Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Heydon, Rachel M.


Digital technologies have the potential to expand communication opportunities (Walsh, 2011), but challenges exist in including these technologies in early literacy instruction (Flewitt, Messer, & Kucirkova, 2015). The literature explains that teachers identify a need for support in using digital technologies in their teaching (e.g., Hill, 2010) and professional learning activities are herein key. Still, the research offers differing advice about the formats these activities should take and the types of literacy digital technologies can support. This exploratory multiple-case study was designed to create teacher professional learning (TPL) opportunities to support early primary teachers (kindergarten-Grade 2) in creating and enacting multimodal literacy pedagogies that include digital technologies. Participants included 4 teachers and 38 children from their classes. It used ethnographic and narrative methods to document the processes of pedagogical design and implementation. The goals of the study were to produce knowledge about multimodal literacies, multimodal pedagogies, and the ways TPL activities can support each.

The study conceptualized TPL activities within an instrumental (McDonald, 2015) Community of Practice (Lave & Wenger, 1991). In each case, 2 teachers collaborated to create literacy lessons that included digital technologies, which the study then documented as they were being taught. The study found that the teachers’ pedagogical practices, children’s literacy practices, and TPL activities were interconnected and expanded. The teachers designed unique pedagogies even when they included the same technological application. There were parallels between the pedagogies or structures that supported teachers’ learning about multimodal literacy and pedagogy in TPL activities and the pedagogies that supported the children’s multimodal literacy learning.

The study recommends that the design of learning activities in TPL activities and classrooms recognizes teachers and young children as capable meaning makers and extends from their funds of knowledge. The study recommends that TPL activities support teachers to grow as pedagogical designers, explore the ways they can include digital technologies to support children’s learning, and connect professional learning to classroom practice and programmatic curricula. The study recommends that teachers design multimodal pedagogies to connect to existing classroom practices and include opportunities for children to use digital technologies in tandem with print resources.