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Digital literacies: young children learning to use new technologies at home

McPake, Joanna (2008) Digital literacies: young children learning to use new technologies at home. In: Lancaster University Literacy Research Centre Seminar, 2008-10-28. (Unpublished)

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Current interest in digital literacies rarely encompasses preschool children, considers the role which digital technologies play in the development of early literacies, or addresses the extent to which digital literacies develop in tandem with traditional literacies. Findings from our research project Entering e-Society indicate that three- and four-year-old children growing up in Scotland are in the process of developing digital literacies: making meaning and engaging in social and civic participation through the use of digital technologies at home, at preschool and in the community. Their technological competences are used to achieve goals and develop their knowledge and understanding of the world around them. Drawing on concepts from new literacies perspectives and socio-cultural theory, we looked for parallels, and dissonances, between the development of early print and early digital literacies. This presentation focuses on tensions between the concept of prolepsis (Cole, 1996) and deixis (Leu et al, 2004) . Prolepsis is used to theorise parents' (and, implicitly, teachers') cultural engagement with young children's development: present actions based on recalling their own (idealised) past and projecting this into their children's futures. Deixis refers to the notion that the rapid pace of technological change is in the process of revolutionising the ways in which we think and learn: where once human cognitive potential was limited by technology, it is now limited by human ability to keep up with technological development. In this context we argue for a view of young children's early engagement with both print and digital literacies which sees this as one set of competences spread over a wider range of media than was the case a generation ago. However, we think it is not simply an expansion of the territory in which literacies can happen. We use the term enhanced literacies to describe an emergent, probably different, model of early literacies from earlier, print-dominant models.