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Volume 4, Number 3 - April 2016

Mother tongue language teaching with digital tablets in early childhood education: A question of social inclusion and equity

Literacy in the twenty-first century is changing to become more multicultural, multilingual and multimodal as people are using more digital technologies in their everyday lives. This article reports on what these changing conceptions of literacy mean for mother tongue teaching by exploring why, how and when mother tongue teachers in preschools use digital technologies. Regarding literacy as a social practice, the article focuses on emerging patterns in the use of digital tablets in a large Swedish municipality, providing empirical data (questionnaires, focus groups, and interviews) from mother tongue teachers working together with hundreds of children aged 1-6 at preschools. The study found significant differences in the levels of digital technologies used among mother tongue teachers. What seems to matter is whether or not the teachers themselves are frequent and engaged users of digital technologies in their own everyday lives. Most of the teachers reported that they are integrating digital technologies in their teaching even though they have officially a restricted access to digital devices. Teachers expressed a desire to use the digital tablet as a tool to access and create knowledge by creating an opportunity for innovation, specifically for language groups that are not represented in the majority context of teaching materials or not suitable for a secularized society due to, for example, religious or political differences. The article concludes by stating that digital tablets are convenient mother tongue teaching tools but that teachers are asking for policies that can point the way as to how to implement digital resources, since tablets offer social inclusion and equity but also involve ethical dilemmas.


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