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Article

Donna E. Alvermann and William Terrell Wright

Naming is a curious practice. It entails rudiments, now mostly taken for granted, that serve to categorize everyday literacy practices across fields as diverse as cultural anthropology and the management of multiple Git profiles. As a term unto itself, adolescent literacies is not immune to the vagaries of naming. In fact, it serves as an excellent example of how commonly named concepts in education embed the field’s histories, debates, pedagogies, and policies writ large. Conceptualizing literacy in its plural form raised eyebrows among academics, researchers, practitioners, publishers, and indexers concerned with the noun–verb agreement in phrases such as “adolescent literacies is a subfield” of adolescence. For some, the very notion of literacy extending beyond reading and writing is still debatable. With each passing day, however, it becomes noticeably more evident that multimodal forms of communication—images, sounds, bodily performances, to name but a few ways of expressing oneself—are competing quite well in the marketplace of ideas that flow globally with or without a linguistic component attached to them. Aside from the naming process and its attendant political overtones, the practice of treating youth between roughly the ages of 12 and 17 as a monolithic group has been common in the United States. Largely traceable to a time in which developmental psychology dominated the field of literacy instruction (in the early to late 20th century), designating youth as adolescents equated to viewing them as some a normative group devoid of racial, class, gender, and any number of other identity markers. Even with the sociocultural turn in early 21st century and its abundance of studies reifying the socially constructed nature of adolescents, the term persists. Its adhesive-like attraction to literacies, however, may be weakening in light of research that points to youth who are agentic and dynamic game changers when it comes to participating in a world grown more attuned to the need for collaboration based not on hierarchical standing but instead on working through commonplace tensions too complex for any one solution.

Article

As contemporary societies continue to integrate digital technologies into varying aspects of everyday life—including work, schooling, and play—the concept of digital game-based learning (DGBL) has become increasingly influential. The term DGBL is often used to characterize the relationship of computer-based games (including games played on dedicated gaming consoles and mobile devices) to various learning processes or outcomes. The concept of DGBL has its origins in interdisciplinary research across the computational and social sciences, as well as the humanities. As interest in computer games and learning within the field of education began to expand in the late 20th century, DGBL became somewhat of a contested term. Even foundational concepts such as the definition of games (as well as their relationship to simulations and similar artifacts), the affordances of digital modalities, and the question of what “counts” as learning continue to spark debate among positivist, interpretivist, and critical framings of DGBL. Other contested areas include the ways that DGBL should be assessed, the role of motivation in DGBL, and the specific frameworks that should inform the design of games for learning. Scholarship representing a more positivist view of DGBL typically explores the potential of digital games as motivators and influencers of human behavior, leading to the development of concepts such as gamification and other uses of games for achieving specified outcomes, such as increasing academic measures of performance, or as a form of behavioral modification. Other researchers have taken a more interpretive view of DGBL, framing it as a way to understand learning, meaning-making, and play as social practices embedded within broader contexts, both local and historical. Still others approach DGBL through a more critical paradigm, interrogating issues of power, agency, and ideology within and across applications of DGBL. Within classrooms and formal settings, educators have adopted four broad approaches to applying DGBL: (a) integrating commercial games into classroom learning; (b) developing games expressly for the purpose of teaching educational content; (c) involving students in the creation of digital games as a vehicle for learning; and (d) integrating elements such as scoreboards, feedback loops, and reward systems derived from digital games into non-game contexts—also referred to as gamification. Scholarship on DGBL focusing on informal settings has alternatively highlighted the socially situated, interpretive practices of gamers; the role of affinity spaces and participatory cultures; and the intersection of gaming practices with the lifeworlds of game players. As DGBL has continued to demonstrate influence on a variety of fields, it has also attracted criticism. Among these critiques are the question of the relative effectiveness of DGBL for achieving educational outcomes. Critiques of the quality and design of educational games have also been raised by educators, designers, and gamers alike. Interpretive scholars have tended to question the primacy of institutionally defined approaches to DGBL, highlighting instead the importance of understanding how people make meaning through and with games beyond formal schooling. Critical scholars have also identified issues in the ethics of DGBL in general and gamification in particular as a form of behavior modification and social control. These critiques often intersect and overlap with criticism of video games in general, including issues of commercialism, antisocial behaviors, misogyny, addiction, and the promotion of violence. Despite these criticisms, research and applications of DGBL continue to expand within and beyond the field of education, and evolving technologies, social practices, and cultural developments continue to open new avenues of exploration in the area.

Article

Fiona Scott and Jackie Marsh

The study of digital literacies in early childhood (0–8 years) is an emergent and fast-growing area of scholarship. Young children’s communicative practices are today more complex and diverse in scope than ever before, encompassing both “traditional” reading and writing and a growing range of “new” communicative competencies across multiple digital media contexts. Scholars are increasingly interested in children’s literacy practices outside traditional print-based texts, and the theory of multimodality helps them to understand children’s communicative practices in relation to a range of modes, including those present in digital technology. At the same time, the boundaries between what constitutes “digital” and “traditional” literacies are themselves blurred. Multiple academic disciplines have contributed to our understanding of children’s digital literacy practices. Numerous definitions for digital literacy or literacies exist, and scholars have proposed a range of theoretical approaches to the topic. Bill Green’s “3D model” of literacy provides a useful starting point for understanding the different dimensions of children’s digital literacy: operational, cultural, and critical. It is acknowledged that children’s digital literacy practices are specific to particular social and cultural contexts. In particular, scholars have identified important differences between accepted literacy practices in schools and early years’ settings (“school literacies”) and children’s literacy practices in a socioculturally diverse range of home settings (“home literacies”). A growing field of research is explicitly concerned with the unique skills developed at home, as children learn to produce and interpret a range of “new” digital and multimodal texts. At the same time, numerous scholars have suggested that there is still a general lack of progress with regard to early years’ practitioners’ use of technology in the curriculum. Gaps and absences in knowledge still exist, and it will be important for scholars over the coming years to continue research into young children’s digital literacy practices, both in homes and communities and across early years’ settings.

Article

From colonial times to the modern era the United States has provided adult literacy and basic education (ALBE) for those adults seeking better work, a better home life for themselves and their families, greater educational achievement for their children, and engagement in civic duties for community development. In the Moonlight Schools of Kentucky, illiterate country folk learned to read and write to run their farms and towns better. In the cities, immigrants learned English and their civic duties as citizens in programs of “Americanization.” By the 1960s, civil and voting rights movements helped tens of thousands of African Americans learn to read and write so they could exercise their rights of self-government through democracy. In 1966, the United States established for the first time a national Adult Education and Literacy System (AELS) formed in a partnership of the federal and 50 state governments. From serving some 50 thousand or so adults in its early years the AELS enrollments rose over the next 35 years to around 4 million. Then, following the implementation of a National Reporting System with stringent performance accountability requirements, enrollments fell over the next 20 years to less than 1.2 million. But during all these years the AELS provided basic education aimed at achieving general educational outcomes and benefited from research and development projects leading to the implementation of special programs in which the basic skills of English language, reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught contextualized within the domains of workplace, health, civics, family, and digital knowledge. At the end of the first two decades of the 21st century, the AELS had seen its mandate extended from helping adults gain contextualized skills and knowledge, and the achievement of a secondary school level of education, to gaining access to postsecondary, college, and specialized certificate programs within a career pathway with recurring education and credentialing. There is increasing interest in moving forward with ALBE within a full “lifelong” and “lifewide” AELS.

Article

Robyn Seglem and Antero Garcia

Multiliteracies were first conceptualized in 1994 by the New London Group (NLG), a group of global scholars who specialized in different aspects of literacy instruction including classroom discourse, multilingual teaching and learning, new technologies, critical discourse and literacy, linguistics, cultural and social educations, semiotics, and visual literacy. Published in 1996, the NLG focused on equalizing the power dynamics within education by moving away from traditional print-based literacies that privilege the cultural majority who hold the most wealth and power in the world. Their work seeks to elevate those who are traditionally marginalized by embracing literacies that leverage multiple languages, discourses, and texts. Multiliteracies have been widely adopted, expanded upon, and contested in academia, but classroom teachers have been much slower in adopting them. Although systems of accountability and standardization contribute to a slow adoption of multiliteracies practices, teachers have found ways to integrate multiliteracies into instruction. In doing so, students are provided with more linguistic capital and a deeper understanding of how meaning is made across multiple contexts.

Article

In the digital era, written communication for children and youth is changing. As texts and media include complex intersections of print, image, sound, and other modalities, the ways in which writing is conceived is shifting. The evolution and impact of digital technologies follow a long history of invention, innovation, and change in written communication, with critiques of writing and communication technologies present in both historical and contemporary contexts. A new development in contemporary digital culture is the significant and widespread participation of children and youth in digital media and communication due to the ubiquity, affordances, and appeal of mobile digital devices. In the history of writing instruction, pedagogical approaches and perspectives have continued to evolve, with the teaching of writing at times positioned as subordinate to the teaching of reading, a pattern that has repeated into the digital era in which an emphasis on digital writing production and text creation has been similarly less of a focus than receptive consumption of media. Shifts in digital practice and the emergence of new devices for writing present both challenges and opportunities for the teaching of writing and the creation of texts in schools, with issues of digital resource provision and access to technology presenting hurdles for some teachers. Teacher awareness of the digital worlds, practices, and “funds of knowledge” that students are bringing to the writing classroom is vital to reimagining the writing classroom within contemporary digital culture. In the 21st century, writing instruction needs to be inclusive of the operational demands of writing as well as sociocultural and critical requirements, in addition to responding to fluid technoliteracy contexts and consideration of how “writing” itself is changing.

Article

Children’s literature is a dynamic entity in its own right that offers its readers many avenues for pleasure, reflection, and emotional engagement. As this article argues, its place in education was established centuries ago, but this association continues today in ways that are both similar and different from its beginnings. The irony of children’s literature is that, while it is ostensibly for children, it relies on adults for its existence. This reciprocal relationship between adult and child is, however, at the heart of education. Drawing on a range of scholars and children’s texts from Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States, this discussion canvasses some of the many ways in which children’s literature, and the research that it inspires, can be a productive and valuable asset to education, in that its imaginative storytelling is the means by which it brings the world into the classroom and takes the classroom out into the world.

Article

The use of real-time technology has caused the world to “shrink,” with society becoming more global and information- and communication-based. The amount of information that people are exposed to continues to increase exponentially, requiring a new definition of literacy that includes digital literacy and other 21st-century skills. However, the implementation of technology in education has not kept up with how it is used in peoples’ lives. The main role of teachers is to prepare students to become literate, globally informed citizens. Generation Z, or the technology generation, are tech savvy and used to instant action and access to information due to their experiences with the Internet. Although students are proficient with and regularly use mobile devices and other information and communication technologies (ICTs), their teachers have difficulty integrating these technologies into their pedagogy beyond basic functional uses. The goals of educational technology are often not readily apparent in classrooms; this is problematic, as technology has the potential to be used for critical thinking, collaboration, and the dissemination of new knowledge. Therefore, teacher education programs have a responsibility to ensure that teachers of the future are globally aware, proficient with current innovative technology tools and information resources, and have the ability to adapt to tools and educational strategies of the future. Supporting preservice teachers in their acquisition of digital literacy can widen their views of the world and strengthen their skills in locating, assessing, organizing, analyzing, and presenting information. Teaching preservice teachers to use the technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) model and embedding new technologies throughout teacher education programs can support preservice teachers’ global understandings and information literacy, as well as develop their expertise in the use of the technology itself. Instruction in digital literacies can help preservice teachers to hone their teaching skills and minimize the isolation and anxieties that are often experienced during their field experiences.

Article

Who should teach reading? To whom? How? And in order to read what? Literacy has had such a far-reaching impact on society that many historians have taken an interest in these four questions, which concern teachers (Who selects, pays, and oversees teachers?), students (age, sex, origin, qualification), schooling (language used, organization, materials, methods), and competency to be attained (curriculum implemented, reference texts, exams, degrees). Their approaches have varied over time. As early as the 19th century, educational historians described the ways pedagogical innovators such as Comenius, Melanchton, Locke, Rousseau, Pestalozzi, and Froebel challenged traditional teaching methods, with Montessori, Decroly, Dewey, Freinet, and Freire taking up that torch in the 20th century and endeavoring teachers to take into account how a child is learning. Yet these world-renowned figures have changed more so what we expect of an educator than the teaching practices of a given country. Other historians examine how education institutions evolved within their national contexts. Although initially provided for by the church (Protestant or Catholic, depending on the state), literacy was taught primarily to learn the catechism and participate in worship. Later, passing into the hands of the state in one way or another, literacy teaching served to impart basic, secular knowledge. The calendars vary from state to state, but every country in the West had made education mandatory and free by 1880, following centuries of efforts to ensure all people knew the 3 Rs (reading, writing, reckoning). The dream of eliminating illiteracy, however, would be shattered, as reading failure—far from being eradicated—would rise after 1950, even as the number of years spent in school was growing around the world. Since a lack of schools was not the issue, this failure was initially attributed to causes outside school (the child, the family, the social environment). At a time of violent splintering among literacy educators, linguists, and psychologists (phonics vs. whole-language methods), historians discovered that the act of reading, considered unalterable, had transformed over the centuries as various aspects of reading media changed, such as materials, layout, writing, language, and so on. Since the scroll (volumen) was abandoned for the book (codex) in the early Christian era, five major innovations have marked the history of reading and teaching literacy: the invention of punctuation (from the 7th and 11th centuries) made silent reading possible; Gutenberg’s press (1454) expanded the number of readers, but only on printed text; cellulose paper and metal pens (ca. 1850) allowed reading and writing to be taught simultaneously, thereby accelerating early literacy; audiovisual media (mid-20th century) changed the importance of reading and schools as purveyors of cultural values; and the advent of digital in schools (21st century) transformed both reading materials and devices used for writing (screen/keyboard). Alongside an ideological history of theories, a political history of education institutions and a pedagogical history of literacy methods, we must also apprehend a history of reading technology, as it has affected literacy-teaching practices everywhere, regardless of national language and culture, political regime, and level of economic development.