How are digital technologies influencing literacy development in children?

Modern technologies are influencing literacy development in children, the increasing access of which children have to technologies like tablets is allowing them to simultaneously develop more literacy skills than what could be previously be achieved with traditional forms of teaching literacy. The use of technology incorporates traditional literacy’s focus on acquiring the skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking and also includes interplay between visual, aural, special and gestural skills, which are becoming increasingly more vital in the growing digital era.

Young children have proven just how quickly they can come to grips with a tablet and begin to use it competently, as demonstrated in this YouTube video. Granted, it probably isn’t the little girls first time using the iPad, but it’s certainly remarkable how she can manipulate it at such a young age. Especially compared to the many adults who struggle to work their way around it.  

Of course, this means that teaching methods will have to adapt to suit the needs of the ever growing amount of children who use this technology on a daily basis to improve the quality of their learning. The theory behind using technology to enrich children’s learning is called Connectivism.

Behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism are the three most referred to learning theories in the classroom. However, these theories were constructed before the process of teaching and learning were impacted on by technology. Over the past 20 years, technology has reorganised how we live, communicate (I talk about this here) and learn. The theory of utilising these developed technologies to enrich the learning experience is known as Connectivism.

According to Siemens (2004), these are the principles of Connectivism:

  • Learning and knowledge rests in diversity of opinions.
  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources.
  • Learning may reside in non-human appliances.
  • Capacity to know more is more critical than what is currently known
  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate continual learning.
  • Ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.
  • Currency (accurate, up-to-date knowledge) is the intent of all connectivist learning activities.
  • Decision-making itself is a learning process. Choosing what to learn and the meaning of incoming information is seen through the lens of a shifting reality.

I was told that our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more importance than what we know today. This is something I can definitely see the truth in; the process of learning is in the present, we’re constantly learning every day, sometimes without even realizing it. It’s all preparation for the future application of our cultivated knowledge, whether it may be immediately after or years down the line.

The theory of connectivism presents a model of learning that acknowledges the tectonic shifts in society where learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. How people work and function is altered when new tools are utilized. The field of education has been slow to recognize both the impact of new learning tools and the environmental changes in what it means to learn. I’ve witnessed this first hand during my teaching practice, some of the teachers I worked with often talked about how they love the new initiatives and teaching methods that NQTs (newly qualified teachers) brought into schools with their practice. The same teachers, a few hours later would put down said new initiatives that were brought to the table, claiming that the old methods were the best. Technology was no exception, especially the use of ICT. It’s amazing how many teachers believe that taking a photo for evidence of work is a valid use of ICT, which I believe is not. Nothing is usually done with the photo; it’s simply kept as evidence to show that the teacher has covered whatever part of the National Curriculum.

It’s not all doom and gloom for ICT though, absolutely not. There have been some excellent uses for ICT to support the technological development in children’s learning. The most creative example that I can think of is the use of Minecraft (an extremely popular video game) as an educational tool. There are virtually an endless amount of possibilities in the world of Minecraft, because you can create it all yourself. The Idea Channel does a brilliant job of explaining the use of this tool.

Another effective use of ICT in the classroom would be Edublogs. An edublog is a blog created for educational purposes. Edublogs archive and support student and teacher learning by facilitating reflection, questioning by self and others, collaboration and by providing contexts for engaging in higher-order thinking. Ms. Cassidy’s blog is an exceptional example of efficient edublogging. 

Cassidy (2013) exclaims in her article that the days of “reading only books, writing on only paper and becoming literate in an isolated classroom have passed” and that form of learning is “out-dated”. Technology brings new tools, vocabulary, ways to learn and communication forms into the classroom. Something in my opinion, is very welcome.

References

Cassidy, K. (2013) The Early-Literacy Shift: New Words, New Media, New Friends [Available: http://plpnetwork.com/2013/07/28/literacy-shift-longer-papers-books/] Date Accessed: 23/10/2013

Siemens, G. (2004) Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age [Accessed Online] Available: http://www.ingedewaard.net/papers/connectivism/2005_siemens_ALearningTheoryForTheDigitalAge.pdf Date Accessed: 24/10/2013

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