03 Sep 2013
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Study to examine how technology develops literacy skills

By Rebecca Wood

A Massey University study aims to debunk notions that digital technology and televisions are bad, and show how they can be interactive learning tools for children.

The research will examine how young children use books and technology to develop literacy skills before they start school.

Researchers are recruiting 20 Manawatū families to take part in the study, which will investigate how four-and-a-half-year-olds use books and screens within family homes.

Institute of Education senior lecturer Dr Alison Arrow says children’s literacy behaviours and activities are changing.

“When we were children, learning to read and write involved books and paper. Children today can interact with symbols and print, not only on paper, but also on screens such as those on phones, computers and other devices.”

Dr Arrow says the study will examine not only what children are reading or watching but also how they interact.

“The assumption is that when children are on computers they’re playing games, and that’s bad. But what we want to find out is what exactly are they doing? Our guess is that they’re doing things that will help them for school, such as learning literacy, the alphabet, and narratives.”

She says watching television programmes and DVDs and reading books of the same series actually help children learn the story. According to a previous study, when children are watching screens they are generally not alone, and are interacting with it by talking, dancing or playing with toys at the same time.

“We’re hoping to show that everything they’re doing is normal, that there’s no one way to interact with print or screens, that TV is not as bad as it’s made out to be, that the things kids are watching are really good for them, and they’re actually learning.”

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