Nixon (2011)

Nixon, H. (2011). 'From bricks to clicks’: Hybrid commercial spaces in the landscape of early literacy and learning. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 11(2), 114-140. doi: 10.1177/1468798411401863

This is a useful paper in terms of the substantive content but also as a lens through which to think about your own focus in this course. We have not spent any time thinking about the commercial interests that are found through most aspects of digital culture and is readily apparent in the promotion of computer games, apps and so on.

We have had some discussion considering what the benefits were of using computer games. Nixon's account makes it clear that vendors of such products are in no doubt about the educational merits:

For example, one toy laptop supposedly ‘teaches letters, builds vocabulary, introduces shapes and colours, develops hand–eye coordination, teaches upper and lower case letters’ (Barbie Little Learner Electronic Learning Aid) (p. 130)

Further, it would seem that vendors have a wealth of age-specific analysis that they are happy to share with parents. There are examples that encourage parents to record their child's progress on the vendor's website. Levelling up is probably not a term that would be understood by the current generation of parents of young children but, in time, as the current cohort of young gamers moves to parenthood, one might expect to see a greater use of game-based language.

The move into pedagogy is well captured in this quote:

Moreover, tips on how to do just that, included on the parents’ section of the website, explain how to take advantage of such ‘teachable moments’ while ‘on the go’ with children during daily activities and travels:

Point out familiar items in the environment while you are taking a walk, run- ning errands or riding in the car. Even a stop sign can become what educators call a teachable moment. Depending on your child’s age, the stop sign can be used to teach the colour red, the names and sounds of s, t, o and p, the word stop or that the sign is a hexagon. Look for teachable moments when you are on the go with your child. (LeapFrog Enterprises, 2001–2010f)

This is a typical example of the ways in which such companies are using online commercial spaces to ‘add value’ to their offline products and services. In the process, they assume an authoritative pedagogical stance in regard to the education of parents about children’s early learning and foreground the importance of literacy and numeracy development in the early years. Here, for example, they suggest ways to help children to learn the names and sounds of letters, the word ‘stop’ as it appears on stop signs, and that stop signs are hexagonal in shape. (p. 136)

The commercial interests associated with all things digital has always been a key part of the picture, from the early days when schools were seen as key sites to develop educational credibility to the present where schools comprise a tiny % of the market.