The Impact of Mobile Learning via Touch-Screen Tablets in Emergent Literacy Development

The Impact of Mobile Learning via Touch-Screen Tablets in Emergent Literacy Development

Ioannis Grigorakis (Faculty of Education, University of Crete, Greece)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 21
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-1486-3.ch004


Children's use of touch-screen tablets is increasing as these mobile devices become increasingly available. The interactive, tactile touch-screen interface and easily downloadable applications make tablets especially popular with pre-schoolers. This chapter's literature review provides an overview of recent research into tablets and emergent literacy development at home and in the pre-school setting. A multi-faceted synthesis of research on children's use of tablets and its impact in emergent literacy skills was conducted. The evidence indicated that mobile learning via touch-screen tablets has the potential to broadly enhance emergent writing and may facilitate the development of letter name/sound knowledge, print awareness, letter writing and name writing skills, and phonological awareness. The relation between the use of tablets and emergent literacy development seems to be complex as it is mediated by factors such as the type of multisensory experiences through literacy applications and the type of scaffolding used by adults. Recommendations and directions for future research are discussed.
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Emergent literacy is referred to the early development of a number of oral language and code-related skills (see Storch & Whitehurst, 2002) that are foundational skills upon which children build future skilled reading and writing (Kirby, Parrila, & Pfeiffer, 2003; Landerl & Wimmer, 2008). The provision of high-quality literacy experiences at home and in the pre-school setting as well as the quality of the interactions between adults and young children contribute to the development of children’s early literacy skills (Niklas & Schneider, 2013; Dickinson & McCabe, 2001). With new technological advances continually emerging, the literacy practices of young children and their families are characterized, more than ever before, by the everyday use of digital technologies (Flewitt, Messer, & Kucirkova, 2015). In fact, the entry of digital technologies primarily into the home environment and to a lesser extent into the school environment (Flewitt et al., 2015) has exposed children, parents and educators to new forms of literacy combining active learning and pleasure (Shamir & Korat, 2015).

Particularly, the rapid entry and use of portable technologies and efficient mobile devices such as touch- screen tablets brought new habits to the level of everyday life and new tools at the educational level (Kokkalia, Drigas, & Economou, 2016). These devices offer the opportunity for independent learning and easy access to information as well as they provide motivation and stimulus that promote the development of digital literacy (Zaranis, Kalogiannakis, & Papadakis, 2013). Touch-screen tablets are becoming rapidly popular among pre-schoolers because of their technological features (Papadakis, Kalogiannakis, & Zaranis, 2016) and this trend is rising rapidly (Rideout, 2017). They are able to provide all the advantages of mobile learning in all educational levels, not only for one-to-one learning but also as an entertaining, attractive, and potentially powerful learning tool for work in different learning environments (e.g. inside and outside the classroom) (Zaranis et al., 2013). In addition, they offer the potential for accompanying educational applications (apps) (Terras & Ramsay, 2012) that can create exciting environments for learning and instruction even in early childhood (Papadakis, Kalogiannakis, & Zaranis, 2017). The engaging features of tablets could afford a range of opportunities for promoting emergent literacy development (Neumann & Neumann, 2017). Their integration in family literacy practices is also changing patterns of parent/adult-child interactions and the way children learn from such interactions (Kucirkova, Messer, Sheehy, & Flewitt, 2013). Due to the increasing popularity of touch-screen tablets as digital devices for pre-schoolers it is essential to explore the potential effects tablets have on emergent literacy. In this direction, the present chapter reviews recent research that has examined the use of tablets at home and in the pre-school setting to foster emergent literacy skills.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Emergent Writing: The progression of stages a young child moves through beginning with random marks and ending with the conventional spelling of a language.

Phonological Awareness: The ability to identify and manipulate units of spoken sound.

Scaffolding: A learning process in which teachers and/or parents model or demonstrate how to solve a problem, and then step back, offering support as needed.

Feedback: A process in which learners make sense of information about their performance and use it to enhance the quality of their work or learning strategies.

Literacy: The ability to read and write.

Digital Literacy: The ability to use ICT to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.

Constructive Applications: Applications that maintain an emphasis on inquiry and social processes as well as on distributed cognition designs.

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