As a variety of learning technologies become increasingly present in early elementary classrooms the question of how to integrate technologies into early literacy teaching and learning is critical. A great deal is known about best practices for early elementary literacy instruction in traditional print-based texts (Pressley, 2006). Additionally, there is much innovative research studying how to effectively integrate learning technologies into secondary and late elementary literacy learning (Beach & O'Brien, 2012; Leu et al., 2007). Given the increasing prevalence of a variety of learning technologies in early elementary classrooms (kindergarten through 3rd grade) there is a pressing need for research to examine and document how teachers approach the integration of new learning technologies, such as handheld devices (e.g., iPod Touch devices, iPads) and apps, with their knowledge of best practices for effective early literacy instruction and the actual affordances of these practices. In this study I sought to describe how early elementary teachers integrate technologies into the teaching of literacy when presented with new handheld devices from upper administration. I also examined how (and if) teachers integrate their knowledge of best practices for early literacy learning with multimodalities, affordances and value added literacy opportunities when reviewing and selecting handheld device apps for early literacy instruction. My goal was to describe what happens when handheld devices are actually used in early literacy instruction, focusing on app affordances. Undergirded by a theoretical framework that blended constructivism, pragmatism and social cognitive and social constructivist theories of learning, I employed naturalistic inquiry (Lincoln and Guba, 1985) and case study methodologies (Yin, 1994). I collected data in two phases. First, I conducted a survey with a selective sample of 25 K-3rd grade teachers. Then, I purposively sampled two information-rich cases of kindergarten teachers, collecting data through interviews, verbal protocol procedures, classroom observations and photographs. Findings indicated that teachers used apps most often for students to independently practice phonics skills, and rarely or never for literacy instructional that required students to engage in higher-order thinking or collaborate with peers. The use of handheld devices and apps yielded a variety of negative affordances that inhibited or detracted from learning, several of these unanticipated by teachers. Teachers' selection of apps to use for instruction was influenced by factors including the cost of apps, student-centered approaches to teaching and beliefs about literacy best practices. The presence of the devices in the learning environment impacted and shaped students social interactions and learning experiences in their kindergarten classrooms, both in both positive and negative ways. This study identified concerns and issues that warrant consideration as handheld devices and apps are integrated into early elementary literacy learning, if teachers hope to use these tools in ways that not only support students' traditional print-based literacy development, but also assure students develop digital literacies strategies and critical 21st century skills.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2014. Major:Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisor: Dr. Deborah Dillon. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 302 pages, appendices A-G.
Israelson, Madeleine Heins.
A study of teachers' integration of App affordances and early literacy best practices.
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