The aim of this thesis is to make a contribution to the field of design oriented theory, regarding young children and their way to digital competence. My research question is: How can a preschool with a certain pedagogical ICT-design give the children affordances for media play and for developing a digital competence?
The European Parliament points out digital literacy as one of the Key Competences for life long learning. A digital competence is built on basic ICT (Information and Communication technology) skills. Skills you can develop any time during life, weather you are young or old. Recent Swedish research on young children and digital competence points out the preschool teacher’s insecurity regarding the use of ICT in the preschool´s daily activities (Ljung- Djärf, Klerfelt).
There are an amount of new social and cultural gaps in our modern society regarding illiteracies and learning. Fear for the digital gap, or divide, is confirmed by researchers such as Buckingham and Kress. Briefly, if one doesn’t possess digital literacy, the risk of society divides is impending. This could be built on factors such as gender, ethnicity, class, generational and geographical divides, but also about dichotomies in the capacity of learning in a digitalized milieu.
Today’s children are the first generation to grow up in a society characterized by digital media. They are born into it. They are the Digital Natives and they take the new technology for granted. The rest of us are Digital Immigrants and we try to adapt to the new society. Prensky highlights the possibilities of changes in young persons’ brains, or at least in their thinking, as a result of their nursery in the digital world. Where does that leave the teachers of the pre-digital age? The true risk of a digital divide can perhaps be found in the daily melting pot between “the natives” and “the immigrants”. The act of arranging meaningful communicative meetings could be one education’s most important responsibilities.
From the view of a design orientated perspective, built on a socio-cultural theoretical framework, key words like design, setting and affordance become important in my study. Didactic design is a theoretical perspective which elaborates understanding of learning from semiotic activities. Learning is to be seen as meaning making in social contexts. These contexts are in pedagogical milieus called institutional settings. The teacher and /or the child can be designers of and actors in the setting.
Through the design and settings, the children at the preschool in my study, achieved consistent possibilities for media play and for developing digital competence. They got the opportunity to develop different kinds of literacy. One of the important findings of my study was that the preschool teachers developed digital competence and confidence much in the same way as the children did. Collaborative learning processes, elaboration, curiosity and playfulness stood up as affordances for learning. There have to be milieus designed for flexibility and elaborations and there have to be preschool teachers deliberately setting these kind of designs.
The study confirms previous research at one hand in the area young children and digital competence and on the other hand in research connected to design oriented theories. This study has merged the two fields together.
Further research is to be seen in a wide spread field. An interesting continuation is to study the preschool teachers education. Questions of learning and intertextuality are other important issues.
Didactic design, digital competence, digital divides, literacy, media play, affordances, settings, tools, preschool, ICT, multimodality, social semiotics, meaningmaking.