An action research study investigating children's use of an iPad during free play in a kindergarten classroom: An exploration of teaching pedagogy and children's learning, social interactions, and digital literacy

Reynolds-Blankenship, Tara Lynn
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As part of human development, technology plays an important role in many children's lives. As digital technologies continue to permeate aspects of many children's everyday lives, educators are integrating digital technologies into classroom practices and, as such, have created a need to examine the ways in which children use technologies in their thinking and learning. One such prime area for investigation is how children respond to and incorporate the use of mobile learning devices, such as the iPad, into their play. The purpose of this study was to examine the introduction of an iPad during free play in a kindergarten classroom as a catalyst to enhance teaching and learning, social interactions and support digital literacy. Secondly, the purpose of this study was to explore any pedagogical shifts in teaching as a means for developing best practice. The theoretical frameworks for this study were Cultural Historical Activity Theory (CHAT), Bruner, and Kress. CHAT was used to examine the activity theory created by the iPad in a Kindergarten classroom. Teaching was examined using the tenets of Bruner to explore any pedagogical shifts in teaching. Further, recordings were analyzed to pinpoint expressions of digital literacy associated with playing on the iPad. This research study incorporated aspects of qualitative methodology with an emphasis on action research. The information generated from the evidence of this study was used to provide research-based insight into the nature of children playing and learning on an iPad during unstructured playtime in regard to social interactions and digital literacy development. Further, data were gathered to enlighten understanding of any pedagogical shifts in teaching practice and how these could be utilized to shape best practice. Qualitative data consisting of field notes, observations, audio tapes, interviews, and a researcher reflective journal were collected from a teacher and 25 Kindergarten children over the course of a three-month period. A constant comparative analysis was used to examine the data for similarities and differences. Findings revealed that activity mediated by the iPad cultivated a sense of community and a transformation of teaching and learning. The inclusion of the iPad initiated a child centered system of rules for turn taking which allowed for the children to mediate social interactions among the groups and, as a result, teaching practices were altered. The role of the teacher was impacted as the teacher ceded control allowing children to mediate conflicts and be active participants of their learning. This study showed that it was important for me as the teacher to encourage children to make their own rules and to provide less guidance. Furthermore, digital literacy was an important piece of this study. Findings suggested that children need opportunities to publish and share digitally in order to use information fluently and generate new understandings. Actions were mediated by the iPad and it allowed children to make decisions and to collaborate positively (Gee, 2003) with one another.

Educational technology, Early childhood education, Pedagogical shifts in teaching