The presence of digital mobile applications (apps) designed to promote early literacy skills has surged in the last few years. This study explored children's affect and engagement as they interacted with three apps: Endless Reader, Hideout: Early Reader, and Preschool Matching Game: Rhyming Words. The study consisted of 12 children, age 4 to 5, who interacted in pairs with each of the apps while their classroom teacher facilitated the experience. The researchers examined videos and transcripts of the children's actions and nonverbal expressions as they encountered the apps. Transcripts included verbal and nonverbal information with codes assigned to represent child behaviors. Descriptive analysis of the data led to characterizing behaviors children exhibited in light of the different apps' design features and with respect to group dynamics. The researchers found that all three apps had relatively equal proportions of positive and negative child behaviors. However, the types of behaviors varied according to the demands and constraints of each app. The researchers also observed differences in child behavior depending on the dynamics that occurred as children interacted with each other and with their teacher. The results of the study imply that parents and teachers seeking to choose quality apps must consider a variety of factors, including the type of child engagement that the app tends to elicit and the instructional value of the content. Future research should explore the extent to which different types of positive and negative behaviors are related to design and pedagogical features of apps in order to aid parents and teachers in choosing apps that are engaging as well as instructionally sound.



College and Department

David O. McKay School of Education; Communication Disorders



Date Submitted


Document Type





applications, iPad apps, early literacy, engagement, affect