Becoming a reader and writer in a digital-material world: An examination of young children’s digitally mediated literacy practices in everyday contexts

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Muscat, Amanda (2022) Becoming a reader and writer in a digital-material world: An examination of young children’s digitally mediated literacy practices in everyday contexts. PhD thesis, Victoria University.

Abstract

The digital age has caused a fundamental transformation of literacy, and young children’s repertoires of literacy and meaning-making practices have undergone drastic changes, as have understandings of becoming literate in the complex digital landscapes (Kress 2010). Despite these changes, current early years literacy discourses remain stubbornly print-centric and fail to acknowledge contemporary children’s cultural expertise, hobbies, popular culture interests and material (physical) and immaterial (virtual) pursuits, which remain largely excluded from classroom literacy practice. This study provides an in-depth and rich description of the digital literacy practices of five children aged between 2 and 6 years in a situated ethnography of out-of-school literacy practices. Fieldwork material was gathered from participant observations, informal conversations and artefact collection and analysed to create an in-depth portrait of emergent contemporary practices in the home connected to contemporary understandings and theories of childhood literacy. Methodologically, I engaged with Deleuzoguattarian constructs such as the rhizome and assemblage theory in order to think differently and creatively about the research design and to embrace and follow the unexpected ways in which young children know/do/be/create literacies in their everyday life (Kuby & Rucker 2016). I engaged in a process of ‘thinking with theory’ (Jackson & Mazzei 2012) to plug in posthuman concepts with the fieldwork material in order to become attuned to the particular material-discursive practices occurring in the children’s home contexts and move away from hierarchies that privilege the human subject over the nonhuman (Barad, 2007). Rhizomapping was utilised as a diagrammatic form of representation to re/present the fieldwork material in a nonlinear and nonhierarchical manner, enabling a conceptual shift to frame the analyses, take more kinds of evidence into account and think more expansively about the fieldwork material. I argue that it is vital to engage with posthuman thinking when examining contemporary literacy practice due to the complex and unstable digital and material conditions of contemporary times. This thesis provides insight into the digitally mediated and shifting practices surrounding children’s reading, writing and meaning-making, and found the material, embodied, affective and spatial dimensions of literacy are substantial components of their early literacy experiences in their home contexts. The findings reveal that: 1) the children’s early literacy experiences were intertwined in complex ways with their intra-actions with everyday materials, digital devices and texts; 2) the everyday materials were important forces in producing literacy for the children and cultivated rich, creative and experimental literacy experiences; 3) the children seamlessly negotiated the online/offline spaces and operated within these hybrid spaces with ease, without differentiating between the virtual and actual. This research makes an important contribution to the task of reinterpreting contemporary literacy practice in the digital age in order to develop an informed early years literacy pedagogy of transformation for current times. Thus it argues that there is an urgent need to disrupt current literacy policy, practice and curriculum, and for early years practitioners to conceive of literacy in enlarged ways that are inclusive of the material, embodied, affective and spatial aspects of literacy.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/44708
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3901 Curriculum and pedagogy
Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3904 Specialist studies in education
Current > Division/Research > College of Arts and Education
Keywords literacy, digital literacy, children, early years, Deleuzoguattarian concepts, rhizome theory, assemblage theory, pedagogy, fieldwork
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