Early Childhood Literacy, Development, and Learning in Online Virtual Worlds

Principal Investigator: Rebecca Black

Funder: National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship Program  

Background: In recent years there has been an explosion of virtual worlds intended for early childhood populations; however, because the majority of research on such worlds has focused on adults and adolescents, we know little about these spaces.

Project Goal: An overarching goal of the study is to understand how the literacy materials and skills that children are engaging with in these online spaces may impact students' attitudes toward and performance in school-based practices.

Research Design

  1. Systematic content analysis of the literacy-related and developmental feature of three popular virtual worlds
  2. In-depth case studies of children who frequent the sites

Anticipated Benefits

  • By providing a systematic content analysis of the literacy-related and developmental features of three popular virtual worlds, the study will explore how these spaces may provide children with both designed and unintended opportunities for mediated language play, experimentation with literacy, and navigation of different social roles within the worlds.
  • By providing in-depth case studies of children who frequent these popular websites, the project will offer insight into children's learning and social experiences in the worlds during gameplay, as well as a sense of how peers, siblings, and parents may be involved in these practices outside of the virtual worlds, and how this involvement may affect learning.