Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Curriculum and Instruction

Major Professor

Jolyn Blank, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Ilene Berson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sophia Han, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jenifer Schneider, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Natalia Kucirkova, Ph.D.


digital composing, multimodal, social semiotics, young children


This study explored the many layers involved in young children’s meaning-making as they digitally compose. Utilizing a multimodal, social semiotics theoretical framework to analyze children’s digital compositions using a composing app, this study was designed around one research question: What is the nature of three and four-year-old children’s multimodal meaning making while using a composing app? The qualitative study involved four focal participants from a three- and four-year-old classroom, who attended an inquiry-based lab school in the southeastern United States.

The data were collected over a period of eight weeks, where the children were invited to tell their stories using a digital composing app on an iPad. Utilizing a naturalistic observational approach, the composing events were video-recorded and transcribed, capturing both what happened on and off the screen.

Utilizing a multimodal analysis, the findings revealed multiple layers in young children’s compositional expression and exposed the importance of how compositions evolve. The affordances of digital tools offered opportunity for children to build layers of meaning and for those layers to be captured in ways not necessarily available before.