There has been extensive work reviewing the lack of integration of ICT across the curriculum – an issue which is related but has different concerns to that of the development of digital literacies. Nevertheless, this literature can be drawn upon in a review of the lack of curricula and pedagogical progress in relation to new digital literacies. As Hennessey, Ruthven and Brindley (2005) suggest, in systematic studies of schools’ use of ICT in England, ‘appropriate and effective classroom use of ICT is found to be rare’ (2005:162). There are numerous reasons for this. Ertmer (1999) identifies first- and second-order barriers to more extensive use of ICT in classrooms.
First order barriers are those external to teachers and include factors such as lack of access to resources and training. Second-order barriers are internal and include teacher beliefs and attitudes, some of which may prevent innovative developments from taking place. In a review of research in this area, Hew and Brush (2007) reiterate Ertmer’s conceptualisation of first-and second-order strategies and suggest that the first-order barriers to integration of technology into teaching are: resources; institution; subject culture; and assessment. Second-order barriers were found to be: attitudes and beliefs; knowledge and skills.
Whilst this is helpful in suggesting that the obstructions to progress work at both structural and agentic levels, the factoring together of quite disparate elements in the ‘first-order’ category means that the roots of the issues are not identified and as a result some barriers are not considered at all. Instead of presenting an external/ internal dichotomy, we propose that the barriers to curriculum and pedagogical change in relation to digital literacy are examined in terms of their social and cultural, historical, economic and political roots. This enables a review of structural and agentic issues across key areas and emphasises the dynamic between factors that are internal and external to educators themselves.
22.214.171.124 Social and Cultural
The social and cultural milieu in which educators operate has a significant impact on their work. As technological developments intensify the pace of change in society at large, there is a corresponding proliferation of moral panics in relation to children’s use of these technologies. The first of these moral panics is the way in which public spaces are changing for children and young people. Many children and young people are involved in social networking sites and this is potentially confusing and alienating for teachers who grew up with very different experiences of engagement with known and unknown audiences. Some teachers are anxious about safety aspects of the Internet (Green and Hannon, 2007) and yet in a US study conducted by the National School Boards Association (NBSA, 2007), only 0.08 young people reported meeting people they had met over the Internet without their parents’ permission. This is not to minimise the concerns expressed by teachers, but suggests that instead of becoming over-protective in online spaces, we need to engage with young learners as they develop further their critical capacities (Burnett & Merchant, 2011) and begin to make judgements about, for example, which aspects of their identities they share with which audience(s) at any one time. As Web 2.0 dissolves the boundaries between production and consumption and celebrates a ‘mash-up’ or ‘remix’ culture (Lankshear and Knobel, 2006) in which ‘produsage’ (Bruns, 2006) abounds, anxieties around copyright and the line between collaboration and collusion proliferate.
A further social and cultural barrier to change is the concern about a digital divide. Some teachers express worries that increasing the use of technologies in classrooms might exacerbate the differential expertise of children due to their access to and use of hardware and software outside of school, which, it is assumed, is related to class. Whilst there are some social class differences in children’s access to and use of technologies outside of school (Valentine, Marsh et al., 2005), there are also indications that socio-economic status does not relate simply to access and use (Selwyn and Facer, 2007; Valentine, Marsh and Pattie, 2005). In the future, the digital divide might focus more squarely on the differences between those who have an understanding of how technologies and related resources (such as social networking sites) can enable them to achieve their aims than those who do not (Lankshear and Knobel, 2006).
Finally, in relation to the social and cultural dimension, an additional challenge to be faced is the growing divide between home and school literacy practices. For example, despite the burgeoning popularity of virtual worlds and other Web 2.0 sites for this age group, primary schools in general have yet to recognise their potential. Indeed, firewalls implemented by many LAs prevent teachers from exploring these worlds and other social networking sites in school. We will now move on to analyse the historical factors that might preclude curricula and pedagogical development.
There are a number of historically-constituted barriers to change, not least the way in which educational institutions operate on 19th and 20th century models in terms of subject divisions. In relation to the development of the subject of English, we are in a period characterised by immense change and uncertainty appear to be at a key juncture in curriculum development and need to consider the implications for subject English (Green, 2006; Kress, 2006). In the face of this turmoil, the work of Kress (2006) has been significant to furthering understanding of how the subject should be shaped in the twenty-first century and he emphasises the need for it to focus, above all else, on meaning:
In a society dominated by the demands of the market, by consumption therefore, by its constant and insistent demands for choice – no matter how spurious that choice may be – there is an absolute demand that the curriculum overall should include a subject that has meaning as its central question, has as its central concern principles for making choices
(Kress, 2006: 3)
A further historical difficulty is a lack of a tradition of research and development in relation to new digital literacies, particular within early years’ settings and primary schools. Historically, research in the area of early literacy development has focused on the acquisition of the alphabetic principle and this has led to a lack of knowledge about the stages of learning in relation to other modes. In the next section, we move from an analysis of historical barriers to curricula and pedagogical change to focus on economic and political restrictions.
Teachers frequently mention resources as a barrier to developing digital practices in the classroom. Often a lack of hardware and software combines with a shortage of curriculum time in a way that frustrates attempts to innovate. Furthermore there are problems with the availability of teaching assistants and technicians who might support individual and group work and provide guidance on how hardware and software can be used. Whilst some of these economic factors are linked to local and national educational policy, others are embedded within institutional habitus, with some schools choosing to prioritise traditional literacy practices in terms of resource.
Whilst there were, under New Labour governance in the early 21st century, moves to include multimodality in the literacy curriculum in the UK, the policy context remains resistant to more radical revision and the term can no longer be found in curriculum documents in England. Alongside the narrowing of the political focus in relation to literacy, there has been a corresponding withdrawal from the systematic funding of teachers’ professional development as budgets are devolved to individual schools, and this has led to a lack of resources for CPD in digital literacy.
When the barriers to curricular and pedagogical development are analysed in this way, rather than focusing on factors external and internal to teachers as two separate entities, it becomes clear that they work dialectically and that the strand that has normally been excluded from analyses of barriers to progress is the social and cultural dimension. In order to illustrate this, the factors identified in the most recent review of barriers to integration of ICT (Hew and Brush, 2007) are mapped in figure 6 against the areas discussed in the analysis above.
Table 5: Comparative analysis of barriers (Hew and Brush, 2007)
|Barriers to curricula and pedagogical change identified in this discussion
||Barriers to curricula and pedagogical change identified in Hew and Brush, 2007
|Social and cultural
||Attitudes and beliefs
Knowledge and skills
Whilst individual teachers’ attitudes and beliefs are shaped by the wider social and cultural context in which they work – this factor could arguably placed in the first box – Table 5 indicates that there has been a lack of attention in research on barriers to social and cultural issues. Strategies need to be developed that will enable educators to address some of the challenges faced in this area, alongside approaches that have been outlined to address the other areas, such as the provision of sufficient resourcing and professional development and changes to assessment regimes (Hew and Brush, 2007). The additional strategies need to counter social and cultural barriers could include, for instance, facilitating educators’ sustained critical analysis of media discourses around issues such as ‘toxic childhoods’ or engaging with teachers in collaborative research projects which explore the way in which the public/ private divide is changing for children in contemporary society and analyse the implications for their classrooms.
126.96.36.199 References/Links to Further Resources
Bruns, A. (2006).Towards produsage: Futures for user-led content production. In F. Sudweeks, H. Hrachovec, and C. Ess (eds.), Proceedings: Cultural Attitudes towards Communication and Technology 2006, Perth: Murdoch University, pp. 275-84
Burnett, C. and Merchant, G. (2011) ‘Is there a space for critical literacy in the context of social media?’ English Teaching, Practice and Critique, 10(1) 41-57
Ertmer, P.A. (1999) Addressing first- and second-order barriers to change: Strategies for technology integration. Educational Technology, Research and Development, 47, 4, pp47-61.
Green, H. and Hannon. C. (2007) Their Space Education for a digital generation.” Accessed 5/11/12 at: http://www.demos.co.uk/files/Their%20space%20-%20web.pdf
Green, B. (2006) English, literacy, rhetoric: Changing the project? English in Education, 40, 1pp7-19.
Hennessy, S., Ruthven, K., Brindley, S. (2005) Teacher perspectives on integrating ICT into subject teaching: commitment, constraints, caution, and change. Journal of Curriculum Studies, 27:2, pp155-192.
Hew, K. F., & Brush, T. (2007). Integrating technology into K-12 teaching: Current knowledge gaps and recommendations for future research. Educational Technology Research and Development, 55, 223-252.
Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2006). New literacies: Everyday practices and classroom learning (2nd ed). Maidenhead, Berkshire: Open University Press.
Kress, G. (2006) Editorial. English in Education, 40, 1, pp1-4. Accessed 5/11/12 at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/eie.2006.40.issue-1/issuetoc
Merchant 2012 “I Oversee What the Children Are Doing”: Challenging Literacy Pedagogy in Virtual Worlds in Merchant, G, Gillen, J, Marsh, J & Davies, J. (eds) ‘Virtual literacies: interactive spaces for children and young people.’ London: Routledge.
National School Boards Association. (2007). Creating and connecting: Research and guidelines on online social—and educational—networking.US Study Alexandria, VA. Accessed 5/11/12 at: http://www.nsba.org/site/docs/41400/41340.pdf
Selwyn, N. and Facer, K. (2007) Beyond the digital divide: Rethinking digital inclusion for the 21st century. Bristol: Futurelab. Accessed 5/11/12 at: http://archive.futurelab.org.uk/resources/publications-reports-articles/opening-education-reports/Opening-Education-Report548
Valentine, G., Marsh, J. and Pattie, C. (2005) Children and Young People’s Home Use of ICT for Educational Purposes: The Impact on Attainment at Key Stages 1-4. London: HMSO