New directions for early literacy in a digital age: The iPad

In this paper, we discuss how iPads offer innovative opportunities for early literacy learning but also present challenges for teachers and children. We lent iPads to a Children’s Centre nursery (3- to 4-year-olds), a primary school reception class (4- to 5-year-olds) and a Special School (7- to 13-year-olds), discussed their potential uses with staff in pre- and post-interviews and observed how they were integrated into practice over a two-month period. We found variability in the ways iPads were used across the settings, but a commonality was that well-planned; iPad-based literacy activities stimulated children’s motivation and concentration. They also offered rich opportunities for communication, collaborative interaction, independent learning, and for children to achieve high levels of accomplishment. In some cases, this led teachers favourably to re-evaluate the children’s literacy competence, and enabled children to construct positive images of themselves in the literacy classroom. Practitioners particularly valued the opportunities iPads afforded to deliver curriculum guidelines in new ways, and to familiarize all students with touch-screen technologies.

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