Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Young Children's Collaboration on the Computer with Friends and Acquaintances

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Young Children's Collaboration on the Computer with Friends and Acquaintances

Article excerpt


In recent years, the body of literature on computer use in education has increased substantially. Yet despite the growing body of literature about young children's computer use, very little is known regarding young children's interaction in the computer environment. Most of the literature still focuses on older children or adults, and provides insufficient knowledge of young children's experiences with the computer (Buckingham, 2004; Lomangino, Nicholson, & Sulzby, 1999; Plowman & Stephen, 2005; Stephen & Plowman, 2003; Wang & Ching, 2003). Considering most young children's computer use involves social and play-related applications (Facer, Furlong, Furlong, & Sutherland, 2003), very few studies are available to substantiate our understanding of young children's computer experience as play experience (Marsh, 2010; Verenikina, Herrington, Peterson, & Mantei, 2010). The current study is a response to this gap that will enable early childhood professionals to better understand young children's interactions in a playful computer environment.

Understanding the nature of young children's collaboration around the computer is essential. First, NAEYC's (National Association for the Education of Young Children) position statement (Copple & Bredekamp, 2009) reported children's preference for working with peers around the computer rather than working alone. Secondly, as technology transforms the lives and communications of young children, the patterns of collaboration observed in research studies up to this point may be altered. This study addresses collaborative in two different forms: the collaboration of acquaintances and the collaboration of friends.

Three terms, including play, discourse, and collaboration, require definition for the current study because each phenomenon can be interpreted in numerous ways. First, play in the current study is defined as pretend or make-believe. Our definition of discourse reflects how deeply children's initial verbal exchanges influence their later collaborative dialogue and is explained further in the findings section, where children's collaborative dialogue is examined to describe collaborative strategies. The current study defines collaboration as negotiation of shared understanding towards a common goal, as proposed by Crook (1994, 1995, 1998). Negotiation of shared understanding toward a common play goal initiates the collaboration process and then cultivates a distinct collaborative experience.

This study perceives the interplay between pretend play, discourse, and collaboration because collaboration can take place through both actions and dialogues. Several studies have examined specific actions observed in young children around the computer. These collaborative actions included negotiating turns, assisting others by pointing or providing verbal explanations, and collectively discussing and deciding where to click (Brooker & Siraj-Blatchford, 2002; Escobedo, 1992; Heft & Swaminathan, 2002; Lim, 2012; Plowman & Stephen, 2005; Roberts, Djonov, & Torr, 2008; Sandvig, 2006; Shahrimin & Butterworth, 2001; Wang & Ching, 2003). Escobedo's (1992) study and one recent study of Lim (2012) even found children's play-related behaviors and language while using computer. All of these studies have indicated that many spontaneous pretend play behaviors occur during the joint computer use of young children, although they did not distinguish acquaintance and friendship relationships.

The literature of collaborative writing has also provided fundamental understanding of the collaborative process. Several studies have identified certain discourse features and patterns in the collaboration process (Chung & Walsh, 2006; Fisher, 1993; Kumpulainen, 1996; Vass, Littleton, Miell, & Jones, 2008). The few available studies pertaining to young children and computers have focused on children's discourse features in the use of computers and e-games (Hyun & Davis, 2005; Kenner, Ruby, Jessel, Gregory, & Aiju, 2008; Roberts et al. …

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