Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

Engaging and Authentic Technology Use for Literacy Learning in the Middle Years

Academic journal article Literacy Learning: The Middle Years

Engaging and Authentic Technology Use for Literacy Learning in the Middle Years

Article excerpt


There are many possibilities and opportunities that the combination of reading, writing and technology present to improve and address the contemporary literacy needs of boys. This paper offers an exploration of literacy learning in the middle years through harnessing the benefits of technology amongst a group of year six boys. Drawing on the work of Vygotsky and the New Literacies the social aspect of literacy learning through technology is explored, as well as the importance of providing authentic learning experiences particularly for boys. A classroom example is used to demonstrate one teacher's attempts to integrate technology more holistically into his classroom. Discussion follows and some pedagogical implications are considered.

Review of current research

Boys and literacy

Researchers in Australia and overseas have established that boys comprise the majority of students who struggle with literacy learning (Alloway, 2006; Brozo, 2005; NAPLAN report 2011; Tyre, 2008; Lenz, 2010). According to Smith and Wilhelm (2002) boys perceive reading as having a lower priority, demonstrate less interest in reading for leisure and see reading as a 'girlie' activity). Add to this a change in student's reading patterns from page to screen and one finds that many boys are reported as no longer reading for leisure. Rennie and Patterson describe leisure reading as that reading which is done outside of school and is mainly attributed to print based reading such as novels and magazines (2008). Walsh also found that there is a trend away from students engaging with print in traditional forms at home preferring to engage in digital and mobile technology in their leisure time (2010).

Given some of the literature it is easy to fall into a deficit mindset when considering boys and literacy. In Australia however, the Success for Boys initiative has sought to overcome some of this deficit thinking about boys' literacy achievements putting into place contemporary strategies which build on boys' strengths (Alloway et al., 2006). These contemporary strategies make sound use of the out of school digital practices boys bring with them to the classroom and the technology available in schools. This has implications for school based literacy.

School-based literacy for boys

Researchers agree that literacy is no longer a static construct based singly around books and print. Leu reported that the advent of the Internet has ushered in a wide array of new social practices, ways of communicating and of being in the world (2001). Therefore with the advent of the Internet literacy can be redefined to incorporate the skills and strategies required to read, write, view, listen, compose and communicate information on a screen. This collection of skills is termed Digital literacy (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear and Leu, 2008, p. 5; Unsworth 2001; Walsh, 2010; Honan 2012). Lankshear and Knobel recognise that reading and writing cannot be separated from the values, gestures, contexts and tools associated with the opportunities the Internet affords, as literacy is embedded in the social practices in which they are acquired (2003; Winch et al., 2010, p. 402).

Research also suggests that students require a variety of media to gain access and confidence in the range of purposes, uses, interactions and mediums for which we use language and literacy (Pendergast et al. 2005; Labbo, 2006; Beavis, Bradford, O'Mara and Walsh 2008). The pedagogical frameworks of Multiliteracies (New London Group 2000) and the New Literacy Studies (Leu, Coiro, Lankshear and Knobel, 2008) have explored and documented ways in which teachers can employ emerging technologies for learning. These frameworks assist us to unpack the metalanguage that describes meaning in various realms (Unsworth 2001). The theoretical basis for the New Literacies is one that is 'grounded in the social practices of the Internet and the contexts and conditions under which these social practices occur, develop and evolve' (Coiro 2008, p. …

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