Digital Technologies in the Literate Lives of Young Children

  • Brian FinchEmail author
  • Alison W. Arrow
Part of the International Perspectives on Early Childhood Education and Development book series (CHILD, volume 17)


New domestic digital technologies (smartphones, iPads, tablet computers, laptops) have altered children’s access to narratives and information. Limited teacher knowledge of students’ experiences of digital technologies, and of the technologies themselves limits their effective use in primary classrooms. In early childhood education settings, when the technology is available, there is a tension between providing planned scaffolding with digital technologies and the philosophies of child-centred, play-based learning. Across a number of studies we have used survey, interviews, diaries and video to examine children’s use of technologies and their use in literacy learning. The findings suggest that children use a variety of technologies, often based around specific narratives. Children interact with the technologies and often illustrate literacy learning that their parents are unaware of. In contrast, teachers of primary school children do not trust that parents are providing suitable experiences and early childhood teachers recognise the value of the technology for their own planning and home-school connection purposes but are unsure of how to integrate it into teaching and learning with children accessing the tools themselves. Implications for practice include greater awareness of the role of popular culture in the drawing together of multiple literacy forms as well as a combination of teacher and child-directed practices in the early childhood education setting.


Early Childhood Education Digital Technology Popular Culture Kindergarten Teacher Emergent Literacy 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Arrow, A. W., & Finch, B. T. (2013). Multimedia literacy practices in beginning classrooms and at home: The differences in practices and beliefs. Literacy, 47, 131–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bearne, E. (2009). Multimodality, literacy and texts: Developing a discourse. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 9, 156–187. doi: 10.1177/1468798409105585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Billings, E., & Mathison, C. (2012). I Get to use an iPod in school? using technology-based advance organizers to support the academic success of English learners. Journal of Science Education & Technology, 21, 494–503. doi: 10.1007/s10956-011-9341-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bittman, M., Rutherford, L., Brown, J., & Unsworth, L. (2011). Digital natives? New and old media and children’s outcomes. Australian Journal of Education, 55, 161–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Connell, C., Bayliss, L., & Farmer, W. (2012). Effects of eBook readers and tablet computers on reading comprehension. International Journal of Instructional Media, 39, 131–140.Google Scholar
  6. Crowley, K., McLaughlin, T., & Kahn, R. (2013). Using direct instruction flashcards and reading racetracks to improve sight word recognition of two elementary students with Autism. Journal of Developmental & Physical Disabilities, 25, 297–311. doi: 10.1007/s10882-012-9307-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Department of Education, Science and Training. (2002). Raising the standards: A proposal for the development of an ICT competency framework for teachers. Canberra, ACT: Commonwealth Department of Education, Science and Training.Google Scholar
  8. Fernández-López, Á., Rodríguez-Fórtiz, M. J., Rodríguez-Almendros, M. L., & Martínez-Segura, M. J. (2013). Mobile learning technology based on iOS devices to support students with special education needs. Computers & Education, 61, 77–90. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2012.09.014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gallimore, R., & Tharp, R. G. (1990). Teaching mind and society: A theory of education and schooling. In L. Moll (Ed.), Vygotsky and education: Instructional implications and applications of sociohistorical psychology (pp. 175–205). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hedges, H. (2011). Rethinking Sponge Bob and Ninja Turtles: Popular culture as funds of knowledge for curriculum co-construction. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 36, 25–29.Google Scholar
  11. Honan, E. (2008). Barriers to teachers using digital texts in literacy classrooms. Literacy, 42, 36–43. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9345.2008.00480.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Honan, E. (2012). ‘A whole new literacy’: Teachers’ understanding of students’ digital learning at home. Australian Journal of Language & Literacy, 35, 82–98.Google Scholar
  13. Huang, S., Clark, N., & Wedel, W. (2013). Teaching tips: The use of an iPad to promote preschoolers’ alphabet recognition and letter sound correspondence. Practically Primary, 18(1), 24–26.Google Scholar
  14. Hutchison, A., Beschorner, B., & Schmidt-Crawford, D. (2012). Exploring the use of the iPad for literacy learning. Reading Teacher, 66, 15–23. doi: 10.1002/TRTR.01090.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hutchison, A., & Reinking, D. (2011). Teachers’ perceptions of integrating information and communication technologies into literacy instruction: A national survey in the United States. Reading Research Quarterly, 46, 312–333. doi: 10.1002/RRQ.002.Google Scholar
  16. Jones, T., & Brown, C. (2011). Reading engagement: A comparison between e-books and traditional print books in an elementary classroom. International Journal of Instructional Media, 4(2), 5–22.Google Scholar
  17. Kalantsiz, M., & Cope, B. (2012). Literacies. Port Melbourne, Australia: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kress, G. (2005). Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge and learning. Computers and Composition, 22, 5–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2003). New literacies: Changing knowledge and classroom learning. Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Levy, R. (2008). “Third spaces” are interesting places: applying “third space theory” to nursery-aged children’s constructions of themselves as readers’. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 8, 43–66.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Marsh, J. (2006). Global, local/public, private: Young children’s engagement in digital literacy practices in the home. In K. Pahl & J. Rowsell (Eds.), Travel notes from the new literacy studies: Instances of practice. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.Google Scholar
  22. Marsh, J., Brooks, G., Hughes, J., Ritchie, L., Roberts, S., & Wright, K. (2005). Digital beginnings: Young children’s use of popular culture, media and new technologies. Sheffield, UK: Literacy Research Centre, University of Sheffield.Google Scholar
  23. Marsh, J., & Thompson, P. (2001). Parental involvement in literacy development: using media texts. Journal of Research in Reading, 24, 266–278. doi: 10.1111/1467-9817.00148.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McClanahan, B., Williams, K., Kennedy, E., & Tate, S. (2012). A breakthrough for Josh: How use of an iPad facilitated reading improvement. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 56(4), 20–28. doi: 10.1007/s11528-012-0572-6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McNaughton, S. (1995). Patterns of emergent literacy. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Ministry of Education. (1996). Te Whāriki: Early childhood curriculum. Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media.Google Scholar
  27. Ministry of Education. (2005). Kei Tua o te pae. Assessment for learning: Early childhood exemplars. Wellington, New Zealand: Learning Media.Google Scholar
  28. Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., & Neff, D. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory Into Practice, 31, 132–141. doi: 10.1080/00405849209543534.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nicholson, T. (2000). Reading the writing on the wall. Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press.Google Scholar
  30. Northrop, L., & Killeen, E. (2013). A framework for using iPads to build early literacy skills. Reading Teacher, 66, 531–537. doi: 10.1002/TRTR.1155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Oldridge, L. (2010). Digital foundations: A study of perceptions and practices surrounding the use of ICT in ECE centres. Doctoral thesis, Massey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.Google Scholar
  32. O’Mara, J., & Laidlaw, L. (2011). Living in the world: Two literacy researchers reflect on the changing texts and literacy practices of childhood. English Teaching: Practice and Critique, 10, 149–159.Google Scholar
  33. Plowman, L., McPake, J., & Stephen, C. (2008). Just picking it up? Young children learning with technology at home. Cambridge Journal of Education, 38, 303–319. doi: 10.1080/03057640802287564.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Plowman, L., & Stephen, C. (2007). Guided interaction in pre-school settings. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 23, 14–26. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2007.00194.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Saine, P. (2012). iPods, iPads, and the SMARTBoard: Transforming literacy instruction and student learning. New England Reading Association Journal, 47(2), 74–79.Google Scholar
  36. Wertsch, J. V. (1993). Voices of the mind: A sociocultural approach to mediated action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Wertsch, J. V., & Tulviste, P. (1992). L. S. Vygotsky and contemporary developmental psychology. Developmental Psychology, 28, 548–557.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Whitehurst, G. J., & Lonigan, C. J. (1998). Child development and emergent literacy. Child Development, 69, 848–872.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Wolfe, S., & Flewitt, R. (2010). New technologies, new multimodal literacy practices and young children’s metacognitive development. Cambridge Journal of Education, 40, 387–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zambarbieri, D., & Carniglia, E. (2012). Eye movement analysis of reading from computer displays, eReaders and printed books. Ophthalmic & Physiological Optics, 32(5), 390–396. doi: 10.1111/j.1475-1313.2012.00930.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zevenbergen, R. (2007). Digital natives come to preschool: Implications for early childhood practice. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 8, 19–29. doi: 10.2304/ciec.2007.8.1.19.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Singapore 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of EducationMassey UniversityPalmerston NorthNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations