Staff 'need digital guidance' for supporting literacy


Early years practitioners should have more guidance on how to support literacy with digital technologies, says a new study.

Dr Rosie Flewitt from the Open University says that adult fears that digital technology could be harmful to children and damage their ‘childhood’ has led to a 'digital divide', where some children are developing sophisticated skills with a range of new technologies, while others lack skills and confidence.

'Multimodal Literacies in the Early Years', funded by the Economic and Social Research Council and led by Dr Flewitt with Dr Sylvia Wolfe from Cambridge University, looked at how children develop literacy skills in today’s world and whether they use traditional, printed media or new technologies. They surveyed 40 families and observed ten children from a Sure Start children's centre in the south of England at home and in the setting.

They concluded that many early years practitioners do not have the confidence, skills or support from the curriculum to overcome this 'digital divide'. Dr Flewitt said, 'For practitioners, there is a lack of guidance in the early years curriculum on how to support literacy with digital technologies.’

The study found that at home, the children experienced a wide range of new technologies as part of everyday life, such as looking up information on the internet, and they naturally took an interest. 

'Unfortunately, early education is trailing behind these changing literacy practices. That's a shame, because we could be supporting and promoting young children's strategic use of new technologies which offer great potential for early literacy development and for responding to children’s personal interests by making links between their lives at home and in the nursery,' Dr Flewitt said.

‘Despite adult fears, the children in this study who were the most computer savvy, were also the ones that took part in the greatest range of indoor and outdoor activities, and led extremely diverse lives. What matters most is the quality of support they receive from adults and peers.'

'If early years education continues to focus exclusively on traditional forms of literacy, then it will be failing to provide all children with the skills they will need at school and in their future lives.'

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