The parent-child-app learning assemblage: Scaffolding early childhood learning through app use in the family home

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Title

The Routledge International Handbook of Learning with Technology in Early Childhood




School of Arts and Humanities / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts, Technology, Education and Communications




Holloway, D., Haddon, L., Green, L., & Stevenson, K. J. (2019). The parent-child-app learning assemblage: Scaffolding early childhood learning through app use in the family home. In N. Kucirkova, J. Rowsell & G. Falloon (Eds.), The Routledge international handbook of learning with technology in early childhood (pp. 210-218).


Over the last 10 years very young children (0–5) are showing significantly increased patterns of internet use, due primarily to the introduction of touchscreens (Gorzig & Holloway, 2017). The widespread availability of touchscreen devices such as iPads and Android tablets means that previous technologies are being bypassed in terms of their impact upon early childhood (Merchant, 2015). Early literacy practices and modalities are changing through the use of these tablet technologies. These new socio-material practices raise matters of concern and interest for researchers, parents and educators. Research and current teaching practice emphasize the importance of scaffolding in early childhood learning (Berk & Winsler, 1995; Leong & Bodrova, 1996; Soderman et al., 1999), and this now includes children’s engagement with touchscreen technologies (Neumann, 2017; Wood et al., 2016; Yelland & Masters, 2007). New research suggests that teachers and/or parents provide children with three main types of scaffolding when they support their child’s engagement with technology – cognitive, affective and technical. This chapter is informed by posthumanist philosophy to highlight what happens when humans (children and parents) interact with a literacy learning app. While based on Vygotsky’s socio-cultural learning theory’s notion of zone of proximal development (Vygotsky, 1978) and Wood et al. (1976) closely associated notion of scaffolding, this chapter goes beyond analysis of the human interactions (parent and child) to incorporate nonhuman, digital entities within the research paradigm. We argue that new research methods are required in order to adequately describe and research the ways in which early childhood literacy, indeed all literacy learning, is now infused with digital technology. These digital technologies need to be considered as important actants in any child/technology or child/adult/technology assemblage.



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