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CHILD LITERACY

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INTRODUCTION

Young children, the most sensitive age group of human race, are now growing in an era of technological advancement. When a child grows, firstly, he mainly introduced to letter name, sound, early writing and printing knowledge which are known as emergent literacy skills. These emergent literacy skills play a significant role in his entire life along with this it also affects the reading and writing ability of a child. In earlier days, mainly children used to acquire this primitive knowledge by non-digital means. Due to the application of technological advancement, nowadays, the use of digital tools (e.g. desktop computers, tablets etc.) is in rising trends. As tablets are more easily available and user-friendly and availability of easily downloadable applications, use of tablets is using day-by-day in the home and pre-school of young children. As per the study of Neumann, tablets with innovative applications are significantly helping young children for learning emergent literacy skills (Flewitt, 2013).

An app is programmed software that runs on a mobile device like tablets, smartphones etc. Among the various applications available, the beneficial apps concerned with emergent literacy skills can be categorized as gaming apps, creating apps and e-books. As a young child starts using apps on tablets, he is exposed to various new user-friendly interfaces that helps him in understanding the meaning of printed letters, words, symbols, numbers, and icons. As a result, these new experience greatly benefits for the development of emergent literacy of children (Shamir & Korat, 2007). Due to new creative and innovative design of applications, children find these applications more attractive which in result enhance their interest in learning basic skills in a funnier way. Children can learn by playing games like shape sorting, sound & figure matching, solving easy puzzles, playing with numbers, listening & reading to stories and drawing & writing on their own. Unlike desktop computers that require higher operational skills, the intuitive touch-based interface of apps on tablets are easier for young toddlers or even 0 to 2 year age group. For example, an 8 to 10 months old child can use his finger to use and experiment with making marks on tablets and even children of 3 to 4 years of age can write their own stories and read interactive e-books on tablets (Flewitt, 2013).

Several studies have shown the positive effect of the use of traditional non-touch screens. Presently, intuitive touch screen applications are a new trend that attracts further research on the effects and role of touch screen tablets and applications on children's emergent literacy development. Therefore, the present study has been done to understand the effects and influence of touch screen tablets also the apps (Sharam & Barrett, 2007). This study aims to find out the depth to which Australian preschooler are using touch screen tablets and their application at their home as well as preschool. A detailed study of some of the trending applications and their influence has also been performed (Flewitt, 2013).

Descriptive Summary of Some of the Touch Screen Tablet’s Apps 

  1. Selection of Apps:In our study, four different apps are selected that are suitable for use on a touch screen tablet for young preschoolers and a detailed study has been performed to understand apps, their features, their reviews and their applicability  for emergent literacy development of preschoolers. A questionnaire has been made for taking reviews from parents that is attached to Appendix.

We have selected following four apps:

  1. ABC kids
  2. Pocket phonics
  3. 123kids
  4. Math toddler

A proper discussion on apps that were selected is discussed in details as follow: 

  1. ABC kids: It is a kid’s friendly simple education app that is available for free and is categorized as a literary app (Neumann, 2014). It is suitable for young children of age group This app includes free phonics and alphabet teaching in a very funnier, easy and entertaining way to young children and preschoolers. The user interface is appropriate for children and they find this app very easy to operate. Features of this app include a kid's friendly interface, alphabet tracing games, letter and sound pairing, uppercase and lowercase letter tracing and matching, smart interface that attract children's deep interest in learning alphabets and small words. App manufacturer recommends the parents to opt for a paid preschool friendly package in order to avoid third-party advertisement and in app micro-transaction. This app has received good ratings and strong views as per google analytics of 4.5 out of 5.  Contents of this app are deeply concerned about children's education (Sharam and Barrett, 2007).

Parents have also reviewed of utilization of this app in development of emergent literacy skills. It has been reported that children find this app very interesting and learns many things easily. Most of the parents were agreed of a fruitful influence of this app for their children.

Some of the critics of this app are that Parents had demanded more features, the inclusion of better graphics, a new strategy to increase children's interest. Also, a more interactive framework is required for enhancing the degree of scaffoldings. As per our study, this can be rated 4.5 out of 5 due to lesser degree of technical and socio-cultural scaffoldings.

  1. 123kids:  An average rated app with features of numerical education includes games, number tracing, small numerical counting and operations. It can be categorized as mathematics app (Neumann, 2014). This app helps children to learn numbers. It is recommended for young toddlers of age group 0-2 years as wells as kindergarten scholars. Its features include a number of games that are full of fun graphics and sounds with collectible stickers that make children learn easily every day with fun. An interactive framework that encourage user to play more for wining prizes and user also receive appreciations on each success. Customization of each game can be performed to meet the needs of children is an interesting feature of this app. Games like number tracing, learn to count, number matching, fill in the blanks etc. makes children learn in a very easier way. Collectible reward as stickers makes children to cross levels as fast as possible.

Most of the parents were agreed on usefulness and applicability of this app. A significant number of parents had reported of its difficult operation for young toddlers. Almost every parent of a child using this app had said that this app had helped a lot in learning of emergent literacy skills.

Options of customization by parents and interactive framework make this app more efficient on basis of three scaffolding i.e. cognitive, affective and technical. Its design consideration makes it more relevant for development of emergent literary skills as per the modern theories. (Neumann, 2014)

Critics of this app include its level of difficulty which most of young preschoolers face in its games and lose their interest. Looking at its efficiency, degree of scaffolding, this app can be rated 4 out of 5.

  1. Pocket Phonics: A 5 starring app, pocket phonics is the best comprehensive beginning app. It can be categorized as literary app(Neumann, 2014) This app has focused on letter’s sound more than naming of letter. This app features a interactive platform in which few letter sounds are presented and after listening to the sound, user have to select a matching letter out of the options given. After listening to the sound, user can also spell words in its next level. On correct spelling, related picture is displayed. This app also keep a record which can be accessed by parents and teachers that will help them to know child’s strength’s and weakness. So that they can focus on that specific field. This app presents interactive framework with colourful graphics and appreciations after every correct responses.  This app is mostly recommended for very young preschoolers on age group 0-2 year.

Critics of this app include parents’ review of its boring methodology. Parents have commented that their children get bored of this app and stop using it. Though this is app that focuses on all three scaffoldings, but due to less entertainment and fun it can be rated 3 out of 5.

Write My Name:

It is 4.5 out of 5 rated fun education app that encourages and enable young preschoolers to practice writing letters, sight words and names. In this app, user can use their finger for tracing the letters by following guidance in form of arrows and lines of pictures that are keep on displaying to help. They can only trace to the directions of arrow points. This unique feature of this app differentiates it from other trending preschooler app and of great learning and help. Its highly interactive framework and design with keeping focused on modern theories of emergent learning helps a lot to young preschoolers for development of emergent literary skills. In this app, teachers and parents can also create nametags with a photo and a recording of each student’s voice to match their name. This app is highly recommended for children of 0-2 year of age.

Parents have given positive response on use of this app for development of emergent literary skills. Looking as it design and reviews, this app can be rated 5 out 5 for its applicability for development of emergent literary skills.

Similarities and Differences

All the four apps discussed above are for serving a same purpose i.e. development of emergent literary skills and are recommended for preschoolers of very young age group i.e. 0 to 2 years. All the Application indicates the more focus on the children learning at all levels. These apps are manufactured for making preschooler aware about letter, words, numbers, simple counting and also for their sounds. These applications are found to be very fruitful for preschoolers in order to provide a learning environment and platform with fun and entertainment. Due to interactive features and framework, these apps attract user’s interest. Once they develop interest in using them, learning starts simultaneously.

Identified Issues

The feature that distinguishes above apps is the degree of scaffoldings. Focusing on three scaffoldings for development of emergent literary skills i.e. cognitive, affective and technical scaffoldings, manufacturer has tried to help preschooler in learning process. Inclusion of interactive framework involves implication of cognitive scaffolding where a virtual person is sitting with them in app and user learns while experimenting and exploring new things. Appreciations and collectible reward serves the function of affective scaffolding that encourages user for their achievement and also enhances their interest in these creative apps while change in difficulty level as per user’s advancement serves the function of technical scaffoldings. From above all four apps, “Write my name” is the best followed by ABC kids, 123kids, and phonic pockets on basis of implication of degree of scaffoldings. More advancement in designing while focusing on higher degree of scaffoldings can serve the purpose of development of emergent literacy skills more efficiently

The other thing to concern here is the quantity of time spend and quality of learning. Due to less addictiveness, fun and entertainment in discussed four apps in comparison to gaming apps, parents have commented that their children spent less time on these apps and easily get bored. Thus, questioning the purpose of the apps. If a user spends more time on these apps, for sure, they will learn more, but they mostly don’t spend which further results in questioning all the ratings and technological advancement. For clearer outlook, a further research is required while focusing on quantity of time a child invest in these literary apps and how long it takes for him to lose his interest.

Parent’s view

From data received from the questionnaires, it has revealed that about half of children have good access to touch screen tablets (49%). Most children use gaming apps (58%) that are followed by e-story apps (18%), literary apps (14%) and math apps (10%). Almost half on the parents (46%) found that these apps are very easy and easy to operate, 26 % reported of neither easy nor difficult, 12% said of difficult and very difficult and remaining are undecided. About 76% of parents though that these apps are useful for emergent literacy skills development. Parents also shown their deep concern of negative impacts of addictiveness of gaming apps, boring interface and design of literary apps and of third part in application advertisements.

Conclusion

The above study makes it clear that the use of touch screen tablets and apps have increased very much. Most of the young children have direct access to these apps and are using it almost every day. Modern technological advancement and innovative ideas in designing apps have made use of touch screen tablets and apps very relevant. Their use and relevance are increasing day by day with the further new addition and updating their old versions. Children find its easy operations and attractive interface very interesting and helping children in learning emergent literacy skills in a funnier way. Critics of addictive game apps have shown the negative side of application of this new technological advancement (Cawley, 2009). It further needs a detailed study to check the negative impacts of overusing gaming apps by children. As a concluding comment, it can be said that touch screen tablets and apps are helping in creating a foundation block for the development of literacy skills by doing upliftment of children emergent literacy skills. Implications of the three scaffoldings discussed in core article of Neumann (Neumann, 2010) and of modern theory of emergent literary skill learnings have increase the effectiveness and efficiency of touch screen tablet and apps in serving the purpose of development of emergent literary skills.  But, negative effects and critics should not be ignored and further study should be taken for more detailed analysis.

REFLECTION QUESTIONS:

Q1: What were you trying to accomplish?

With the help of the investigation study, it mainly focuses to investigate how the chosen literary application helps in children learning in their pre-schools. Today, technology plays a crucial role in everybody life. I personally believe that the multiple applications for the education of the children are helping them to understand the concepts easily and effectively.

Q2: Did you succeed? Why? Why not?

Yes, the investigation study successfully analyzed the importance of the android applications in the children learning from the initial stages.  Touch screen tablets are supporting the school learning in a better way. Parents are using the application to help their children in understanding the language, letters and many more things easily. Schools should encourage the parents to support their children in the new learning methods and make their child familiar with the current applications as well.

Q3: What is the strongest aspect of this work? Why?

 I believe that Games like number tracing, learn to count, number matching, fill in the blanks etc. makes children learn in a very easier way. Collectible reward as stickers makes children to cross levels as fast as possible. Looking at the critics and drawbacks of apps, following things require further studies:

Q4: What aspect is most in need of reworking? Why

The investigation must also be done on the negative side of using the apps for school learning as it make the students addicted to the touch screen tablet. So, there is a need of rework on this side.

References

  • Burnett, C. (2010). Technology and literacy in early childhood educational settings: A review of research. Journal Of Early Childhood Literacy, 10(3), 247-270. doi: 10.1177/1468798410372154
  • Barrs, K. (2011). Mobility in Learning: The Feasibility of Encouraging Language Learning on Smartphones: SiSAL Journal, 2,  228-233.
  • Cawley, A. (2009). Handbook of Mobile Communication Studies. Information, Communication & Society12(8), 1262-1264.
  • Flewitt, R. (2013). Sharing personalised stories on iPads: a close look at one parent-child interaction. Literacy, 47(3), 115-122. doi: 10.1111/lit.12003
  • Fantz, T. (2013). Technological Literacy for All: A Course Designed to Raise the Technological Literacy of College Students. Journal Of Technology Education, 25(1), 56-67. doi: 10.21061/jte.v25i1.a.1
  • Neaum, S. (2018). Engaging with literacy provision in the early years: Language use and emergent literacy in child-initiated play. Journal Of Early Childhood Literacy, 4(7), 146879841878331. doi: 10.1177/1468798418783310
  • Nakheung Kim, M. (2016). Development and application of forest education program for young children. Korean Journal Of Early Childhood Education, 36(5), 285-313. doi: 10.18023/kjece.2016.36.5.012
  • Sharam, P., and B. Barrett (2007). Blended learning using technology in and beyond the language classroom, Macmillan, 3(12), 23-56.
  • Tondeur, J., Keer, H., Braak, J. & Valcke, M. (2008). "ICT integration in the classroom: Challenging the potential of a school policy". Computers & Education, 51(1), 212-223.
  • Yalin, H., Karadeniz, O. & H., O. (2007). "Barriers to information and communication technologies integration into elementary schools". Journal of Applied Sciences, 7(24), 4036-4039.

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