“The Digital World of Young Children: Emergent Literacy”

In an effort to better understand the ways in which young people’s learning and expression are being shaped by mobile and digital technologies, the Pearson Foundation released “The Digital World of Young Children: Emergent Literacy,” a research white paper on the effects of digital media on young children’s learning at the 2010 Consortium for School Networking (CoSN) International Symposium, in Washington, DC.

Authored by early childhood education experts, Arizona State University’s Jay Blanchard and Terry Moore, the white paper examines the latest research on the ways in which young children make use of increasingly personalized and mobile media—including cell phones, television, video games, smart devices, and computers. The report focuses on the impact of these new ways of learning and also highlights the degree to which these emergent literacies are rooted in young people’s use of commonplace mobile devices–especially in developing and least-developed nations.

Blanchard’s and Moore’s research finds that developmental milestones are changing as a new generation of young children approach learning and literacy in ways not thought possible in the past. According to this new report, digital media is already transforming the language and cultural practices that enable early literacy development, making possible a new kind of personal and global interconnectedness.

The research reveals that:

  • Opportunities to engage with digital media increasingly prevail through the use of mobile devices—and in developing countries access to mobile devices is more commonplace than access to other technologies.
  • Developmental milestones are changing as young people’s access to mobile and digital technology grows.
  • Digital media positively impacts children’s opinion of learning, providing engagement opportunities not always seen with print materials.

This study also confirms the need to continue delivering educational programs to teachers and children who otherwise would not have access to these kinds of educational opportunities.

“The Digital World of Young Children: Emergent Literacy” is the second Pearson Foundation funded study of the effects of mobile and digital technologies on young people. The first, “Pockets of Potential: Using Mobile Technologies to Promote Children’s Learning,” was released in 2009 by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. The report, by Center Industry Fellow Carly Shuler, draws on interviews with mobile learning experts and offers a review of scientific literature and industry trends to illustrate how mobile devices might be more broadly used for learning.