Parents views towards literacy learning through technology

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  • Jessica, I think your project was great. Particularly the communication was able to lead to between the centre and parents. I have just began teaching for the first time and am getting the best responses from parents just by letting them know what is going on and how they help their students at home. I feel your project brought up very important topics including technology and communication and created connections between the two really well.
    Kim.
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  • Jessica, It's a very interesting topic once you start looking at. My two boys attend a school where iPads are used from prep/kindergarten all the way through and it's amazing what can be done.

    The challenge for teachers is to find the balance between using the technology which these students are growing up with and traditional methods. Teachers need to look carefully at each app/software/program and access its benefits and where or not it achieves the intended learning outcome.

    I completely agree about keeping the parents informed about the educational reasoning behind using the technology what ever it is.

    Well done, you have created a spark that I hope will burn for a long time.
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  • I found your research very interesting and useful as we are about to start implementing more technology into the preschool program where I work.
    I liked your comments about how we as teachers need to remember to pass on to families exactly what the learning is that the children are involved in. I think we forget that it's not always as visible to families as it is to us.
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  • What a fantastic project Jessica. I find it amazing how young children are when they begin engaging with technology. We already have 2 iPads in our house for our little ones. I agree that it would be a great idea for all learning settings to send information home about how technology is used as a learning tool as there is a stark difference between playing/screen time and learning. Great project.
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Parents views towards literacy learning through technology

  1. 1. EPT429: Professional Engagement Parents views towards technology Jessica Maguire - 11473134
  2. 2. This action research paper attempts to gain insight into parents’ views and attitudes towards their preschool aged children learning literacy skills through modern technologies. The purpose of this project was to determine if there are any common views or ideologies towards their young children learning through technology and how this can be incorporated into their early learning, both in early childhood centres and at home.
  3. 3. Introduction Because literacy can no longer be defined as a print-only activity we need to consider what implications this new view of literacy has for the literacy learning classroom (Winch et al., 2012, p. 22). There is currently minimal existing literature on multiliteracies and the impact of technology on children’s literacy learning; however it is a growing field due to the recent and ever-evolving expansion of new technologies. It is however, well documented that early childhood experiences are critical for later academic achievement. Debate rages among parents and educators as to whether, and how computers should be used with young children (Healy, 2008, p. 75). It has long been argued that the contexture of classrooms in contemporary times requires classroom practice to be technologised in ways that enable students to be flexible, creative thinkers and to learn within a culture of inquiry, discovery and creativity (Edwards-Groves & Langley, 2009, p. 2). Preschool children, in particular are as involved in multiliteracies and multimodal texts as older children. They respond to visual images, sound and movement to make meaning from the texts encountered in speech, environmental print, books and the television and computer screens. As preschoolers cannot read words in the full sense, they rely more heavily on the other modes to produce an understanding of text (Winch et al., 2012, p. 21). This technology is fast becoming more viable and highly visible in children’s out-of-school social worlds (Downes, 2002 as cited in EdwardsGroves & Langley, 2009, p.3).
  4. 4. Rationale This particular topic of parents’ views and attitudes towards their preschool aged children learning literacy skills through technology was chosen based on my observation while on a previous school placement within a year 5/6 classroom. These students were all highly capable and showed a strong preference for learning through the use of technologies such as an interactive whiteboard, iPads and laptops during their morning literacy sessions. While I am aware that there is a major age difference between preschool and Stage 3 students, I was curious as to what age students should begin to learn with technologies and how their parents felt about it. The integration of technology is present in the NSW school curriculum and this further increased my interest in this topic, as I wanted to find out if parents agree with early childhood centres using technology such as iPads to increase their children’s literacy skills in an attempt to further prepare them for school.
  5. 5. Research Question The purpose of this study was to determine parents/carers views and attitudes towards their preschool aged children using, and learning through technology. While the focus of this project was on the parents’ views, I also took into consideration the children’s views. To answer this question I needed to find out: • What technology is used in the service and how frequently • What do parents know about the benefits of learning through technology? • Do parents prefer more ‘traditional’ methods of literacy learning such as reading a Book over an interactive story with an iPad? • The access their children have at home to technology and how often is it used? • General thoughts on their 4-5 year olds using technology
  6. 6. Methodology Site: This action research project took place at the Waratahs’ Early Learning Centre over a two month period (December 2013 – January 2014). Participants: The participants of this research project included the 13 students in the preschool room aged between 4-5 years, who took part in small group interviews. The interviews were composed of 8 girls and 5 boys, some of who were preparing to start Kindergarten in 2014. I also collaborated with the early childhood teachers working in the centre, as well as the parents of the children in the preschool room.
  7. 7. Data Collection During this research project on parent views towards technology, data were gathered and collected through a variety of methods. These methods included small group interviews with students, a likert scale survey for parents and short individual interviews with parents. The primary objective of using multiple methods of data collection is to gather as much information as possible that enabled myself as the researcher, to extend my understanding of the experiences and perspectives of stakeholders – those mainly affected by, or having influence on the issue being investigated (Stringer, 2012, p. 101). My main focus was on the parent and student interviews. This is because the primary data in action research are derived from interviews with primary and key stakeholders, as interviews provide opportunities for participants to describe the situation in their own terms (Stringer, 2012, p. 105). Data were collected from Monday 16/12/2013, after obtaining approval and ethics consent for this research to take place. I continued to collect data from 16/12/2013 up until Friday 24/01/2014. I conducted 4 small group interviews with 3-4 students in each group. A total of 13 students were interviewed. In addition to this, I collected 12 likert scale surveys from parents as well as interviewed 4 parents. I developed semi-structured interview questions that I asked these parents – taking notes and writing down responses, however, I also wrote down and included any information related to this topic that the parents were discussing with me.
  8. 8. Data Analysis/Results: Student interviews Question 1: Do you like using the iPads? Question 3: Do you have an iPad at home? 14% Yes 86% No Question 2: What is your favourite thing to do on the iPad? The themes highlighted in this question were that of both fun and entertainment purposes as well as educational purposes. Students identified apps such as hairdressing, cake decorator, minesweeper and ninja turtles games along with comments such as ‘they’re really fun’ and ‘I like to play games’ and as such these responses were categorized into ‘entertainment/leisure’. The second theme identified was of a more ‘educational’ category, with students identifying apps such as ‘the chicken book’ and the ‘lizard book’ along with other interactive read alouds used in the centre as well as maths matching games. Yes 31% 69% No Question 4: Does mum/dad let you use it? Yes 23% 15% 62% No Other
  9. 9. Student interviews continued Question 5: How often? This question was difficult to get an exact answer from. One student said she was allowed to use the iPad every day. Others were allowed ‘only on the weekend’ or ‘when they were being good’. The most common response from students was ‘sometimes’. With further questioning, I managed to conclude that ‘sometimes’ was on average 12 times per week. Question 7: Would you rather listen to a story on the iPad or have the teacher read you a book? 8% Question 6: Why do you like using the iPad? The themes highlighted in this question were that of enjoyment, leisure as well as academic purposes. Student responses included ‘really fun’, ‘they’re good’ and ‘to play games’ which I classified into an enjoyment/leisure category. Other responses included ‘I like when the teacher writes with them’, ‘flipping the book pages’ and ‘teaches me things’, which I concluded fell within an educational category iPad 92% Teacher
  10. 10. Parent Surveys Question 1: Do you agree with your child/children learning literacy through technology Question 4: What technologies does your child have access to at home? 10 5 0 Strongly Disagree Neutral disagree Agree 15 10 5 0 Strongly agree Question 2: Do you prefer more traditiojnal methods of literacy learning such as reeading a book over an interactive story with an iPad? Question 5: How long does your child spend accessing these technologies? (per week) 10 5 0 Strongly disagree Disagree Neutral Agree Strongly agree 4 3 2 1 0 Question 3: Do you allow your children to access technology at… 20 0 Yes No 1 hour 2-3 hours 3-4 hours 4-5 hours 5 hours +
  11. 11. Parent Interviews Question One: Do you agree with your child/ren learning literacy skills through technology? Why/Why not? From this question, most parents agreed that learning through technology can be beneficial to their children; however all were in favour of more traditional methods such as reading to their children. Parents stated that, anyway to enhance their child’s literacy skills have got to be beneficial, as well as the technologisation of the world means that children really have no choice in using it. At some stage, they (children) are going to be exposed to it and it can be beneficial to start earlier in attempt to prepare them for school so they will not be left behind. Question Two: Do you prefer traditional methods of English literacy learning or the more modern approach? The themes highlighted in this question were that of a traditional approach. All parents here agreed with a traditional approach and reasons for this included the benefits of simply sitting and reading with your child, greater word recognition and well as the importance of rote learning. One parent believes it is important to learn the traditional methods of spelling, rather than just sound it out and wait for ‘spell check’ to fix it for you. Another parent also identified the generation gap saying that she found the concept of learning through technology quite difficult, as she didn’t learn that way and found it difficult to comprehend. Question Three: What are you doing at home to enhance your child’s literacy learning? The themes highlighted in this question include the importance of reading to children. All parents stated that they read with their children every night and one parent with older children also said the elder children will read to the younger siblings – enhancing all children’s literacy skills. Another parent also said she tried to include ‘incidental reading’ to her daily practice. Examples of this include; reading street signs, labels when grocery shopping, reading recipe ingredients as well as speed signs while driving as these use ‘big numbers’. Two parents also used educational technology programs such as ‘LeapFrog’ to enhance their children’s skills, although the children had restricted access to this.
  12. 12. Parent interviews continued Question Four: Thoughts on using an iPad for literacy development in Early Childhood centres? The responses to this question varied. One parent was ‘dead against’, whereas the other three interviewed were ‘all for it’. The reasons for being against it included the issue of ‘screen time’, the lack of movement as children just sit there and play on an iPad as well as the lack of the positive experiences books can bring. The other three parents were happy for technology to be included in their children’s early childhood education, as long as it was used in small doses as part of a balanced approach to literacy learning. One parent also stated that ‘technology is not going away, so it is important to teach children to use it from a young age, so they are not left behind and better prepared for school’. Question Five: Other technologies you allow your child access to at home and why? Educational/Leisure purposes? All children had access to technology at home, although all parents said their children have limited/restricted access to the technologies as it is not necessary for them to be sitting in front of a screen for extended periods of time. That being said, the most common home technologies children had access to include: iPad/iPhone, computer/laptop as well as gaming devices such as a DS. Question Six: If your child is using technology with literacy learning do you feel it is helping/beneficial? The themes highlighted in this question were that all parents agreed that yes it is beneficial/helping children to recognise letters/numbers/ some sight words as the technology can be more engaging and interactive, however parents also stated that technology needs to be used with traditional methods for greater literacy skill development and the technology cannot be used a babysitter or a teacher – parents still need the one on one time of reading to their children. Question Seven: Final thoughts The concluding thoughts of the four parents interviewed included that if technology is going to be used in their children’s early childhood education, it must be used with traditional methods for a balanced approach as well as greater school preparation.
  13. 13. Observations From my observations during my time spent at the service, I believe that they are integrating technology into their preschool room effectively. An example of this was the ‘animal book’ I was shown. This book uses a combination of both modern and traditional literacy practices through using technology to find the information and facts on animals, while then using traditional methods of drawing and handwriting to create a fact sheet on this animal that will then be bound into a book for all the children to access. Another example of successful technology use was the use of a technological daybook displayed on the wall. Throughout the day the educators take photos and observations of the children on an iPad, and then project this onto the wall. This was more exciting and engaging for the children as they are able to see themselves and what they have been doing during the day, rather than a daybook set up at the sign in/out sheet that children have no access to, and parents are often too busy to peruse.
  14. 14. Results The results of this action research study indicate several themes that are consistent throughout the paper. In relation to the student perspectives taken from the data analysis of the interviews, it is evident that children have a strong preference for learning with technology, which I fully expected. While it is important to include the children’s perspectives on why they like using the iPads, the majority identified games as their favourite thing to do. The results of the surveys indicate that parents agree with their children learning through technology and allow their children access to technology at home; however, they remain neutral on using technology over the more traditional forms of literacy learning. Parent comments suggest that children need to be exposed to technology from a young age as it is the way of the world, yet also need to know traditional methods of literacy and numeracy learning as they can’t rely on technology to learn the basic skills for them. Parent interviews highlight similar themes as those in the survey, such as the importance of technology in today’s society, the interactive and engaging elements of technology as well as parents strong preference for this technology to be used with traditional methods such as sitting and reading with their children. Parents highlighted the importance of reading to children, each reading with their children every day, while also allowing them limited access to technology.
  15. 15. Critical Reflections Challenges of the study: One of the biggest challenges of this study was that of permission notes for children to be included in this research in the form of an interview. I had only three returned. This however was solved when the director of the service informed me that parents have already signed permission for university students to include them in observations and research. Survey responses were also poor and as such only a small number have been included in this research. Another challenge was that of time. Being the Christmas and New Year period, it was difficult to find time to attend the service that suited both myself as the researcher and the preschool room used in the study. It was also difficult to find time to interview parents and as a result, only four have been interviewed. Strengths and limitations of the study: The limitations to my study include that it was only done in one preschool room in one early childhood centre with 15 children and I only interviewed four parents. Time was also a limiting factor. It would have been interesting to interview the children and the parents who attended the service on different days. The strengths of my study include that because I was only completing this action research project in one room, I was able to focus all of my attention on this one class. Gaps in the study: One of the most noteworthy gaps in the study include that some parents were unaware of how the technology (iPads) were being used in the centre. Parents were under the impression that children were just being given the iPads to sit with and do what they like with them, which is not the case. To close this gap, my suggestion would be to include the ways technology is used in the centre admission forms, as well as send out a newsletter on how they use it. It might also be helpful to include some apps that may be beneficial for children to use when using the iPads individually at home such as ‘Letter Aquarium’ or ‘A bee sees’.
  16. 16. Planning Ahead – What next? How might the study be extended or improved? To further inform and develop the results of this research, my suggestions would be to include more than the children who attend the service on a Monday, as well as to include more than one class. It would also be beneficial to include more students and their parents, as well as the inclusion of other early childhood centres. It would be interesting to see if the socio-economic status of the centres families changed the parents’ views on their children using technology. What are the practical implications for me? The practical implications for me as a beginning teacher is that I now have new knowledge and insight into the importance of parents and early childhood educators working together for the best possible outcomes for the children in their care. I will also use this knowledge to remember to build positive relationships with parents as well as to keep them informed on what is going on in the centre, as well as asking for their input. This could be done simply through an email. I have two early childhood practicum's this year and I will use this knowledge to better enhance my future teaching practice.
  17. 17. Feedback from Service Through presenting my results to the service they agreed that it would be beneficial to send out a newsletter or create a policy, to inform parents how they use technology in the service and what apps they use, so parents understand how it is used in the service and incorporate this at home if they desire. Comments from the director of the service: “ It was really great to be a part of Jessica’s research project. She picked an interesting topic that I myself was curious about. I was glad that the findings of this project were shared with our service and it is something we can take on for future reference”.
  18. 18. Conclusions The aim of this action research project was to uncover the views and attitudes that parents hold about their preschool aged children learning through technology. The reasoning for doing this was based on my observation of Stage 3 students all successfully using technology and I wondered at what age parents thought it was appropriate for the children to be using technology as part of their daily education. I interviewed both students and their parents as well as having parents complete a small scale survey based on their opinions. Overall, parents feel that through using a balanced approach to literacy, using both modern and traditional forms of learning, their children benefit more, are further exposed to learning through different mediums and are better prepared for school and the future society they will be growing up in.
  19. 19. References Edwards-Groves, C., & Langley, M. (2009). iKindy: Responding to home technoliteracies in the Kindergarten classroom. National Conference for Teachers of English and Literacy. Retrieved from: http://bilby.unilinc.edu.au:1801/webclient/StreamGate?folder_id=0&dvs=138559 9123636~858&usePid1=true&usePid2=true Healy, J. (2008). Cybertots: Technology and the preschool child. In A. Pelo (Ed.), Rethinking early childhood education (pp. 75-83). Milwaukee: Rethinking Schools. Stringer, E.T. (2014). Action Research (4th ed.). Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Winch, G., Johnston, R. R., March, P., Ljungdahl, L., Holliday, M. (2010). Literacy: Reading, writing and children’s literature (4th ed.). South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

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