Little Green Librarian

Blogging my way through a Masters in Teacher Librarianship at CSU!

Digital literature environments: Exploring the possibilities


A person using a tablet computer.

When I completed my initial teacher training, over ten years ago, digital literature was only just beginning to be discussed in the context of education. In those days, incorporating digital content into a lesson was a risky business, due to the inevitable technical issues of having only two computers in your classroom that may or may not have been connected to the intranet, let alone the internet, on any given day. Even booking a time slot in the computer room didn’t guarantee that the digital content you might have wanted students to engage with could be delivered. As a result, many teachers incorporated digital elements into their lessons in the most shallow of ways, (publishing a piece of writing on the computer, playing an “educational computer game”, or messing about in Microsoft Paint or KidPix) just in case something went wrong and they needed to fall back on their Plan B.

Fast forward to the present day, and you could be forgiven for believing that the best part of a century had gone by, rather than a mere decade. The rate of change in the technology we use is much faster than it has been in the past (Darnton, 2009, p21). So fast, in fact, that educational policy and curriculum reform can hardly keep up (Leu, McVerry, O’Byrne, Kiili, Zawilinski, Everett-Cacopardo, Kennedy & Forzani, 2011, p8). Unfortunately, this means that the digital literature environments in our classrooms are generally still not a reflection of the collaborative, creative digital literature environments that our students engage with elsewhere on a daily basis.

Coming into this subject, I had a basic understanding of some aspects of digital literature environments. In my work at a New South Wales government primary school, I deal with digital accessibility issues for students on a daily basis, and have been trying to meet the demands of the Australian Curriculum for multimodal texts, while maintaining a standard of quality that I would enforce for all non-digital texts I select. However, my initial readings have taught me a lot already about digital literature environments. Of particular interest have been the suggested selection criteria for digital texts (Yokota & Teale, 2014, p580) and the exposure to digital text formats I was only peripherally aware of, such as digital graphic novels (Moorefield-Lang & Gavigan, 2012), enhanced e-books (James & deKock, 2013) and transmedia novels (Lamb, 2011).

Some of the readings have also challenged my thinking about what constitutes a digital literature experience. For example, the idea of the real-time digital banter (that a person might today engage in on, for example, a Facebook thread or a private message application) being considered a performance of a work (Rettberg, 2012) provided food for thought about possible classroom application.

I believe that most teachers want to utilise digital content in their classrooms, but many either approach it as a consumable to entertain students or cannot find the time to explore the varied options available, so only use what is familiar to them. Both approaches are insufficient if we want to move beyond the shallows and pursue depth with our students in digital literature environments. I look forward to learning more about the tools and strategies teachers can use to bring digital texts to their classrooms, and the role of the teacher librarian in both curating digital literature for students and helping to manage the shift in thinking required to give digital literature environments and tools the place they deserve in schools.



Darnton, R. (2009). The information landscape in The case for books: Past, present, and future (pp. 21-41). New York: PublicAffairs.

James, R., & de Kock, L. (2013). The digital David and the Gutenberg Goliath: The rise of the ‘enhanced’ e-book. English Academy Review, 30(1), 107-123. doi: 10.1080/10131752.2013.783394

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning & Leading with Technology, 39(3), 12-17.

Leu, D. J., McVerry, J. G., O’Byrne, W. I., Kiili, C., Zawilinski, L., Everett-Cacopardo, H., Kennedy, C. & Forzani, E. (2011). The new literacies of online reading comprehension: Expanding the literacy and learning curriculum. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(1), 5-14. doi: 10.1598/JAAL.55.1.1

Moorefield-Lang, H., & Gavigan, K. (2012). These aren’t your father’s funny pages: The new world of digital graphic novels. Knowledge Quest, 40(3), 30-35.

Rettberg, J.W. (2012). Electronic literature seen from a distance: the beginnings of a field. Retrieved from

Yokota, J., & Teale, W. H. (2014). Picture books and the digital world: Educators making informed choices. The Reading Teacher, 67(8), 577-585. doi: 10.1002/trtr.1262


Image source: Tablet by fancycrave1. Public Domain.

One Comment to

“Digital literature environments: Exploring the possibilities”

  1. August 24th, 2015 at 6:55 am      Reply Lee FitzGerald Says:


    This is a well written, practical and thoughtful reflection on the awareness of digital literature you brought to this subject, and a well supported statement about what you are learning about the development over the last ten years in digital literature (even the last two weeks, probably!)

    You use scholarly conventions very well, with no errors that I can see. You are well on the way to doing the digital literature reviews and reflection, specially the first part of the reflection. You’ve mentioned some criteria against which to evaluate digital texts, and that you’ve experienced some new formats. There are also criteria for evaluation in the assignment description.

    Your choice of 3 texts might come from the categories you mention above (and could be aided by our bookshelf on Goodreads at; one of these might be the digital text you recommend in part 2 of the reflection – recommending one for inclusion in a program at your school.

    Well done.

    INF533 Subject Coordinator

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