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iPads in the Early Years

Child using ipad


Professor Cathy Burnett and Professor Guy Merchant; Michelle Neumann (Griffith University, Australia)

Project date


Exploring how tablets are integrated into children's play and interactions

Young children's use of touchscreen tablets in early years classrooms is increasing, and yet to date little is known about how young children interact with tablets and the significance of this for early learning experiences. Recent research has shown that young children are often competent operators of tablets who can swipe and tap with ease and navigate through a range of apps due to the user-friendly tablet interface. However, it is possible that not all children's interactions with tablets are as 'intuitive' as we think, and there is little research which explores children’s naturalistic interactions with tablets in early years settings.

This exploratory study used observational and participatory methods to explore the diversity of ways in which tablets were integrated into children's play in one setting in Northern England with a particular focus on what happened moment to moment, using the notion of ‘literacy-as-event’ (Burnett and Merchant, 2018) as a way of conceptualising what unfolded.

The project has implications for early years pedagogy, specifically with regard to relationships between play, tablets, and adult/child and peer/peer interaction.


  • Burnett, C. & Merchant, G. (2018). Literacy-as-event: accounting for relationality in literacy research. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education.
  • Burnett, C. & Merchant, G. (2018). Affective encounters: enchantment and the possibility of reading for pleasure, Literacy, 52(2). Special issue: Reading for Pleasure.
  • Burnett, C., Merchant, G., Simpson, A. & Walsh, M. (Eds.) (2017). The case of the iPad mobile literacies in education. Dordrecht, Netherlands: Springer.
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