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#DigLitMcGill Conference Day 2 Theme III Report
As e-books are now part of our children’s daily lives, what is the daily reality of an educational e-book publisher? by Chloe Benaroya, Tribal Nova, Inc.
Recent reports show that the children’s e-book industry is a dynamic economy with an appetite for kid’s reading on digital platforms. According to the 2015 study by Digital Book World and PlayScience, 93% of children (2-13 years old) read an e-book once a week. 21% of children’s books purchased in 2014 were e-books, a market driven by young adult e-books.
Although there are real business opportunities, the reality of an electronic publisher is trickier than one can imagine at first. The e-book market is segmented, and it can be a challenge for digital publishers to have a long-term strategy, to build a sustainable business model and to streamline the digital production process.
Whereas traditional book publishing is a mature industry, the e-book industry has still to define itself. What is an e-book for children in the first place? The definition of an e-book varies enormously according to the format, the content, and the user experience you target. Are you referring to a digital version of a book that can be read on your smartphones, tablets or other reading devices? Are you referring to an e-book with interactions, sound-effects, music and audio, usually called enriched e-books? Do you include in the definition reading apps that are sold as standalone apps in digital stores and can propose various user experiences (where audiovisual and interactive stimuli can be dominant over text elements)?
For each of these types of products, there are different distribution channels and marketing strategies. According to the path you choose, your final product can be distributed as an e-book and sold as a paid downloadable product via e-book retailers (Amazon Kindle Store or Barnes and Noble Nook store) or via publisher’s sites, or subscription services. Alternatively, your product can be considered a children’s app and be sold on completely different distribution channels, such as the Apple App store and Google Play. It will then compete for visibility in a competitive market (over 80,000 education apps in the App Store) with other children’s apps and renowned branded games.
The distribution channels you choose as a publisher will impact your pricing strategy and your business model. For example, if you consider the average price in the e-book
 The ABCs of Kids and E-Reading: Volume 4–Devices, Content and Reading Habits of Children 2–3, 2013, Digital Book World and PlayScience
 The Nielsen Children’s Book Summit, 2014.
#DigLitMcGill Conference Day 2 Theme II Report
Responsible Science Communication re: Digital Media by Aparna Nadig
Many academics are much more comfortable communicating their research findings to other academics than to the popular press, and regard the sound bites and snippets of research served up in the press with scorn. Yet, the intersection between research and the popular press is critical and particularly consequential when it comes to topics of health and education, as for our topic of digital media for young children. Our second Round Table Discussion focused on the Responsible Science Communication re: Digital Media to move past this passive position and consider what is needed to achieve more evidence-based and responsible dissemination of research findings. We started by exploring the context created by the popular press on digital media use by children, as this is the environment that educators and professionals working with children, digital media professionals, and scientists confront when trying to convey key messages about digital media use. I asked participants (who self-identified as students or researchers, 40%, education or health professionals, 32%, parents of young children, 16%, digital media professionals, 8%, or other 4%) to report their gut response with respect to how much they agreed with a barrage of headlines, from sensational takes like this one (1) from Salon.com which talks about “rotting kids brains”:
This is the report from the audience on the Salon headline:
To more balanced and nuanced reporting as seen in this article (2) from BBC News, which discusses varying degrees of video gaming being related to different outcomes in children:
#DigLitMcGill Conference Day 2 Theme 1 Report
Theme I: Key Messages for Parents and Teachers, by Lizzie Carolan, Melanie Orellana and Kathrin Rees
The kick-off presentation for the first theme was introduced by Kathrin Rees, Certified Teacher at Special Education Schools/Germany and Doctoral Candidate at the School of Communication Sciences and Disorders at McGill University. Her kick-off presentation (Rees diglitMcGill Day 2 blog slides) focused on three pieces of advice that parents frequently encounter in relation to sharing eBooks with their children: (1) quality eBooks guarantee learning, (2) read eBooks just like traditional books, and (3) give the child the lead. She evaluated the validity of these messages in turn.
For key message (1), quality eBooks guarantee learning, Kathrin brought up the fact that finding quality eBooks is often challenging. Although there is a growing number of excellent reviewer websites , not all parents or teachers know about such resources or take the time to consult them before making a purchase. Oftentimes, the frameworks that are out there have not been scientifically evaluated. Fortunately, researchers are beginning to put out evidence-based frameworks, such as Hirsh-Pasek et al. (2015) (discussed in more detail below). Apps often have flexible settings, which presents another challenge as both the basic and the enhanced version of the app need evaluation. Clearly, there is a need for a more efficient and streamlined way for parents and teachers to evaluate apps before sharing them with children.
Digital Literacy for Preschoolers: #DigLitMcGill Day 2 Conference Outcomes
Theme III: Responsible Marketing of Digital Media, blog by Chloe Benaroya, Tribal Nova, Inc.On June 27, we held a round-table discussion at McGill University as part of the Digital Literacy for Preschoolers conference. The round-table discussion focused on the three following themes: key messages for parents and teachers regarding digital media, responsible science communication regarding digital media, and responsible marketing of digital media. The ideas generated from these discussions will inform a new section of the Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. Each theme was introduced with a kick-off presentation to get ideas flowing for group discussion. Separate posts will summarize the kick-off presentation and the ensuing discussion and provide links to any materials that were provided to conference participants.
- Theme I: Key Messages for Parents and Teachers, blog by Lizzie Carolan, Melanie Orellana and Kathrin Rees, Child Phonology Laboratory POSTED ON DECEMBER 9, 2015
- Theme II: Responsible Science Communication, blog by Dr. Aparna Nadig, School of Communication Sciences and Disorders POSTED ON DECEMBER 9, 2015
- Theme III: Responsible Marketing of Digital Media, blog by Chloe Benaroya, Tribal Nova, Inc. POSTED ON DECEMBER 10, 2015
Call for papers: IJCCI Special Issue
Natalia Kucirkova and Susan Rvachew are very pleased to announce our call for papers in a special issue of the International Journal of Child-Computer Interaction. We will be accepting abstracts first and then, after selection, will invite authors to submit full papers for submission by July 1, 2016. The special issue is called Reading in the 21st century: how does digital book-reading influence the reading processes and outcomes for young children? Please follow the link to the journal site for full information on the issue and take note of the important dates below.
Abstracts submitted to Guest Editors by: February 1, 2016
Decisions about acceptance of abstracts by: April 1, 2016
Full papers submitted in EVISE by: July 1, 2016
Final decisions by: March 1, 2017
Publication time: May, 2017
Natalia Kucirkova, The Open University, UK, ✉Natalia.email@example.com↗
Susan Rvachew, McGill University, Canada, Susan.firstname.lastname@example.org↗
Call for Papers: Touch Screen Tablets Touching Children’s Lives
The e-Book as a Facilitator of Language and Literacy among Hebrew-Speaking Children
The second presentation in Theme IV: Learning to Read with Digital Media was presented by Ofra Korat . Ofra demonstrated two delightful books that she has been using in her research on the use of digital media for facilitating the acquisition of oral and written language skills by Hebrew-speaking children. The books are carefully designed with elements shown to improve children’s learning such as animated dictionary pop-ups. Ofra’s research program is remarkable for its depth and breadth, involving children with variations in language skills and social class and book reading conditions that include print versus electronic versions of the stories presented with and without adult support. Ofra is convinced that if ebooks are sufficiently well designed children will learn language and literacy skills from them even without adult scaffolding; this outcome has been observed in some although not all of her studies. If the design elements that promote this outcome can be identified, such books could benefit children who have less access to high quality adult supports or who, due to language disability or differences, require additional language inputs in order to achieve adequate success in school.
Conference abstract: In this presentation, we will present a series of studies performed in the last decade that examined the contribution of e-book reading to the language and literacy of young Hebrew-speaking children.
Conference handout: Please contact Dr. Korat directly for more information about her presentation.
Using Constructive Apps to Develop Digital Literary Skills in Early Childhood Education
The second presentation in Theme IV: Teaching with eBooks in the Classroom was submitted by Monika Tavernier from the German Swiss International School of Hong Kong. However, she was ultimately unable to attend the conference and therefore her slides were presented by Jeremy Brueck. found the slides and the associated videos to be very interesting because the action research that was described in some ways addressed the issue of digital literacy more directly than the other presentations at the conference that were often more concerned with learning literacy from digital tools such as ebooks. Monika’s presentation described the children’s progress as they constructed various products using multimedia apps with less and less teacher support as the year went on. It was interesting to see the children gradually adopt strategies to organize multimedia objects both within and across pages. It’s hard to know how to interpret the progression in the children’s use of the digital media however. Clearly the children became more skilled in the use of the tools so that, whereas they initially piled print (often random letters) on top of graphics, they eventually learned to organize meaningful words under pictures in a conventional style and they further learned to organize material onto separate pages. In addition to technical skills these advances may reflect cognitive advances in the ability to organize information into meaningful groups and to adapt to the needs of the audience or reader. At the same time, do these adaptations reflect pressure by adults to adopt a ‘book’ based style that is not actually necessary or well suited to the digital medium? Must there be pages for example? Personally, I find these observational studies to be fascinating and valuable contributions to the literature at this stage of our understanding of how digital media impact on children’s learning.
Conference Abstract: Early childhood educators can make use of applications such as the Book Creator to foster an interest in experimenting with written and verbal language to create original content.
Conference handout: Using constructive apps.
Parental Co-viewing and Language Learning from Digital Media
The third presentation in Theme II: Learning Language from Shared Reading with eBooks covered a series of word learning experiments conducted by Georgene Troseth, Gabrielle Strouse, and Colleen Russo. The studies presented were a logical outgrowth of Georgene’s prior work on the role of third party social interactions on word-learning by young children. Georgene is a co-author of the well-known study “Can babies learn to read: A randomized trial of baby media”.
The studies presented at McGill, while exploratory, were carefully designed to assess word learning as an outcome jointly determined by characteristics of the technology and the child. Novel words might be taught in tasks that required the child to watch, tap or drag the novel objects presented on the screen. Child characteristics such as age, gender and self-regulation skills were taken into account as potential explanatory variables. Additional studies involved video storybook and video chat modalities with controls on the form of adult mediation of the child’s learning. You really must view Georgene’s slides to marvel at the impact of all this complexity emerging from studies involving very simple apps! However, the take home message seems to be that apps must be designed to facilitate self-regulation by the child or to help the parent regulate the child’s focus and engagement with the app. This presentation amplified many points made earlier in the day by Mary Courage – learning is dependent upon the child’s access to high quality inputs – the technology may provide educational inputs but receipt of those inputs is determined by the interaction of the child’s executive functions and active mediation on the part of adults. Coviewing of video storybooks by parents improves children’s learning; how can we improve the co-reading experience for parents and children when sharing ebooks?
Conference abstract: We will discuss young children’s language learning from video in two studies with and without parental support. This research provides important background information for those studying children’s learning from newer, interactive digital media (e.g., eBooks, touchscreen apps, and video chat).
Conference handout: Troseth DigLit Slide Upload.
Preschoolers in the Digital Age: How do E-storybooks and Paper Storybooks Compare?
The Key Note presenter for Theme II: Learning Language from Shared Reading with eBooks was Mary Courage. Her talk was entitled Preschoolers in the Digital Age: How do E-storybooks and Paper Storybooks Compare? (Mary L. Courage and Anna Richter) but she began with a valuable overview of the basic science on perceptual and cognitive contributions to language development that helped to explain the “video deficit” commonly observed in infants and young children (see also our blog post by Aparna Nadig). Subsequently she described new research from her lab in which 3, 4 and 5 year old children listened to an ebook and a paper book with stories and format presented in counterbalanced order within child. Although they observed predictable age differences in story recall, there were no differences as a function of story format (i.e., paper book versus ebook). The results were surprising when compared to other studies (see blog on Julia Parish-Morris’ presentation). However, in Mary’s study the amount of adult scaffolding was controlled and minimized across formats. I also note that the adult reader was not a parent. We have noted in our research that conflict for “control” of the device is minimized in the school setting, i.e., when the adult reader is the not the child’s parent! The other finding that I find particularly interesting was that visual engagement with ebooks was high but child verbal responsiveness was low during shared reading in both contexts. Often we are using child verbal responses as an outcome measure in these studies, but the child’s verbal output is not a good indicator of “learning” from the interaction. All round, this beautifully controlled study conducted by Mary and her student raised many important issues about the conditions under which children can learn from ebooks.
Conference abstract: The increasing availability of electronic storybooks for preschoolers has raised concerns that they will not only add to daily screen time, but also distract children and diminish pre-reading skill acquisition. E-books may also change the nature of the parent-child interaction that occurs during reading with traditional print books and that supports early literacy skills. Alternatively, because electronic books are delivered via popular mobile devices, they might motivate children to read more, benefit from built-in reading aids, and increase their focused attention to story details. Research to date has not resolved these issues, leaving parents and educators with mixed messages on the pros and cons of the two formats in promoting children’s literacy. We will report on an experimental study in which we evaluated preschool children’s attention, learning, and engagement with comparable stories in both formats.
Conference handout: To request a handout or more information about this study conducted by Mary Courage and Anna Richter, please e-mail Dr. Courage at email@example.com.