‘Smart’ technologies in early years literacy education: A meta-narrative of paradigmatic tensions in iPad use in an Australian preparatory classroom

With the revolution that has taken place in the functionality and uptake of portable networked ‘smart’ technologies, educators are looking to see what potential applications such technologies might have for school education. This article reports on a study on the use of portable personal computing devices in the early years of schooling. Specifically, it focuses on emerging patterns of use of Apple iPads in an Australian Preparatory (first year of compulsory schooling) classroom during the first year of implementation of these devices. We draw on student and teacher interviews and classroom observation data to provide a research meta-narrative of the intentions, practices and reflections of a ‘first year out’ teacher, and to discuss points of tension found in the contested space of early years literacy education, which are highlighted when potentially transformative technologies meet institutionalized literacy education practices. Our findings suggest that the broader policy and curriculum context of early years literacy education, and institutionalized practices found in this space, is potentially at odds with teacher-held intentions to transform learning through technology use, particularly with respect to tensions between print-based traditions and new digital literacies, and those between standards-based classroom curricula and more emancipatory agendas.

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