Natalia Kucirkova

Natalia Kucirkova
Professor of Early Childhood Education and Development

University of Stavanger, Norway

Professor of Reading and Children’s Development

The Open University, UK


What are you currently working on?

Several things! But what I am especially excited about are two projects: one is about sensory reading, where we explore the learning value of books enhanced with olfaction. I am especially interested in the ways in which children’s sense of smell contributes to their reading experience. The second project is about integrating research with EdTech practice. I spun-out a company (Wikit AS) from the University of Stavanger to offer specialized research consultancy services to EdTech providers. The aim is to have more evidence-led media solutions for young children.

What has been your most memorable project so far, and why?

Perhaps the Our Story project as it has been ongoing for many years, with various stakeholders, groups of children and research foci. Our Story is a free smartphone/tablet app developed as part of my PhD project. The app was first launched on the app store in 2011, as one of the first apps enabling children to make their own stories, in pictures, sounds and texts. Given that it is open-ended (children can make stories in any length, language or style), there are endless possibilities for research directions. With colleagues, we explored how the app’s use influences children’s creativity, language and literacy, peer conversations in kindergartens as well as dialogue between parents and children at home. I am a strong believer in empowering children to author their own content and the pedagogical opportunities this generates. I hope to explore olfactory digital stories as my next project- imagine children making multimedia stories about scents they like and smells they can’t stand – wouldn’t it be fun?

Which achievement are you most proud of, and why?

The recently published Routledge book, Inspirational Women in Academia, is a collection of lessons learnt during my academic journey. It is based on interviews that Loleta Fahad, the book’s co-author, and me conducted with top female academics. I am proud that we transparently present both the opportunities and challenges of academia. The issues of diversity, equity and inclusion are far from being resolved and it is important we openly discuss them.

What is an important question from parents and practitioners that we as academics cannot provide a good answer to yet?

I am energized by media research that incorporates learner variability in its research agenda and aims to answer questions of when, where and for whom, something works (or not). Parents and practitioners ask such transformative research questions in a simplified way. Rather than asking ‘does this work?’ they often ask: ‘What does this mean for my child?’

What would be your work motto?

Not a motto, but “blessing of your work” by John O’Donohue. It is a gorgeous short poem. If you don’t know it, read it here.

Which of your publications is your favorite, and why?

Probably the latest book, The Future of the Self, because it synthesizes a lot of thoughts and studies that I worked hard to pull together. I don’t know how well I succeeded it for the reader but for me as a writer, the overall value of writing the book was the consolidating role it played for my thinking.

If you had unlimited resources, what kind of project would you want to do and why?

Probably something that facilitates the creation and sharing of children’s multisensory books through open learning networks. Money for R&D projects is often restricted to short-term projects and I would be keen to fund a longitudinal study looking at the developmental and educational aspects of complex digital learning arenas.

If you had to give one piece of advice to young CAM scholars, what would it be?

One thing I wished I knew earlier in my career was that when it comes to media, it is often easy to forget that the medium is only part of the message.

Who would you like to put in the spotlight next, and why?

I recommend Dr. Regina Ahn. I admire how she combines media literacy with family and consumer studies and would love to read her answers to these questions.