Methodology

The research study consisted of two stages. In Stage One, a stratified random sample was drawn in order to identify ten Local Education Authorities (LEAs) across England to take part in the study. The LEAs were randomly chosen to represent different geographical locations in England (North, Midlands , South) and different types of LEAs (Metropolitan, Shire, Unitary).

Twenty maintained and non-maintained early years settings in each LEA were randomly selected to take part in the study, 200 in total. Questionnaires for parents and carers of children attending these settings were sent out, along with questionnaires for practitioners working in the early years settings. Settings were supplied with a Freepost envelope for the return of all questionnaires. A total of 120 settings returned parents' questionnaires (an overall response rate of 60%) and 104 settings returned practitioners' questionnaires (an overall response rate of 52%). In total, the responses of 1,852 parents (which represented a response rate of 27% for the parents' questionnaires) and 524 practitioners (which represented a response rate of 45% for the practitioners' questionnaires) were analysed.

Nine of the original 200 settings took part in Stage Two of the study. All nine settings conducted action research projects, in which they introduced an aspect of popular culture, media and new technologies into the communications, language and literacy curriculum of the foundation stage. In each setting, a focus group of up to eight children, four boys and four girls, was randomly selected in order to evaluate the impact of the intervention projects (67 children were selected for the focus groups in total, 37 boys and 30 girls). The impact of the interventions was evaluated using a range of methods including: open observations and observations using The Leuven Involvement Scale for Young Children (Laevers, 1994); interviews with parents and staff; photographs; videos and collection of children's work and artefacts. Sixty parents of the focus group children took part in telephone interviews before the start of Stage Two, and 33 were interviewed by telephone once the project had been completed. Twelve practitioners in the nine settings also took part in semi-structured interviews before the start of Stage Two, and nine of the same group of practitioners were interviewed on its completion.

The Digital Beginnings project is sponsored by BBC worldwide and the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation