Young children's play using digital touchscreen tablets




Carrell Moore, Holly Lynne

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National early childhood organizations have posited that technology tools might be used to expand young children's thinking and experiences if offered in playful ways, and organized with interactive activities that allow for individualization and social interaction (NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center, 2012). Furthermore, these organizations have argued for the need to study newer technologies such as touch-screen technologies (NAEYC & Fred Rogers Center, 2012). The purpose of this study is to examine young children's technology-related play choices and actions particularly as they occurred with touch-screen tablets in a classroom setting. The 10-week qualitative study, organized around a classic grounded theory methodology (Glaser, 1978, 1992, 1998) and conducted within a single classroom, reports the close observation and description of 14 public- school pre-kindergarten students' actions with open-ended, symbolic-play tablet apps and interactions with one another, toward building a grounded theory of children's socially situated, tablet-centered digital play. The findings of this study demonstrate how participants' play choices were situated within multiple nested social spheres, including layers of digital play, the iPad activity-center, and the classroom as organized by the teacher. Examination of children's changeable play actions and choices revealed students' use of reflexive tracking as they actively navigated between personal and social interests to engage in three types of play: sampling, experimenting, and engaging in pretense. The findings and theorized model of socially situated dual-tablet play inform the discourse on technology integration in early childhood classrooms as well as the discourse on play, particularly in regards to digital play.



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