iWrite: Digital Message Making Practices of Young Children
Bigelow, Emily Culver
This research examines the digital communication and composing practices of a group of preschoolers with touchscreen tablets. Four year-old children were invited to take on the role of digital composer as they used an open-ended drawing app, Sketches2, and an email program, Mail, on iPads to send emails to parents. Fifteen children in a NAEYC accredited preschool in a large, southern U.S. city took part in the iWrite study in their classroom between August and November. Qualitative analysis of the data allowed for a description of young children as digital composers. Children were found to be quick to adopt the physical skills need to compose messages on the iPads, engaging in activities such as tapping, swiping, drawing, pinching, knuckle dragging, and typing. Typing styles included a two-handed grown-up style and a one-handed hunt-and-peck style. Children relied on the adult for support generating messages and also for specific procedural and technical supports. During the composing process, the adult worked with children as she demonstrated, invited, encouraged, prompted, co-authored, authored, and redirected, commented and asked questions. Children engaged in exploratory, playful and purposeful ways with the iPads, creating products with much variability across modes. When composing messages, children selected typing over writing letters by hand. Children tended to select holiday-specific stamps from the selection of the stock images available in the app. These stamped images did not always correspond with the content of the email message.