Support for New Literacies, Cultural Expectations, and Pedagogy: Potential and Features for Classroom Web Sites

By Baker, Elizabeth A. | New England Reading Association Journal, May 1, 2007 | Go to article overview

Support for New Literacies, Cultural Expectations, and Pedagogy: Potential and Features for Classroom Web Sites


Baker, Elizabeth A., New England Reading Association Journal


There appears to be a widening gap between the literacies our society uses and the literacies our schools teach. Some refer to the literacies that are emerging in our society as "new literacies" meaning those skills readers need to make sense of electronic text and writers need to effectively communicate with electronic texts (Lankshear & Knobel, 2003; Leu, 2006; Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004). Cultural expectations regarding new literacies are interwoven into the fabric of children's peer cultures as well as workplace environments. Children's social worlds have expanded to electronic environments such as Myspace.com, Facebook.com, and Youtube.com. Children communicate with peers through text messaging, Instant Messaging, and email. New literacies are the backbone of these environments. Similarly, workplace environments expect employees to communicate effectively via email. Employees need to be able to sift through the Internet to find pertinent information efficiently and accurately. While children who have access to technology and consistently use new literacies will be well-prepared for workplace environments, children who have less access may be highly disadvantaged when they enter the workforce (Leu, 2006). It is imperative that schools help all children develop proficiency with new literacies.

Teachers face many obstacles to teaching students how to use new literacies. Leu, Ataya, and Coiro (2002) reported that none of the 50 states included new literacies on their statewide tests. If teachers are being held accountable by such tests, it would appear that they can give little attention to new literacies. Due to the pressures of No Child Left Behind (U. S. Department of Education, 2002), teachers have little time to incorporate new literacies into their curriculum. Another obstacle is the time it would take to create curricula for new literacies. Teachers have barely enough time to create lessons for current curricula, grade papers, and maintain communication with parents and coteachers. Another obstacle is that the technology schools provide may not coincide with a teacher's literacy program. For example, the school may provide skills-based reading programs, such as Accelerated Reader or Waterford Reading, but the teacher prefers to organize her literacy instruction around the writing process.

The purpose of this article is to mitigate the challenges encountered by teachers when they are unable to mesh technology with their pedagogical approach for literacy instruction. Given this mitigation, it is my hope that teachers will be able to embrace children's peer culture, workplace expectations, and new literacies. Specifically, I propose the creation of classroom web sites that fit with the instructional approaches of the classroom.

Benefits of a Classroom Web Site

There are several reasons to consider creating a classroom web site. As stated, classroom web sites can provide a bridge between current curricula and new literacies. If one of the missions of schools is to prepare children to be active members of our society then they need to help children become proficient readers and writers. Now that our culture is infused with electronic communication such proficiencies include new literacies. Herein, one of the benefits of creating a classroom web site is to support students' proficiencies with new literacies. While schoolaged children use new literacies to participate in their peer culture (e.g., texting, Instant Messaging), they may be missing valuable skills. Schools can address proficiency with a range of new literacies that are designed to prepare children for technology-infused workplaces.

Consistently, one of the best predictors for how well a child will perform on standardized reading and writing tests is their parents' socio-economic status (SES) (Guthrie, Schafer, & Huang, 2001). Schools have little control over this variable. However, another predictor that sometimes has higher correlations to test performance than SES is student engagement (Guthrie, Schafer, & Huang, 2001). …

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