5.1. Linguistic Landscapes of Six ECC
An overview of the languages that could be seen in the physical and digital landscapes of the six ECCs is followed by a discussion of themes relating to the perception and use of digital media, ending with a review of challenges. Table 2
provides a summary of the languages in the six ECE centres that was evident in their signs and artefacts. Of the 469 images taken of all wall displays across the six centres, 354 contained linguistic items. These signs and artefacts were categorised as containing only one language (e.g., English only), as having an equal presence of two languages (e.g., English and Māori), or as having the majority of one language and some presence another language (e.g., English with some Māori). This indicated that these centres were reflecting Te Whāriki curriculum guidelines relating to commitment and work within the bilingual (Māori and English) context of Aotearoa New Zealand. Other languages were also represented, with these typically responsive to the languages and cultures of the children attending the centres and purposively chosen to meet centre policies and practices, such as collaboration (see Table 2
and Figure 3
and Figure 4
Most teachers interviewed said that the main purpose of the linguistic landscape was to engage whānau in their children’s learning and development. This engagement facilitated face-to-face conversations with whānau, making it easier to communicate centre aims and plans, discuss children’s activities, and promote conversations, collaboration, and language development. It was notable that all ECCs had a multilingual welcome near the entrance and online (see Figure 3
Crucially, teachers emphasised that centres relied on whānau support and collaboration with respect to children’s bilingual language development. Multilingual languages were most commonly seen in basic greetings used in displays, e-portfolios, and written communication to welcome, respect, and celebrate culture, identity, and language. A Whānau Aspirations Tree was observed in most ECCs. The one illustrated in Figure 4
was particularly rich in languages and culture. All the children’s photos taken with a digital camera were place on the tree, an image that echoes Māori culture, and beside each photo was the family’s aspirations in their home languages that focused mainly on the social aspects. A copy was placed within each child’s e-portfolio. Pictures of the co-construction surrounded this large display.
After English, the Māori language, along with cultural symbols and references, was most prevalent with evidence in artefacts such as signs, labels, songs, commands, books, portfolios, and communications to the children’s whānau. The writing on the walls also served as reminders and prompts for the teachers to use languages with their emergent bilingual children. Pasifika languages were also used in songs, instructions, resources, and books that also contained cultural symbols and references; some were obtained through digital technologies such as iPads and computers.
The outreach librarian stressed the importance of supporting emergent bilinguals by creating an environment which welcomed the use of all children’s languages beyond the context of the child’s home by stretching across the contexts of the home and ECC through the child’s digital world. “It’s really interesting that [bilingual children] actually can’t translate for you and they usually won’t speak that language when they’re at preschool. It is out of context, this isn’t where that happens, [the bilingual children] are just not old enough to put that in place. [The digital world] is a huge part of who [the child] is and who their family is and it doesn’t just belong in that house, it can actually exist everywhere else.” (Outreach librarian interview, 2016).
5.1.1. Blended and Digital Resources Were Used Purposefully
provides an overview of the way in which physical and digital resources were commonly used in all ECCs. The key digital resource was the e-portfolio, often used alongside paper portfolios. The e-portfolio was used to collate children’s learning stories and compile observational records of children’s competencies and learning dispositions, as recommended in Te Whāriki. Portfolio content, which included digital photos, videos, and text in English, Māori, and the children’s home languages, was shared with centre colleagues, homes, and whānau residing elsewhere, and it provided an opportunities for whānau to contribute in their home languages. The portfolios prompted children to reflect on, share, and talk about their activities across contexts.
From one centre’s perspective, the e-portfolio had both benefits and disadvantages. One advantage to using the e-portfolio was the ability to connect, engage, and collaborate with family/whānau and a platform to use home languages. “In our learning stories and children’s [portfolio] books we’re really encouraging the partnership between whānau, the teaching team, and the kindergarten, so that we are encouraging them to contribute photos of things that are of cultural significance to them, things that are important to their family. So, photos are a really good way of doing that. We’re trying to use greetings as we are writing the story and maybe some images.” (Teacher interview, 2016). The disadvantage was that some parents chose not to access their computer until after their children went to bed; thus, the child missed the sharing experience. The teacher told us, “So, we’ve gone back to redoing them, we are still loading them electronically, but we are doing it in the book as well.” (Teacher interview, 2016).
All centres had a digital camera and used digital photos extensively, enabling teachers, children, and whānau to share experiences across environments and generate conversations regardless of language. Digital photos were displayed on walls, in portfolios (both types) on iPads, and on a large screen in the mat or seating areas. Each centre had one of these screens, and teachers played videos (recorded on the digital camera) of the children’s activities on it and occasionally multicultural stories and celebrations. Whānau could send digital photos via email to the centre or place them in the e-portfolios. Teachers often added text to the photos and asked whānau if they could translate the text into home languages. One teacher interviewed said, “I gave (the family) some photos of their two children, two boys, what they were doing, and then asked them to take them home and talk to the boys about those (photos). So, they’ve come back with some of their own dialect (written on them).”
Despite the ability to connect language and experiences across the children’s environments of home and the ECCs, there were concerns that digital media could be distracting. Teachers in all ECCs expressed concerns about the impact digital media may have that reduces the real-world experiences that children have, which generate the conversations of shared experiences that are necessary for language development. For example, “I don’t hear our children talk about those experiences…So if they are not talking about them to us, then I would guess that the parents aren’t talking to the children about doing them…So they might be doing them but there’s not a lot of language going on while they are doing them, (adults) are not mediating for (young children).” (Teacher interview 2016).
The outreach librarian also reflected that parents were not engaged with the literacy activities, as was hoped. However, she noted that many parents approached her asking about the apps she used during the story time session to download themselves. This response was different from that to physical books. She believed it was the instant accessibility and the desire for access to quality apps that was motivating (Researcher journal, 2016).
All the centres had iPads, used for games (in English), music, and accessing content stemming from the children’s interests. One ECC also had apps in Samoan and Māori. Centres carefully managed children’s access to iPads. For one centre, this entailed the use of a booking system that allowed the child 10 min of iPad use controlled with the input of a passcode. This system was self-managing, and the next child on the booking schedule would prompt the transfer of the iPad. At the time of the study, two of the centres were not actively using the iPads, due to technical issues. Neither prioritised funding for maintaining them, partly due to the difficulties in managing them, as well as the teachers’ stated belief that whānau preferred children to play outdoors and socialise with one another rather than spend time on screens.
Because all of the centres deemed (through policy and practice) the children’s emotional regulation and social competency a priority, their staff took care to ensure that digital technology use and associated language artefacts were meaningful to the children and likely to engage their whānau in supporting that child’s development. The majority of teachers thought that most of the children attending the centres had access to at least one digital device at home. If teachers knew that a whānau did not have home-based access, they typically encouraged them to use the free internet at a public library. However, and crucially, all teachers said they did not know how the children used devices at home and what content they could access on them, one said “I haven’t had any experiences [of children’s digital worlds]. I have to say it is not something that has been a passion for me or really interested me, so unless somebody is really struggling or there is a child that I haven’t spent time with and I think that the only time that I’ll be able to spend with them is on an iPad, then for me it’s not one of the top priorities.”
5.1.2. Issues and Access
There was concern about digital media distracting from young children’s social and physical development, particularly mobile devices, and a number of adults mentioned that controlling their use was problematic in all locations, including arguments at home among siblings. However, there was no mention of any “screen addiction”. However, fear of being judged, lack of shared information about how much is too much, and limited knowledge of such addictions may be why the term addiction was avoided. Alternatively, it may be less likely among families with low incomes. Indeed, in the previous year during the stakeholder meeting that informed the research design so that ECCs were included, one of the teachers passionately objected to the “Bring Your Own Device” policy that was being introduced in the neighbouring schools, because of the stress that it placed on families that already struggled to feed and clothe their children.
5.2. Survey Findings
As introduced earlier, the whānau survey enabled us to extend our findings relating to digital world and whānau perceptions of their children’s multilingualism. Despite the small sample size (n
= 85) of the survey, there were some significant findings. The 85 questionnaires returned by whānau described the selected 50 boys and 35 girls with low language abilities attending their first year of schooling (age mean = 68.13 months, SD = 3.46 months) including many of the children that previously attended an ECC described earlier. Table 1
outlines the demographics of the children surveyed, as well as that for all the children with lower levels of oral language ability and the same nationwide demographics from the most recent census [42
]. To aid in interpreting our results, we also compared our finds with the Growing Up in New Zealand (GUiNZ) cohort study of four year olds in 2013/2014 [50
], while also noting that our findings are limited and not generalizable.
One of the questions in the survey asked, “During a typical week at home, approximately how many hours would your tamaiti/child/tama spend on digital media?”. In order to improve the cultural relevance of the survey, the questions inter-languaged English between Māori and Samoan words, e.g., “tamaiti/child/tama”. As shown in Table 4
, we found that 6.8% of children did not engage with any digital media. When compared to the GUiNZ findings that 5% of four year olds did not engage with digital media, this suggests the proportion of cautious parents does not appear to be increasing, despite the increasing access to digital devices reported by the World Internet Project for New Zealand [11
]. We also found that nearly one-third (32%) of children engaged with digital media for more than 5 h per week, equivalent to an average of more than 43 min per day. When comparing this result to GUiNZ data (41% of four year olds spending one or more hours a day on digital devices), our findings suggest that there is less use reported by whānau of these children than for the four year olds of the GUiNZ study. A limitation of our survey data was the way in which the question was asked and answered, and its variation with respect to the categories in GUiNZ survey, which also allowed open ended answers. These differences in survey design may be the cause for the differences in findings between our questionnaire and that in the GUiNZ study. As discussed later, any simple measure of time is problematic given the blending of physical and digital worlds.
Our statistical analysis to investigate potential relationships with this use of digital devices identified a two negative associations that were nearing significance: the number of hours on digital media and the whānau report of whether the child slept well through the night (r = −0.184, p = 0.122) and also with the whānau report of amount of sleep (r = −0.196, p = 0.09). Most of these children appear to be having the recommended 10–12 h of sleep (mean = 10 h 57 min, SD = 57 min), with only 4.9% having less than 10 h sleep per night. This result was similar to the hours of sleep per night (mean = 10 h 45 min) for four year olds in the GUiNZ study.
Whānau indicated that there were 54 multilingual children in this sample who spoke one or more languages in addition to English. In order to look into whānau perceptions, the importance of bi- or multilingualism was scaled from 0, not important at all, through to 3, very important. Counts are shown in Table 4
; further analysis showed that whānau of multilingual children were the most affirmative. When looked at with reading practices, a positive correlation was found with children’s ability to read words that were pointed to (r
= 0.315, p
= 0.012). We also found that speaking more than one language was positively associated with children’s ability to read words that were pointed to (r
= 0.308, p
= 0.014), children’s ability to point and say words without being asked (r
= 0.279, p
= 0.027), and children’s ability to write their own surname (r
= 0.471, p
< 0.01). These findings may indicate the value for multilingualism in a child’s literacy development, such as richer language exchanges with whānau.