University of Oulu (FINLAND)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2010 Proceedings
Publication year: 2010
Pages: 1288-1296
ISBN: 978-84-613-5538-9
ISSN: 2340-1079
Conference name: 4th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 8-10 March, 2010
Location: Valencia, Spain
Finnish students’ literacy results in PISA (OECD 2001, 2004, 2007) have been excellent, which has made Finland’s educational system widely known across the world. Although the results are good, there is space for improvement in teaching literacy especially in the early years of schooling. Traditional teaching is based on teaching phonics (Korkeamäki & Dreher, 1993; Korkeamäki, 1996). It is a challenge to make literacy instruction more meaningful for children as well as to meet the needs of 21st century learners in becoming multiliterate.

The purpose of this study is to innovate and investigate new pedagogical practices and enhance new literacies. The study reported here is a part of a bigger ongoing project Literacy in the 21st Century – which in turn is a part of the Future School Research Center and 1st Wave program. It is funded by the European Social Fund.

The main theoretical background of this study is based on Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory. Children read and write both stories and information texts which are more rarely focused in teaching (Dreher & Kletzien 2004, Pappas 2003). In doing so, children are not only users of information but rather producers of it. Computers are used for creating text from the very beginning of the learning process (Trageton, 2007) with the help of more competent peers. Our approach to learn literacy is based on emergent literacy principles (e.g. Korkeamäki, 1996; Sulzby & Teale, 1990), which allows children to read and write from the very beginning without knowing the conventional spelling of the words.

In this study we investigated both the practices the teachers used in a kindergarten classroom for six-year-old preschool children. The Finnish core curriculum for preschool children does not set goals for learning the code, but it rather sets a goal for teachers to provide a learning environment where children can develop language and literacy skills in a holistic way including the use of technology. Thus, we investigated the possibilities offered children to learn to use technology and literacy while working with meaningful texts (for meaningful texts see, Korkeamäki, 1996). We were also interested in learning processes how children learned technological skills such as taking photos with digital cameras and produce pictures with computers as well as how to save them and use the keyboard. Moreover, we were interested in how children’s literacy skills develop.

The data in this case study was gathered by evaluating children’s (24 children) literacy knowledge in the beginning of the project. We have also observed and videotaped their activities and reading/writing processes.

Our initial analysis shows that children had some letter knowledge and phonemic awareness in the beginning but only four children were able to decode nonsense words and one child wrote all his words correctly in the spelling test. The findings also indicate that the children were highly motivated and enjoyed this new way of learning. Peer collaboration, social interaction and the new learning environment had a positive effect on children’s learning. The preschoolers experienced new way of practicing letter-sound correspondence. Consequently, many of them learnt the rest of letters during the first three months of study. They also learned how to use the cameras and computers for their needs.
Preschool, literacy, technology.