Crossing the Digital Divide: A Middle Years Teacher's Reflective Journey

By Smith, Ruth | Literacy Learning: The Middle Years, February 2014 | Go to article overview

Crossing the Digital Divide: A Middle Years Teacher's Reflective Journey


Smith, Ruth, Literacy Learning: The Middle Years


Introduction

Utilising technology has become an expected part of teaching and learning at most schools. Whether the school chooses to implement a 1:1 laptop or tablet program or a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program, challenges exist for teachers regarding the purposeful implementation and use of such technology. One of these challenges is how to bridge the digital divide between the pedagogies of the past and those required for the future. Hayes-Jacobs (2013) describes three different types of pedagogies: antiquated, classical and century21. She challenges today's teachers to critically assess their current pedagogies in light of the technological tools available to them and to upgrade the aspects of their pedagogy which may be 'antiquated'. If technology is simply used to reinforce existing practices, rather than assist the adoption of new pedagogies, then the possibilities of pedagogical change that technology presents become lost (Wilder & Dressman, 2006). This reflective paper narrates the digital journey of one teacher in one school and the steps taken to bridge the digital divide in literacy pedagogies.

The school context

Sheldon College is an independent, non-denominational P-12 College located in Brisbane's Redlands region. The College consists of students in Early Learning (Kindergarten and Prep), Junior College (Years 1-4), Middle College (Years 5-8) and Senior College (Years 9-12).

The College is currently trialling the possibility of a BYOD option to enhance access to technology. The trial has purposefully involved key teachers to investigate and it has endeavoured to action research the opportunities and the challenges these reforms bring for teachers and leaders across the College. The trial to date has not involved one set of standard tools to be utilised by all students, although students do have easy access to PCs and laptops. This deliberate lack of structure presents the opportunity for teachers to explore a range of tools and incorporate students' prior technology literacies, gained from outside the classroom, into literacy across the curriculum.

Sheldon College undertook a Digital Pedagogies Project with a number of identified teachers across the College in 2012. This was assisted by funding from the Australian Government Quality Teacher Program. The purpose of this project was to extend the use of technology across the College and to create a culture of self-direction in professional development amongst the community of teachers. Although I was not initially one of the teachers selected for involvement in this project, I became involved by chance, through a conversation in which I de-privatised an element of my practice.

As a Middle College teacher responsible for teaching Year 6 English and Humanities, I was very keen to be part of the College's trial program as I have had the integration of technology into literacy as a focus for a number of years. In the beginning, my explorations were small. Students just brought their devices, mostly iPods which were equipped with useful tools such as a dictionary app and some literacy-based games such as Wordstorm. It was in these early stages that I also purchased an iPad2 and a VGA connector so I could utilise the iPad with a projector in the course of my lessons. This enabled me to share my learning journey on the iPad with my whole class. This worked well, but as time went by I became dissatisfied with this very superficial use of technology in my lessons. What else could I add? How could I better access and tap into my students' technology literacies from outside the classroom? How could I make my integration of technology into literacy more meaningful?

Through my involvement in the Digital Pedagogies Project, I began integrating technology into literacy in a more meaningful way through a number of specific trials. Over time, I noticed that the way in which I utilised technology fell into two approaches. …

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