Technical ReportPDF Available

Children's Writing With And On Screen(s) A Narrative Literature Review



Content may be subject to copyright.
Children’s Writing With And On
A Narrative Literature Review
Natalia Kucirkova, Deborah Wells Rowe, Lucy Oliver and Laura E.
Piestrzynski !
!!!!!!!!! Page
Executive summary!!!!!!!!!!4
1. Introduction!!!!!!! 6
2. Definitions and terms delimitations! ! !!!!!9
3. Aims and objectives of this review!!!!!!!13
4. Methods for the systematic and narrative literature review!!!!14
5. Deductive analysis!!!!!!!!!18
6, Key factors in studying children’s writing on screen!!!!!28
7. Implications and recommendations!!!!!!!36
This report aims to establish the current empirical evidence concerning writing on screen
by young children from birth to age eight through a literature review that examined studies
published between 2010-2017. Our definition of writing was deliberately broad and
included children’s multiple modalities of expression, that, as part of children’s digital
literacies, can involve ‘accessing, using and analysing texts in addition to their production
and dissemination’ (Sefton-Green et al., 2016, p.15). The methodology followed the
methods of a systematic literature review, which involved two steps. First, we defined the
term ‘writing on screen’ on theoretical and practical grounds and established basic criteria
for inclusion/exclusion of studies concerned with this phenomenon. Second, we generated
a set of deductive codes and a framework for coding published studies and evaluating
their significance and reliability. This methodological process led to the formulation of six
key conceptual categories that can be used in evaluating children’s writing on screen in
research and practice: Researchers’ epistemologies and perspectives; Study methods and
methodologies; Social and adult influence on the activity; Object and tool influence on the
activity; Child’s dispositions and characteristics observable outside the activity and Child’s
engagement and behaviours related to the activity. The six conceptual categories are
described, nested in published literature and applied to a set of representative studies to
illustrate their interpretative value. We conclude with recommendations for how the
categories can be used in future research.
To cite this paper:
Kucirkova, N., Wells Rowe, D., Oliver, L., Piestrzynski, L.E,(2017) Children’s Writing With and On
Screen(s): A Narrative Literature Review.COST ACTION ISI1410 DigiLitEY. [Accessed:]
Photographs on front page and 5 by Natalia Kucirkova; photograph on page 8 and 12 by Deborah
Wells Rowe
Executive summary
Children’s writing on screen is one of the many multi-faceted activities that children engage
in on a daily basis. As a specific activity related to content production rather than content
consumption, children’s writing on screen is an emerging field of study, still debating the
remit and role of e-writing in young children’s lives.
This review makes a methodological and conceptual contribution to this new field. The
methodological contribution relates to the integrative approach that we adopted for the
review and that we present in full detail for future adoption and refinement. Our
methodological approach combined the methods of a systematic review with a broader
narrative review and resulted in a deductive-coding framework. The framework can be
applied to interrogating extant published literature but also for prospective study design and
data analysis. The deductive codes in the framework direct attention to the macro, meso
and micro levels of analysis and consist of:
Macro influences:
Researchers’ epistemologies and perspectives
Study methods and methodologies
Meso influences:
Social and adult influence on the activity
Object and tool influence on the activity
Micro influences:
Child’s dispositions and characteristics observable outside the activity
Child’s engagement and behaviours related to the activity
This report illustrates how the framework applies to a set of representative studies in the
field and how it could be used for future literature reviews.
Our conceptual contribution relates to defining ‘writing on screen’ in non-oppositional
terms, acknowledging that it carries several dualistic associations such as on-screen
versus off-screen and writing versus drawing.
In the past ten years, there has been a sharp increase in the access and use of digital
technologies (such as smartphones and tablets) by young children growing up in Anglo-
American countries but also in Europe, Asia and Africa (for an indication of numbers see
Common Sense Media, 2013 in the USA; Ofcom, 2014 in the UK; Australian Bureau of
Statistics, 2016, in Australia and Chaudron et al., 2015 in seven European countries).
Several explanatory frameworks have been developed to offer a view on the socio-
material, educational and cultural implications of children’s experiences with these new
digital devices. For example, the educational perspective seeks to understand the added
value of digital technologies in children’s learning to read (e.g., Bus, Takacs & Kegel, 2015),
experiment-based psychology and neuroscience research highlight the effects of digital
technologies on text processing (e.g., Wolf, 2007) and literary scholars call for increased
attention to embodied learning and physical engagement with digital texts (Mangen &
Balsvik, 2016).
While early research aimed to provide insights into access and frequency of technology
use, more recent studies have begun to illuminate patterns of use in relation to specific
screen-based or screen-mediated activities. Some technology-mediated activities replicate
activities happening in the physical/non-digital world (e.g., card matching games), some
augment them (e.g., sharing digital books with an international network of friends) and
some limit them (e.g., constructing a castle with colourful building blocks on screen). The
activity we focus on here is writing and composing on and with screens. Following on the
pioneering work by Marie Clay (1987), the review is specifically concerned with the signs
and symbols that children produce on, and with, technologies. We aim to review the field
in terms of its key research foci and directions in relation to this particular activity.
The report combines aspects of a traditional literature review (such as the documentation
of the methods and findings of the literature review process), with some less traditional
aspects (such as the detailed discussion of the key terms and evaluation criteria). The main
objective to critically evaluate the research studies conducted so far and make
recommendations for future research, practice and design in this area. The report was
produced as one of the outputs for the COST DigiLitEY Action, funded by the EU
Framework Programme Horizon 2020.
The COST DigiLitEY follows the EU High Level Literacy Group’s recommendations to
respond in a coordinated manner to the challenges and potentials of digital technologies
that affect children’s learning at home and school. The Action is an interdisciplinary
network of researchers who have joined forces to generate and openly share knowledge
about children’s use of technologies in their respective countries. The network aims to
address the challenge of data concentration in a few, often Anglo-American countries, and
produce research projects and publications that address global concerns about children’s
use of technologies at home and school.
COST DigiLitEY is divided into five Working Groups (WGs), and each WG is co-ordinated
by two chairs. This report is one of the outputs of Working Group no3, called Reading and
Writing on Screen, co-ordinated by Professor Adriana Bus (Free University, Netherlands)
and Dr Natalia Kucirkova (UCL Institute of Education, UK). The objectives of the WG3 are:
(i) To identify the current state of knowledge in the area across Europe and contextualise
this within the international arena. (ii) To develop a theoretical framework for understanding
young children’s engagement with multimodal texts. (iii) To identify key research questions
in the field for future study. (iv) To identify key messages for policy makers. More
specifically, the WG aims to identify the current state of knowledge on young children's
reading and writing on screen by synthesising current available evidence and examine the
implications of this area for policy in relation to education, parenting and the media
As the name reveals, the Working Group3 has a dual remit – to study children’s reading
and writing on screen. We recognise that ‘reading and writing are both composing
acts’ (Graves & Hansen, 1983) and that in real life the two activities are interwoven rather
than neatly separated, especially when it comes to the development of children’s early
literacy skills. For pragmatic issues (clarity, timeframe and word limitations), this review
focuses selectively on children’s writing on screen.
Definitions and terms
The task of defining and specifying children’s writing on screen is pursued throughout the
report, but it is important to establish, right at the beginning, what falls into the remit of our
review and what is meant by ‘writing’ and ‘screens’ in this context.
2.1. Screen(s)
Writing on and with screens is adopted as an umbrella description to encompass the
diverse range of digital technologies that young children engage with when composing
their own contents. The technologies include mobile and tablet devices (IOS and/or
Android), also known as smartphones and tablets, as well as portable and stationary PCs,
laptops, Wiis, LeapReaders, Kindle and similar reading devices. Given that the review
focuses on studies published between 2010-2017, a significant proportion of research is
concerned with portable, multimedia and touch-sensitive technologies, development of
which has been significantly advanced and accelerated in the last decade. These
technologies merge texts with audio, pictures/photographs and drawings and have
become an important source of entertainment and education for pre- and primary school-
aged children. From a socio-cultural perspective, children’s engagement with these
technologies is not only a result of economic and design developments but also a
reflection of globalisation, multiculturalism and urbanism that affect children’s sense of self
and social relevance.
2.2. Writing
For young children and many researchers, the boundary between writing on screen and
off-screen is blurred, as they consider both being part of one continuum of meaning-
making. Composing on and with screens has been described by a range of terms,
including digital composing, creating, drawing, mark making and writing. When choosing
an appropriate term for describing this broad range of composing acts, we considered
other writing-related terms, including authoring, composing, art-making, sign-making, text
creation and story-making.
We adopt the term writing for this review and define it as ‘an active practice of producing
signs and symbols on paper or any other solid medium’ (Rowe, 2016). Writing can refer to
‘alphabetic meaning-making practices that are digitally mediated, whether those practices
involve the use of laptop or desktop computers, online or offline practices, word
processing or messaging software.’ (Merchant, 2008, p. 197, emphasis by authors).
Writing can also refer to children’s multiple modalities of expression, which in addition to
alphabetic composition (Selfe, 2009) include gestures, eye gaze, body positioning, sounds
(recorded and music), photography, exploratory play, drama, as well as creating pictures,
drawings, marks and symbols (Harste, Woodward & Burke, 1984).
Our focus on “writing” indicates our intention to profile studies that focus on children’s
compositions that carry a linguistic message. As Sticht (1979) helpfully explained, thoughts
can be represented in a linguistic mode that uses speech and writing and in an iconic
mode that represents thoughts in pictures. We give more weight to the former
representation of thoughts. This means that single modes that do not carry a linguistic
component (e.g., a child’s photo of a house or a child’s drawing of a self-portrait) are not
considered writing as they do not represent the child’s attempt at a linguistic composition.
Conversely, writing is often used as a term in studies that have some component of print
Writing on and with screens is writing that is mediated by a digital device. This digital
device can be used by the child independently, with another child or with an adult. In this
definition, the composing act does not need to happen on the screen but it needs to be
mediated by the screen. For example, a child tracing a letter on the screen and then
copying the letter on paper is writing with the screen. This distinction is important as it
specifies the context of the composing activity but does not constrain it to ‘digital
composing’ or ‘e-writing’.
Following our socio-cultural orientation we conceptualise writing as an activity that includes
a range of options and decisions that are socially- and culturally-bound. In the context of
writing on screen this means that: ‘the author of a digital text can usually select how to
express a meaning from a large palette of modal options: words (Which font? Which
size?); still images (WordArt, a personal photograph, an online image?); moving image (a
Youtube clip, a personal video?); colour (which background or font colour, which shade?)
etc. So the medium chosen to convey a message is also a cultural phenomenon: it is not
simply a question of technology but of social and cultural practice, and how modes have
come to be used in a given medium.’ (Sefton-Green et al., 2016, p.21).
Sefton-Greene et al.’s (2016) considerations are commensurate with our work in which we
aim to go beyond competence and skills-oriented view of early literacy. Our disciplinary
background and previous work in this area have further influenced our broad definition of
children’s writing on screen. Notably, Selfe’s (2009) work on multimodal composing and
detailed documentation of children’s actual composing acts in the classroom resonates
with our understanding of children’s writing: ‘I argue that our contemporary adherence to
alphabetic only composition constrains the semiotic efforts of individuals and groups who
value multiple modalities of expression’ (Selfe, 2009). Selfe also cautions that narrowly
defined writing undermines children’s experiences in schools: ‘When teachers of
composition limit the bandwidth of composing modalities in our classrooms and
assignments, when we privilege print as the only acceptable way to make or exchange
meaning, we not only ignore the history of rhetoric and its intellectual inheritance, but we
also limit, unnecessarily, our scholarly understanding of semiotic system’ (Selfe, 2009).
In sum, then, we understand writing as a multimodal composing practice that includes all
modalities available to young children’s composing, including oral (audio), verbal, written,
and pictorial mode (which encompasses drawings, marks or digital photographs) and a
linguistic component. In our definition, both the multimodal and linguistic components
need to be present to count as ‘writing on screen’. We focus on the process and product
of children’s writing and perceive both as the means of communicating the child’s inner
world as well as reflecting the wider social forces that shape childhood.
2.3. “Early” writing
In alignment with the mission of DigiLitEY COST Action, our literature review focuses on
children aged 0 to 8. This age span is heavily targeted by children’s producers, publishers
and designers interested in developing programs and devices that would support
children’s learning. The early years are also a sensitive developmental period in childhood
and is of special interest to educators, policy-makers or health professionals. We reviewed
studies that have researched children’s writing from birth up to the age of eight (i.e. 7 years
11 months). We included studies concerned with children with special educational needs,
as long as the children’s abilities corresponded to the chronological age of 0-8-year olds
(as reported by the authors of the individual studies).
2.4. Writing environments
The context of writing is a key consideration in evaluating the impact of any writing-related
intervention. Writing mediated by mobile technologies often blurs the boundaries between
formal, non-formal and informal learning, as documented by previous research (e.g.,
Passey, 2010; Radović & Passey, 2016). In this review, we therefore included studies
concerned with writing in all learning environments, mediated by peers and family, at home
or in the classroom or in the “non-formal” space between the two.
Aims and objectives of this
This report has two key aims:
1, To provide a broad and narrative overview of the key conceptual and methodological
issues in studies concerned with children’s writing on screen and published between
2, To advance the field and meaningfully advise practitioners and researchers interested in
the potential of digital technologies for children’s literacy, with a specific focus on children’s
writing on screen.
The two aims are interwoven given that there is a need for a critical synthesis of existing
evidence for both practice and research. As part of this objective we engaged in both a
systematic and narrative literature review. This report focuses on the narrative strand of the
literature review and includes all the practice literature as well as those articles we identified
as research studies.
Methods for the systematic
and narrative literature
In an effort to establish replicability and transparency but also to facilitate future studies
that might wish to build on our work, we describe our method for conducting the literature
review in detail and explain why and how we made decisions about including and
excluding studies.
Following standard procedure of systematic literature reviews, we followed five key steps in
identifying the corpus of studies for the review: 1) defining the focus of the review and
basic criteria for inclusion or exclusion of studies, 2) identifying keywords describing
research activity in the area 3) using electronic and hand-searching procedures to identify
potentially relevant publications; 4) developing, operationalising, and using a set of codes
to systematically analyse study features, and 5) synthesising the results of analysis of
relevant studies. The review included peer reviewed articles that were clearly written and
methodologically sound, conducted in any country, but published and reported in English.
4.1. Selection process for the systematic review
We included qualitative and quantitative studies and all studies needed to be completed
and published, given that unpublished studies do not have the sequential advantage of
published work (see Steblay et al., 2011). This criterion meant that journal articles,
conference proceedings, papers published in university depositories and book chapters (if
peer-reviewed) were included in the systematic review. The time span of publication was
articles published between 2010-2017 (inclusive), as per the date of publication by the
journal, book or other outlet.
We downloaded the full-texts of all reviewed articles and compiled them alphabetically in a
shared folder. For studies which we could not access through our universities library
subscription, we approached the individual authors directly with an email request for the
full text (all authors we approached have replied positively and sent their full texts). We
have also posted a message on the ResearchGate network asking for suggestions and
tips for relevant studies that we thought might be work in progress or perhaps not picked
up by the key databases.
Given the scope of the review and size of the research team, standard Spreadsheet
software (Microsofts Excel, Microsoft Corporation) was used for data extraction. Shared
Google drive, SPSS, Excel and Word documents were used for collecting data in a format
that is ready for summary and analyses. The combination of a shared online project space
meant that we could work on several strands of the project simultaneously (e.g., locating
full texts and updating the database), which was an important advantage in a project with
limited resources and timespan.
Through discussion and engagement with the relevant literature, we developed a
comprehensive codebook to categorise all published studies. The codebook contains
descriptors and examples and is fully reported in Section 4. The codebook was applied to
select relevant studies and categorise the selected studies for further analysis, either
following the methods of a systematic review or those of a narrative literature review. The
application of the framework therefore followed a set of rules of study inclusion and
For the systematic review database, the study inclusion parameters were:
- include seminal studies and meta-reviews published in the period 2010-2017;
- include studies drawing on any context but published in English;
- include peer reviewed articles and doctoral dissertations.
- include articles which are clear and robust and methodologically sound, so that the
conclusions drawn are warranted from the data as presented and analysed;
- include empirical investigations which connect to the age group of 0-8 years.
4.2. Selection process for the narrative review
For our initial literature review the study inclusion parameters were less stringent, which
produced a larger set of studies that included practice-based research or postgraduate
works such as doctoral and Masters dissertations. The latter were particularly helpful in
building our understanding of the key literature that informs nascent work in this area.
Our broader narrative review therefore includes research conducted from multiple research
perspectives with a range of approaches, including positivist empirical work and
constructivist qualitative studies. It includes studies that were written for a particular
audience in mind, notably studies carried out and written-up by educational professionals
for other educational professionals. This broad orientation could not be maintained for the
systematic review process that excluded pictures of practice and studies that do not
conform to the Anglo-American definition of what constitutes rigour and significance in
academic research.
4.3. Search process
The search process included keyword search of databases, snowball approach of
following up reference lists and manual searching of key journals and sources (e.g., ERIC,
PsychoINFO, BEI, AEI, BPLC, COPAC, Dissertations, ECO, Education Abs, Papers First).
In selecting the databases, we preserved the DigiLitEY COST Action’s orientation towards
interdisciplinary research and integrates literature from a number of disciplines: Applied
Linguistics; Childhood Studies; Children's Literature; Computer Science; Cultural Studies;
Early Childhood Education; Information Studies; Language and Literature; Media Studies;
Psychology; Sociological Studies.
We consulted our methodology with the subject librarians at the Vanderbilt and IOE
Universities, who directed us to the relevant library databases and helped us generate a list
of the most frequently used keywords for children’s early writing. The following list of
keywords (and their combination) was used for the initial search of databases:
emergent writing, writing; joint writing; drawing; conventional writing; name writing;
letter writing; spelling; alphabet knowledge; emergent writing skills; print motivation;
multisensory learning; letter-name recognition; young children; graphicacy;
designing; meaning making; graphic signs; finger painting; pre-school; iPads;
touchscreens, screens; Touch screen tablets; Apps; Emergent literacy; Home
Following initial broad searches, conversations among the authors and the subject
librarians, the keywords were condensed into a search phrase “digital AND writing AND
(children OR child)”. Five key databases were searched with this search phrase: ERIC,
Web of Science, PsychInfo, EBSCO and SCOPUS. Studies found through this search
were manually checked to accord with the above criteria, especially to ensure that the
authors’ definition of children corresponded to the 0-8 age bracket and that the writing
activity corresponded to one of the terms defined earlier.
The coding process was facilitated with the use of a SPSS file that contained all the coding
categories with a quick pull-out menu for all sub-categories.
Deductive analysis
The initial search process resulted in a bank of 105 studies. Preliminary screening
using inclusion criteria established that 25 of these were not relevant either because
the age group was older, or they weren’t available in English or there was no meaning-
making involved. These studies needed to be further analysed and this analysis
occurred both inductively (with categories and criteria informed by the search process)
and deductively (with categories informed by previous literature). In this report, we
focus on the deductive analysis of the database, which was informed by a set of key
To conduct the deductive analysis, we selected some studies in the area that have
wide and current reviews of research in the field. We were drawn to the reviews of
literature in these studies but some of them have also significantly influenced the field
of children’s writing on screen and off-screen either through a theoretical or conceptual
contribution or a rigorously designed study with important findings. We identified these
studies through conversation among us, authors, by looking at the papers’ citation rate
as well as the place of publication (journal name and type and its impact factor) and
the practice- or policy-related impact generated by these studies. The issues that that
were brought up in the larger literature about child composing are illustrated in these
studies, so we reflect on their key contributions within a structure of macro, meso and
micro-levels that represent the key elements that were addressed in the studies.
5.1. The Macro influences
The macro level is representative of the focus on theoretical frameworks and policy-
related perspectives that shape children’s actual practices at home or in the
classroom. The macro level reminds us about the importance of researchers’ own
epistemological stance and perspective when it comes to study design, data collection
and data analysis. It also alerts us to the importance of paying close attention to the
methods that are being used by the researchers and their qualitative or quantitative
As mentioned, our narrative review includes studies that were written by educational
professionals for other educational professionals. These studies tend to focus on the
implications for practice and the connection between data and school curriculum.
These studies are “pictures of practice” that offer classroom-based descriptive data
about what teachers and children did around composing, with a commentary around
this process but scant information about how the data were selected or interpreted.
There is rarely a systematic data analysis in these studies, but there is often rich
contextual detail that situates children’s writing on screen in their school/home life.
5.1.1. Multiplicity of research and practice perspectives
An example of a study that supported the review’s conceptualizations and
acknowledges these tensions in the field of children’s writing on screen is Labbo and
Reinking’s (2003) study. The authors address the issue of what they refer to as ‘multiple
realities’ in interpreting children’s writing on screen and caution against the danger of
perceiving technology as either medium or message of children’s writing. The authors
present a framework ‘based on potential goals, motivations, or reasons for integrating
(or in some cases not integrating) new digital technologies with literacy instruction’ (p.
481). Labbo and Reinking (2003) consider past research from the multiple realities
perspectives and conclude that technology can support children’s literacy, including
writing, but it needs to be evaluated in terms of alternative educational goals.
Labbo and Reinking structure their review according to five alternative ways in which
technologies could be used in classrooms: 1, technologies should be made available
and 2, used to enhance the goals of instruction; 3, technologies should be used to
positively transform literacy instruction; 4, technologies should prepare students for the
literacy of the future and 5, empower them. These alternative goals help interpret the
research evidence but also reveal the diverse and complex realities implicated in the
study of children’s writing on and with screens. The study sends a strong message for
considering research from multiple and alternative perspectives.
5.1.2. The importance of “Pictures of Practice”
A recognition of multiple realities is closely tied to a recognition of diverse audiences
and recipients of research. Academics writing for other academics choose a different
language and method than professionals writing for other professionals. It is not so
much a matter of which method different stakeholders choose to document a practice
(a case study can be as empirically rigorous as a randomised controlled trial), but
rather the emphasis paid to methods during the study and their description after the
study. Studies that we considered to be pictures of practice carry a strong advocacy
message and profile the contribution of action research and teacher-research to the
field. The notion of Pictures of Practice draws attention to the authenticity of the context
in which the composing activity occurred as well as the methods used to evaluate the
products generated in this context. As such, it motivates questions around methods
and the robustness of conclusions drawn from the study. Clearly, conclusions based on
a quick snapshot/one-off observation cannot be as robust as those based on several
and prolonged observations.
5.1.3. Processes of children’s engagement in writing on screen
The theoretical orientation and perspective adopted in the study determine the
research questions and influence whether researchers focus on outputs or processes.
Some research reports describe in detail the process of children’s writing on screen.
For example, Andersson & Hashemi’s (2016) study was an illuminative piece of
empirical research that examined in detail how Swedish 7-8-year olds engage with
writing with and without screens. While recognising that the needs and purposes of
writing have not changed and remain fundamental in driving and structuring children’s
writing, the authors point out that there are some new activities that shape the nature of
early literacy. In their observations of Swedish primary school pupils it was the
possibility to Tweet and blog that opened up the doors to new kinds of children’s
writing engagement. Similarly, the focus of Davidson’s study (2009) was on children’
writing at home and the stark contrast that exists between children’s experiences of
writing at home and in schools. Using the case study method with two children and
conversation analysis, the author makes the argument that there is a significant
disconnect between the writing practices children encounter in schools and those that
happen at home. She outlines the ways in which the use of Wikipedia and Google
Search informed the children’s learning at home but these paths of learning were not
valorised in the school environment. With the lens directed towards specific software
programs and individual children’s experiences, the study contains important practice-
related messages about children’s writing on screen.
5.2. The Meso- influences
In early childhood research, a typical research problem involves an interaction triangle
that consists of a child, adult and an object interacting together. Some studies,
especially those that follow a more socio-cultural orientation, tend to emphasise the
adult’s mediating role in the interaction while others focus on the role of the object or
technology. We locate our work in a socio-cultural perspective on children’s learning
(e.g., Vygotsky, 1980) that acknowledges the combined influence of society and
technology on children’s development and the socio-technological environment they
grow up in. This epistemological orientation has influenced our own work in this area
but also our approach to this literature review and interpretation of the studies included
in the review. It is, however, not the dominant orientation in the early childhood field.
Indeed, when it comes to children’s writing on screen and the child-adult-object
triangle, the field wrestles with several dichotomies.
A binary discourse that is particularly salient in relation to children’s writing on screen is
the tension that is known as the ‘print-based literacy’ versus ‘multiliteracies’ tension in
literacy studies (Mills, 2005). Drawing on work by Featherstone, Lash & Robertson,
1995, Mills (2005) rightly identifies that ‘multiliteracies are tied to the plurality and
multicultural nature of local educational contexts, and of language and literacies as a
consequence of cultural globalisation’. The possibility to create texts with new
technologies creates ‘a fusion of linguistic, audio, iconic, spatial, and gestural
modes’ (Delany & Landow, 1993, cited in Mills, 2005, p.73), but many studies and
indeed school writing activities, are exclusively print-oriented. A focus on the
interaction around or with the writing tool can help address this tension as it redirects
the problem of ‘what’ (multi- versus print-literacies) to the question of ‘how’.
The question of how writing occurs and how it is mediated is often answered in terms
of the distinction between writing and drawing. Researchers who follow the
developmental psychology tradition are interested in the ways in which adults mediate
children’s writing, and what is being recognised as drawing or emergent writing. The
“traditional view” (Vygotsky, 1967) is that writing evolves from drawing, while a more
recent view (Levin & Bus, 2003, p.892) is that ‘drawing and writing are systems that
originate independently and that develop separately, neither one preceding the other’.
5.2.1. Adult mediation
A significant study in this area was conducted by Aram & Levin (2001), which involved
forty-one 5-9-year olds from low socio-economic status families. The context for this
work was off-screen composing, but we were inspired by the study’s focus on adult
mediation. The researchers studied how mothers help their children write words and
names and then analysed the strategies mothers used during the interaction. They
found that the quality of mothers’ strategies was different for the individual children,
with some mothers supporting children within their zone of proximal development
(Vygotsky, 1978) and some stretching their understanding beyond their current level of
development. The researchers analysed mothers’ strategies in relation to the use of
grapho-phonemic and orthographic rules. They also evaluated mothers’ strategies with
a six-point scale and the following six behaviours: Mother writes down all the letters of
the word for the child; Mother writes down all the letters of the word as a model for
copying; Mother dictates a letter; Mother retrieves a phonological unit (syllable, sub-
syllable or phoneme) and immediately dictates the required letter name; Mother
retrieves a phonological unit (syllable, sub-syllable or phoneme); Mother encourages/
helps the child to retrieve a phonological unit (syllable, sub-syllable or phoneme) and
to link it with a letter name. Children of mothers who scored highest on the writing-
mediation techniques, had the highest scores on word writing, word recognition and
phonological awareness. Importantly, this predictive effect of mothers’ mediation was
present even after controlling for all sociocultural factors. This study was with Hebrew
speaking children so some of the mediating strategies might not apply to other
languages. Nevertheless, the relevance of adult mediation for children’s emergent
writing was strongly signalled by the study and therefore included in our evaluation
5.2.2. Tool mediation and the writing medium
There are not many literature reviews dedicated specifically to children’s writing with
screens. Professor Guy Merchant’s narrative reviews (published in 2005 and 2008 as
book chapters) have elucidated the importance of the writing medium from a socio-
cultural perspective. Merchant’s philosophical and historical analysis of writing and
technologies thus prompts reflection on the socio-historical forces shaping perceptions
of what counts as writing and how the writing medium affects these perceptions.
The author makes strong historical links between current and previous use of writing
tools and technologies by invoking mythology and archaeological records. He
considers the evolution of writing with reference to Marie Clay’s writing principles and
the changes that occurred with the advent of new technologies. In comparing Clay’s
principles developed for writing on paper with current writing on screen, Merchant
(2005) notes some key adaptations. For example, the recurring principle, ie the
principle that writing is made of letters that are being repeated in various recurrences
to build words and meaning, is affected by the computer-mediated possibility to hold
down a key, cut and paste. The generating principle, ie that writing signs are used in
different combinations to produce meaning, is not affected by the screen. The
directional principle, however, is strongly affected by the screen because word
processors for example restrict the direction of writing by using their own orthodox
principles (see Merchant, 2005, p. 197 for details). Merchant selectively but
strategically references literature that brings to fore new features of the digital medium
and its influence on children’s writing. For example, Matthewman and Triggs (2004)
argued that on-screen writing affords more integration and fluidity to children’s writing
and Merchant’s own research found children’s increased attention on the visual
appearance of digital writing (i.e. focus on font size and colour, layout and use of
images). Children’s appreciation of the aesthetics of the digital text did not always align
with teachers’ view on writing and Merchant therefore calls for more professional
attention to the new characteristics of writing produced by new digital technologies.
5.3. The Micro-Level influences
The meso-level of influence illustrates that adults and tools mediate a child’s activity
and thus offer possibilities for the child’s engagement. However, the ways in which
these possibilities are taken up by individual children vary and are contingent not only
upon the wider context but also the individual differences among children. A theoretical
concept that fittingly captures this complexity is that of a modal affordance, theorized
by Gibson (1979) and later by Norman (2013) and Kress (2010). Affordance captures
the influence of the object as well as that of the social context in which this object is or
has been used; it represents its socio-material nature that is revised and taken up
differently in different contexts. Affordances offer different possibilities for children’s
engagement, which in our focus on multimodal meaning-expression and linguistic
components, raised some detailed questions around the boundaries of children’s
composing on screen.
If we consider writing to carry a linguistic message, we need to also acknowledge that
there are some expressions that combine a linguistic and iconic representation. For
Sticht (1979) a schematic representation, such as a flowchart, is an example of where
the boundaries between pictorial and linguistic signs become blurred. A contemporary
example could be a digital sticker (often used in messaging services) that combines a
picture and text, and that is used by the child in the composing process to
communicate an emotion to others. For example, this sticker (see Figure 1)
representing love combines an iconic and linguistic mode to communicate an affective
Figure1: This Viber sticker for love is from Next Games Store, freely available from
GooglePlay and APKPure stores.
Stickers are different from emojis- while emojis are purposefully designed to have a
standardized look across platforms (e.g., the same emoji of a smiley face is available
via Facebook messenger regardless of whether the messenger is accessed from a
tablet or PC), stickers are not platform-agnostic, they can be customised by the user
and have a different appearance on different devices. A sticker can be considered to
be a ready-made imagery that allows children to express their intentions in a polished
format, readily recognised by others. Just like in a traditional composing activity, the
purpose and intention of communication are part of the act of choosing and sending a
sticker to someone else. However, a sticker can be sent with a single tap thus
minimising the extent of child’s agency in its delivery. The pre-designed format of the
final product raise questions of whether this kind of activity should count as writing on
Children’s use of stickers provides a convenient example of why the field of children’s
writing on screen merits a careful consideration of individual units of analysis and
clarifying what we mean by writing and drawing, digital and physical and other terms.
It also challenges the notion of linear influences and brings to fore the affordances that
individual children might adopt, resist or subvert in their composing acts. In our own
work, we have spent a considerable amount of time clarifying our understandings of
these complex inter-relationships and this, inevitably, has brought a tendency to
evaluate them in others’ work too.
5.3.1. Child’s dispositions and possibilities to act
Rowe (2008)’s study and later studies led by Rowe (Rowe, & Neitzel, 2010) and (Rowe
& Miller, 2015) have been major contributions in understanding the importance of
children’s agency in interpreting their writing products and facilitating their writing in
schools. Rowe (2008) argued for the importance of recognising and validating the
‘social contracts’ that children negotiate in relation to their writing experiences. Drawing
on nine-months-long observations of the writing practices of eighteen two-year olds in
a US classroom, the author locates learner agency and power in three key instances:
when negotiating the physical properties of texts and where the boundaries of text
begin and end; when negotiating the boundaries between art (drawings) and writing
(letters) and when negotiating the ownership of texts created by children but often
claimed by adults. The importance of these negotiations is compelling and raises
questions about the attention paid by researchers and practitioners to children’s
agency and child attributes in the writing process. Children’s abilities, demographic
characteristics, language spoken by the child during the composing event and the
status of these languages in the given environment, socio-cultural background and
other markers of ‘self’ undoubtedly influence children’s ability to negotiate the complex
interplay among their writing products and adults’ response to them.
5.3.2. Features of children’s engagement
While substantial empirical and theoretical efforts are being pursued to clarify the role
of the digital medium, a significant emerging literature looks at the features of children’s
engagement with technologies. Kucirkova, Littleton & Cremin (2016) theorized six such
features for children’s engagement with digital interactive books (also known as story
apps): affective, sustained, shared, interactive, personalized and creative
engagement. These features are implicated in reading and writing on and off screen,
but they are related to different modalities afforded by different media. For example,
Kucirkova (2014, 2016) has studied the different modalities of expression in relation to
personalized engagement and how personalized books influence children’s
understanding when represented in visual, audio or textual modes. For the visual
mode, non-digital toddlers’ books might include a small mirror surface, while digital
books can be linked to the touchscreen’s front camera so that children can see their
own face as part of the book pages. The different modalities carry different temporal,
spatial and social properties. While with a mirror, a child’s face is part of the book
temporarily and changes as soon as the child changes her facial expression, a digital
picture, or a selfie, stores and archives the child’s photograph in the cloud or on the
provider’s server. In terms of textual personalization, the level can range from simple
ownership markers (e.g., a child can add their name to the line ‘This Book Belongs To’
on the book’s cover) to digital books that automatically replace story characters with
the names of the child and his/her family members (e.g., the Mr Glue Stories app).
The emphasis on children’s engagement and the modes of this engagement has
begun to impact directly on the evaluation criteria of children’s digital products used by
teachers (e.g., the UKLA Children’s Digital Book Award) and parents (e.g, Literacy
Apps developed by the National Literacy Trust) and the meaning-making modes have
been also included in our evaluation framework of the published studies.
Key factors in studying
children’s writing on screen
These key studies allowed us to generate a set of deductive codes for interrogating main
issues in the published literature. We needed to condense them into a set of questions that
can be used to simplify but not oversimplify the key foci and contributions from published
research. Table1 summarises the key issues and the corresponding questions used in our
evaluative framework.
Table1: Deductive codes and questions for analysis
Key issue
Was the study primarily concerned with outputs or processes?
What was the key research question?
What was the theoretical orientation and perspective adopted in the study?
Was the reported study a systematically conducted empirical study or a
practice snapshot or a literature review?
In which context did the composing activity occur?
Was the study a quick snapshot/one-off observation that lasted a few days
or was it a longitudinal study that lasted several years?
Meso -
Does the study describe the adult composing with or around the child?
Which tools were used in the composing activity? Was the primary focus on
the hardware or the software program used by the child? Was the program
template-based or open-ended?
What are the child’s demographic characteristics?
Which languages were spoken by the child during the composing event and
what is the status of these languages in the given environment?
Which meaning-making modes were used by the children during the
composing activity?
6.1. Description of the coding framework
These deductive codes were incorporated into a coding framework, detailed in Table2.
Table 2: The coding framework for the published studies
Research question/ key focus
[Type in—paraphrase]
Main focus
Process (yes/no)
Product (yes/no)
Article Type
Practice snapshot
Empirical study-
brief methods
Empirical Study-
detailed methods
Literature review
Data sources
Standardized tests
Analysis methods
Study duration (Macro-influences)
Not specified
(where the child is
physically located)
If community, type
in type of
community location
Virtual Spaces
Select if applicable. If yes, type in: What digital spaces is the child
visiting to compose, share, etc.?
School Type
Select from the following categories
Preschool/kindergarten, Head Start/Sure Start, elementary/primary
school; other [type in]
Program or
Specify the descriptors of the program by selecting:
(dual immersion language program; public elementary school;
Creative Curriculum, afterschool program, other [type in], not
Participants: Adults
Others: [type
No adults
stated there
were none
Not specified
Child- Home/
(type in
descriptors of
digital tools)
(type in
descriptors of
Not specified
Child’s Composing Product/Process: What is the Child Composing or Doing?
Type in: Brief description of the child’s composing product or process
Participants: Children
List the nation(s) where data were collected
(Categories include: UK, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand,
Europe and Other [list which other when selected]
Age Range
Not specified (NS)
Sample Size (children;
classes; families)
[Type in total number of children; total number of classes, families,
or other units described]
Languages Spoken at
List languages spoken by the
children at home, as described
by the researchers. (categories
include English and other) [list
which other when selected]!
Not specified
Languages Spoken
during the Composing
List languages spoken by the
children during the composing
Not specified
Language Status
English as
main language
Other majority
Special Education
intellectual and
Meaning-Making Modes Used by Children
Drawing On
Drawing Off
Voice Recordings
Music or
Talk (not
but part of
play on
play off
Text Off
Text On
play off
Play On
Other Modes? [list] speech recognition is an example of other modes
6.2. Applying the coding framework
To illustrate the application of the framework, we outline the values we have assigned to
four representative studies. These four studies are a mixture of practice-oriented,
dissertation and purely empirical studies that we selected from the database of 105
Baker, E. B. A. (2017). Apps, iPads, and Literacy: Examining the Feasibility of Speech
Recognition in a FirstGrade Classroom.$Reading Research Quarterly,$52(3), 291-310.
Bigelow, E. (2013). iWrite: Digital message making practices of young children. Vanderbilt
University. Nashville, TN.
Dalton, B., & Grisham, L. D. 92013). Love That Book: Multimodal response to literature.
Reading Teacher, 67(3), 220-225.
Husbye, N. E., Buchholz, B., Coggin, L. S., Powell, C.W., & Wohlwend, K. E. (2012).
Critical lessons and playful literacies: Digital media in PK-2 classrooms. Language Arts,
90(2), 82-92.
Table 3: Coding applied to four representative studies
Implications and
7.1. Research implications and future avenues
Our coding framework outlines a method that can be applied to future reviews of children’s
writing on screen. It can be also used to evaluate current practices in formal, non-formal or
informal contexts in which children compose with and on screens. The framework and the
method we followed allowed us to generate a database of studies that can be further
analysed with criteria of systematic reviews or with research questions characteristic of
broader literature reviews. In a traditional systematic review, studies that use less stringent
methods would be excluded in the search process. In our review, pictures of practice
would not be suitable for a systematic analysis of evidence, but we logged these studies
and kept them on file, because we consider them to be part of the rich spectrum of
research concerned with children’s writing on screen.
As a result, the final database of studies can be interrogated with various research
questions and analysed from various theoretical perspectives. In Kucirkova, Rowe, Oliver &
Piestrzynski, (submitted), we focus on the following research questions:
-How has children’s writing on screen been defined and measured in the research
conducted between 2010-2017?
-What was the purpose of the composing event and the modalities selected for children’s
writing on screen?
In our future work, we aim to address the following research questions:
-What is the content of children’s writing at this young age and which attributes
characterise children’s writing on screen?
-What is known from the existing literature about the effectiveness of early introduction to
writing on screen?
-To what extent does children’s writing on screen support their reading skills and broader
literacy skills?
6.2. Limitations
Although we aimed to be inclusive of research conducted in any country worldwide, we
limited our search to studies published in the English language. With a small team based in
the UK and USA this is perhaps an understandable limitation but we recognise that a truly
international review of literature would need to include studies published in any language.
For future reviews, we recommend that researchers include the cost of translation into their
budget. We also recommend that researchers engage in collaboration with international
research networks to locate literature published in different languages. There are different
research cultures and research traditions across the world and we caution that our search
strategy has strongly followed the Anglo-American tradition. Future work could address the
shortage of international evidence by using a shared analysis framework, but sourcing
studies from alternative and additional databases.
Another limitation of our review concerns the choice of the final keywords used for mining
the literature. Although we started with a long list of keywords and related terms, we
needed to focus on one. The choice of the word ‘writing’ would have inevitably excluded
studies exclusively focused on multimodal composing and work that is located more in the
children’s art literature. We recommend using the verb ‘composing’ as a possible keyword
for future publications and literature searching and research interested in the multimodal
aspect of children’s writing.
6.3. Practical implications for designers
Some of the coding criteria, in particular those relevant for children’s engagement, could
be refined and re-purposed for evaluating the quality of children’s software programs
developed for children’s multimodal writing. Current rubrics and criteria for evaluating the
quality of children’s media (e.g., Common Sense Media http://; Digital Storytime, rely on
broad usability categories (e.g, is the app easy to operate) rather than what it affords for
children’s multimodal writing. Our coding criteria could be incorporated as additional
categories for more detailed and specific scoring of children’s digital technologies.
6.4. Practical implications for teaching professionals
This last section discusses the pedagogies that are needed to support the most
inspirational pedagogical practices, as defined by the framework. The framework can be
used as a reference point for practitioners who plan for writing activities in the classroom
and who aim to offer a wide range of multimodal engagement possibilities in their
classrooms. For example, teachers and early years practitioners could consider the
availability and accessibility of diverse meaning-making modes for children. They could
consider how diverse modes for art-making (e.g., child drawing on screen, child drawing
off screen, child photography, selecting pre-made images) as well as dramatic play,
exploratory play and text production on and off screen are represented in their teaching
plans. We do not suggest that teachers provide opportunities for all meaning-making
modes in one session, but rather that they aim for an optimal balance of on- and off-
screen writing and the multiple forms these can take.
A broader definition of children’s writing on screen could inspire policy around what
constitutes appropriate assessment frameworks for children’s writing. The current national
assessment frameworks focus solely on children’s writing off-screen, which misrepresents
their abilities and daily out-of-school practices (see Twining et al., 2017). Unlike the majority
of papers included in our literature review, this report is written in an accessible language
and made freely available online. This dissemination channel could be leveraged to
communicate the key messages to a range of stakeholders and raise awareness about the
complex nature of children’s writing on screen.
Andersson, P., & Hashemi, S. S. (2016). Screen-based literacy practices in Swedish
primary schools.$Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy,!10(02), 86-103.
Aram, D., & Levin, I. (2001). Mother–child joint writing in low SES: Sociocultural factors,
maternal mediation, and emergent literacy.$Cognitive Development,!16(3), 831-852.
Bezemer, J. & Kress, G. (2008). Writing in Multimodal Texts: a Social Semiotic Account
of Designs for Learning. Written Communication, 25 (2): 166-195.
Chaudron, S., Beutel, M. E., Donoso Navarrete, V., Dreier, M., Fletcher-Watson, B.,
Heikkilä, A. S., ... & Mascheroni, G. (2015). Young Children (0-8) and digital technology:
A qualitative exploratory study across seven countries. Accessed: http://
Coulmas, F. (2003). Writing systems.!An introduction to their linguistic analysis, CUP.
Clay, M. (1987).$Writing Begins at Home: Preparing Children for Writing before They Go
to School. Portsmouth; Heinemann Educational Books Inc.
Davidson, C. (2009). Young children's engagement with digital texts and literacies in the
home: Pressing matters for the teaching of English in the early years of
schooling.$English Teaching,$8(3), 36.
Dyson, A. H. (1997). Writing Superheroes. New York. Teachers’ College Press.
Dyson, A. (2013) ReWRITING the Basics: Literacy Learning in Children's Cultures. New
York. Teachers College Press.
Gibson, J. (1979) The Ecological Approach to Visual Perception. Boston: Houghton
Graves, D., & Hansen, J. (1983). The author's chair.$Language Arts,$60(2), 176-183.
Harste, J. C., Woodward, V. A., & Burke, C. L. (1984). Examining our assumptions: A
transactional view of literacy and learning.$Research in the Teaching of English,$18(1),
Kress, G. (2010) Multimodality. London: Routledge.
Kucirkova, N. (2014). Children creating and sharing stories in old and new book
formats: Investigating the effects and processes of personalisation (Doctoral
Thesis).$Open University, Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology.
Kucirkova, N. (2016). Personalisation: A theoretical possibility to reinvigorate children’s
interest in storybook reading and facilitate greater book diversity.$Contemporary Issues
in Early Childhood,!17(3), 304-316.
Kucirkova, N., Littleton, K., & Cremin, T. (2016). Young children’s reading for pleasure
with digital books: six key facets of engagement.$Cambridge Journal of
Education,!47(1), 67-84.
Labbo, L.D., & Reinking, D. (1999). Negotiating the Multiple Realities of Technology in
Literacy Research and Instruction. Reading Research Quarterly 34 (4), 478-492.
Levin, I., & Bus, A. G. (2003). How is emergent writing based on drawing? Analyses of
children's products and their sorting by children and mothers.$Developmental
psychology,!39(5), 891.
Marsh, J. (2003). The techno-literacy practices of young children. Journal of Early
Childhood Research 2(1), 51-66.
Matthewman, S., & Triggs, P. (2004). ‘Obsessive compulsive font disorder’: the
challenge of supporting pupils writing with the computer.$Computers &
Education,$43(1), 125-135.
Merchant, G. (2005). Barbie meets Bob the Builder at the Workstation.$In Marsh, J. (ed)
Popular culture, new media and digital literacy in early childhood, London: Routledge,
(pp. 183-200).
Merchant, G. (2008). Digital writing in the early years In Coiro, J., Knobel, M.,
Lankshear, C. & Leu, D. (eds.).$Handbook of research on new literacies, New York:
Laurence Erlbaum (pp. 751-774).
Mills, K. A. (2005). Deconstructing binary oppositions in literacy discourse and
pedagogy.$Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, The,$28(1), 67-79.
Norman, D. (2013) The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books
Passey, D. (2010) Mobile learning in school contexts: Can teachers alone make it
happen? IEEE Transactions on Learning Technologies: Special issue on mobile and
ubiquitous technologies for learning, 3, 1, 68-81.
Radović, S. & Passey, D. (2016): Digital resource developments for mathematics
education involving homework across formal, non-formal and informal settings. The
Curriculum Journal, DOI: 10.1080/09585176.2016.1158726
Rowe, D. W. (2008). Social contracts for writing: Negotiating shared understandings
about text in the preschool years.!Reading Research Quarterly,$43(1), 66-95.
Rowe, D. W., & Neitzel, C. (2010). Interest and Agency in 2and 3YearOlds'
Participation in Emergent Writing.$Reading Research Quarterly,$45(2), 169-195.
Rowe, D. W., & Miller, M. E. (2015). Designing for diverse classrooms: Using iPads and
digital cameras to compose eBooks with emergent bilingual/biliterate four-year-
olds.$Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 1468798415593622.
Sefton-Green, J., Marsh, J., Erstad, O., and Flewitt, R. (2016). Establishing a Research
Agenda for the Digital Literacy Practices of Young Children: a White Paper for COST
Action IS1410. Accessed:
Selfe, C. L. (2009). The movement of air, the breath of meaning: Aurality and multimodal
composing.$College composition and communication, 616-663.
Sticht, T. (1979). Applications of the audread model to reading evaluation and
instruction.$In y L. B. Resnick & P. A. Weaver (eds), Theory and practice of early
reading,$1, 209-226.
Twining et al. (2017) NP3 – New Purposes, New Practices, New Pedagogy: Meta-
analysis report. London: Society for Educational Studies.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1967). Play and its role in the mental development of the child.$Soviet
psychology,!5(3), 6-18.
Vygotsky, L. S. (1980).!Mind in society: The development of higher psychological
processes. Harvard university press.
... Acesso a artefatos digitais e suas relações com a produção de textos multimodais pelas crianças Analisar os processos de produção de textos das crianças e suas experiências digitais contemporâneas passa, obrigatoriamente, por conhecer suas condições de acesso e as oportunidades de uso dos artefatos digitais. Algumas pesquisas feitas em países da Europa demonstram o crescente aumento do acesso e uso de tecnologias digitais como tablets e smartphones por crianças (KUCIRKOVA et al., 2019). No entanto, partindo da ideia de que as infâncias são diferentes pelas diversas partes do mundo, as práticas de leitura e escrita no suporte digital não podem ser generalizadas. ...
Full-text available
Este artigo objetiva compreender algumas das condições que podem interferir na produção de textos multimodais por crianças, a partir do seu acesso a dispositivos digitais, de suas práticas culturais de produção de textos nestes ambientes e de algumas representações sobre o que é um texto. As análises se baseiam na semiótica social, em estudos que permitem compreender o protagonismo das crianças na produção e divulgação de textos e suas ações no âmbito da cultura escrita digital. Os dados foram obtidos em pesquisa empírica desenvolvida com crianças de 8, 9 e 10 anos, de duas escolas públicas, com metodologia qualitativa que envolveu entrevistas, observação direta e propostas de produção de textos em ambientes digitais. Os resultados mostram que o processo de produção de textos multimodais dessas crianças é passível de várias limitações como o acesso e qualidade dos dispositivos, valores culturais, controle social dos pais, entre outros. Elas usam mais de um sistema de representação, produzem textos multimodais em ambientes como WhatsApp, TikTok, Instagram e YouTube, utilizam dispositivos digitais para fins de lazer e divertimento, comunicação, criatividade, pesquisa e aprendizagem, mas têm a representação de que texto é o texto verbal escrito, de que a escrita se faz com lápis e papel, revelando dúvidas para classificar textos híbridos. Os sujeitos investigados são atuantes em práticas de produções de textos multimodais, em contexto não escolar, mobilizando a linguagem como forma de expressarem seus gostos e sentimentos, participarem de práticas comunicativas reais, ampliando o escopo de sua atuação sobre o mundo.
... In the past decade, there has been a sharp increase in touch screen technologies, such as tablets, by young children around the globe (Colliver et al., 2019;Kucirkova et al., 2017). Taking into consideration additional characteristics such as simplicity, intuitive design, portability, connectivity and speed, it is not strange that these devices are becoming increasingly pervasive amongst young-age users in both formal and informal learning environments (Beschorner and Hutchison, 2013;Falloon, 2014;Marsh et al., 2015;Neumann, 2018). ...
Purpose This study, by critically analyzing material from multiple sources, aims to provide an overview of what is available on evaluation tools for educational apps for children. To realize this objective, a systematic literature review was conducted to search all English literature published after January 2010 in multiple electronic databases and internet sources. Various combinations of search strings were used due to database construction differences, while the results were cross-referenced to discard repeated references, obtaining those that met the criteria for inclusion. Design/methodology/approach The present study was conducted according to the methods provided by Khan et al. (2003) and Thomé et al. (2016). The whole procedure included four stages: planning the review, identifying relevant studies in the literature, critical analysis of the literature, summarizing and interpreting the findings (Figure 1). Furthermore, in this analysis, a well-known checklist, PRISMA, was also used as a recommendation (Moher et al. , 2015). Findings These review results reveal that, although there are several evaluation tools, in their majority they are not considered adequate to help teachers and parents to evaluate the pedagogical affordances of educational apps correctly and easily. Indeed, most of these tools are considered outdated. With the emergence of new issues such as General Data Protection Regulation, the quality criteria and methods for assessing children's products need to be continuously updated and adapted (Stoyanov et al. , 2015). Some of these tools might be considered as good beginnings, but their “limited dimensions make generalizable considerations about the worth of apps” (Cherner, Dix and Lee, 2014, p. 179). Thus, there is a strong need for effective evaluation tools to help parents and teachers when choosing educational apps (Callaghan and Reich, 2018). Research limitations/implications Even though this work is performed by following the systematic mapping guideline, threats to the validity of the results presented still exist. Although custom strings that contained a rich collection of data were used to search for papers, potentially relevant publications that would have been missed by the advanced search might exist. It is recommended that at least two different reviewers should independently review titles, abstracts and later full papers for exclusion (Thomé et al. , 2016). In this study, only one reviewer – the author – selected the papers and did the review. In the case of a single researcher, Kitchenham (2004) recommends that the single reviewer should consider discussing included and excluded papers with an expert panel. The researcher, following this recommendation, discussed the inclusion and exclusion procedure with an expert panel of two professionals with research experience from the Department of (removed for blind review). To deal with publication bias, the researcher in conjunction with the expert panel used the search strategies identified by Kitchenham (2004) including: Grey literature, conference proceedings, communicating with experts working in the field for any unpublished literature. Practical implications The purpose of this study was not to advocate any evaluation tool. Instead, the study aims to make parents, educators and software developers aware of the various evaluation tools available and to focus on their strengths, weaknesses and credibility. This study also highlights the need for a standardized app evaluation (Green et al. , 2014) via reliable tools, which will allow anyone interested to evaluate apps with relative ease (Lubniewski et al. , 2018). Parents and educators need a reliable, fast and easy-to-use tool for the evaluation of educational apps that is more than a general guideline (Lee and Kim, 2015). A new generation of evaluation tools would also be used as a reference among the software developers, designers to create educational apps with real educational value. Social implications The results of this study point to the necessity of creating new evaluation tools based on research, either in the form of rubrics or checklists to help educators and parents to choose apps with real educational value. Originality/value However, to date, no systematic review has been published summarizing the available app evaluation tools. This study, by critically analyzing material from multiple sources, aims to provide an overview of what is available on evaluation tools for educational apps for children.
... Web 2.0 applications, technologies and digital texts have promoted social interaction through new forms of literacy (Chaudron, 2015;Gillen, 2014;Schamroth Abrams & Merchant, 2013). Kucirkova, Wells Rowe, Oliver, and Piestrzynski (2017), Kumpulainen and Gillen (2017), Marsh et al. (2017a) and Marsh et al. (2017b) have presented a wide overview of the different research studies carried out to date regarding children's digital literacy. Other reports, such as the ones written by Chaudron (2015) and Gillen et al. (2018), have compared children's digital literacy events between different European countries. ...
Full-text available
This paper addresses the use of digital and information literacy with primary pupils and its relationship with the development of literacy inside and outside school. Information and Communication Technologies have created new opportunities for reading and writing texts in social spaces that have modified the way children learn. This study was a non-experimental, explanatory design. 1540 Spanish primary school pupils completed a self-report questionnaire based on the literacy, digital and information events developed by pupils. The data obtained were analysed through a Categorical Principal Component Analysis (CATPCA) that identified two components related to the events "inside school" and "outside school". These components were later used as variables to classify the socioeconomic status and type of school, curricular preferences, as well as age, sex and year of study. The results obtained show two spaces for literacy: one was promoted inside school and was based on printed texts; the other developed outside school and favoured digital and information literacy. This work concludes with the need to establish bridges which connect digital competence inside and outside school through the creation of a third literacy space.
... Finally, other literature reviews that turn to methodological issues, rather than report methodological trends, present their assessment of research needs and preferred methodologies to respond to emergent research issues: Kucirkova et al. (2017) provide a narrative literature review of young children's writing with and on screens. They draw from studies published between 2010-2017 and develop a systematic coding scheme to examine 80 research reports on the topic. ...
Full-text available
In this blog post we present the trends in methodology in researching digital literacies and practices of young children as captured in the DigiLitEY Research Methodology Database that Working Group 5 of the DigiLitEY COST Action has created. The database is a collaborative review and research tool in which authors and researchers can input the reference to their works and of others concerned with the subject and provide extended details of methodological aspects of the studies (Access the database input tool here). In addition, the database is publicly accessible and can be downloaded or associated to on-line search tools or plug-ins in third-party websites (See here an example of how this third-party use). This short piece examines current trends and discusses these in comparison to relevant literature reviews on methodology published in recent years. As of April 2019 the database contained more than 350 entries from research studies and reports conducted across 38 countries with the oldest paper published in 1993. Available at:
Full-text available
This paper outlines the context and research questions behind a Europe-wide project investigating young children, digital technologies and changing literacies.
Full-text available
Since the early 2010s, there has been a proliferation of new platforms for children’s stories (e.g. storybook apps or iBooks), but not necessarily greater diversity of story content or children’s greater interest in reading. This article argues for a new approach to address the apparent paradox of a wider availability of children’s literature combined with children’s eroded reading interest. The issue is suggested to be addressed by considering the agency and aesthetic dimensions which lie at the heart of personalisation theory. Translating agency into reading practice means establishing children’s early authoring, which can result in an eclectic approach to content and increased reading motivation, as long as children’s aesthetic choices are fully supported. However, it is also argued that early authoring should not be conflated with achieving an overly child-centred literature, which would ignore the reciprocity dimension of community and society relations. Digital book-making is suggested to offer original concepts which might provide an alternative approach for future work in the area of early authoring.
Full-text available
This paper contributes to the discussion of digital literacies in early literacy education. We focus on the nature of screen-based literacy practices in relation to print-based, paper-pen practices in the early years of schooling when pupils learn to read and write (aged 7–8). Our results show that pupils engage in several diverse screen-based practices, although they are conventional in nature. However, aspects of blogging and tweeting do approach the characteristics of “new literacies” as defined in previous research.
Technical Report
Full-text available
Despite the growing number of very young children who go online and who are using a wide range of technologies, little is known about children’s interactions with those technologies. This report presents a pilot qualitative study designed and implemented in collaboration with a selected group of academic partners in different European countries that aims at pioneering in Europe the exploration of young children and their families` experiences with new technologies. It presents its results and discuss the findings at cross-national level on how children between zero and eight engage with digital technologies such as smartphones, tablets, computers and games; how far parents mediate this engagement and their awareness on the risks-opportunities balance. The report concludes on recommendations to parents, industries and policymakers.
Full-text available
This exposition challenges three binary oppositions within literacy education in Australian primary schools from the 1950’s to the present: the skills-based versus whole language debate, the exclusively print-based approach versus multiliteracies, and the opposition between cultural heritage and critical literacy models. The six literacy approaches are briefly described, and significant criticisms raised by their detractors are argued with justification of claims. The tensions raised by each binary opposition are reconciled and reframed. The article concludes with a call for pedagogical transformation to meet the constantly changing technologically, culturally and linguistically diverse textual practices required in the twenty-first century.
The aim of this paper is to explore further an under-developed area – how drivers of curriculum, pedagogy and assessment conceptions and practices shape the creation and uses of technologically based resources to support mathematics learning across informal, non-formal and formal learning environments. The paper considers: the importance of mathematics learning in informal and non-formal as well as formal settings; how curriculum focuses on pedagogy supporting these needs, contrasting this focus in England and Serbia; and in these contexts, the roles of homework, the potential of technologies and the roles of the teacher. Technological developments to support mathematics learning for 11- to 14-year-old pupils in the two countries are explored and contrasted, and ways that recent developments inform our understandings of formal, informal and non-formal learning through learning activities, learning support and settings are modelled. The conception of ‘extended pedagogies’ is introduced; implications are outlined.
This paper offers a new characterisation of young children’s (2–8 years) reading for pleasure (RfP) with digital books. This characterisation is rooted in a re-contextualisation of Anna Craft’s conceptualisation of twenty-first century childhoods in Creativity and education futures (Stoke on Trent, Trentham, 2011) and a review of the literature concerning young children’s RfP with digital books. The paper develops Craft’s (2011) work by considering the ways in which digital books can resource the ‘4Ps of digital childhood’ in reading for pleasure. Six facets of reader engagement, nested within Craft’s (2011) 4Ps, are presented: affective, creative, interactive, shared, sustained and personalised reading engagements. It is argued that this characterisation of young children’s reading engagements can enrich our understanding of the affordances of digital books in relation to RfP in the twenty-first century. The paper thus offers an important new contribution, going beyond established work in the field, which typically explores digital books in relation to children’s learning, product design or developmental outcomes.
This paper reports the findings of a two-year design study exploring instructional conditions supporting emerging, bilingual/biliterate, four-year-olds’ digital composing. With adult support, children used child-friendly, digital cameras and iPads equipped with writing, drawing and bookmaking apps to compose multimodal, multilingual eBooks containing photos, child-produced drawings, writing and voice recordings. Children took digital cameras home, and home photos were loaded onto the iPads for bookmaking. In Year 1, eBook activities successfully supported children’s multimodal composing. Children used similar writing forms on the page and screen, and explored the keyboard as an option for writing. Children used digital images as anchors for conversation and composing, and produced oral recordings extending and elaborating written messages. However, most dual-language recordings were created by Spanish-English bilinguals, with speakers of other languages rarely composing in their heritage languages. In Year 2, we redesigned eBook events to better support all children as multimodal, multilingual composers. Revised eBook activities included multilingual, demonstration eBooks containing all the children’s languages, with translations by bilingual adults known to the children. Beginning early in the school year, these eBooks were publicly shared in large group activities. The results showed that all emergent bilingual/biliterate children created dual-language recordings for their eBooks in Year 2. We concluded that: (a) the ability to integrate photos and voice recordings with print and drawings provided new opportunities for learning and teaching not available in page-based composing; (b) the affordances of iPads for children’s learning were shaped by local language and literacy practices.