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Current Projects


(2019- 2022 )

Project introduction: Touchscreen devices have been widely used by 1-7 years old children at home in Singapore (Ebbeck, Yim, Chan, & Goh, 2016), however, little is known about the efficacy of the educational Apps for children’s early intellectual development. An eBook App has the potential to increase children’s reading amount as it provides easy access to books and facilitates reading comprehension and motivation with multimedia features (Smith 2001). Moreover, the eBook App could be taken as a platform to offer parents literacy tips to enhance their cognitive, affective, and technical scaffolding during joint reading with their children. The better scaffolding may in turn facilitate children’s early language and literacy development (Segal-Drori, Shamir, & Klein, 2010). The eBook Apps may have a particular social relevance to Singaporean children’s mother tongue language learning. Although children are encouraged to develop their mother tongue languages (MLT) and their English simultaneously in Singapore (Ministry of Education, 2013), recent years have witnessed a discrepancy between English and MTL. The English learning environment is substantially richer than that of ethnic languages in terms of input quantity (e.g., the amount of media exposure), input quality (e.g., the number of books at home) and output (e.g., children’s total years of speaking the language). (Sun, Yin, Amsah, & O’Brien, 2018).

Given the importance of the home setting for preschoolers’ MTL development (Sun et al., 2018; Sun, Ng, Fritzsche & O’Brien, forthcoming) and the potential benefits of using eBook App at home, the current study intends to examine the effects of a popular Mandarin eBook App among Singaporean children for its influence on children’s reading input quantity, quality, and learning outcomes. The purpose of this study is three-fold. We intend to explore: 1) whether the eBook App would promote children’s total reading amount at home; 2) whether the scaffolding tips on literacy, cognitive, affective, and technic scaffolding improve the quality of parents’ interaction while conducting shared book reading; and 3) whether the eBook App and literacy tips promote children’s emergent language and literacy outcomes. 20 preschoolers will be recruited for the pilot study to examine the appropriateness of the App, the book titles, and the parental scaffolding tips. 240 preschoolers (4-5 years old) will be randomly assigned into four reading conditions at home: 1) with eBook App and parental tips, 2) with eBook App only, 3) with paper books and parental tips (control condition 1), and 4) with paper books only (control condition 2). 80 mandarin picture books will be provided via the App to the families in Group 1 and Group 2 over one year. The equivalent paper books will be provided to the families in the control groups. The 240 families will be followed for 14 months in total, to be tested, videoed recorded, and surveyed every 6 months. The outcomes will be parental-child interactions and children’s Mandarin skills, namely vocabulary, storytelling and comprehension, and Chinese character recognition. The current study has strong social relevance. The findings will inform us about the efficacy of eBook App on MTL development and the types of literacy tips we should provide to parents and early educators for better scaffolding children during joint reading. Moreover, it will provide schools and policymakers insights into whether or not to promote such literacy learning devices. Furthermore, it will offer suggestions to eBook App designers to improve their products and optimize the learning result for the children.

Using Electro-dermal Bracelet : An Abstract

Interactive book reading (IBR) has been found to be an effective classroom activity to promote children's early language development, and teachers' questions and comments during IBR may play an important role in facilitating children's vocabulary learning and reading comprehension (Barns, 2013; Dickinson & Porche, 2011; Dickinson & Smith, 1994; Sun, Toh & Steinkrauss, forthcoming). Despite being acknowledged as contributing to children's language learning in general, it remains unclear which specific type of questions and comments are useful, as not all of them were beneficial according to a meta-analysis conducted by Mol, Bus, and de Jong (2009). They cast doubt on questions and comments in dialogic reading, which involves children's extended conversation and self-connection to a story. Little is known when questions/comments make sense and which interactive questions and comments may trigger children's classroom engagement (i.e., willingness to make effort for comprehension and learning) in real time.

Prior research has described IBR from the perspective of the teacher, coding teachers' utterances and paying limited attention to children's roles. The current study will not only take teacher's language practice into account but also address children's learning behavior by focusing on Singapore preschoolers' classroom engagement during IBR sessions. Children's classroom engagement will be assessed using electro-dermal bracelets, which are more objective and reliable as a measure compared to traditional approaches such as classroom observation. The validity of electro-dermal bracelet will be examined using teacher's evaluation and classroom observation.

The purpose of this study is four-fold. We intend to explore:

1) whether questions and comments indeed attract more classroom engagement from children;

2) which type of questions and comments (i.e., attention-oriented or discussion-oriented) work better on children's classroom engagement;

3) how children's language ability may influence their classroom engagement over multiple readings of the same story; and

4) whether classroom engagement would function as a mediator between teachers' language practice and children's learning outcomes, namely reading comprehension, story retell and vocabulary acquisition.

150 preschoolers (4-5 years old) will be randomly assigned to three reading conditions:

1) readings with questions and comments to engage children and guide their attention to relevant parts of the illustration;

2) readings with a broad range of questions and comments including lengthy discussions of events and children's own experiences related to the events; and

3) readings with no questions and comments (control condition). The outcomes will be bio-metric data on children's levels of engagement and assessed knowledge of vocabulary, story retell and story comprehension.

The current study has strong science and social relevance. Worldwide, it will be one of the first studies that adopt electro-dermal technology to do research on children's classroom engagement in response to teacher's reading instruction, providing an objective measure to quantify the effectiveness of children's learning experience in real time. The findings will inform us about the mechanism of teachers' interactive questions and comments on children's classroom engagement, and such findings will probably provide educators and parents with specific pedagogical suggestions on how to improve language practice to better engage individual children and optimize their learning outcome.

Tracing the Process and the Outcome: Abstract

More and more parents purchase on-screen products (e.g., electronic storybooks) for children as young as three years old to increase language exposure at home (Sun, Steinkrauss, Tenderio & de Bot, 2016). Well-designed animated e-storybooks seem hold great promise for children's emerging literacy, since such books can stimulate readers' visual, auditory and even kinaesthetic senses to comprehend a story and unfamiliar language via nonverbal sources (motion pictures, sound and background music) that match the narration (de Jong & Bus, 2002; 2004; Neuman, 1997; Verhallen, Bus, & de Jong, 2006). However, it is unknown how these programs influence children's learning over time and whether Mother Tongue Language (MTL) learners could ultimately benefit from exposure to them.

The current study will explore the efficacy of animated e-storybooks on Singapore children's MTL learning (4-5 years old).The relation between features of the animated e-storybook (i.e., motion, sound and background music) and children's visual fixation (as measured with eye tracking equipment) will be explored from the perspective of the theory of Complex Dynamic Systems. Children's vocabulary and reading comprehension will be compared after using an animated e-storybook and a corresponding static version. Three prize winning child stories, Little Kangaroo (Genechten, 2007), Pete on the Pavement (Veldkamp, 2004), and Cycling With Grandpa (Boonen, 2004) will be used as reading materials.

The current study has strong scientific and social relevance. It will be the first study to track children's e-storybook online processing from the perspective of Complex Dynamic Systems, and systematically reveal the impact of different book features on children's eye fixation in repetitive readings. Such findings will inform us about the nature of animated e-book learning and its advantages on children's language development, and provide parents and educators with pedagogical suggestions. Moreover, it will offer suggestions to e-learning designers to improve their products and optimize the learning result for the children.

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