Early Literacy and Technology: Scanning the Landscape


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How might technology assist in equipping low-income parents with tools and information to help their children meet developmental milestones and read on grade level by the end of third grade?

In 2012, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the New America Foundation are partnering to produce a scan of new technologies that are available to educators, parents and young children that may have some bearing on early literacy achievement. One motivating force behind the project is the importance of the context in which technologies are used and the extent to which digital media may or may not prompt parents to engage in language-rich conversations with their children.

The project is proceeding on two tracks. We are scanning and analyzing products (apps, ebooks, games and websites) that companies are marketing as literacy-focused. And we are seeking out examples of models, interventions and programs that employ technology in reaching educators, parents and/or children, particularly those in disadvantaged circumstances. This slideshow presents some early findings from our scans of the marketplace and interviews with leaders in early literacy programs around the country. The second stage of our project, to come this fall, is a published analysis with expanded materials available online for wider national dissemination.

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Early Literacy and Technology: Scanning the Landscape

  2. 2. Key research issuesCan well-deployed technology help equip low-income parents and teachers with the tools andinformation they need to promote children’s reading?Also:  How is technology used by teachers in early education?  What helps bridge informal and formal uses?  Can technology have a positive impact on the three GLR pillars?
  3. 3. Why examine the potential of today’s technology?Depending on content and context, digital media have been shown to spark learning.Technology is now a big part of children’s lives.But access and use varies……which may exacerbate already wide achievement gaps.
  4. 4. Flickr.com/El aine and Scott van der Chijs courtesy Creative Commons licenseIn search of ‘learning together’ moments
  5. 5. Joint engagementCould developers and educators encourage familiesto watch, talk about and play with digital mediatogether? If so, this could prompt more back-and-forth conversation — a cornerstone of children’slanguage development and later reading skills. Photo from flickr.com/TimWilson Creative Commons License
  6. 6. Research and design for learningtogether in a digital age Lori Takeuchi And Reed Stevens
  7. 7. Studies show…The value ofReciprocal social interactionVerbal interactionsEngagement and joint attentionVia media
  8. 8. The field of early ed is recognizingtechnology’s emergenceTwo of several points in theNAEYC statement:Digital literacy is essentialto guiding early childhoodeducators and parents inthe selection, use,integration, and evaluationof technology andinteractive media.Early childhood educatorsneed training, professionaldevelopment opportunities,and examples of successfulpractice ...
  9. 9. Digital media are part of preschoolers’ lives100% White80% Black 66% 59% 61%60% 52% 51% Hispanic 46% 48% 50% 40% 41% 39% 40% 40%40% 35% 26%20% 0% Play Video Play Video Use an Watch Video Watch Videos Games on a Games on a iPod/MP3 on Demand on a Console Handheld Player Handheld Device Device SOURCE: Always Connected, JGCC, 2011 (2009 data).
  10. 10. Screentime: Up by ~ 1/3 in the past six years Minutes spent per day among 6 mo – 6 yr olds 140 120 Other apps on 100 cell, ipod, iPad Other computer 80 activities 60 Playing media games 40 Watching TV, DVDs, or videos 20 0 2005 2011*2011 results reflect answers to the use of apps, iPod and iPads across all four types of activities. In 2005, apps didnot exist and were not part of the survey. SOURCE: Common Sense Media, 2011; Kaiser Family Foundation, 2005.
  11. 11. Digital access gaps persist77% of householdshave a computerand 68% haveaccess tobroadband.Of those with nobroadbandaccess, 20% rely onlibraries and 12%on other people’shouses. (ESA & NTIA, 2011). Photo from Flickr.com by Fiona Bradley; Creative Commons license
  12. 12. Low-income families less likely to have latesttech or to use apps 60% 55%Children from low-income 50%households use apps and 40%mobile devices lessfrequently than children 30% 22%from high-income 20%households (Common SenseMedia, 2011). 10% 0% Low-Income High-Income Households Households
  13. 13. A swelling marketplace Apps in iTunes StoreOver 80% of top 700000selling paid apps in 600000the EducationCategory target 500000children; of 400000those, 72% target 300000preschool aged 200000children (JGCC 2012). 100000 0 July July June June June 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 Source: I48apps.biz; About.com
  14. 14. Feeling a little like the Wild West TarynMarie on Flickr via Creative Commons license Thomas Hawk and Thom Ross on Flickr via Creative Commons license
  15. 15. Our scan of the landscape Products Programs Apps Teacher training E-books models Games Curricula/ Web sites resources Parent outreach and education
  16. 16. So far, technology development appears tocluster around four approachesPromoting Building Improving Reinforcing the personal background basic skills workforceconnection knowledge App games Professional Social that test Video field dev hubs / networking phonics trips online knowledge courses Better, on- Children’s Texting via Flashcards demand literature mobile for sight access to available as device words curricular ebooks materials
  17. 17. Targeting three different audiences Child Educator Parent
  18. 18. Product ScanAPRIL 2012
  19. 19. The data (April 2012)Apps Top 20 paid “educational literacy” apps in iTunes Top 20 free “educational literacy” apps in iTunes Top 20 paid “educational literacy” apps in Android Top 20 free “educational literacy“ apps in AndroidE-Books Top 20 featured e-books for kids on iTunes*Games Reviewed “educational literacy” games on Common Sense Media for kids ages 2-8, released 2007-2012; n=17Websites Top 20 reviewed “educational literacy” websites on Common Sense Media; must include content for kids.
  20. 20. Definition of literacy-focusedThe products had to target one or more of thefollowing areas associated with literacy: Print concepts Letters and letter-sounds Phonics with word recognition Letter Writing Sight Words Spelling Vocabulary Comprehension Understand and tell stories Grammar
  21. 21. Definition of literacy-focusedThe products had to target one or more of thefollowing areas associated with literacy: Print concepts Letters and letter-sounds Phonics with word recognition Letter Writing Sight Words Spelling Vocabulary Comprehension Understand and tell stories Grammar
  22. 22. Target age groupsWe only looked at products targeting 0-8. Early Preschool Elementary 0-2 Apps, E- Apps, Games, We books, Website bsites s
  23. 23. App examples Phonics
  24. 24. App examples Understand and tell stories
  25. 25. App examples Comprehension
  26. 26. iTunes paid market has the highestconcentration of kids’ literacy apps Percent of top educational apps targeting literacy for kids100% 80% 60% 48% 40% 17% 20% 11% 9% 0% iTunes Paid Android Paid iTunes Free Android FreeThis is a dramatic increase from about a year ago.In July, 2011 only 5% of top iTunes paid apps targetedliteracy (JGCC, iLearn, 2012 and 2011).
  27. 27. Most of the apps target very early literacy skills100% iTunes Paid80% Android Paid60% iTunes Free40% Android Free20% 0%
  28. 28. Websites target larger range of literacy skills Percent of Websites Targeting These Areas of Literacy 100% 78% 80% 67% 60% 50% 39% 44% 44% 40% 20% 11% 11% 11% 11% 0% 0%• ** 2 websites were excluded because we did not have a subscription.• 45% of web sites we scanned target more than just literacy
  29. 29. E-books Extraneous ―hot spots‖ can impede the traditional reading process for parents and children and may affect children’s comprehension. (JGCC, 2012). Parents are reading e- books with their young children, based on survey of 1200 middle Photo by JGCC Research Team class parents with child age 2 to 6 (JGCC, 2012).
  30. 30. E-books offer many types of features….Narration 95% … but many are not features toHotspots 75% Word/picture labels 15% enhance literacy learning. Dictionary 5%Games/Activities 65%  Almost all include narration, but Literacy activities 25% only half highlight the text.Music/sounds 60%  Most include interactiveText Highlighting 50% features that are not literacyAnimation 50% oriented.Tilt/shake/turn device 30%Record Own Voice 25%Different Languages 25%Parent Involvement 20%Rewards 15%Social Sharing 10%3D effects 10%Camera 5% Photo by JGCC Research
  31. 31. GamesWebsites
  32. 32. Websites target larger range of literacy skills Percent of Websites Targeting These Areas of Literacy 100% 78% 80% 67% 60% 50% 39% 44% 44% 40% 20% 11% 11% 11% 11% 0% 0%• ** 2 websites were excluded because we did not have a subscription.• 45% of web sites we scanned target more than just literacy
  33. 33. Program ScanApril 2012 - Ongoing
  34. 34. The interviews (Spring 2012 -)
  35. 35. Models aimed at educatorsChildren’s Literacy Initiative’s forthcomingCompass project Will include free video library of strategies for teachers (how to engage children in books, how to use dialogic reading techniques) Funded with i3 grantCradling Literacy  Home visiting pilot in Kentucky  Professional development via DVDsDigiTxt E-Tech Ohio Teacher Planning Grant For K-2 teachers and leaders, learning how to incorporate e-texts in language & literacy instruction
  36. 36. Is there enough focus on parents? Parents prefer participating in activities with their kids that involve older media – watching TV (89%), reading books, (79%), playing board games (73%) (JGCC, 2011). Parents think that computer- based activities are most valuable for young children’s Photo by JGCC Research learning (JGCC, 2011). TeamOn the power of video: “Providing that visual, seeing and hearing, andhaving parents see parents who they can relate to… that can make forsome of those „aha‟ moments where change can begin to happen.”-- Kathleen Strader, Zero to Three
  37. 37. Trying to reach parents Wonderopolis  National Center for Family Literacy  „Wonder of the Day‟ for language/cognitive development Ele, by the Fred Rogers Center  Early learning environment for home- based caregivers, including parents  “Library and playroom”  Create “playlists” of activities Comienza en Casa  Migrant family literacy in Maine  iPads + offline „play-based‟ language activities Bonnie Blagojevic for Comienza en Casa in Maine
  38. 38. Going mobile! Cross-generational potential toreach parentsText4Baby  Health information for new moms. Not literacy focused, but an example of wide adoption of continuous outreach to parents via mobile phones. Learning Letters with Elmo  Project with Sesame Workshop. Goal: To encourage parents to engage their children in daily literacy activities using cell phones to deliver the media.
  39. 39. ChildTeacher Parent
  40. 40. Cross-setting: Building bridges across keyaudiencesWGBH creating ―digital hub‖ as part of Massachusetts’Race to the Top – Early Learning Challenge grant Resources for parents of children 0-5 yrs old Resources for home- and center-based teachers Games and videos for kids that focus on early literacy plus STEM and social-emotional skillsVirtual Pre-K –started in Chicago using PBS resourcesSesame Learning (In pilot phase in Colorado, NewYork and Georgia)
  41. 41. Next steps for national, state and local levelinitiatives: How is technology being used? State/Local Reading Campaigns Reach Out and Read Jumpstart RIF and First Book Models Raising a Reader Reading Connection Home Visiting Models Key Websites
  42. 42. Potential for private-public partnerships:federal competitions? Race to the Innovative Investing in Striving Top - Early Approaches Innovation Readers Learning to Literacy Challenge Institute for Small Institute Ready to Museum & Business of Learn Library Innovation Education Services Research Sciences
  43. 43. Initial recommendations for GLR stakeholders Homestead the Wild West. Identify educationally robust models and products for parents and educators. Conduct community audits. Assess disparities in access and capacity to deploy technology for literacy outreach. Pioneer an approach to digital literacy in the early years. Create public engagement initiatives on the need for critical thinking about media. Create a place in every community where parents and educators can experiment with media as a springboard to early literacy. Support sound research on how both technology content and contexts are affecting reading development. Create partnerships for innovation. Stimulate collaboration among tech industry, educators, parents and community institutions such as schools, libraries and universities.
  44. 44. Contact us joanganzcooneycenter.org Facebook.com/cooneycenter twitter.com/cooneycenter earlyed.newamerica.net facebook.com/newamerica twitter.com/edpolicyatNAF