Advances in digital storybook design and application in early literacy

Advances in digital storybook design and application in early literacy

First Author: Karen Burstein -- iTether Technologies, Inc.
Keywords: Early Literacy, electronic books, Comprehension, Writing development, socioeconomic status
Abstract / Summary: 

With the increasing prevalence of digital apps, eBooks, and other digital media in the homes and educational programs of young children, the benefits of these tools within instructional practice remains equivocal. The need for research and dialogue is not only timely, but also urgent as children and educators are awed by the promise of technological wizardry. The more time young children and beginning readers spend with digital devices, the more we need optimally designed and evidence-based apps and digital storybooks. Major questions related to digital storybooks include: From what digital affordances within storybooks do children benefit? Do children benefit equally from digital storybooks? Under what conditions and contexts do young digital readers thrive? And, what other skill development may benefit from digital media? The aim of this interactive symposium is for a multi-national team of trans-disciplinary scholars to share current research findings responsive to these questions and to lay the groundwork for further research germane to these issues.

Symposium Papers: 

Towards new forms of interactivity in digital storybooks

First Author/Chair:Adriana Bus -- VU University Amsterdam
Additional authors/chairs: 
Rosalie Anstadt

Purpose. Research revealed mostly negative effects of digital storybooks that included games and gimmicks (e.g., Parish-Morris et al., 2013; Moody, Justice& Cabell, 2010): instead of immersing children in stories, interactive elements seem to distract attention from the narration. In close collaboration with an app developer we design interactivity that seeks to provide users with opportunities to engage more deeply with the thematic content. The interactivity allows users to participate in story events. It provides thematically linked, experiential play, allowing users to maintain a connection with narrative content while they engage in a simple activity (Sargeant, 2015).
Method. We carried out a value-added experiment: (1) the story including camera movements and motion without interactivity and (2) the same multimedia presentation but with simple actions as pushing a button to be carried out by the user. As dependent measure, we included comprehension and vocabulary tests.
Results and/or substantiated conclusions. We carried out a pilot test in a small sample of 18 four- and five-year old kindergarten children. The results showed a deepened understanding of the story according to a prompted retelling and children’s comments while interacting with the story. A large-scale study with 80 children including four conditions (static pictures, story including camera movements and motion, a version that allows to engage in simple actions that are part of the story, control (no book); 20 children per condition), is carried out.
Significance of the work. With this research we extend knowledge of multimedia learning principles that increase the efficacy of digital storybooks for young children.

The impact of reading an e-book with a dictionary on word learning: Comparison between kindergartners with and without SLI

First Author/Chair:Ofra Korat -- Bar-Ilan University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Tzlil Graister ; Carmit Altman

Young children’s words acquisition is a central aspect in language learning and has implications for future academic achievements. The present study focused on the efficacy of e-book reading in promoting (receptive and expressive) word learning among 20 kindergarteners with specific language impairment (SLI) and 20 with typical language development (TLD). The examination also related to the contribution of each type of dictionary support provided in the e-book with reference to word learning. All children were read an e-book that included three types of difficult word definitions: one third of each group were given a dictionary definition, one third were supplied with a word defined in context, and one third were given a combined definition. E-books were read 5 times by the children. Receptive knowledge, word definitions and use of target words were measured pre and post intervention. A significant improvement in new word learning following the e-book reading was found in the three dependent measures for all children. Nonetheless, children with TLD progressed in words use more than children with SLI. The two forms of dictionary support were similarly efficient. However, words that received a combined definition promoted new words produced by children with TLD. The findings showed that children with SLI with a lower basic language proficiency level progressed most in words production when given a combined definition. These findings and their implications for interventions and future academic achievements are discussed.

Quick, incidental word learning in educational media: All contexts are not equal for low-income children

First Author/Chair:Susan B. Neuman -- New York University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Kevin Wong; Rachel Flynn; Tanya Kaefer

Studies have shown that multimedia features in digital stories can facilitate vocabulary learning and comprehension for children at-risk for language and reading difficulties (Bus et al., 2011). Less attention, however, has been paid to the context of the story in which these words may be learned. The purpose of the study was to examine incidental word learning for low-income children in three contextual settings: embedded, interactive, and directive contexts. The study addressed: 1) To what extent does the context of an episode influence low-income preschoolers’ word identification and word meaning?; and 2) Is this relationship influenced by child characteristics (i.e., media experience, general vocabulary knowledge)?

Method. Participants included 108 4-year-olds from two Head Start Centers. Using a within-study design, each child viewed six media clips in three different contexts, counterbalanced to account for order effects: Embedded (e.g., “in-story” narrative context); interactive (e.g. eliciting questions and pauses to engage viewers) and directive (e.g. talking head, explicit). The PPVT and a vocabulary screening measure was administered prior to the experiment. Posttests include in-context, out-of-context, and in new-context vocabulary and comprehension measures.

Results. A 3 x2 repeated measures ANOVAs indicated context effects: Children identified significantly more words in the interactive compared to the other two contexts (p < .001). Follow-up tests showed that for both high and low vocabulary groups, words shown in embedded contexts were less likely to be learned than in either interactive or directive context. These results suggest that the context of the episode matters for quick, incidental word learning.

The potential of digital reading settings for preschoolers’ story comprehension and enjoyment

First Author/Chair:Kathleen Roskos -- John Carroll University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Karen Burstein

Substantial research has focused on children’s solo digital book reading behaviors with computers or touchscreens under controlled conditions, especially those vulnerable to literacy risk. However, less is known, about setting effects on children’s digital reading/viewing behaviors, i.e., does reading milieu shape early digital book reading experience? This study describes young children’s digital book reading/viewing behaviors across three settings and examines differential effects on early literacy skills and dispositions of engagement and affect.

Using a Latin Squares within subjects design, 27 children, ages 4-5 participate by ‘reading’ in three conditions: solo: peer, small group. Using iPad technology, each reads three books, four times per condition. Books were selected from a commercial e-book library. Each was ≈4 minutes in length, had narration, highlighted text, coherence between text and illustration, and temporal contiguity. Conducted in a bio-behavioral lab with video/audio recording/analyses capabilities, cognitive measures include observations of engagement and gaze using Facial Analysis™, while physiologic changes in affect are measured by galvanic skin response. Listening comprehension is measured using adaptation of OPUS (Carrow-Woolfolk & Klein 2017). Quantitative data are analyzed using hierarchical regression (Stata, 2015).

This in-progress study draws on prior bio-ecological studies, by which we hypothesize that children in the adult mediated small group will out-perform the other groups on story recall. However, engagement and affect may be moderated by setting.

Sense of place is emerging as important to children’s shift from print to digital storybook reading. Our study contributes pilot findings for constructing the digital habitus of successful early literacy experiences.

Preschoolers’ book creation: Comparison of digital vs. paper and pencil writing

First Author/Chair:Renee Casbergue -- Louisiana State University
Additional authors/chairs: 
Julie Parish; Kim Skinner

This study explored similarities and differences in the writing of 30 4- to 5-year-old preschool children from two classrooms as they created digital eBooks and paper and pencil books. Over a four-week period, each child produced three digital and three paper/pencil books using photographs of themselves and their classmates (in the classroom and at play) as prompts. Traits examined included word creation (non-alphabetic, semi-phonemic, phonemic, transitional, or conventional spelling), creation of marks (scribbles, mock letters, rudimentary letters, close resemblance to letters), and message quality (labels, phrases or sentences, stories). In addition, children’s oral reading of their writing and any verbal elaboration were documented through the audio recording function of the digital books platform or via dictation for the paper and pencil format. Scores for traits of writing and for length and complexity of oral elaboration were analyzed across the two conditions. Findings to be presented include results of quantitative analyses of mean scores for writing traits and oral language elaboration across the two types of writing for the entire group (90 samples of each) and qualitative examination of similarities and differences for individual children. Implications for incorporating digital eBook creation into preschool writing instruction will be discussed.