Edtech Solutions
Network Summit

Literacies for Young Learners: Parallel Development of Literacies (Ages 4-6 Years )

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Participate and share : Interactive lecture

Gail Lovely  
Technology — specifically precoding, coding and computational thinking — fits directly with growing more traditional literacy (listening, speaking, reading, writing, etc.) in young children. This session will provide examples, ideas and experiences to help participants think more deeply about the role digital literacy can play in growing traditional literacy with young learners.

Audience: Library media specialists, Teachers, Technology coordinators/facilitators
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices required
Attendee device specification: Laptop: Chromebook, Mac, PC
Tablet: Android, iOS, Windows
Topic: Innovation in early childhood/elementary
Grade level: PK-2
Subject area: Language arts, STEM/STEAM
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.
  • Design authentic learning activities that align with content area standards and use digital tools and resources to maximize active, deep learning.
  • Model and nurture creativity and creative expression to communicate ideas, knowledge or connections.
Additional detail: ISTE author presentation

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

Thinking is empowered and facilitated through the development of language. The development of language in early learners provides tools for understanding one’s world and others in that world and for sharing one’s interpretation of the world with others. In the past we have largely focused on the development of natural languages with young learners, but now we can also include “artificial languages” like programming languages as tools for development of thinking and problem solving we value in young learners.

The development of literacy is one of the most fundamental and exciting experiences in early learning. Encouraging listening, speaking, reading, and writing in young learners through conversation, storytelling, song, rhyme as well as with written and spoken language is a point of emphasis in formal and informal settings. Providing opportunities to tell and retell stories, to draw/write words and ideas, and to ask questions and explain are critical elements of literacy. Many of the skills traditionally found in early literacy learning align closely with thinking and problem solving opportunities in “digital literacies” like precoding, coding, and computational thinking. Using symbols to communicate sounds (letters) and arrows to communicate directionality for a robot are similar processes, both offer practice in symbolic representation and thought. Giving learners new ways to play with abstract language and problem solving can provide additional positive experiences for young learners without moving away from the literacy-brain development.

Technology, specifically precoding, coding and computational thinking, fits directly with growing more traditional literacy in young children. Many common classroom learning activities provide opportunities for developing digital and traditional literacies. However, helping educators to see this is essential, with a need to be made more intentional and perhaps add some new “labels” to highlight the learning.It is developmentally appropriate to learn natural languages and “artificial languages” together.
Educators (and families) need not be tech wizards to encourage the development of technology skills and habits of mind related to computational thinking, coding, and precoding with young learners.

These messages are important for educators and other caring adults to hear and think about because early learning cannot add any more curriculum to their time with children and technologies are sometimes looked at as an addition to the busy day. This session will help adults experience and think about how the work they are already doing has deep, meaningful ties and similar roots to technology use and the languages and thinking related to BOTH traditional literacies and digital use and literacies can be taught together, and in fact often are!

This session is designed with the intention of it being highly active and interactive. Participants will experience some learning opportunities during the session to help them think about the implications and possibilities with young learners. Additionally, participants will have an online site with further examples and sharing opportunities to encourage additional discussion and sharing beyond the short length of this session.

Learning Outcomes of this session:
Participants will identify the commonalities between "traditional literacies" (reading, writing, speaking, listening) and "digital literacy" (precoding, coding and computational thinking).

Participants will identify at least one new entry point for the inclusion of digital literacies within or alongside the more traditional literacies commonly found in early learning settings.

Opportunities for Linkage and Application:
Following this session, participants will be better able to harness opportunities to include digital learning experiences like precoding, coding and computational thinking when planning and leading experiences in traditional literacies with young learners.

Participants will have an online resource and sharing site provided during this session to continue sharing ideas and resources beyond the duration of this session and the conference. This will provide a safe place to share, ask questions, and to help others to grow in confidence and proficiency in combining literacies with young learners.


This session will seek a balance of discussion, exploration, development, and reflection all in a format to encourage working together in parallel actions, paired or group activities and individual reflection.

1. Introduction (via online tool and discussion) - individuals and then large group discussion (as entering, 5 min)

2. Discussion of literacies both traditional and digitally-focussed - presenter lead, small group discussion, video examples, first-hand experience (20 min)
3. Exploration of blended activity (decoding words, decoding codes) (pairs 15 minutes)
4. Exploration of blended activity (parts of speech and coding) (online triads or small groups as time allows)
5. Developing support for learners using technology (shared examples from presenter, sharing from attendees on online tool (Padlet and others) (20 min)
6. Personal projects and reflection (20 min)

Supporting research

Moreno-León, J., Robles, G., & Román-González, M. (2016). Code to learn: Where does it belong in the K-12 curriculum? Journal of Information Technology Education: Research, 15, 283-303. Retrieved from

Veronica Cateté, Nicholas Lytle, Yihuan Dong, Danielle Boulden, Bita Akram, Jennifer Houchins, Tiffany Barnes, Eric Wiebe, James Lester, Bradford Mott, and Kristy Boyer. 2018. Infusing Computational Thinking into Middle Grade Science Classrooms: Lessons Learned. In Proceedings of the 13th Workshop on Primary and Secondary Computing Education (WiPSCE ’18). ACM, New York, NY, USA.

Yadav, A., Mayfield, C., Zhou, N., Hambrusch, S., & Korb, T. (2014). Computational thinking in elementary and secondary teacher edu- cation. ACM Transactions on Computing Education, 14(1), 1–16.

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Gail Lovely, Suddenly It Clicks!

Gail began her career as an inner-city teacher of young learners. She is an early adopter of technology, earning her Master’s Degree in Educational Computing from Pepperdine University in the early 1980s. Gail has been an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University, University of Houston, and the University of Northern Iowa. She had long-time columns for Scholastic, Classroom Connect, ISTE and others. Gail is proud of her book “Using an iPad with Your Preschooler” (with Gayle Berthiaume.) Gail founded the ISTE Early Learning Network and was one of the first at NECC/ISTE Conferences to focus on using technology with young learners.

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