The Classroom Divide – What does it look like and what can we do about it?

 

Pexels / Pixabay – Classroom divide – How is your classroom divided?

 

For a period of time, society was of the opinion that people who grew up with technology would naturally be comfortable and confident using it as it was their native ‘language’.   These technically savvy individuals would require minimal instruction on digital literacy because as a cohort, they would approach digital technologies with intuitiveness and instinct.  

 

But that assumption was WRONG!  

 

Not just kinda wrong ..

BUT

EPICALLY WRONG!

Think

BIGGER THAN

CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

KIND OF WRONG.

 

But I digress… 

The myth of the digital native and digital immigrant has been thoroughly debunked (Kirschner & De Bruyckere, 2017).  They myth assumed that technology competence was inherent because of life long exposure to digital technologies (Frawley, 2020).  This bias is  based upon the common image of students permanently attached to their devices for social and personal practices, and does not translate to ICT proficiency in an educational setting (Brown & Czerniewicz, 2011).  

 

Day (2012) suggests that the theorised cause of the previous digital divide was between those with computer access and those without.  But most teachers would disagree.  Many students have access to smartphones and tablets for personal use and they are still flummoxed at using technology in their schooling.  It appears there is a clear lack of translation from social use of devices and technology to educational practices.  This is observable in the way students are familiar with keyboards for gaming purposes, but very few are highly accomplished at touch typing (onlinetyping.org, 2020).  It amazes me how some students can deftly play online games and switch their screens in milliseconds to avoid detection, but are unable to create and save a document to find at a later date.  Others can create a TikTok video, but do not understand the mechanics of boolean operators to search databases.  I have students that can surf the web for hours but are unable to read an article online in depth and the list just goes on….  All these examples clearly show that any correlations of age should not be translated to an assumption of digital literacy.   Digital literacy, as I have expounded on before, are the psychomotor, cognitive and affective skills required to use digital technologies successfully (McMahon, 2014, p.525).  Students and their parents who are technology savvy are more adept at navigating the digital world (Day, 2012). 

 

How the divide manifests: 

Educational professionals around the world have realised the impact the digital divide has had on learning outcomes (Steele, 2018).  In Australia, the divide was previously acknowledged in educational circles but has been brought to the forefront with the recent Coronavirus pandemic and corresponding school closures.  The nation wide school closures identified numerous students and their families who lacked access to personal devices and high speed internet at home (Coughlan, 2020).  Some students and families did attempt to stream online learning through mobile phone data but this method proved to be unrealistic and very costly (Coughlan, 2020).   Whilst most Educational Directorates across Australia provided their disadvantaged students with laptops and internet dongles, the process was often time consuming and bogged by red tape (Duffy, 2020).  

Students with a digital disadvantage often have a very different schooling experience than students who could be considered digitally elite.  The digitally elite are able to study from the comfort of their couch or their bedroom, in pleasant and safe surroundings (Steele, 2018).  The level of work produced by these students is higher and of better quality as they are not worrying about library opening hours, or stressed or anxious about getting home late.  Whereas students who are disadvantaged may hand in poorly conducted assignments because they were unable to research under optimal conditions (Steele, 2018).  Many teenagers are too embarrassed to be seen doing school work in the library when their friends are playing games, and some students who lack NBN, broadband internet and a desktop or laptop at home, persist in doing their assignments on their mobile phones, which leads to increased fatigue and eye strain. Many disadvantaged students would rather cite lack of interest in learning, or pretend to be apathetic than admit they do not have appropriate facilities at home and just stop trying to learn.  When you consider Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, it is clearly obvious that a student’s self actualisation is unlikely to occur if their personal safety and security is at risk (Hopper, 2020).   

Chiquo (2019) CC-BY-SA 4.0

 

Some critics would argue that personal devices such as smartphones are ubiquitous and allow anyone with a phone internet access.  Sung (2016) points out that whilst mobile phones do offer internet access, it is not conducive for conducting  research or in depth analysis of documents and as they tend to promote superficial features such as emails, social media and multimedia  (Sung, 2016).  

LoboStudioHamburg / Pixabay – Smartphones – Mostly social?

 

How to reduce the divide:  School based programs.

Education Magazine (2020) points out that the onus to reduce the divide are within the realm of federal and state government departments.  Currently, the most common method government bodies chose to address the digital gap is to supply students with a personal device such as a laptop or tablet (Jervis-Bardy, 2020).  But Steele (2018), Day (2012), and Boss (2016) all agree that bridging the divide goes beyond just supplying students with devices as simply handing each student a device does not build critical thinking and digital citizenship.  But the explicit teaching of digital literacy across all learning areas, would not only have a greater impact on bridging the gap, it would also empower students to gain further digital knowledge and understanding (Steele, 2018; Lori, 2012).  

Whilst teaching students digital literacy is an essential step, it is important to also involve their parents opportunities that build ICT competence and digital literacy (Wolohan, 2016; Hiefield, 2018).  Wolohan (2016) suggests that when schools and communities offer digital information sessions, it affords opportunities for parents who may also have low digital literacy a chance to broaden their knowledge and learning (Boss, 2016).  This then means that parents are able to assist their children with their learning at home, which improves technology integration, learning outcomes and bridges positive connections between school and home (Hiefield, 2018).  These sessions could also be used to inform families of any extra facilities and services that the school offers, such as extended library hours, homework help, as well as other local facilities such as public library and other community services (Wolohan, 2016). 

School libraries and teacher librarians are already involved with digital literacy pedagogical practices in numerous ways – as I have mentioned in this blog .  Another engaging and innovative way to boost digital literacy are digital or coding clubs.  Busteed & Sorenson (2015) suggest that lunchtime run digital clubs and programs are a fun and engaging way of teaching digital literacies and competencies at school. These clubs allow students to explore different computer programs and devices independently or in collaborative learning groups.  Lunch time clubs also open the door for many students, including digitally disadvantaged students,  a chance to explore emerging technologies that they may not normally get access to (Busteed & Sorenson, 2015).  As these clubs are predominantly social in nature, they do not have to conform to curriculum requirements, and this means students are able to explore their own interests instead of canon. Further school based options include ensuring a bank of spare devices for students who do not have access to their own, advocating for an extension of library opening hours outside school hours to allow students time to study, as well as explicitly teaching digital literacy skills as part of teaching and learning (Education Magazine, 2020). 

How to reduce the divide:  Classroom based learning.  

Teachers and educators should be encouraged to adapt their practices to reduce or minimise any unnecessary  ‘digital’ stress on their students.  Stress factors include take home assignments and feelings of overwhelm due to poor digital literacy skills.   Wolohan (2016) advises teachers to get to know their cohort and understand that whilst students may appear to be confident using their devices, it is not advisable to send large assignments home unless digital literacy and ICT facilities at home are assured.  Non submission of tasks could be due to lack of internet or even access to assistance from parents or caregivers, who may have low digital literacy skills and unable to assist their children with tasks (Wolohan, 2016). 

The other consideration classroom teachers and teacher librarians need to make is to acknowledge that each student’s ICT ability will vary and that our learning activities need to match their competencies.  This means that digital literacy needs to be differentiated the same manner as the rest of the curriculum (Wolohan, 2016).   One method is to identify students’ zone of proximal development, and create learning activities that are within that zone for optimal learning (Audley, 2018).  This method is far more efficient and beneficial than assuming capability or teaching at a fixed point.   

CONCLUSION

Steele (2018) feels like the greatest social ramification of the digital divide is that disadvantaged students will not get the same opportunities to be creative and inventive with digital technologies.  This means that the future scope of these students would be limited and possibly restricted in this new information paradigm to long term prospects of minimum wage.  Whereas students on the better half of the divide have unlimited access to information in the safety and comfort of their own home, the financial stability to access emerging technologies, increased opportunities to develop interest and skills in engaging and exploring these technologies.  Their long term prospects are far removed from their disadvantaged peers who often have to travel extensively to have the same access to technology and the internet.  This in itself is very limiting for many students and reduces their future educational and economic prospects.   As teachers and educators, we need to remember that schools are supposed to be the great equaliser, and to provide equal and equitable access to knowledge and learning.  Though in reality, we all know life and education is definitely not equal.  Government policies can often get influenced by political affiliations and can take time to come into effect.  But we as teachers have influence in our classrooms, and our actions and practice in the classroom can make a difference to improve the digital literacy of our students, improve student learning and reduce the width and depth of the digital divide. 

REFERENCES:

Audley, S. (2018). Partners as scaffolds. Teaching in the zone of proximal development. Teaching and Learning Together in Higher Education. 24. Retrieved from https://repository.brynmawr.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1186&context=tlthe

Boss, S. (2016). Engage parents as partners to close digital divide. Edutopia – Digital Divide [Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/engage-parents-partners-close-digital-divide-suzie-boss

Brown, C., & Czerniewicz, L. (2010) Debunking the digital native beyond digital apartheid, towards digital democracy. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (26) 5. p357-369. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2729.2010.00369.x

Busteed, B., & Sorenson, S. (2015). Many students lack access to computer science learning. Gallup Education. Retrieved from https://www.gallup.com/education/243416/students-lack-access-computer-science-learning.aspx

Coughlan, S. (2020). Digital poverty in schools where few have laptops. BBC News – Family and Education. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/education-52399589

Day, L. (2013). Bridging the new digital divide. Edutopia – Technology Integration [Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.edutopia.org/blog/bridging-the-new-digital-divide-lori-day

Duffy, C. (2020). Coronavirus opens up Australia’s digital divide with many school students left behind. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-12/coronavirus-covid19-remote-learning-students-digital-divide/12234454

Education Magazine. (2020). What is the digital divide and how is it impacting the education sector? The Education Magazine [blog]. Retrieved from https://www.theeducationmagazine.com/word-art/digital-divide-impacting-education-sector/

Frawley, J. (2017). The myth of the digital native. Teaching @ Sydney [blog]. University of Sydney. Retrieved from https://educational-innovation.sydney.edu.au/teaching@sydney/digital-native-myth/

Hiefield, M. (2018). Family tech nights can narrow the digital divide. E-School News. Retrieved from https://www.eschoolnews.com/2018/11/21/family-tech-nights-can-narrow-the-digital-divide/

Hopper, E. (2020). Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. ThoughtCo. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs-4582571

Kirschner, P., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching and Teacher Education 67, p.135-14

McMahon, M. (2014). Ensuring the development of digital literacy in higher education curricula. ECU Publications. Edith Cowan University. Retrieved from https://ro.ecu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1835&context=ecuworkspost2013

Online Typing.org. (2020). Average typing speed (WPM)[blog]. Retrieved from https://onlinetyping.org/blog/average-typing-speed.php

Sung, K. (2016). What’s lost when kids are under connected to the internet? KQED – Mindshift. Retrieved from https://www.kqed.org/mindshift/43601/whats-lost-when-kids-are-under-connected-to-the-internet

Steele, C. (2018). 5 ways the digital divide effects education.  Digital Divide Council. Retrieved from http://www.digitaldividecouncil.com/digital-divide-effects-on-education/

Wolohan, S. (2016). How teachers can provide equal learning in a world of unequal access. EdSurge – Diversity and Equity. Retrieved from https://www.edsurge.com/news/2016-04-13-how-teachers-can-provide-equal-learning-in-a-world-of-unequal-access

 

Digital native or digital elite? What is the cause of the digital divide?

geralt / Pixabay – The 3rd Millennium

The third millennium has clearly delineated a strong demarcation between people who are confident using digital technologies and those that are not. 

Prensky (2001) attributed this confidence to the time frame in which people were born, and described that those that grew up with technology are designated ‘digital native’, and those who had to be introduced to technology as ‘digital immigrants’ (Prensky, 2001; Houston, 2011).  Prensky (2001) stated that the modern student is digitally savvy because of their lifetime exposure to personal devices, the internet, and therefore will be highly competent using digital technologies in their personal, social and educational domains.  He predicted that ‘digital natives’ would have increased intuitiveness and competence when using digital media, and teachers need to adapt their pedagogical practices to reflect this paradigm (Prensky, 2001; Houston, 2011). 

Unfortunately reality is very different.  Not all modern students are competent and adept with using digital technologies, and the use of the terms native and immigrant, as well as the assumption of proficiency, has led to frustration and a deep digital divide in the classroom and the greater community.  

The terms digital ‘native’ and ‘immigrant’ itself are polemical.

Brown & Czerniewicz (2010) point out that by using these titles, society is polarising itself and categorising the former is fully adept using technology and the latter, a completely maladroit luddite.  The terms can also be viewed to some people as offensive, as both the words natives and immigrants have negative connotations when considered in tandem with colonisation and immigration policies in the western world (Brown & Czerniewicz, 2011).   Instead it seems more sensible that ICT competency be based and assessed upon ability and capability rather than age (Brown & Czerniewicz, 2011).  

The most pertinent factor that these generic terms fail to acknowledge is the impact of privilege on ICT acuity. 

The recent online learning experience clearly illustrated that it is the combination of these factors that affect ICT competence, not age or birth year (Brown & Czerniewicz, 2011). 

From a personal viewpoint it appears that ICT ability and acuity is more comparable to a continuum rather than polar opposites.  Individual and collective ability will vary depending on exposure to various software programs, frequency of use, access to devices and high speed internet in the home (Houston, 2011).  It is simply ludicrous to assume familiarity with one program means virtuosity over all (Frawley, 2020).  

For example, I would call myself competent when I use Windows or android devices, but am a complete tech-tard when it comes to Apple and Mac products because I am unfamiliar with them.  I am fluent in Facebook, Instagram and Microsoft 365, but ignorant of TikTok, Snapchat and Minecraft.  I may know the intricacies of a few programs and basics of many more, I am often completely unaware of any enhanced functionalities of how these programs can be used for social or educational purposes (Kirschner & De Bruyckere, 2017, p.136).  By the same benchmark, I am comfortable with using many different forms of digital literature but would flounder if asked to create a hypertext digital narrative with embedded multimodal features.  By Prensky’s parameters I am classified as a digital native as I was born after the onset of the information revolution, but since I don’t know how to play minecraft, lack a TikTok account and still listen to the radio, my year 7 students think the dinosaurs were around at my birth (Prensky, 2001)…. See… continuum

This digital divide and inequality of access has proven to be a major issue for many families and households in Australia, as it is well known that teenagers who are not actively engaged in education, employment or training are most likely to be digitally disengaged (Helsper & Smirnova, 2019).  This is because most educational institutions offer their students unlimited internet access through onsite wifi. 

geralt / Pixabay – Schools and libraries provide equitable access to digital technologies.

 

The current Coronavirus pandemic and corresponding lock down restrictions have highlighted the disparity between that socio-economic status and residential postcodes and corresponding impact on a person’s ICT competency and educational success (DIIS, 2016; Thomas et al., 2018).  The shutdown of schools, libraries and other educational institutions have shown that people who live in lower SES communities, or in rural and remote areas, recent immigrants and refugees, as well as First Nations peoples are significantly more disadvantaged when it comes to access and ICT competency (DIIS, 2016; Thomas et al., 2018).  Reasons cited include insufficient funds to purchase personal devices and access to high speed internet, living in shared housing or remote areas, loss of employment and lack of a fixed address (DIIS, 2016; Thomas et al., 2018).  

geralt / Pixabay – Coronavirus closures.

 

Community leaders and social organisations are very concerned with further disenfranchisement arising from the Coronavirus pandemic and the corresponding closures of schools, libraries, governments and social organisations shopfronts (Alam & Imran, 2015).  This means that socially disadvantaged individuals are even further inconvenienced by their lack of ICT knowledge and access (Alam & Imran, 2015).   For young people, these closures have extended ramifications as they are conscious of their lack of access and often end up feeling marginalised and excluded, due to their inability to have an active participation in a digital society (Helsper & Smirnova, 2019). (For more information on inequalities in digital interactions click here!)

The term digital native is now considered obsolete by most reputable educational professionals (Frawley, 2017).  Brown & Czerniewicz (2010) clearly indicate that age is not an indicator of ICT acuity but rather access to devices and the internet is what defines digital adroitness.  Instead of using the terms ‘native’ and ‘immigrant’, Brown & Czerniewicz (2010) advocate the terms ‘elite’ and ‘stranger’, as it seems financial security is a greater indicator of digital acuity than age . 

Digitally elite students have unlimited out of school access to ICT through personal devices, high speed internet, and electricity, whereas digital strangers have limited access to ICT and the internet once they are no longer on their educational or professional site (Brown & Czerniewicz, 2011).  These digital strangers are often of lower socio-economic status, lack digital technology at home and rely on public services such as libraries to access the digital world (Alam & Imran, 2015; Baker, 2019).  This digital disadvantage can often be exacerbated by a lack of English as they are unable to participate in community run computer courses (Alam & Imran, 2015).  The combination of lack of access and an inability to communicate can increase social exclusion, inhibit full participation in society as well as lead to further marginalisation and division in society (Alam & Imran, 2015).  

In conclusion – the terms digital native and immigrant are no longer valid.  Digital acuity and competence is instead based upon a person’s access to digital technologies and high speed internet in their residence, which is directly correlated to financial stability and urban living.  By assuming someone’s digital ability based upon their age, teachers and educators are disadvantaging their students and reducing their learning potential.

Stay tuned for Round 2 – The Classroom Divide.

REFERENCES:

Alam, K. & Imran, S. (2015). The digital divide and social inclusion among refugee migrants; A case in regional Australia. Information Technology & People, 28(2), pp.344-365. Retrieved from https://eprints.usq.edu.au/27373/1/Alam_Imran_ITP_v28n2_AV.pdf

Baker, E. (2019). Digital access divide grows in disadvantaged communities. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-08-12/digital-access-divide-grows-among-disadvantaged-tasmanians/11402218

Coughlan, S. (2020). Digital poverty in schools where few have laptops. BBC News – Family and Education. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/education-52399589

De Bruyckere, P. (2019). Myth busting: children are digital natives. ResearchEd News. [Blog]. Retrieved from https://researched.org.uk/myth-busting-children-are-digital-natives/

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. (2016). Australia’s digital economy update. Retrieved from https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2016/05/apo-nid66202-1210631.pdf

Duffy, C. (2020). Coronavirus opens up Australia’s digital divide with many school students left behind. ABC News. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-05-12/coronavirus-covid19-remote-learning-students-digital-divide/12234454

Education Magazine. (2020). What is the digital divide and how is it impacting the education sector? The Education Magazine [blog]. Retrieved from https://www.theeducationmagazine.com/word-art/digital-divide-impacting-education-sector/

Frawley, J. (2017). The myth of the digital native. Teaching @ Sydney [blog]. University of Sydney. Retrieved from https://educational-innovation.sydney.edu.au/teaching@sydney/digital-native-myth/

Kang, C. (2016). Bridging the digital divide that leaves schoolchildren behind. New York Times – Technology. Retrieved from  https://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/23/technology/fcc-internet-access-school.html?_r=0

Kirschner, P., & De Bruyckere, P. (2017). The myths of the digital native and the multitasker. Teaching and Teacher Education 67, p.135-142

Helsper & Smirnova. (2020). Chapter 9. Youth inequalities in digital interactions and well being. Education 21st Century Children: Emotional Wellbeing in the Digital Age. OECD iLibrary. Retrieved from https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/d0dd54a9-en/index.html?itemId=/content/component/d0dd54a9-en

Holt, S. (2018). 6 Practical strategies for teaching across the digital divide.  NEO BLOG. Retrieved from https://blog.neolms.com/6-practical-strategies-teaching-across-digital-divide/

Houston, C. (2011). Digital Books for Digital Natives. Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children, 9(3), 39–42.

McMahon, M. (2014). Ensuring the development of digital literacy in higher education curricula. ECU Publications. Edith Cowan University. Retrieved from https://ro.ecu.edu.au/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1835&context=ecuworkspost2013

Miller, H. (2017). The myth of the digital native generation. E-Learning Inside. Retrieved from https://news.elearninginside.com/myth-digital-native-generation/

Online Typing.org. (2020). Average typing speed (WPM)[blog]. Retrieved from https://onlinetyping.org/blog/average-typing-speed.php

Pontefract, D. (2017). The fallacy of digital natives. Pontefract Group [Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.danpontefract.com/the-fallacy-of-digital-natives/

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. Marckprensky.com. Retrieved from https://marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Steele, C. (2018). 5 ways the digital divide effects education.  Digital Divide Council. Retrieved from http://www.digitaldividecouncil.com/digital-divide-effects-on-education/

Thomas, J., Barraket, J., Wilson, C., Cook, K., Louie, Y., Holcombe-James, I., Ewing, S., and MacDonald, T. (2018). Measuring Australia’s Digital Divide: The Australian Digital Inclusion Index 2018. RMIT University, Melbourne, DOI: https://doi.org/10.25916/5b594e4475a00

The evolving nature of literature for the digital classroom.

DarkWorkX / Pixabay

 

The advent of technology, the internet and plethora of personal devices has forever changed the world and in turn, the paradigm of a secondary classroom. 

Whilst teenagers and society in general have embraced technology in its multiple forms for personal, social and recreational purposes, Education Departments and schools are often delayed in their digital pedagogical practices.  This delay in the embedding of digital technologies and literature has exacerbated the disparity between the information literacy skills that society demands, and the ability students have when they finish school.

This digital gap is even further widened in areas of lower socio-economic success, rural and remote communities, and First Nations peoples, who lack the personal means and access to devices and reliable internet connections (DIIS, 2016).  

For further information on the deepening of Australia's digital divide .. click here!

MCEETYA made a concerted effort to address this disparity by advocating for the embedding of ICT in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians .  The argument put forward by the creators of this declaration, was that ICT is an essential skill required for active citizenship in a digitally rich information society (MCEETYA, 2008)Therefore ICT skills and competencies are essential to ensure each student is able to gain entry into this new paradigm.  ACARA’s response to this declaration was to create curriculum learning outcomes that allow students opportunities to access, analyse, modify and create a range of hybrid, digital and multimodal tasks (ACARA, 2018).  Examples of these include access to digital literature for classroom activities, explicit teaching of new literacies and assessments that require students to explore, create and analyse multimodal texts.  

The simplest form to introduce students to digital literature is within classroom practice.  Digital literature can be defined as texts that utilise computer technology and a device in order to access and engage with the text (Rettberg, 2012).  Unfortunately this may be a limiting factor for many students and schools that lack the financial means to secure devices and internet connectivity.  This issue became glaringly obvious in the recent nationwide school lock down which shifted learning to from onsite to online. 

Check out this article by the ABC published back in March 2020. 

Coronavirus opens education’s digital divide, as COVID-19 forces schools into online learning 

The level of computation associated with the digital literature varies with the device and format.  It can range from the most simple form of a scanned book on a website, to the interactive hypertext narratives with multimodal features in a mobile application (Maneti, Lipscombe & Kervin, 2018; Rettberg, 2012).  The middle of this digital literature continuum contains genres or hybrid genres such as e-stories, linear e-narratives, interactive stories, hypertext narratives and electronic games narratives (Walsh, 2013).  

My own knowledge of digital literature is rudimentary at best as I am strictly a user of digital content rather than being a creator – though this blog would be the only exception to the rule.  Whilst I do use my kindle and am able to engage with digital texts, it is a matter of expediency rather than personal pleasure.  By that token, I prefer reading digital texts rather than listening to audio-books and am  completely disinclined to use digital narratives (or anything that is non linear in nature) as I find those sources too overwhelming for indepth analysis.  But as a teacher librarian I need to be aware of the various formats and educate myself as to their benefits to student’s learning and literacy.

  The irony is that this Masters course has caused me to test, trial and experiment with more digital media than I ever would have in my life!  

Over the next few weeks I will be reviewing several different examples of digital literature that can be used in classroom practice as part of my own learning journey into literature in the digital space.   Each review will discuss the source’s value to the curriculum, to learning and literacy and to digital competency.

References:

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority. (2018). Literacy. In Australian Curriculum – General Capabilities. Retrieved from https://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/f-10-curriculum/general-capabilities/literacy/

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (2016). Australia’s digital economy update. Retrieved from https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2016/05/apo-nid66202-1210631.pdf

Mantei, J., Kipscombe, K., & Kervin, L. (2018). Literature in a digital environment (Ch. 13). In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers. Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA)

MCEETYA (2008) Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians. Curriculum Corporation. Australia. Retrieved from http://www.curriculum.edu.au/verve/_resources/national_declaration_on_the_educational_goals_for_young_australians.pdf

Rettberg, J.W. (2012). Electronic literature seen from a distance: the beginnings of a field. Retrieved from http://www.dichtung-digital.org/2012/41/walker-rettberg.htm

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment (Ch. 13). In L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers. Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Austr

Augmented Reality – Part 7 – Contraindications, Limitations and Future Implications

CONTRAINDICATIONS AND LIMITATIONS OF AUGMENTED REALITY USE IN THE CLASSROOM 

There are a few issues with implementing innovative teaching practices such as AR into classrooms.  These reasons include misconceptions with using ICT in the classroom, teacher reluctance and insufficient access to technology and the internet.

  1. MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT ICT IN THE CLASSROOM – There is a significant disinclination from some educators about the inclusion of digital technology into classroom practice.  This reluctance can stem from a belief that technology causes students to become passive in their learning and that encouraging the use of personal devices increases class distractions (Wu et al., 2013).  Saidin, Abd Hali & Yahaya (2015, p.1) disagree vehemently and argue that AR actually causes the learner to become more interactive with the learning content as it requires the student to think critically and be able to make meaning from their interactions.  Wu et al. (2017) suggests that the use of mobile phones promotes social interactivity and student collaboration when using through networked devices.  
  2. TEACHER RELUCTANCE – Many teachers are not comfortable with emerging technologies due to their own lack of knowledge with the medium (Pope, 2018a).  Wolz (2019, p.6) points out that teachers, like students, develop self efficacy from their own ability, observing others and verbal affirmation.  Self efficacy of teachers and educators is essential, as there is a strong correlation between teacher competence and inclusion of digital technologies in the classroom  (Wolz, 2019).  Saidin, Abd Hali & Yahaya (2015, p.1) argue that all teachers should be required to continuously keep abreast of new products as part of professional learning and development.   Unfortunately, requiring all teachers to be familiar and confident with emerging technologies is simply unfeasible.  Many teachers are already overworked and overwhelmed with their current workloads.  Therefore, it is more viable that each school has dedicated ICT teachers, or teacher librarians, that are tasked with embedding emerging technologies into classroom practice.  This method allows both classroom teachers and students to improve their digital literacy skills and develop ICT acuity concurrently.  For schools with a library, it makes sense to ensure the TL has self efficacy with AR/VR technology as most AR installations are sourced in their teaching and learning spaces.    
  3. DIGITAL DIVIDE – This is a significant hurdle to the implementation of digital technologies such as AR in Australian classrooms.  The high cost of technology has inhibited its diffusion across classrooms, but the recent rapid advancements and price has reduced this barrier significantly (Wolz, 2019, p.2).  It is not common for all students and schools to possess mobile devices and or have available data to have transactions with AR.  This issue is more common in rural areas and within lower socio-economic families and schools (DIIS, 2016).   The extent of the digital divide has been highlighted and under scrutiny by the recent COVID 19 school closures, where the lack of internet and device access caused many students to be unable to access home learning.  

 

IMPLICATIONS FOR THE FUTURE

Oddone (2019) and Zak (2014) suggest that VR and AR will become mainstream technology soon and it behooves educators to equip students with the necessary skills to maintain their digital literacy.  Previously access to these technologies was extremely expensive and many schools were unable to gain access due to lack of funds. However,  rapid changes in technology have led to a significant price reduction, but even with the decreased costs, AR installations are still out of reach for many schools.  For schools and educational institutions that can afford these emerging technologies, there are educators that lack confidence in their ability to use AR, and there are others that find the available AR content is not suited to the needs of their students (Wu et al., 2013, p.46).  Whilst centralising emerging technologies into the library addresses the lack of self efficacy of teachers, it does not solve the issue of unsuitable AR content.   

Hannah et al., (2019) proposes that schools create their own 3D content objects that suit their students and align to the curriculum as needed.  As part of this approach, images are curated and integrated into the library management system that shares knowledge and collaboration.  This method allows all the images that are created in the school by both staff and students to be stored for future use whilst acknowledging the authorship and intellectual property ownership of the images.  This proposition is an extension of Zak (2014) idea of using AR in information seeking as mentioned previously.   Whilst collection management is part of a librarian’s repertoire, the curation of 3D images requires new vocabulary and ontology, and requires further exploration of the relevant literature.  Therefore, it makes logical sense that AR installations and its other forms of hardware and software are centralised in the library and the teacher librarian tasked with cataloging the 3D images, embedding AR and other emerging technologies across the curriculum.  

Augmented Reality in the Classroom – Part 6 – Role of the TL

Bit of a hiatus since the last post… I decided to go on holidays.

 

ROLE OF TEACHER LIBRARIAN

The library and the teacher librarian hold a central position in the school learning and teaching dynamic and thus are ideally positioned to engage in collaborative planning and teaching across the curriculum.  Like libraries, the role of the teacher librarian has evolved in response to the metamorphosis of repository spaces to information gateways.  ASLA (2016) clearly defines the foci of a modern teacher librarian to; learning and teaching, resourcing the curriculum, management of the library and its resources, providing leadership, collaborating with their peers and engaging with the school community.  

Even though libraries and the role of the teacher librarian has evolved, their main purview in a school has not changed.  Information seeking is the core of each school library, and the main point of the teacher in teacher librarian is  information literacy and the explicit teaching of ICT (ALIA & ASLA, 2004).  This teaching role extends to both staff and students, as teacher librarians are required to model good practice, and explicitly teach information seeking behaviour and information literacy to everyone in the school community (ALIA & ASLA, 2004; ALIA, 2014).  

All teachers in Australia are required to integrate technology into their teaching and learning, but many classroom educators are unaware of the benefits of emerging technologies such as AR and VR (AITSL, 2017).  Consequently, the task of educating staff about emerging technologies falls onto the teacher librarian.  This is because teacher librarians are required by ALIA & ASLA (2014), ALIA (2014) and ASLA (2014) to be familiar with emerging technologies, provide access to and integrate them into library practice, programs as well as support the school community in using them effectively.  

There are many traditional ways of introducing these technologies, such as staff emails or meetings, but there are innovative ways of introducing emerging technologies to the school community.  Townsdin & Whitmer (2017) suggested AR embedded library marketing as an effective way of promoting the library and its services whilst improving information literacy, whereas Wolz (2019) points out that using AR in information seeking covertly introduces colleagues to the technology whilst they overtly search the catalogue.  Pope (2018a) proposes that AR can be introduced through team building exercises, and Zak (2014) suggests the use of AR embedded resources as an effective method of introducing AR into classroom practice.   

Whilst all those listed are valid methods of introducing the school community to new technologies, the most effective manner is by using AR embedded classroom resources.  By using emerging technologies in teaching resources, students and staff are gaining access to high quality information that meets curriculum needs and student development.  The secondary and almost furtive asset is that students gain access to these new technologies and are given opportunities to experiment in a low stakes environment.  This tactic also gives classroom teachers an opportunity to experiment and play with the technology themselves, so that they can effectively use them in their classrooms (Zak, 2014).   From a library management position, teacher librarians are required to regularly evaluate their strategies and services to ensure that it meets the needs of their community, and this extends to AR programming and resourcing  (Zak, 2014).  This evaluation must also broaden to include any mobile applications, 3D image repository or hardware that the library choses to maintain as part of their collection and digital technologies program (Zak, 2014). 

Augmented Reality in a school library – Part 5.

So far I have covered ways in which emerging technologies such as AR can be incorporated into the classroom.  This next section is about this technology can be used in school libraries as part of resource management, pedagogical practices and collaborative learning.

ROLE OF THE LIBRARY

School libraries and teacher librarians play a pivotal role in technology access.  School libraries have long been known for providing equitable access for information (ALIA, 2014).  The digital revolution has changed the primary purpose of libraries from information repositories to being gateways to knowledge.  This is because a library collection is no longer limited to print texts but now extends to including ebooks, digital resources,online databases and emerging technologies.  Consequently, by extending this access to emerging technologies like AR and VR, school libraries are building the value of their resources and concurrently, reducing the impact of the digital divide on their students (DIIS, 2016).  There are several ways in which a library can introduce emerging technologies such as AR to their patrons.  These include:

 

  1. AR EMBEDDED TEXTS – These resources are also the most cost efficient method of introducing AR technology to students,  as it enables them to experience the technology but without the associated costs of setting up hardware and software (Brigham, 2017; Foote, 2018).  Magana, Serrano & Rebello (2018, p. 526) cite clearly there is an increased student understanding when multimodal resources such as AR embedded information texts are used when compared to traditional texts. The reason why AR technology has increased efficacy in informational resources is that haptic feedback is non verbal and students focus on that as the primary source of information and the text provides the support (Magana, Serrano & Rebello, 2018).  This method is currently in place in most schools and academic libraries and some libraries offer a smart device loan scheme as well to assist with AR resources for offsite learning.
  2. MAKERSPACES – Makerspaces convert students from users of content to creators of knowledge as they allow students to pursue individual projects in and out of class time,  as well as facilitate independent and cross disciplinary learning (Slatter & Howard, 2013).  Many libraries have designated makerspace areas to facilitate creativity and critical learning and free play.  Pope (2018a) points out that free play should be encouraged as it allows users of all ages to learn through experimentation, even if the original point was educational or recreational in purpose.  These areas also allow teachers to experiment with new technology for their own personal benefit or to embed into their teaching practice (Slatter & Howard, 2013).
  3. AR INSTALLATIONS – An extension of makerspaces are AR installations.  These areas, known as sandbox programming, are permanently devoted to experimentation, exploration and demonstrations of AR/VR technology  (Townsdin & Whitmer, 2017).  Some examples of AR installations are TinkerLamp and zSpace. TinkerLamp was the forerunner of AR technology and required a screen, a projector, experimentation board and an interferometer (Furio et al., 2017, p.3).  Whereas the more modern zSpace consists of a computer, stylus and specialised glasses (Foote, 2018).                                                                                                                 Foote (2018) correctly points out that it is not cost effective to implement AR technology into every classroom, and that AR elements are best served through shared spaces such as the library.  But even then, these installations are not common in schools as Merge cubes, as they are very expensive and the latter is cheaper and more flexible for group use (Pope, 2018a).  
  4. LIBRARY OUTREACH AND MARKETING – Library tours, displays and other promotional programs have an immense capability for AR.  AR embedded posters and displays are an innovative method to engage students, and can convey useful information about seasonal events, special collection, library skills and services (Townsdin & Whitmer, 2017).  It is also possible to gamify library maps with embedded GPS tagging as a method of incentivising students to explore the various library spaces and facilities (Balci, 2017; Townsdin & Whitmer, 2017).  Besides being innovative, the use of mobile applications facilitates the collection of user data.  Library staff are able to analyse this data and use it to appraise student engagement, as well as illustrate the library’s effectiveness in adapting to advancements in technology (Townsdin & Whitmer, 2017). 
  5. INFORMATION SEEKING BEHAVIOUR –  There is scope for libraries to implement AR as part of their learning management system, the delivery of information and the provision of data (Zak, 2014).  The modern student has a preference for technology based practices and this extends to information seeking (Wolz, 2019). Zak (2014) suggests that by using emerging technologies as part of information seeking, libraries are speaking the same language as their clientele.

 

REFERENCES:

Australian Library and Information Association. (2014). Future of the Library and Information Science Profession. ALIA Futures. Retrieved from https://www.alia.org.au/sites/default/files/documents/advocacy/ALIA-Future-of-the-Profession-ALL.pdf

Balci, L. (2017). Using augmented reality to engage students in the library. Information Today Europe [Blog]. Retrieved from https://www.infotoday.eu/Articles/Editorial/Featured-Articles/Using-Augmented-Reality-to-engage-students-in-the-library-121763.aspx

Brigham, T. (2017). Reality check: Basics of augmented, virtual, and mixed reality. Medical Reference Services Quarterly (36) 2. Pp 171-178. DOI: 10.1080/02763869.2017.1293987

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science (2016). Australia’s digital economy update. Retrieved from https://apo.org.au/sites/default/files/resource-files/2016/05/apo-nid66202-1210631.pdf

Foote, C. (2018).  Is it real or is it VR? Exploring AR and VR tools. Computers in Libraries. Retrieved from http://web.b.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?vid=0&sid=6093ea4d-06fa-42b1-8400-75e5bd1dd875%40pdc-v-sessmgr03

Furio, D., Fleck, S., Bousquet, B., Guillet, JP., Canioni, L., & Hachet, M. (2017). HOBIT: Hybrid optical bench for innovative teaching. CHI’17 – Proceedings of the 2017 CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. Retrieved from https://hal.inria.fr/hal-01455510/file/HOBIT_CHI2017_authors.pdf

Magana, A., Serrano, M., & Rebello, N. (2018). A sequenced multimodal learning approach to support students’ development of conceptual learning. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 35 (4). DOI https://doi-org.ezproxy.csu.edu.au/10.1111/jcal.12356

Pope, H. (2018a). Virtual and augmented reality in libraries. Library Technology Reports – American Library Association, (54)6.

Slatter, D., & Howard, D. (2013). A place ot make, hack and learn: makerspaces in Australian public libraries. Journal of the Australian Library and Information Association, 62(4), pp.272-284. Retrieved from https://eprints.qut.edu.au/73071/1/73071.pdf

Townsdin, S., & Whitmer, W. (2017). Technology. Public Services Quarterly. 13. Pp190-199. DOI: 10.1080/15228959.2017.1338541

Wolz, K. (2019). Building faculty competence and self efficacy for using ZSpace virtual reality (VR) software in the classroom. All Regis University Theses. Retrieved from https://epublications.regis.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1930&context=theses

Zak, E. (2014). Do you believe in magic? Exploring the conceptualisation of augmented reality and its implication for the user in the field of library and information science.  Information Technology and Libraries.

Augmented Reality in the Classroom – Part 4

Continuing with the series….

More ways in which AR can be applied in a school dynamic. 

6. NUMERACY

Numeracy skills can be enhanced using AR.  Wu et al. (2013) suggest that students can learn geometry, trigonometry, spatial relationships and collaborative problem based learning by using AR to supplement their learning.  Technologies such as the combination of TinkerLamp and Kaleidoscope are popular in Europe and can be used to explore symmetries and congruence.  Whereas the mobile application – AR Measure kit is useful in measuring distances, trajectories, angles, height and estimating volume  (Cuendet, Bonnard, Do-Lenh & Dillenbourg, 2013).  

7. SUPPORT LITERARY ARTS

Hannah et al. (2019) cited several methods in which AR can support the literary arts curriculum.  Students are able to create or visit real or fictional sites using the digital interfaces such as Merge cubeso that connections between the content and the real world can be made.  For example, Shakespeare comes alive with a tour of Verona, Japanese medieval history can be taught by analysing the structure of Kokura Castle, and students can investigate the structure of a steam engine, all with a single mobile app, a smartphone or tablet and a Merge cube.  

8. VISUAL ARTS

A very interesting use of AR is the ability to access and engage in an authentic exploration of real objects in an artificial space (Wu et al. 2013).  Many art galleries and museums around the world already have embedded AR to allow users access to additional information about the display, for example, some places use QR codes to inform the user of additional information about the artist or exhibit (Coates, 2020).  From a classroom perspective, students can support their own creative pieces by embedding their rationale using Thinglink, Padlet or Metaverse, and use QR codes on their paintings, sculptures, photographs or collages to link it to their rationale (Zak, 2014) .  

9. LOCATION BASED LEARNING

Wu et al., (2013) suggests that location based learning, such as field trips and excursions, can be augmented by the use of AR.  As previously mentioned, many museums, galleries and other institutions have already adopted the use of AR in their spaces (Coates, 2020; Townsdin & Whitmer, 2017).   Some of them use the technology to provide additional information to the user about the collection, whereas other places use AR in their maps or tours  (Townsdin & Whitmer, 2017).  By including relevant information within the augmented space, it encourages more authentic learning, which in turn improves student engagement and learning outcomes (Wu et al., 2013). 

Emerging technologies have also been adopted by some council reserves and state national parks as a means to inform users about local flora and fauna.  Visitors are able to use their devices and their inbuilt GPS systems to access pertinent information about the site they are accessing (Townsdin & Whitmer, 2017).  Some sites also offer remote access and this can be very useful for excursion preparation or for revision purposes.  Remote access would also be of great assistance when students are unable to attend excursions or field trips due to illness or pandemics. 

10. ASSISTING STUDENTS WITH DIVERSE LEARNING NEEDS

Technology has often been cited as an effective intervention method for students with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and educators seek methods in which to meet cognitive, behavioural and developmental needs (Sahin, Keshav, Salisbury & Vahabzadeh, 2018).  Digital methods are often favoured  for ASD students, as they tend to have a preference for electronic media due to their predilection as visual learners (Mahayuddin & Mamat, 2019, p.2176-2177).  Additionally AR offers them an environment that supports the tangible manipulation of abstract ideals, as well as a visual image of the learning content, and standardised and predictable outcomes as routine and predictability is very important to students with ASD (Mahayuddin & Mamat, 2019, p.2176-2177; Sahin et al., 2018, p.1).   

AR and VR are also able to assist ASD students in developing their socio-emotional skills.  This technology allows students to experience the world and its environmental hazards as well as engage and interact with their peers in a socially controlled environment (Sahin et al., 2018, p.2; Riva, Banos, Botella, Mantovani & Gaggioli; 2016).   Whilst tablets and smartphones can be used, Sahin et al. (2018) suggests the use of SmartGlasses as they can be preloaded with social and behavioural coaching software.  Another benefit is that AR experiences can be tailored and adapted to suit student’s diverse needs, which is important as many experience high levels of anxiety when there is disruption to their learning plan.  

 

Augmented Reality in the classroom – Part 2

AR APPLICATIONS IN CLASSROOMS – Part 2 

The interactive and innovative nature of technology has often been cited as a positive influence on educational outcomes, and this benefit extends to the inclusion of AR in schooling (Oddone, 2019).   AR can be used to improve student engagement, address curriculum outcomes and increase digital literacy skills (Oddone, 2019; Saidin, Abd Hali & Yahaya, 2015).   It can be used in inquiry learning, recreational and informational reading, improving literacy and numeracy standards, developing STEM and ICT skills, supporting literary arts, visual arts and developing social emotional learning (Saidin, Abd Hali & Yahaya, 2015).  Like VR, AR expands learning beyond the textbook and classroom walls, as well as builds those critical digital literacy skills for life beyond the classroom (Wolz, 2019, p.3; Wu et al., 2014). 

The most sizable and unique benefit AR has on educational practices is that it uses 3D images to illustrate complex concepts to students (Zak, 2014).  By creating these images, AR enables the student to feel a sense of immediacy and immersion which fosters a realistic experience (Wu et al., 2013, p.44).  This realistic experience increases the frequency and depth of connections made between the student, the content and the real world (Hannah, Huber & Matei, 2019, p.278; Wu et al., 2013).  AR requires the user to activate the augmented data, therefore it can be described as student centred, contextual to the user and is a constructivist approach to education, and consequently aligns itself along the current prevalent pedagogical theories (Wolz, 2019, p.2; Zak, 2014).   Hence, when combined with holistic and authentic learning practices, AR has an immense capability to inspire affective learning. 

REFERENCES

Hannah, M., Huber, S., & Matei, S. (2019). Collecting virtual and augmented reality in the twenty first century library. Collection Management, 44 (2-4), pp.277-295. DOI: 10.1080/01462679.2019.1587673

Oddone, K. (2019). Even better than the real thing? Virtual and augmented reality in the school library. SCIS Connections. (110). Retrieved from https://www.scisdata.com/media/1921/scis-connections-110.pdf

Saidin, N. Abd Halim, N., & Yahaya, N. (2015). A review of research on augmented reality in education: Advantages and applications. International Education Studies, 8(13). Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.730.8456&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Wolz, K. (2019). Building faculty competence and self efficacy for using ZSpace virtual reality (VR) software in the classroom. All Regis University Theses. Retrieved from https://epublications.regis.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1930&context=theses

Wu, H., Lee, S., Chang, H., & Liang, J. (2013). Current status, opportunities and challenges of augmented realiy in education. Computers & Education, 62. Pp41-49. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.024

Zak, E. (2014). Do you believe in magic? Exploring the conceptualisation of augmented reality and its implication for the user in the field of library and information science.  Information Technology and Libraries.

Augmented Reality in the classroom- Part 1

zedinteractive / Pixabay

The technology revolution, pervasive use of the internet and plethora of personal devices have changed the way society engages in employment, recreation, education and personal endeavours.

Educators need to keep abreast of emerging technologies so that they can ensure students possess the necessary digital skills and strategies to thrive in the 21st century  (Wolz, 2019).  Emanating software such as augmented and virtual reality are being trialed by many teachers seeking methods in which to improve engagement, bolster ICT acuity and meet the needs of the modern student.  This article seeks to define AR, identify its role in pedagogical practice, role in meeting curriculum outcomes, and inferences of future applications.  

WHAT IS AR 

Augmented reality (AR) is when a computer generated layer of information is placed over a person’s experience of the world (Townsdin & Whitmer, 2017; Oddone, 2019).  Wu, Lee, Chang & Liang (2013) define AR as technology that uses accurate 3D visual representations to combine real with virtual worlds.  Generally viewed using mobile device applications or wearable computers, AR displays the augmented media in the form of images, sounds, videos, graphics or GPS data (Townsdin & Whitmer, 2017; Wu et al. 2013). At this point, AR is already in use within military machinery, theatre, flight navigation, entertainment industry and various mobile applications, i.e. Pokemon Go (Pope, 2018a; Townsdin & Whitmer, 2017).  There are two forms of AR.  The first  form is when an interaction is stimulated between an image and a smart device, and the second is when the GPS triggers the digital information over the user’s location (Oddone, 2019, p.3).  Whereas virtual reality (VR) is when a user is completely immersed into an artificial world with the aid of technology (Oddone, 2019).  This technology has the ability to flood the senses and trick the mind into believing that the user is actually experiencing the event.  

AR resources are activated by an application that ‘reads’ a QR code, image or illustration so that the interactive content is released.   Levski (2018) points out that this added material could be as simple as a hidden photo or video, but could also be animated sequences or even an embedded game.  The addition of these interactive elements is based upon the gamification principle, which relies on positive feedback to keep students motivated.  By supporting interaction between the real and virtual world, AR allows the user to actively manipulate a tangible interface and thus increase the learner engagement and boost information retention (Saidin, Abd Hali & Yahaya, 2015; Wolz, 2019).  This interaction means that AR is self paced, promotes independent learning and allows students to progress at their own cognitive capabilities.  There is great potential for AR in educational practices, it can be embedded into print or digital resources, used across disciplines, and its multimodal nature gives diverse learners multiple entry points into the content (Levski, 2018).  

References:

Levski, Y. (2018). 10 Augmented Reality Books That Will Blow Your Kid’s Mind. AppReal- VR [Blog]. Retrieved from https://appreal-vr.com/blog/10-best-augmented-reality-books/

Oddone, K. (2019). Even better than the real thing? Virtual and augmented reality in the school library. SCIS Connections. (110). Retrieved from https://www.scisdata.com/media/1921/scis-connections-110.pdf

Pope, H. (2018a). Virtual and augmented reality in libraries. Library Technology Reports – American Library Association, (54)6.

Saidin, N. Abd Halim, N., & Yahaya, N. (2015). A review of research on augmented reality in education: Advantages and applications. International Education Studies, 8(13). Retrieved from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.730.8456&rep=rep1&type=pdf

Townsdin, S., & Whitmer, W. (2017). Technology. Public Services Quarterly. 13. Pp190-199. DOI: 10.1080/15228959.2017.1338541

Wolz, K. (2019). Building faculty competence and self efficacy for using ZSpace virtual reality (VR) software in the classroom. All Regis University Theses. Retrieved from https://epublications.regis.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1930&context=theses

Wu, H., Lee, S., Chang, H., & Liang, J. (2013). Current status, opportunities and challenges of augmented realiy in education. Computers & Education, 62. Pp41-49. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1016/j.compedu.2012.10.024

The implications of using digital literature in a secondary schools

Read this! 

Change is inevitable and society has seen great changes to the way it functions.  The current technology revolution has changed the way people earn, communicate, work, live, study and recreate.  According to Vygotsky’s socio-cultural theory, reading and learning work symbiotically together with strong influences from language and technology (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  Therefore by this theory, changes in technology resonates how learning, language and literacy manifests in communities.  This is evident in the way the definition of literacy has expanded.  Previously the term ‘literate’ was used to describe individuals who were able to read and write.  But the current definition includes the skills and knowledge required to access, use, understand and express ideas, thoughts and feelings, across multiple modalities, and in all contexts of life (ACARA, 2014).  The broadening of the definition is directly related to the evolving nature of technology and its impact upon the way literature and books are read, comprehended and evaluated (Sargeant, 2015; Jabr, 2015). 

sik-life / Pixabay – The metamorphsis of the book

The concept of the book changes with every technology revolution and corresponding societal change.  From prehistoric stone tablets, to Ancient Egyptian papyrus and Roman vellum scrolls, to the innovative Gutenberg printing press, books have evolved with technology, and at each transformation, the reading paradigm changes (Mangen, Walgermo & Bronnick, 2013).  The modern definition of a book can include the traditional paper form, as well as electronic versions that can be read on devices such as mobile phones, tablets and laptops along with audiobooks, online books, and other digital products such as applications and websites (Springen, 2010).  This emergence of these new digital texts require additional skills and strategies in order for the reader to comprehend the narrative (Jabr, 2015; Mangen et al., 2013; Sekeres & Watson, 2011).  As part of evidence based practice, secondary school teachers are encouraged to adapt their pedagogical practices to address these technological and societal changes to ensure that their students possess the relevant skills and strategies to become active participants in society.  

geralt / Pixabay – A is for Apple, B is for Ball…

 

Reading has often been characterised as the product of an individual’s ability to decode and comprehend the text and is viewed as a fundamental human skill (Moore & Cahill, 2016, p.4). Engagement in reading is linked to improved student learning and long term academic success (Moore & Cahill, 2016; Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018). Unfortunately many teenagers and young adults are reluctant to read and this reluctance can impact their education as well as their social capital and identity formation (Moore & Cahill, 2016).  Many education departments across the world have increased funding for technology in schools to boost literacy and reading rates in an effort to halt declining literacy (Keen, 2016).  In turn, educators seek to identify pedagogical practices that will increase student motivation for reading and in turn, improve overall literacy.    

Technology has been often cited for its ability to improve educational outcomes due to its engaging format.  Morris & Cahill (2016) has determined that technology has a stronger preference in secondary compared to primary aged students.  Since motivation to read and cognitive experiences when reading works via a positive feedback mechanism, it makes sense that digital literature should lead to increased reading rates and improved literacy (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  Furthermore, Taylor (2018) suggests that the complex nature of digital storytelling is suitable for teenagers as they are familiar with using devices and are comfortable switching between screens and print.  

janeb13 / Pixabay – Portability of Ebooks

Technology in literature, also known as digital literature, encompasses ebooks, audiobooks, interactive media and mobile applications.  Each of these technologies, delivers narratives in their own individual way and requires a variety of skills and strategies for decoding and comprehension. Many teachers and teacher librarians are tasked with identifying technology based literature in an effort to increase engagement and improve educational outcomes.  

Sargeant (2015) defines an ebook as the static digitised version of a print text with its familiar features of virtual pages, book gutters and page turning animation.  Access to ebooks can occur both onsite and offsite as they can be retrieved and delivered digitally to mobile devices with embedded features (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  Examples include Kindle application, where ebooks purchased from Amazon can be accessed through, or BorrowBox and Wheelers, that allow for borrowing of titles and are often affiliated with public and school libraries.  Some ebooks for older readers have various levels of interactivity, such as hyperlinks and in built media are commonly found in secondary expository or information texts such as text books (Sargeant, 2015).   Their increased popularity with older readers is due to portability and ability to retain text anonymity (Dickenson, 2014).  But ebooks that are designed for younger and less literate readers have lower levels of interactivity and contain more skeuomorphic features to reduce distraction from the main point (Sargeant, 2015) . 

Jeon (2012) promotes the use of ebooks in schools as they support academic instruction, are time efficient as well as provide a dynamic and cost effective way of managing a collection. Ebooks can also be integrated into library management systems and thus are available for to be borrowed by students at any time, including in times of pandemics and forced isolation (Jeon, 2012).  These apps are designed to assist readers in retaining anonymity in title choice, as well as allow access to a wide range of reading levels which encourages independent reading and promotes bibliotherapy (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  

DariuszSankowski / Pixabay – Bibliotherapy

 

Audiobooks are increasing in popularity with readers from all generations (Moore & Cahill, 2016).  The most prevalent use of audiobooks in schools are, students with low literacy and learning difficulties as well as second language learners (Moore & Cahill, 2016, p.5).   Hiebert, as cited in Moore & Cahill (2016) argued that language and the fundamentals of narratives can be conveyed through auditory processes, as language-comprehension system in the brain permits text engagement and comprehension (p.3-4).  Other benefits to the implementation of audiobooks in teaching and learning processes include, improving vocabulary, promoting oral language, as well as strengthening links between oral and written literacies (Moore & Cahill, 2016, p.4).  Audiobooks can be easily accessed on personal devices and offer the same level of anonymity as achieved by ebooks.  Anonymity is very important in secondary schools, particularly for students with low literacy who need to access ‘different’ texts (Dickenson, 2014). 

sindrehsoereide / Pixabay – Listening = Reading

Whilst there are many different reasons why students struggle to read, the most common reasons in secondary schools include, insufficient vocabulary, incorrect decoding and a lack of fluency (Moore & Cahill, 2016, p.5).   Access to audiobooks allows students who struggle with the aforementioned inadequacies to engage with the text and develop their reading accuracy as well as potentially improving any behavioural management that arises from disengagement and disenfranchisement (Moore & Cahill, 2016, p.6).  Audiobooks address these needs and therefore it is possible to surmise that this technology is able to provide the reader the same rich experience that is afforded by print text.  

472301 / Pixabay – Mobile applications

 

Interactive media (IM) has exploded in recent years and this is impacting teaching and learning (Cullen, 2015).  Some examples of interactive media include digital books, online books, book applications and websites.  Lamb & Johnson (2010) argue that IM causes readers to shift from being passive receivers to active participants.  This is because IM is able to engage students in the content via multiple entry points and therefore encourages learning through experience and experimentation (Lamb & Johnson, 2010; Cullen, 2015).  IM narratives are able to tell dual stories, as well as bring the images to life whilst providing a brilliant way to connect emerging technologies to the curriculum (Cullen, 2015; Taylor, 2018).  

One example of IM are book applications (apps).  Book apps are software programs that are designed to engage students by delivering high levels of interactive media rich content (Sargeant, 2015).   They integrate multiple modes of communication so that the text and visuals are fused to create a story that requires the reader to transform into a user by their interaction in the narrative with a touch screen (Sargeant, 2015).  This process of action and outcome is based upon gamification principles already present in the rewards based system currently practiced across most school systems.  Gamification uses extrinsic motivation  in learning and teaching practice.  But Briggs (2016) cautions the use of gamification in assessment.  The reason for this caution is that the motivation to succeed arises from the low personal stakes the reader has with the text, as well as the elusive but reachable goals. 

 IM has the capacity to cater to the needs of a varied classroom because of a student’s ability to work at an individual pace and the multiple entry points allows for differentiation.  There is also a possibility for educators to use IM to create scenarios, as a mechanism to introduce students to new units of work, or introduce assessment pieces in an engaging format (Lamb & Johnson, 2010).  Cullen (2015) believes that application led learning bolsters motivation and engagement in students, which is essential for improved learning experiences and positive outcomes.   

RobertCheaib / Pixabay – Device distractions.

 

There are valid contraindications to the use of technology in educational settings.  Studies have shown comprehension is lower in narratives and expository texts when a device is used (Jeon, 2012; Mangen et al., 2013).  Jeon (2012) believes that within some forms of technology, the complex nature and formatting of the text causes too great a cognitive load on students and thus it negatively affects comprehension.  Hashim & VongKulluksn (2018) concur and point out that students often become distracted in their attempt to multitask on devices, which leads to decreased metacognitive regulation and reduces text completion.  

The format of text is also important for comprehension.  Digital literature in all forms have lower comprehension rates in comparison to traditional texts (Jeon, 2012; Mangen et al., 2013).  One of the other main reasons for this unfavourable comparison is visual ergonomics.  Visual ergonomics, such as lowered spatial stability, leads to a negative mental representation of the text (Mangen et al., 2013, p.66).  Good readers have a high mental recall of information positioning in text.  Consequently, limited mental representation restricts recall and makes it harder for students to construct new banks of knowledge from individual pieces of information. One suggestion to combat this limitation and to promote a more equitable approach in classrooms is to limit digital reading to short extracts only, and it to be of low stakes value rather than summative assessment (Mangen et al., 2013, p.66).  

I obviously have not taken my own advice and have written an epic instead of a synopsis!

Hashim & VongKulluksn (2018) suggests that whilst e-readers provide context and analysis, it lacks the social factor that discussion groups and literature circles provide. There is also an implication that educators fail to treat e-readers like they treat print texts, and therefore provide less scaffolding to students leading to lower comprehension rates.  This failure could be due to a lack of personal knowledge to the functionality of e-readers, or simply that teachers are not physically able to see how much of the text the student has engaged with and thus forget to offer assistance (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  Therefore, in the interests of equity, it is important that ebooks are scaffolded in the same way as a print books because, as students gain mastery in their reading, scaffolding can be adjusted to help their progress from a low to a higher mental function (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  

geralt / Pixabay – Pedagogy matters

 

There are other obstacles to using ebooks in educational settings.  Primarily, students are not motivated to use e-readers for learning.  This could be due to the fact that e-readers are no longer considered a novelty, that devices themselves are commonplace, and lastly, that traditional texts actually provide greater enjoyment than digital literature  (Hashim & VongKulluksn, 2018).  Ebooks have also been known to cause eye irritation which in turn reduces surface legibility, and increases eye strain and mental fatigue (Jeon, 2012).  These physical demands lead to an increased error rate and reduces overall comprehension, which in turn leads  to a lower perception of ereaders and ebooks (Jeon, 2012).  Other than diminishing comprehension, ebooks can also be seen as tedious in comparison to other entertainment found on devices (Jeon, 2012). Though there is some suggestion that digital natives are resistant to these issues as they are more familiar with technology (Jeon, 2012). 

Some educators are reluctant to provide audiobooks to their students in lieu of print texts as they can be viewed as ‘cheating’.  But Dahl (2016) disagrees with and finds that audiobooks provide the same learning experience as reading after a certain level of literacy has been reached.  This is based upon the theory that the decoding specific to reading becomes instinctive after a certain point in literacy is achieved (Dahl, 2016).  The reasoning is that ‘reading comprehension’ is similar to ‘auditory comprehension’ and that echoic memory is comparable to the visual system of eye regression, though the concept of ‘flipping back’ is a bit more problematic in an audiobook (Dahl, 2016).  

The current predominate argument surrounding school is that digital media will engage reluctant readers and therefore improve learning outcomes (Springen, 2010; Cullen, 2015).  But some educators argue that these alternative texts lack equity as they are limited to students and schools with digital access and financial security (Sekeres & Watson, 2011).  Sekeres & Watson (2011) even go further to suggest that educators need to be aware that children are often targeted as consumers in their own right and therefore teachers need to be circumspect when they select digital literature that it actually leads to learning and not just entertainment. 

From a school collection perspective there are significant issues with ebooks and audiobooks, namely access and cost (O’Connell, Bates & Mitchell, 2015).  This is due to the fact that both ebooks and audiobooks require a personal device such as a mobile phone or tablet and many younger students do not have that level of access.  They also require a financial contribution and or a library membership, which again can be limiting for younger students to practice their digital literacy skills.  One suggestion to address the rising cost of digital literature is to promote public library memberships in schools.  Students who have library memberships at school, local and state libraries, have access to a wide range of texts in both print and digital formats.  Some larger institutions also offer electronic access to databases and periodicals which is very useful for secondary students.  This reduces the cost to the individual and school systems without limiting access to information.

Licencing and leasing are problematic when it comes to digital literature. Physical books are bought by the library, require no device to use, and are useful till the book gets lost, deselected or falls into disrepair.  Ebooks in comparison, are either downloaded (purchased), or borrowed and both require a device and the internet to be used.  These devices, such as iPods, ereaders, laptops and tablets can be quite expensive for school libraries and students to purchase and maintain (Gray, 2017).  Additionally, if a school library chooses to use a platform such as Borrowbox or Wheelers as their access point for ebooks and audiobooks, they are limited by that publisher’s collection as to what titles meet the developmental needs of the students and curriculum requirements (Gray, 2017).  Teacher librarians need to be cautious when selecting platforms for digital literature that they are not limiting their readers to resources based upon publishing contracts and nepotism.  Furthermore, the school may not own ‘loaned titles’ and may have to pay a leasing or access fee on a yearly basis.  So whilst there seems to be great flexibility, especially with regards to remote access, there can be some stringent financial restraints for schools when it comes to building a robust ebook and audiobook collection.  

O’Connell, Bates & Mitchell (2015) suggest that the goal of school libraries is to adapt to the digital needs of the student cohort, which means that the reading culture has to be addressed as well as ensuring a divergence of media is available.  Therefore, teacher librarians and school library collections are tasked with ensuring students are given ample access to the different forms of media for teaching and learning across the curriculum as well as for recreational purposes.  This means access to both traditional and digital forms of literature.  But promotion of wide reading programs and access to emerging literature trends needs to be buttressed by pedagogical practices that support reading and comprehension across the various domains.  

The question for teachers, teacher librarians and other educators is that will these new media forms benefit the teaching and learning practices in classrooms, and more specifically, secondary classrooms?  It is clearly evident that the information revolution has changed the way society is functioning.  Therefore it is important that students gain the skills and knowledge to succeed in this modern world.  From the evidence provided, secondary students are more receptive to digital literature because of its engaging format, portability and text anonymity.  But many lack the reading and comprehension skills to fully understand the nature of the text and therefore are at a literacy disadvantage.  Educators need to recall the importance of culture and tools in Vygotsky’s theory of learning and provide access to a range of literature across the various forms of media.  The reading paradigm has changed and teachers must change their teaching and learning to suit this new world.  

 

REFERENCES 

Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (2018). Literacy. In Australian Curriculum. Retrieved from http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/generalcapabilities/literacy/introduction/introduction

Dahl, M. (2016, August 10). To your brain, listening to a book is pretty much the same as reading it. The Cut. Retrieved from https://www.thecut.com/2016/08/listening-to-a-book-instead-of-reading-isnt-cheating.html

Dickenson, D. (2014). Children and reading: Literature review. Australia Council 2014. Retrieved August 2016.

Gray, M. (2017). Ebooks: To subscribe or not to subscribe? Connections, 101. Retrieved from scis.data.com/connections/issue-101/ebooks-to-subscribe-or-not-to-subscribe 

Hashim, A & VongKulluskn, V. (2018). E reader apps and reading engagement: A descriptive case study. Computers and Education, 125, pp.358-375. Retrieved from https://www.journals.elsevier.com/computers-and-education/

Jabr, F. (2013). The reading brain in the digital age: The science of paper versus screens. Scientific American

Jeon, H. (2012). A comparison of the influence of electronic books and paper books on reading comprehension, eye fatigue, and perception. The Electronic Library, 30(3), 390-408. doi: 10.1108/02640471211241663 

Keen, N. (2016). Stopping the slide: improving reading rates in the middle school. Connections, 99. Retrieved from https://www.scisdata.com/connections/issue-99/stopping-the-slide-improving-reading-rates-in-the-middle-school/

Lamb, A., & Johnson, L. (2010). Divergent convergence part 2: Cross-genre, multi-platform, transmedia experiences in school libraries.Teacher Librarian, 38(1), 64-69. Retrieved from http://teacherlibrarian.com/

Cullen, M. (2015, December 21). How is interactive media changing the way children learn. In EducationTechnology. Retrieved from https://educationtechnologysolutions.com.au/2015/12/how-is-interactive-media-changing-the-way-children-learn/

Mangen, A., Walgermo, B. R. & Bronnick, K.A. (2013). Reading linear texts on paper versus computer screen: Effects on reading comprehension. International Journal of Educational Research, 58, 61-68.doi:10.1016/j.ijer.2012.12.002 

Moore, J., & Cahill, M. (2016). Audiobooks; Legitimate ‘reading’ material for adolescents? Research Journal of the American Association of School Librarians. Retrieved from www.ala.org/aasl/slr/volume19/moore-cah

O’Connell, J., Bales, J., Mitchell, P. (2015). [R]Evolution in reading cultures: 2020 vision for school libraries. The Australian Library Journal, 63(3), 194-208. DOI: 10.1080/00049670.2015.1048043

Sargeant, B. (2015). What is an ebook? what is a book app? And why should we care? An analysis of contemporary picture books. Children’s Literature in education, 46, 454-466. doi: 10.1007/s10583-015-9243-5

Sekeres, D. c. & Watson, C. (2011). New literacies and multimediacy: The immersive universe of the 39 Clues. Children’s Literature in Education, 42, 256-273. Doi: 10.1007/s10583-011-9133-4

Springen, K. (2010, July 19). The digital revolution in children’s publishing. Publisher’s Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/childrens/childrens-industry-news/article/43879-the-digital-revolution-in-children-s-publishing.html.