Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Investigating Synergies between Literacy, Technology and Classroom Practice

Academic journal article Australian Journal of Language and Literacy

Investigating Synergies between Literacy, Technology and Classroom Practice

Article excerpt

Introduction

Recent Australian government initiatives for increased access to digital technologies for students has been positioned as groundbreaking reform as 'digital schools' become a reality for more students. While the reality of increased resources has provided the means for creating technologically enriched learning environments, it has also resulted in some distress for teachers as access to technology remains uneven across schools and teacher expertise varies considerably. Such anxieties spotlight the relationship between teachers' existing daily pedagogic practices and the surrounding discourses of revolutionary change (Durrant & Green, 2000). New technologies such as laptops, wireless connectivity, Interactive White Boards and mobile communication devices enter into and potentially reshape pedagogic activity (Jewitt, 2005) frequently requiring a rethink of the configurations of curriculum, bodies and space in specific contexts of practice. So while there is a digital revolution occurring in schools, there is need to understand the changes it brings to English curriculum and pedagogy. This is critical to supporting teachers in their work as they consider the role of technology in enhancing their literacy learning.

This paper presents data from a study examining the 'digital revolution' from the perspective of teachers and how they report impacts on literacy teaching and learning activities in their classrooms. Activity Theory (AT) provides us with a frame to study the use of technology in literacy teaching as a complex pedagogical activity embedded in, and affected by a combination of multiple layers of personal, social and institutional contexts, which closely interact with each other as they affect the activity outcomes. In other words, AT offers 'a systemic perspective' which, as argued by Levin and Wadmany (2008), 'is needed to help us reach a better understanding of why teachers adopt or do not adopt classroom technologies' (p. 237)

The research reported in this paper aimed to investigate the ways technologies are currently used by literacy teachers to support pedagogic activity and the complexity of interdependent factors that affect this process. Here we present one aspect of the study, namely a survey that assisted us to:

* Identify which new technologies are utilised by teachers in literacy teaching;

* Understand the contexts in which teachers use technology;

* Consider teachers' perceptions of how the technology helps them achieve, and reshape, their pedagogic goals.

Background

In 1997 the Commonwealth funded 'Digital Rhetorics: Literacies and Technologies in Education - Current Practices and Future' (Lankshear, Bigum, Durrant, Green, Honan, Morgan, Murray, Snyder & Wild, 1997) reported findings and conclusions from a two year study focused on the interaction and relationship between literacy and technology in teaching and learning. Key recommendations included the need for schools to be consulted in terms of technology needs, equitable access to resources for all students, the need for appropriate technological support and the use of technology in all learning areas. Fifteen years later, it seems appropriate to re-examine some of these findings as the experiences and perspectives of teachers are sought and examined.

As the education system works towards equipping students with the necessary skills for effective participation in society (and the evolving workforce), there has been an increasing focus on integrating ICTs into students' schooling. Many have commented that teachers have the responsibility to include new technologies in the everyday curriculum in order to adequately prepare students for their future lives (Kennewell, Tanner, Jones, & Beauchamp, 2008; Labbo, 2006; Zammit & Downes, 2002). Burnett (2011) calls for further exploration of how technology impacts on pedagogic practice. New literacies are seen as new social practices (Street, 2003) and incorporate the following: innovative text formats such as multiple media and hypermodality (Lemke, 2002); new reader expectations of reading nonlinearly (Warschauer, 2006); and new activities such as web publishing (Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004). …

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