Exploring the affordances of touchscreen technologies in early years settings in the West Midlands

Ludgate, Shannon (2018) Exploring the affordances of touchscreen technologies in early years settings in the West Midlands. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

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Touchscreen devices are now the most-used technological hardware by young children at home in England (Livingstone et al., 2015). Touchscreens are also gaining popularity in early years settings. However, there is currently no policy and very little guidance available to support early years practitioners in using touchscreens. Information is in its infancy on how touchscreens are used and how to maximise their potential to support young children’s learning. Therefore, this study explores touchscreen practice in early years settings to identify affordances in how they are used by children and practitioners.
Practitioner data was collected through an online survey and interviews. Observations of touchscreen use by children and practitioners were recorded and focus-group interviews were conducted with young children. Engeström’s (1999a; 1999b) activity theory model was used as the tool for analysis to conceptualise touchscreen activity within four early years settings. Analysis of the data revealed that touchscreen activity was much more complex than children’s or adults’ general interactions with the devices, and therefore Bronfenbrenner’s (1977) ecological systems model was also incorporated with the activity theory model to reflect the wider influences which guide or direct touchscreen play.
The data revealed three main themes: Play, Authority, and Pedagogy. First, the study found that there were differences in touchscreen intentions by children and practitioners, with children viewing the touchscreen as a toy (play resource) and source of entertainment, whilst practitioners viewed the touchscreen as an educational tool. Second, the study found that there were authority struggles amongst children and their peers, and adults and children through the rules or manipulation of rules regarding touchscreen play. Third, pedagogical approaches reflected limitations in touchscreen potential through practitioner rules. However, there was evidence of practitioners supporting children’s learning through scaffolding and guided interaction, yet these were not frequent occurrences.
This research has produced strong conclusions regarding effective touchscreen practice and has the potential to be used to inform policy makers, practitioners and researchers to support enhanced touchscreen activity with young children. The research provides an insight into the challenges encountered when implementing touchscreens, or indeed any technology, within early years settings; as such, I emphasise the need for a greater awareness by policy makers of how they can best support early years practitioners in this area.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: I would firstly like to thank my supervisory team, Dr Jane O’Connor, Dr Carolyn Blackburn, and Professor Martin Fautley for your continued work, support and encouragement given to me over the past three and a half years. I could not have asked for a more supportive and honest supervisory team who guided me in the right directions when I felt a little lost, and for helping me in believing that I could achieve this. Thank you, Dr Victoria Kinsella, for casting a critical eye on this thesis and for your feedback in helping me improve. I would also like to thank the participants and the early years settings within this study. Without you, this research could not have happened. Thank you for granting me access to your settings and for letting me explore how you used touchscreen devices. You have taught me so much. I would like to thank my PhD fellows. There are too many to name individually, but most importantly, thank you Dr Rebecca Keyte-Wilcock and Kirsty Devaney. Becky, right from the first day you have supported me so much more than I could have ever expected. Your ongoing support and encouragement has been appreciated, you have been such a wonderful friend to me and I am grateful. Kirsty, thank you for being a supportive friend, it has been lovely to share this journey with you. Thank you too to all my colleagues in the Graduate School office. You are such a wonderful group of people who have offered me advice or took the time to listen to my worries. Beth and Becky, thank you for the humour – it’s been great! I would also like to thank Dr Eleni Kanira. Thank you for encouraging me to pursue my interests in research and believing in me. Without your supervision in my undergraduate research, I never would have thought I would be here today. Your ongoing support throughout my PhD has been heart-warming. Finally, I would like to thank my fiancé Lewis Ingram and my family. Lewis, thank you for your patience as I changed my trusty 5-year plan and followed my interests. Your support has been greatly appreciated. Thank you for the comfort when things got a little tough, and thanks for the chocolate. To my family, thank you for all your support throughout my PhD. Mum, thank you for your unwavering encouragement in my academic life and my career goals. Thank you for the cups of coffee and occasional biscuit to get me through the days when writing was tough. I could not have got through this PhD journey without the endless love and support I have received from those most close to me. Thank you for cheering me on, I hope to make you proud.
4 August 2018Completed
Uncontrolled Keywords: Early years, Touchscreen Technology, Actvity Theory, Play, Pedagogy
Subjects: CAH11 - computing > CAH11-01 - computing > CAH11-01-01 - computer science
CAH22 - education and teaching > CAH22-01 - education and teaching > CAH22-01-01 - education
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Depositing User: Kip Darling
Date Deposited: 11 Mar 2019 15:42
Last Modified: 12 Jan 2022 17:23
URI: https://www.open-access.bcu.ac.uk/id/eprint/7200

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