University of Sheffield professor to chair expert panel on early language, literacy and communication apps

Jackie Marsh, Professor at the University of Sheffield School of Education
Jackie Marsh, Professor at the University of Sheffield School of Education

A professor from the University of Sheffield is to chair an expert panel on applications for young children. 

Jackie Marsh, a Professor at the University of Sheffield School of Education, has been appointed by the Department of Education to chair the expert panel which will look at children's early language, literacy and communications apps. 

In 2015, she was part of a study which showed the use of iPads and other tablets could help children aged between 0-5 years-old to learn and develop reading skills from an early age, and has over 20 years experience in the field so will be able to offer expert guidance on the subject.

She has also undertaken a number of other studies into young children’s digital literacy practices in homes, communities and early years settings.

The Department of Education are bringing bringing together the new advisory panel to assess existing apps, and producing tips and guidance for parents on how to use them to aid their child’s learning.

This is because there are hundreds of educational apps on the market for parents to choose from when supporting their children’s learning using mobile phones or tablets, but little advice about their quality.

But, with a criteria to judge against it will help parents make informed decisions about which have the most educational value.

The criteria will be based on key research, and once it is established app developers will also be able to submit their creations to the panel for assessment.

Professor Marsh said the criteria will provide a consistent theme for parents who may be in need of guidance, but ultimately the choice is their own whether they would like to use a specific app. 

The panel will also be looking at how to engage both parents and stakeholders in the assessment process.

Professor Marsh said: “I am delighted to take on the role of Chair of the panel on early years, language, literacy and communication apps.

“Young children are immersed in a digital world from their earliest years and have access to many apps on tablets and smartphones. 
“There is a need to identify the features of high quality apps that support their learning and to offer parents, carers and teachers guidance on how to select and use apps effectively.

“The government has rightly identified this as a priority and I look forward to working with the members of the panel on undertaking this important task.”

The new advisory panel will consist of:

Professor Jackie Marsh, Chair: Professor of Education at the University of Sheffield and a leading figure in children’s digital literacy;

Olivia Dickinson, Deputy Chair: Digital consultant specialising in children’s and educational digital media, with experience working for Nickelodeon, BBC, Discovery Education, Sky Kids and Amazon; 

Peter Robinson: Global Head of Research and Company Director of Dubit Limited, specialising in digital entertainment and education for children;

Antonio Gould: Executive Director of Teach Monster Games, a not-for-profit education technology company responsible for the ‘Teach Your Monster To Read’ app, boasting a monthly reach of more than one million children;

Dr Rosie Flewitt: Co-Head of Research, Department of Learning and Leadership at UCL Institute of Education and Co-Director of the Helen Hamlyn Centre for Pedagogy, with 20 years’ experience in early communication, literacy and language research;

Sandra Mathers: a former primary teacher and now Senior Researcher at the University of Oxford, with expertise in child learning and development, including the ways in which this can be supported through technology;

Jonathan Douglas: Director of the National Literacy Trust, responsible for the Trust’s ‘Literacy Apps’ resource for parents and teachers, and a key advocate of the Government’s work to improve the Home Learning Environment; and

Jane Lewis: Head of Programme Development and Quality at Save the Children UK. She is responsible for programme d