With the ubiquity of the Internet and the pedagogical opportunities that digital media afford for education on all levels, online learning constitutes a form of education that accommodates learners’ individual needs beyond traditional face-to-face instruction, allowing it to occur with the student physically separated from the instructor. Online learning and distance education have entered into the mainstream of educational provision at of most of the 21st century’s higher education institutions. With its consequent focus on the learner and elements of course accessibility and flexibility and learner collaboration, online learning renegotiates the meaning of teaching and learning, positioning students at the heart of the process and requiring new competencies for successful online learners as well as instructors. New teaching and learning strategies, support structures, and services are being developed and implemented and often require system-wide changes within higher education institutions. Drawing on central elements from the field of distance education, both in practice and in its theoretical foundations, online learning makes use of new affordances of a variety of information and communication technologies—ranging from multimedia learning objects to social and collaborative media and entire virtual learning environments. Fundamental learning theories are being revisited and discussed in the context of online learning, leaving room for their further development and application in the digital age.
Lisa Marie Blaschke and Svenja Bedenlier
Earl Aguilera and Roberto de Roock
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.
Byabazaire Yusuf, Lynne M. Walters, and Abdul Halim Mohamed
Social media platforms have emerged as a powerful communication strategy for school leaders, whether within a school or in the community as a whole. The potential for the heads of school to improve leadership connectedness and efficiency lies in the proper selection and use of available social media tools. This would consolidate their position and influence in a 21st-century learning environment. Social media tools provide efficient means for school leaders to mobilize and to build consensus on important matters among their subordinates or stakeholders before arriving at a final decision. They also can use social media tools to shape a vision of academic success for students, motivate academic staff in carrying out their duties in a diligent manner, and build support for their efforts by communicating directly with parents and the community. By spearheading the use of social media strategies, school leaders can inspire teachers to embark on a pedagogical shift by putting real-world tools in the hands of students. This would allow students to consume information, as well as to create artifacts of learning to demonstrate conceptual mastery. Students would become more motivated through active engagement and achievement by focusing on improving essential skills, such as collaboration, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, and global connectedness. Allowing for distant access, social media also enhance the management zone and extend learning beyond classrooms and schedules. Because social media resources are varied and evolving, school leaders can establish an empowered and dynamic learning community of educators in which skills, knowledge, and thinking would be shared among them through Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). Leaders also could form their own Personal Learning Networks (PLNs) to meet the diverse learning needs of their schools, acquire and share resources, access knowledge, receive feedback, connect with both educational experts and practitioners, and discuss proven strategies to address teaching, learning, and leadership concerns. Furthermore, a school leader can create specific social media channels to collectively engage teachers, heads of departments, coordinators and community leaders. This would enhance the sharing of instructional ideas and strategies, policy issues, and positive aspects of school culture that promote community pride. In this way, a school would not only provide a healthy environment for sharing ideas and collaboration, but would improve the teaching and learning process and attract the enthusiastic participation of stakeholders in school affairs. Lastly, school leaders can employ social media platforms to engage the outside community in an appropriate manner to improve their institutional image and relationships with others. Thus, a vibrant social media strategy would provide an efficient means to manage content and communicate the most accurate, timely, and relevant information, based on appropriate levels of transparency. It would also provide a means of interaction between the school leaders and community stakeholders, enabling them to keep these community stakeholders updated on either the current or most important aspects or events within the schools, hence promoting community participations in school affairs.
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.
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.
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.