Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Technology in Early Childhood Literacy Development: Family Literacy and Technology

Academic journal article New England Reading Association Journal

Technology in Early Childhood Literacy Development: Family Literacy and Technology

Article excerpt

Adrian, 4-years old, and Alexandra, 2.5 years old, are typical, lively siblings who play together but insist on their independence; are usually obedient but do stand up for themselves; share but not always willingly; and frequently play with the computer.

Alexandra, called Ola by her family, picks up my hand, places it on the mouse, places her hand on mine and proceeds to move the curser to teach me how to start the computer program, Reader Rabbit Preschool-Sparkle Star Rescue-ages 3-6. Once she tires of demonstrating this program, Ola asks, "Ciocia malu (ciocia means auntie;, maluj means paint in Polish)?" Seeing the puzzled look on my face, Ola repeats, "Ciocia, malu?" After the third try, Ola states in exasperation and in English, "Ciocia, paint?!" It becomes evident that she has changed programs and is asking me if I want to try the paint feature of the new program.

Adrian asks me to play Play with the Teletubbies with him on his PlayStation2; however, as he is setting up the game, it seems to me that he is having some difficulty getting it started. After a minute or two, I start making suggestions that Adrian ignores for a while. Finally, he states, "Ciocia, patience, patience, patience!"

Adrian and Alexandra are the new generation of technologically savvy children who are entering our schools using the computer to express themselves, just as they do with traditional media such as paper and crayons. They have few difficulties using the mouse or keyboard to operate the technology and they are able to follow visual prompts to discover, explore, and talk about the images and activities on the screen. They enjoy using drawing programs, educational games, electronic books, and trying out different software activities on their own. They talk about computer programs using the language of play. And, they imitate their parents' computer behaviors and attitudes such as teaching others to use the computer and treating the technology with respect (Downes, 2002; Wartella & Jennings, 2000).

The role of technology in early childhood education is highly controversial. Technology critics suggest that technology in schools wastes energy, time, financial resources, and childhood itself (Cordes & Miller, 2000). Advocates of technology suggest that children should have the advantages of new technologies. They are concerned that even though wonderful things are being done with children and computers, we may not be using the technology to its fullest potential (Kleiman, 2000; NAEYC, 1996). I'd like to suggest that Adrian, Alexandra and their parents have moved the discussion from "Should young children use computers?" to a more controversial dialogue. Their home experiences demand discussions that focus on "What are appropriate and meaningful uses of technology with children?" "How can parents and educators take advantage of the power of technology to enhance children's learning?" "How are parents fostering technology literacy development at home and how can these practices be applied in the classroom?" (Coiro, 2001 ; Van Scoter, Ellis & Railsback, 2001). This article focuses on exploring the home environment which fosters technology literacy development.

FOSTERING TECHNOLOGY LITERACY AT HOME: CONDITIONS OF LEARNING

Children have a vast array of learning experiences long before they come to school. They have acquired many communication skills, internalized language grammar and rules, and become aware of behaviors of effective communication (Leu & Kinzer, 20O3). Educators have recognized the significant role of home on children's literacy development and research has identified many factors in the home environment which lead to success in literacy. Additionally, research has found that family computer resources; patterns of use of technology; and ways of interacting with family and technology combine to affect children's technology and literacy development (Downes, 1996; 2002; Van Scoter, Ellis & Railsback, 2001 ; Roschelle, et al. …

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