Overcoming Boundaries towards Eflit Education in the Digital Era: Efl Undergraduate's Reading Habits in Retrospect (Madeira, 1998-2008)

By Sousa, Alcina | The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education, January 1, 2012 | Go to article overview

Overcoming Boundaries towards Eflit Education in the Digital Era: Efl Undergraduate's Reading Habits in Retrospect (Madeira, 1998-2008)


Sousa, Alcina, The Journal of Linguistic and Intercultural Education


1 Introduction

Given the scope of the current volume of this journal, the starting point of this paper revolves around the following issues: Have computers redefined English literacy? To what extent has the digital era changed present-day Humanities undergraduates' reading preferences and habits in a Foreign Language (FL) context? Do FL undergraduates actually read texts in the digital medium, now that even more information on literary production is disseminated and retrieved in the electronic format? What sort of strategies should be devised to improve learning and research environments among Humanities undergraduates at university level, now that the ever-developing technological era with distance learning, Internet, new anthologies and digitised archives has gradually reshaped classroom / lecture settings, patterns of teaching, contexts of interaction and literacy practices. "The new knowledge being taught", acknowledged Diana Laurillard (also drawing on Noel Entwistle and Paul Ramsden) back in 1997 (p. 105), "depends greatly on students' individual experiences for they necessarily affect how they deal with academic knowledge". Despite today's adolescents being rightly described by Jacques Barzun (1991: 46) as "uncommonly intelligent and vigorous... worldly beyond their years, thanks perhaps to television", and I would add computer use, educational policies have reinforced paradoxical strands, for the last two decades: on the one hand a stress on innovation, on the other, "mechanical" instruction and assessment of knowledge about facts (Naciscione, 2001). Many researchers claim that this is supposedly to be simply leading to immediate achievement, social success and accomplishment.

2 Relevance and review of the literature

Concerning the review of literature section, a liminal discussion of new forms of virtual identities might bear some support, for example, in Bearne and Kress's grounding, right at the turn of the century (2001: 89)1, of a new relationship between the word, the image and non-visual stimuli as complementary rather than simply overlapping interpretations, which provide new ways of thinking beyond the theoretical and historical perspectives on the text. Both Internet Culture (Porter, 1996) and The Digital Classroom (Gordon, 2000) extend the realm of discussion into the pedagogical context by means of a balanced theoretical and practical analysis in as much as, in the arts, this complementary differentiation, to fall upon Suhor's claim2 (1984: 23),

has diminished in favor of holistic, multimedia expression. Television and film, of course, are inherently multimedia; but the traditional arts have moved toward combinations of genre and the blurring of distinctions between the work, the performer, and the audience. Participatory drama, concrete poetry, aleatory music, and mobile sculptures are instances of totalistic approaches to artistic production and response.

In fact, the industrial, scientific and technological developments seem to have been the cause for continuous change in the educational sphere, regarded by some as progress whilst by fierce opponents as a drawback, entailing a first focus on knowledge about facts and the learning of the basic R's (that is reading, writing and arithmetic) so as to meet the needs of an increasingly less literate working class. For the common citizen the idea of literacy has been connected with schooling, and the literary representation has long raised the issue. Simultaneously, moves towards interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary clines have been suggested because English studies should be "reshaped not only by the literary and cultural developments but also by English as the international language-code of business and technological advancement" (Weiss, 1999: 54). "The foremost challenge facing English studies today", adds Weiss, "is the reconception of its identity within the university in such a way that it not only responds to economic globalization and technological change but also provides a new vision of the importance of interpretive, language and communication skills in the 21st century". …

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