schools. She draws on post-structural analyses to deconstruct the counter-narrative in order to problematise the current non-critical communities of care concept that is prevalent in early childhood culture.
Sonja Sheridan & Ingrid Pramling examine children's views about decision-making processes in their education. They report that children are primarily interested in making decisions about the activities that they engage in and rarely participate in and influence the overall organisation, routines, content and activities that early childhood teachers plan for them. Sheridan & Pramling maintain that in order to engage with democracy, early childhood centres need to extend opportunities for richer participation in shaping decisions about the content and structure of the curriculum. In this way, not only will they provide high quality programmes but will concur with the spirit of the United Nations (UN) Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The role of literacy in the pre-school years is explored by Raban & Ure in their article. They talked with pre-school teachers about their beliefs and understanding regarding literacy practices and discovered that the teachers were uncertain about their role in relation to growth in literacy skill. The reasons behind this uncertainty are explored in the article and some practical implications are discussed.
Lennie Barblett, Rod Chadbourne & Carmel Maloney pose the question, 'Can vignettes capture the complexity of high quality early childhood teaching?' in their article. In this article, the teacher educators explore the ramifications of creating vignettes of exemplary practice for study. They conclude that there is a need for caution when embarking on this type of complex activity and it is difficult to capture the range of activities that manifest themselves in the matrix that represents early childhood teaching.
In an interesting reflection on practices in teacher education, Susan Wright's article explores the integration of the various aspects of the arts to create innovative teaching contexts that incorporate the use of new information technologies. She describes the Visual Arts Studio that enables her students to engage with the arts by selecting and engaging with a variety of media in which they can explore artistic concepts and processes. Wright maintains that her students made the expression coherent by developing sensitivity to the materials and their expressive possibilities, and by selecting the most appropriate techniques for communication. They did this in the context of exploring all arts media simultaneously, with the aim of integrating the musical, visual and dramatic elements, rather than allowing any one of these to become dominant.
In the colloquia, the topics of toys for infants and the use of information and communications technology in the classroom are discussed. Diane Levin & Barbara Rosenquest discuss the increasing role of electronic toys in the lives of infants and toddlers and pose the question, 'Should we be concerned?' They contend that toys exert a powerful influence on the ways in which children play and suggest that the genre of electronic toys may limit the potential for young children to be exploratory in their play. The colloquia should cause us to reflect on the influence that such toys have on children's lives, and Levin & Rosenquest conclude by making some suggestions for action which we hope will engage us in further dialogue.
The second colloquium, from Kerem, Kamaraj & Yelland, explores the concept of creativity and the activities that were thought to develop the creativity of Turkish pre-school teachers. In an extensive study of pre-school teachers, the researchers found that Turkish pre-school teachers listed a large range of behaviours that they regarded as being creative and additionally that they primarily regarded art, drama, games and Turkish language activities as the ones that most promoted creative activity.
We also extend the dialogue on the Reggio article that was presented in our first issue. Stephen Wright responds to Richard Johnson's comments in volume 1(3). As you may have noticed, the web site now contains a discussion area. We hope to use this space for extended conversations which require more spontaneity than rejoinders. If you have an opinion on any of the ideas canvassed in articles or colloquia, we invite you to participate in the discussions or, if you wish to start a new thread, if you contact us we will endeavour to accommodate it.
Finally, there are three book reviews in this edition. First, Mindy Ochsner reviews Critical Issues in Social Research: power and prejudice, edited by Hood, Mayall & Oliver, and then teachers from Rhode Island review another edited book by Nicola Yelland, entitled, Promoting Meaningful Learning: innovations in educating early childhood professionals. Finally Jeffrey Lewis reviews the book entitled Does the Village Still Raise the Child? The book was written by Beth Swadener with Margaret Kabiru & Anne Njenga. We hope that you enjoy reading the articles, colloquia and reviews in this issue as much as we did.