The Affordances of Touchscreen Tablets and Digital Cameras as Tools for Young Children’s Multimodal, Multilingual Composing



This chapter describes two related studies exploring the use of touchscreen tablets and digital cameras as a means for creating a “third space” where intercultural sharing and multilingual composing was invited and valued as part of classroom literacy events. Specifically, we used design-based research methods to develop, implement, and refine activities where children used digital cameras and touchscreen tablets to take photos at school, home, and in their communities, and then to use the images in the classroom for composing their own eBooks. Participants in Study 1 were 4-year-old, emergent bilinguals enrolled in a publicly funded prekindergarten classroom in the United States. Study 2 participants were multilingual second graders enrolled in the same school district. Analyses focus on children’s, teachers’, and families’ experiences composing with print, photographs and oral recordings, and publicly sharing their eBooks using the classroom’s digital projector. We conclude that touchscreen tablets and digital cameras afforded our participants with powerful opportunities for multimodal, multilingual composing that went well beyond those available in page-based activities. The multidirectional travel of digital tools between home and school encouraged students, families, and teachers to select and combine resources drawn from a complex circulation of interests, cultural experiences, languages, and composing practices. The affordances of digital technologies were collaboratively constructed and shaped by the ideologies and interactive practices of the classrooms, homes, and communities where they were placed.


Multilingual Composition Oral Recordings Heritage Language tabletsTablets Dual Language 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Cambourne, Brian. 2009. Revisiting the concept of “natural learning”. In Changing literacies for changing times. An historical perspective on the future of reading research, public policy, and classroom practices, eds. James V. Hoffman and Yetta Goodman. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Canagarajah, A.S. 2013. Negotiating translinguial literacy: An enactment. Research in the Teaching of English 48: 40–67.Google Scholar
  3. Carr, Margaret. 2000. Technological affordance, social practice, and learning narratives in an early childhood setting. International Journal of Technology and Design Education 10 (1): 61–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cobb, Paul, Jere Confrey, Andrea diSessa, Richard Lehrer, and Leona Schauble. 2003. Design experiments in educational research. Educational Researcher 32 (1): 9–13.Google Scholar
  5. Cobb, Paul, Kara Jackson, and Charlotte Dunlap. in press. Conducting design studies to investigate and support mathematics students’ and teachers’ learning. In Handbook of research on mathematics teaching and learning, ed. J. Cai. Reston. VA: National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.Google Scholar
  6. Dyson, Anne. 1999. Transforming transfer: Unruly children, contrary texts, and the persistence of the pedagogical order. Review of Research in Education 24: 141–171.Google Scholar
  7. Dyson, Anne. 2003. The brothers and sisters learn to write. Popular literacies and school cultures. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  8. García, Ofelia, and Jo Anne Kleifgen. 2010. Educating emergent bilinguals. Policies, programs, and practices for English language learners. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  9. Gee, James Paul. 1999. An introduction to discourse analysis. Theory and method. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Goldin-Meadow, Susan. 2014. How gesture helps children learn language. In Interaction: Studies in honor of Eve. V. Clark, eds. I. Arnon, M. Casillas, C. Kurumada and B. Estigarribia. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Company.Google Scholar
  11. González, Norma, Luis C. Moll, and Cathy Amanti (eds.). 2009. Funds of knowledge. Theorizing practice in households, communities, and classrooms. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Greeno, J. 1994. Gibson’s affordances. Psychological Review 101 (2): 336–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gutierrez, Kris. 2000. Teaching and learning in the 21st century. English Education 32 (4): 290–298.Google Scholar
  14. Gutierrez, Kris, Patricia Baquedano-Lopez, Hector Alvarez, and Ming Ming Chiu. 1999. Building a culture of collaboration through hybrid language practices. Theory Into Practice 38 (2): 87–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gutierrez, Kris, Patricia Baquedano-Lopez, and Myrna G. Turner. 1997. Putting language back into language arts: When the radical middle meets the third space. Language Arts 74 (5): 368–378.Google Scholar
  16. Hammond, Michael. 2010. What is an affordance and can it help us understand the use of ICT in education? Education Information Technology 15: 205–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Harste, Jerome C., Virginia. A. Woodward, and Carolyn. L. Burke. 1984. Language stories and literacy lessons. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  18. Hopewell, Susan. 2013. Strengthening Bi-literacy through translanguaging pedagogies. In 62nd yearbook of the Literacy Research Association, eds. Pamela J. Dunston, Susan King Fullerton, C.C. Bates, Pamela M. Stecker, Mikel W. Cole, Anna H. Hall, Danielle Herro and Kathy N. Headley, 234–247. Altamonte Springs, FL: Literacy Research Association.Google Scholar
  19. Jiménez, Robert T., Samuel David, V.J. Keenan Fagan, Mark B. Risko, Lisa Pray Pacheco, and Mark Gonzales. 2015. Using translation to drive conceptual development for students becoming literate in English as an additional language. Research in the Teaching of English 49 (3): 248–271.Google Scholar
  20. Jiménez, Robert T., G.E. García, and P. David Pearson. 1996. The reading strategies of bilingual Latina/o students who are successful English readers: Opportunities and obstacles. Reading Research Quarterly 31 (1): 90–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Kennewell, Steve. 2001. Using affordances and constraints to evaluate the use of information and communications technology in teaching and learning. Journal of Information Technology for Teacher Educatioin 10 (1 & 2): 101–116.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kress, Gunther. 1997. Before writing: Rethinking the paths to literacy. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  23. Lynch, Julianne, and Terri Redpath. 2014. “Smart” technologies in early years literacy education: A meta-narrative of paradigmatic tensions in iPad use in an Australian preparatory classroom. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 14 (2): 147–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Moje, Elizabeth B., Kathryn M. Ciechanowski, Katherine Kramer, Lindsay Ellis, Rosario Carrillo, and Tehani Collazo. 2004. Working toward third space in content area literacy: An examination of everyday funds of knowledge and Discourse. Reading Research Quarterly 39 (1): 38–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Moll, Luis C., Ruth Saez, and Joel Dworin. 2001. Exploring biliteracy: Two student case examples of writing as social practice. The Elementary School Journal 101 (4): 435–449.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. New London Group. 1996. A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review 66 (1): 60–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Orelanna, Marjorie F., and J. Reynolds. 2008. Cultural modeling: Leveraging bilingual skills for school paraphrasing tasks. Reading Research Quarterly 43: 48–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Palmer, Deborah K., and Ramón Antonio Martínez. 2016. Developing biliteracy: What do teachers really need to know about language. Language Arts 93 (5): 379–385.Google Scholar
  29. Rowe, Deborah Wells, and Sandra Wilson. 2015. The development of a descriptive measure of early childhood writing: Results from the Write Start! Writing Assessment. Journal of Literacy Research 47 (2): 245–292. doi: 10.1177/1086296X15619723.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rowsell, Jennifer, Mary Gene Saudelli, Rugh Mcquirter Scott, and Andrea Bishop. 2013. iPads as placed resources: Forging community in online and offline spaces. Language Arts 90 (5): 351–360.Google Scholar
  31. Short, Kathy G., J.C. Harste, and C.L. Burke. 1996. Creating classroom for authors and inquirers, 2nd ed. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.Google Scholar
  32. Soja, Edward W. 1996. Thirdspace. Journeys to Los Angeles and other real-and-imagined places. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers.Google Scholar
  33. Soltero-González, Lucinda, and Sandra Butvilofsky. 2016. The early Spanish and English writing development of simultaneous bilingual preschoolers. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy 16 (4): 473–497.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tomasello, Michael. 2008. Origins of human communication. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  35. Wertsch, James V. 1991. Voices of the mind. A sociocultural approach to mediated action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  36. Wilson, Anita. 2000. There is no escape from third-space theory. Borderland Discourse and the in-between literacies of prisons. In Situated literacies. Reading and writing in context, eds. David Barton, Mary Hamilton and Roz Ivanic, 45–69. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. Wohlwend, Karen. 2013. Literacy playshop. New literacies, popular media, and play in the early childhood classroom. New York: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  38. Yaden, David, Jr., Deborah W. Rowe, and L. MacGillivray. 2000. Emergent literacy: A matter (polyphony) of perspectives. In Handbook of reading research, eds. Michael Kamil, Peter B. Mosenthal, P. David Pearson and Rebecca Barr, 425–454. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Peabody CollegeVanderbilt UniversityNashvilleUSA

Personalised recommendations