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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.