Degree Type


Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy





First Advisor

Donald Bear

Second Advisor

Larysa Nadolny


Conceptions of literacy have changed over the past 20 years as scholars have recognized that the emergence of digital and multimodal technologies has resulted in the creation of new literacy practices (New London Group, 1996; Lankshear & Knobel, 2011). These new literacies are recognized as important both by scholars and educational organizations who have documented the importance of digital communication as it impacts one’s success and opportunities in the modern world (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2008; International Reading Association, 2009), and it is important to investigate how children develop new literacies practices as their development of digital communication skills can provide researchers understandings of children’s learning and educators with practical implications for instruction.

This study aimed to develop an understanding of how first- and second-grade children develop their ability to create digital stories, a new literacy practice, through computer coding. The study utilized a mixed-methods approach to investigating how four first-grade and four second-grade children engaged in literacy practices through creating digital stories using a computer coding application. This study was conducted in a university reading clinic in which preservice teachers tutor children from the community to support literacy development. Three research questions were developed to guide this investigation, all of which relate to the ways children demonstrated their ability to engage literacy and communication practices through digital storytelling.

With the support of their literacy tutors, all of the children created three digital stories with a multimedia coding application, Scratch Jr, which was designed for five- to seven-year-old children to provide them opportunities to learn computer coding through creating stories. The data in this study includes the children’s Scratch Jr stories, field notes, observations, and documents including the tutor’s notes on the children’s processes and behaviors as well as graphic organizers created by the tutors and children). This data was analyzed for patterns that addressed the research questions and data triangulation was used to promote validity (Merriam, 2009). The children’s Scratch Jr stories were also analyzed using a story grammar approach (Peterson & McCabe, 1983) in which story elements and structural patterns were identified and counted.

This research found that children engaged in a variety of standards-based literacy practices through creating digital stories with Scratch Jr. For example, the children sequenced events, included details, utilized temporal signifiers, focused on a topic, responded to questions, revised their work, and connected oral language to visual displays. Furthermore, during the instances when children engaged in a prewriting activity with their tutors, their stories were generally more focused and complete. The findings of this study are also presented in connection with the current research literature along with suggestions for instruction. This research contributes to the literature by addressing the limited research investigating young children’s experiences creating digital stories, the use of fiction in digital storytelling, and young children’s experiences using computer programming to engage in literacy activities and also provides implications for instruction.


Copyright Owner

Sam Robert Von Gillern



File Format


File Size

192 pages

Included in

Education Commons