Merel de Bondt, PhD-Student at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
In many western countries the majority of households own a tablet and children play with them. Even the youngest children know how to swipe. Without adults, toddlers will however use tablets primarily for uneducated fun – watching YouTube movies and playing games. But where do you find research-based information about high quality e-books? Merel de Bondt flew to Stavanger – Norway to meet Dr. Trude Hoel and learn more about an interesting project aimed at developing a tool for evaluating children’s e-books.
Stavanger – Norway
In Norway the use of tablets is quite common in kindergartens but reading books on tablets is relatively new. Kindergarten teachers in Stavanger – Norway expressed the wish to use tablets for shared reading sessions, but they lack the knowledge to define high quality e-books. Researchers from the Reading Centre of the University of Stavanger are developing a tool for evaluating children’s e-books.
The VEBB project
VEBB is an innovation project funded by the Norwegian Research Council’s program for research and innovation in education. The aim is to develop an app that kindergarten staff can use for selecting e-books that are appropriate for specific goals in shared reading activities.
There are multiple reasons to use e-books in Early Childhood Education and Care settings but caregivers do not know when and how. Through experiments comparing group sessions with an e-book and a print book, relevant information is collected. The same story was used in both conditions. The research was done in groups of 6 children because that is the standard situation in the Early Childhood Education and Care settings in Norway. The research group of the VEBB project is currently analyzing the observation videos, coding: i) interactions between the teacher and the children, ii) interactions between the children, iii) time spent on pre-understanding of the story (building pre-expectations), iv) the amount of time children wander around during the reading session, v) how often the children point to the book, vi) how often the children talk about the narrative, vii) operating of the digital device.
The lack of research-based information on how to use e-books in Early Childhood Education and Care settings was a motive for the researchers at the University of Stavanger to start with this large project. The aim of VEBB is to develop a research-based, internet-based tool for the evaluation of children’s e-books to be used in shared book reading activities in kindergarten settings. The goal is to provide knowledge to practitioners about the affordances of print books and e-books, and how these may interact with dialogue and engagement in dialogue-based reading. Books on tablets is relatively new in kindergarten settings, but the use of tablets is quite common. The VEBB project helps kindergarten staff to find relevant and high quality e-books. This practical tool will contribute to the beneficial usage of ICT in kindergartens as it is seen in Norway as a competence for the 21st century.