WG5 Report “DigiLitEY Research Methods Think Tank”

DigiLitEY Methods Corner

This document reports the main discussion points arising from a two-day DigiLitEY COST Action Think Tank held in Madrid. We invited leading researchers from across Europe who are specialists in young children’s digital literacies. The aim was to share and debate perspectives in relation to current and future research challenges in this field of research. The discussion was held under three themes: 1) ‘Methodological Challenges, Flexibility and Innovation’; 2) ‘Public Engagement / Transference’; and 3) ‘Inclusiveness.’ The group agreed to produce a collective publication based on the discussion held during the Think Tank, and this report closes with an outline of the planned publication.

Date: Day 1: 7 February, 2019 (16:00h – 20:00h); Day 2: 8 February, 2019 (10:00h- 18:00h)

Venue: “La Corrala” Cultural Centre, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM), Madrid, Spain.

Download the report here: http://digilitey.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Think-Tank-report_Final_w.Pictures_03.04.19_opt.pdf

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Point of view camera

DigiLitEY Methods Corner

In this video, Jackie Marsh (School of Education, University of Sheffield) discusses the use of a point of view camera in capturing data with young children.

Cameras are a powerful tool in capturing children’s social worlds. Point-of-view cameras have a particular function as they are wearable such as on the head or on the chest. They capture the point of view of the child and his or her embodied and affective engagement with digital technologies.

Marsh discusses the advantages and drawbacks of using the point of view cameras in researching with young children, drawing examples from her research experiences.

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Multimodal ethnography

DigiLitEY Methods Corner

In this video, Rosie Flewitt (UCL Institute of Education, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Pedagogy) presents the advantages and challenges of using multimodal ethnography in researching digital literacy practices of young children and how she uses it in her research.

Flewitt contends in the video that ethnography enables us to do a detailed study of individual children, and by bringing a multimodal lens to it, we can unpick children’s sign making. However, a challenge is that ethnography and multimodality comes from different epistemologies. And yet, from Flewitt’s point of view it leads researchers to think critically of each framing and that critical thinking allows us to have a different lens.

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Mediated discourse analysis

DigiLitEY Methods Corner

In this video, Karen Wohlwend (School of Education, Indiana University Bloomington) discusses the use of mediated discourse analysis in her research with elementary school children and their teachers.

In one of her articles (Wohlwend, 2014), Wohlwend defines mediated discourse analysis (MDA) as “an action-oriented approach to critical discourse analysis that takes sociocultural activity as its primary focus, looking closely at a physical action as the unit of analysis” and in the same article she states the purpose of the MDA as the following:

  1. to locate and make visible the nexus of practice—a mesh of commonplace practices and shared meanings that bind communities together but that can also produce exclusionary effects and reproduce inequitable power relations
  2. to show how such practices are made up of multiple mediated actions that appropriate available materials, identities, and discourses
  3. to reveal how changes in the smallest everyday actions can effect social change in…

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“How it works that game?”

Preschoolers’ Agency in Technology Supported Language Learning Activities

Nathaly Gonzalez-Acevedo, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

That technology is part of very young children’s lives is not new, however, how they interact with it is still an area that is under exploration. In this line, research is interested in how children make sense of technology and how the interaction between very young children and technology is orchestrated.

In a recent Short-Term Scientific Mission in Helsinki, in collaboration with the University of Helsinki and the Playful Learning Center, the interaction of very young children with technology was explored as a multimodal interaction. The aim was to explore preschoolers’ agency during technology supported activities, in a specific sociocultural mediated and located context, and explore similitudes and differences in different sociocultural contexts in order to discuss and gain deeper insights in how agency is enacted by preschoolers and how, if so, different sociocultural contexts frame preschoolers’ digitally mediated agency.

It was observed that the materialization of agency is shaped by the context and thus the experience has highlighted how in the context analyzed children are encouraged to be themselves in front of the adult as a way to acknowledge power relation in classrooms which differs from my own research in which in order to recognize the power relation and its influences the child is given space without the adult in autonomous and collaborative tasks.

In a brief, but relevant observation to a classroom, in a school near Helsinki, an episode that represents how children can approach and interact with technology, in the context observed, took place serving this short post as an illustration of a multimodal interaction between very young children and technology.

The Classroom

The classroom was set to play in different corners, one corner being the use of the tablet. The teacher had a register of all the children that had played with the app to make sure that all children had, at some point, gone through that corner and played with the app aimed at working the reading of time in clock. The child, a 5 year old, was given the app Moji Clock and was given instructions on how to play by the adult setting the corner. The adult spent the time the child needed to understand the task and left him with headphones to play on his own.

Episode 1

The child was playing with the app and a second child comes and asks “How it works that game”. That simple question makes evident that the second child understands many of the affordances of the tablet and the use of apps.  The child knows it is a game and that he is aware that it is not an open answer game, by asking how it works and looking at the screen the child recognizes that there are rules to be followed in the game. It is interesting, as well, that he uses the word game and not activity or any other synonym. That choice of vocabulary shows that the child uses the word used to describe those apps; “games”. In this short interaction a great understanding, for a very young child, of the use of technology can be appreciated.

Episode 2

In another episode, during the same activity, the child with the tablet who is wearing headphones, starts putting them on and taking them off as if playing with his acquired capability of listening to the app’s audio, and the key to the game, or the rest of the class. He is playful, and being observed by the researcher, a new adult for him, he acts very comfortable playing with this selection of what to listen to.  This seems a multimodal choice, what background information do I need or want and the ability to choose and act on it.  This highlights that a child can use his agency to explore the affordances of the technology and use it according to his needs.

Episode 3

During the same observation, the child who is aware that the researcher was observing him during his play with the tablet, decided to make explicit his actions on the tablet. The act of making explicit his thinking started when the learner found a more complex stage of the game. The monologue went like this

-yeah, yeah three o’clock, what?



-Half past eight

-It going to be so hard, look (to the second child)

Pic 1 Moji clock.pngPicture 1: App: Moji Clock (screen capture), 8:30

The clear difficulty being the use of half past. It is interesting how the child verbalizes this difficulty by asking a question that seems reflective as he is all the time looking intensely at the screen. In a second part, however, the child who is visibly thinking about the time uses the help of the second child

  • I don’t know how to make half past four
  • Here (another child)
  • I don’t know it is here or here (pointing at 3:30 and then 4:30)

Pic 2 Moji clock

Picture 2: App: Moji Clock (screen capture), 4:30

This short episode shows how a very young child is able to reflect on what he is doing while playing so displaying the ability to reflect on the content he is working and not only oriented to the technology. In the same line, the child shows how he is able to verbalize the problem he is facing and sharing his ideas with the second child so allowing space for collaboration in a technology supported activity.

This last episode points out that very young learners can be able to make explicit and talk about the process of facing a difficulty in an activity supported by technology as well as sharing ideas with peers in order to solve, in this case, content problems.

This informal observation in a friendly environment allows some key points to be made. Very young learners can be able to explore the affordances of technology, can be able to use some related vocabulary and show understanding of its meaning (what is a game and what are its characteristics, for instance) and can be able to make visible their thinking and ask for a peer’s collaboration. This does not mean that all children will reproduce these skills, but it is clear that very young children can be able to, given the right stimulus, make a sensible and adequate use of technology in a school setting like the one presented.

It also highlights that a child’s agency in, technology-supported activities, in the light of the observations made, per se can be similar in different contexts.  The data analyzed in my research points at very similar enactments of agency. However, there are differences in how the adult shapes the structures in order to promote agency. It would be interesting to explore this point further.



Supporting children’s digital literacy from kindergarten – a priority for schools

Stephane Chaudron, European Commission, Joint Research Centre

Stephane image

©AdobeStock_Africa Studio

Schools are instrumental for promoting healthy and meaningful use of digital devices at school but also at home. Indeed, using digital technologies for learning in schools improves parents’ perceptions of these technologies, which in turn helps children’s digital learning and supports a healthier and more meaningful use of digital devices.

This is among the results conclusion of a large JRC study on the use of digital technologies based on interviews with families in 21 countries.

At first, the study underlines the importance of parents’ attitudes towards digital technologies in the strategies they adopt towards their children’s use of digital tools, and thus also in shaping their children’s digital skills.

Parental strategies to children’s use of digital devices – open, permissive, supportive, restrictive or ‘laissez faire’ – rely on numerous interlinked factors, from the parents’ skills, knowledge, attitudes and perceptions towards digital technologies to their personal experiences and socio-economic background, says the JRC report.

Then the study highlights the important influence of school’s digital pedagogy on parents’ perceptions of the technology.

Parents tend to support their children’s digital learning opportunities more and have more positive views of the technologies if schools integrate meaningfully digital technology in their homework requests. Furthermore, some parents underline that schools are in a strategic position to provide the guidance they need and believe that schools are key in developing the digital skills.

More information can be fond here:  https://www.betterinternetforkids.eu/

ITC Conference Grant – 2018 ACM Interaction Design and Children (IDC) Conference

Cristina Sylla

In the scope of the ITC Conference Grant for Early Career Investigators to participate in Conferences, funded by the Cost Action ‘DigiLitEY’ digital literacy and multimodal practices of young children, chaired by Prof. Jackie Marsh, I had the opportunity to participate in the 2018 ACM Interaction Design and Children (IDC) Conference, taking place from June 19 to 22 in Trondheim, Norway [http://idc-2018.org].  ACM IDC is the premier venue for research addressing the design, development and use of interactive technologies for children.

The first day of the conference – together with Alejandro Catalá, Mariët Theune and Eva Brooks – was dedicated to running the workshop “Rethinking children’s co-creation processes beyond the design of tangible user interfaces”  [https://www.utwente.nl/en/eemcs/hmi/cobotnity/cocreation_idc2018/]

The workshop brought together researchers and practitioners from relevant disciplines and expertise that reflected on the co-creation approach as a way to extending the already established role of children as co-designers, and on the possibilities that it opens for the development of innovative tools that place the users in the center of the creative process. The ultimate aim of the workshop was to discuss the research challenges and the pedagogical issues that need to be addressed when designing tangible interfaces for co-creation.

As part of the workshop Kreg Hanning from the Lifelong Kindergarten research group, MIT Media Lab presented and run a hands-on session with the ScratchBit. The ScratchBit allows children to take the materials around them and transform them into inputs to their digital creations on Scratch. [https://www.media.mit.edu/projects/scratch-pad/overview/]

As a co-author of the work “Visualizing Platonic Solids with Augmented Reality” [https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=3202185.3210761] together with the authors, I participated in the IDC Demo Session. The work consists of an augmented reality (AR) application, which provides a virtual interactive environment for the visualization, construction, deconstruction and manipulation of the five convex regular polyhedrons, known as platonic solids, allowing users to explore the properties of each platonic solid.

Further, as a co-author – and together with the other authors – I participated in the IDC Poster Track, with a Work in Progress: “Empowering Children to Author Digital Media Effects for Reader’s Theatre” [https://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=3210793]. The work reports findings from STREEN, an ongoing research project from the Rhine-Waal and Weingarten Universities, Germany. STREEN (Story Reading Environmental Enrichment) explores a technical variation of the classical Reader’s Theatre (RT), a pedagogical activity, in which the children read aloud to an audience. The design of STREEN is being directed towards primary school children and follows a Design-Based Research approach.


Besides providing an opportunity to present my work, attending the conference was as well a great opportunity to meet and work with researchers working in the field.

Therefore, I am very grateful and would like to thank the digital literacy and multimodal practices of young children (DigiLitEY), Prof. Jackie Marsh and the Management Committee for this generous Conference Grant, which provided a great career opportunity. THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

Digital stories & young children as empowered museum visitors

Zeljka Miklosevic, University of Zagreb, Croatia

Art museums as places of informal learning engage young children and foster cultural and social inclusion through a multimodal app.

In most cases, young children go to art museums as part of (pre)school trips and they are often segregated from the gallery space into a room where they participate in creative and art workshops. Visits with parents occur in art museums, but not as often as they could or should.

The STSM Multimodal Storytelling in Museums, carried out at the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, shows how an app can engage young children, and their parents, and motivate them to learn about art and history and develop a positive image of themselves and of the museum.

Fig 1. Screen shots of the Superpower story, KHM Stories app: a) fictional characters guide the visitor (left), b) the Fabulous Warriors station about a 4BC sarcophagus (middle), c) colouring page on the app (right).

The Kunsthistorisches Museum Stories (or KHM Stories) is an app developed by the educational staff of the museum (in collaboration with a Vienna-based software company) with the intent to encourage repeated visits, primarily by the locals. It contains stories related to different museum objects on display, which are translated into German, English, Turkish and the language/s of the ex-Yugoslav ethnic groups  (Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian) presently forming the second largest minority in Vienna. Two stories – How to Look for Monsters and Superpower! – have been created for children.

A story hunt through the museum

The Superpower story, for example, contains seven stations, i.e. objects interpreted through different types of information and modes. Two characters take children through the physical museum space (Fig 1a), from one object to another and each new page on the app presents new information or activity. The guidance through the space resembles a scavenger hunt with different assignments given to children.

Pages can be skipped and different objects (or stations) selected from the main menu of the story. No matter which object is selected, the user is guided to it through the space and when reached the object and meanings either directly or indirectly related to it, can be explored through different cultural and historical contexts and in different modes (Fig 1b,c). Stories often include various ways in which objects can be linked to everyday experiences of young visitors (Fig 2a).

Fig 2. Page on the app that allows visitors to take a selfie (left), a research participant using the app in the museum (right)

The research conducted at the museum with young children (7 and 8-year olds) and their parents of ex-Yugoslav background through participative observation and interviews led to several important insights into their museum experiences and attitudes towards the museum. Both their ethnicity and the fact they visited the museum for the first time as a family also brought cultural and social inclusion into the focus of the research.

Children felt independent and confident during the visit

Children were mostly familiar with the app functionalities and they navigated through the content and the space (with the help of pictorial and written instruction) with confidence. They also showed better orientation skills than some adults and while interacting with their family members they felt proud in knowing facts (that they found out from the app), or choosing the right answer on a quiz. They were the ones “educating” their parents and not the other way around, especially if the parents did not use the app.

Children were in charge of their museum learning experience

Children held in their hands a rich source of information that allowed them to shuffle trough the contents in search of information that would interest them most. With intelligently developed and organised multimodal content, different modes were selected and engagement in children inspired by the possibility to choose the preferred and skip the unappealing ways of interaction with the content.

Children (and adult family members) were recognized by the museum

The third characteristic arising arose from the use of the app in a controlled and authorised space of the museum is the state of being recognised, accepted or included through a programme specially developed for this particular group of people – who could use their language and did not require knowledge about art to enjoy the visit. The satisfaction the app generated with the children was a good justification for investing time to come to the Kunsthistorisches Museum. By creating the HKM Stories the museum is seen to recognise children as individual visitors.

Digital writing culture in Brazilian public school: working with teachers and with small children

Isabel Cristina Alves da Silva Frade, Mônica Daisy Vieira Araújo and Julianna Silva Glória

Brazil team

The research entitled “The use of digital technologies and the Internet in the pedagogical practice of teachers of Child Education for the insertion of children in the written culture” is developed by researchers and undergraduate students of the Faculty of Education of the Federal University of Minas Gerais / Brazil, for the Center for Study and Research on Digital Writing Culture (NEPCED), based at the Center for Literacy, Reading and Writing (CEALE). The research, which had as a specific objective to promote reflection on the contributions that the use of digital technologies and the Internet can bring to the pedagogical practice of teachers of small children, is part of a group of researches that have in common the following concerns: a) to analyze the effects and repercussions of a subject’s participation in the digital writing culture in the learning and teaching of reading and writing; b) understand how subjects operate with multisemiotic resources for the production and reading of texts in digital space; c) analyze the relation between acquisition of writing and participation of young children in digital spaces; d) to know and analyze relations between subjects and support, environments and digital reading and writing genres; e) to know and analyze modifications and permanences involved in the written culture when considering manuscript, printed and digital form.

The research was carried out during a year in two public schools of Early Childhood Education with four teachers of children of 4 and 5 years old, as well as the teachers of the computer laboratory of the schools. Our main objective was permeated by the reflexion about the need to propose the use of digital technologies and internet by young children and teachers, expanding their practices’ repertoire around the written culture and the use of digital media in addition to printed media and handwritten activities. From the teachers’ formation perspective, we seek to instrumentalize them with theoretical reflections on concepts involved in digital writing culture and on ways of acting in pedagogical practice with small children, considering the digital writing culture.

The methodology used included a form of negotiated intervention, called action research, which allows us to understand the objects of study, while proposing a modification of the pedagogical practices of the teachers participating in the research. The activities were developed around diverse digital genres and environments in order to stimulate children’s participation in the written culture and their reflection on the Portuguese language alphabetical writing system. The planning followed the development and demand of the children and enabled significant experiences and knowledge on social uses of the digital writing culture, highlighting development of ethical sense and learning about Internet safety. The developed activities were object of reflection through video analysis on the literacy events with teachers.

The data was complemented by interviews with teachers in order to explain reflections about classes and with a descriptive-analytical report written by them. The children were also interviewed after activities were carried out, in order to verify their understanding about experience and reception of the activities. In this training course, mediated by the methodological processes of the research, it’s emphasized the teacher’s protagonism, who in collaboration with researchers, planned, evaluated and performed activities developed in the school’s computer lab. The exchange, sharing of observations, knowledge and experience broadened some convictions and strengthened procedures and decisions related to the use of digital technologies and the Internet in teaching reading and writing with young children.

It was decided in this scientific study to approach teachers in order to promote a sense of belonging to a team of researchers, as well as the development of digital pedagogical practices in the computer lab that would connect with the activities carried out in the classroom. The research brought several results. At first we verified some advances in the format of continuing teacher training, which involved study, proposition of actions, execution of the proposed action and analysis of the actions through the contents studied in the training. This involved both clarification actions on doubts and improvements needed for the school collective, as well as an individual approach with teachers about the potentialities of the proposed and experienced digital literacy events.

The second point was that we have been able to choose training content about the digital writing culture applicable in the classroom of young children. Among the concepts and contents studied, we highlight: writing culture, digital technology, literacy and digital literacy, audiovisual literacy, semiotic resources, multimodality, digital games and activities, digital and digital literature.

A third aspect concerns the opportunity for researchers to immerse themselves in school, observing in a more effective way how the digital pedagogical practices of teaching reading and writing with young children can be developed, that is, their pragmatics and conditions of achievement. While building the class plans alongside teachers, they took on the challenge of creating activities that would cooperate so that young children could deal with digital writing culture and other semiotic resources, even before appropriating the Portuguese alphabet writing system.

This research found that in Brazil there is resistance on the teachers side to plan pedagogical practices using digital technologies and the Internet, even though they and the children are users at some level of these technologies. Among other factors, this is due to the absence, in initial and continued vocational training, of disciplines and / or contents adressing this issue, the low investment of public policies that increase access to digital technologies and Internet in schools, as well as teachers’ profile, who in general make a very narrow use of digital technologies and the Internet. There is a long way in the process of extending this knowledge about digital writing culture, not only because it is necessary to implement new school practices, but also because they are multiple practices, both material and symbolic, in the non-school social spaces that impose, from the outside, new challenges for school knowledge.

Shared Book Reading with tablets

Merel de Bondt, PhD-Student at the Vrije Universiteit AmsterdamProfielfoto Merel

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 projectVebb logo


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.