Apps - a force for good in children's learning?

Meredith Jones Russell
Wednesday, May 21, 2014

The role of digital technology in children’s early years is the focus of a one-day conference at the University of Oxford next month.

The one-day event, entitled ‘Early literacy and digital technologies: friend or foe?’, is aimed at educators, researchers, advisers and policy makers,  and will provide delegates with an opportunity to learn about and discuss the fundamental impact of technologies on children and their future.

Discussions will focus on whether apps and e-books are interactive or distractive, whether children are learning from these types of technology or simply having fun, and whether new skills are truly being fostered through technology use in the early years.

The course will also include two interactive sessions for discussions and networking.

The conference is organised by the Oxford Education Society (OES), part of the Department of Education at the University of Oxford.

Natalia Kucirkova, Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) associate for the Open University and Booktrust, and OES committee member, said, ‘Technologies have become so ubiquitous in young children’s lives that we take many of their uses for granted, including young children’s intuitive understanding of how many iPads or smartphone apps might work.

‘It is important that we step back and have a dialogue about the value-added of technologies for children’s lives and engage in a reasoned debate about their careful integration into their lives.

'This dialogue needs to happen between those who tend to herald and those who deride their influences and between those who theorise and those who use them, on a daily basis, with children in schools, homes and other settings.

Speakers include experts in the area of early years, early literacy and technology:


  • Professor Jackie Marsh, School of Education, University of Sheffield
  • Dr John Oates, Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology, Open University
  • Professor Kathy Sylva, Department of Education, University of Oxford
  • Dr Rebecca Eynon, Department of Education, University of Oxford and the Oxford Internet Institute
  • Natalia Kurcikova, Open University and Booktrust


Ms Kucirkova added, ‘We hope that the Saturday School will bring many researchers, practitioners and other children’s educators together to discuss the status quo and envision ways forward with digitalised early years.’

The conference will take place at the Department of Education in Oxford on 7 June from 10.30am.

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