Changing role of the teacher in an IT supported world

The issue of digital literacy segues neatly from that of the digital divide.  In fact, as indicated in parts of my previous summary, the two are almost inextricably intertwined (Partridge, 2007; Carr & O’Neill c.2007). In order for the digital divide to be eliminated, it is essential that digital literacy become more embedded in our education systems.  Hague and Williamson (2009, pg.4) state, “Formal education has a key part to play in preparing young people to participate in social life, learning and working in this increasingly dense landscape of technology and media developments.”  Therefore it is incumbent on our formal education system to examine closely two of the main areas of concern: the lack of research and reporting specific to digital literacy, and teacher efficacy, both their self-efficacy (partridge, 2007) and as guides and mentors for their students’ digital literacy.
In order to ‘bridge the divide’ students need to be able to “[use] information and communications technology (ICT) to gather and assess information, collaborate, innovate, think critically, and solve problems.” (eSchool news, August 14th, 2009)  The very source that this quote is drawn from, highlights one of the problems with any examination of digital literacy in our education system.  The eSchool News website (www.eschoolnews.com) is one of only two sources, that I was able to find, that deal explicitly with digital literacy as a school subject, especially in terms of assessing students’ literacy (Prabhu, 2010, April 2nd:  New test measures students’ digital literacy).  The fact that the articles within this website often have no acknowledged author, undermines the potential credibility of the information contained in the articles; as does the fact that the newsletter is also selling some of the products and resources to which it refers.  Additionally, as an American based publication, the issues and views in eSchool News can be somewhat parochial, and therefore limited in their relevance to an Australian discussion.  The second, and only other, topic-specific source I was able to find, itself highlights the lack of research and evidence in this area, saying, “To date, however, there is little research providing in depth evidence about how to effectively integrate digital literacy and digital participation in everyday school settings.” (Hague & Williamson, 2009, pg.8)
It is a logical inference, that if digital literacy is to be  integrated into the school setting (Hague & Williamson, 2009), then the teachers must be able to teach the required literacies to the students.  Both Hague & Williamson (2009) and, Carr and O’Neill (c.2007) highlight the central role that teachers have in educating students in the use of ICT, but more significantly the lack of teaching strategies, or pedagogies, that are being offered to teachers.  If students are to attain self-efficacy (Partridge, 2007) with digital literacies, the teachers need far greater resources than those currently on offer.  There is still a ‘war for hearts and minds to be won,’ as Carr and O’Neill (c.2007, pg.2) acknowledge, stating that one of the reasons ICT’s are not more widely utilised in the classroom is, “teacher attitudes and beliefs about ICT.”  There needs to be, then, greater research into effective digital literacy syllabus and pedagogy, so that teachers can be convinced with evidence of the importance of this literacy being included in the teaching environment.  There also needs to be greater education of teachers, both at a pedagogical design level (Hague and Williamson, 2009), as well as ensuring the teachers themselves have a high level of both literacy and confidence, or self-efficacy (Partridge, 2007), with ICT.
In conjunction with Partridge’s (2007) views about self-efficacy as the key to the digital divide; the overall lack of digital literacy syllabus, pedagogy, and assessment of digital literacies, is alarming.  There needs to be far greater research and examination of digital literacy.  This should include ongoing studies focussing on what is encompassed by the term digitally literate, in much the same way literacy in the English syllabus is constantly evolving.  Consideration needs to be given as to whether digital literacy should be a cross-curriculum strand, or whether America’s lead should be followed (eSchools News, February 2nd, 2010) by establishing a whole new Key Learning Area (KLA).  Once it has been empirically established why and how digital literacy is to be taught, there needs to be a decision made on how we are to establish the level of digital literacy a student has achieved.  One test (Prabhu, April 2nd, 2010) has been developed in and for America.  Australia may be able to incorporate such a test into NAPLAN, or another assessment model may prove more coherent with the national curriculum; there is currently no research available on this point.  Most glaringly apparent of all, we need to educate the educators.   
Carr, J. & O’Neill, P.  (n.d.-  c.2007)  Connected learners: Implications for teaching in a connected world  Available at http://education.qld.gov.au/learningplace/pdfs/acer-connected-learners.pdf  Accessed on 26/3/2010.
editor,  (2009, Aug 14th)  Measuring 21st Century skills  eSchool News, website.  Available at http://www.eschoolnews.com/2009/08/14/measuring-21st-century-skills-2/  Accessed on 30/3/2010

editor(s), (2010, Feb 2nd) Get an “A” on Your Report Card…Maximize Your Tech Investment.  eSchool News, website.  Available at http://www.eschoolnews.com/e/eSN/020210ResourceCenter.htm  Accessed on 30/3/2010

(2008, Oct 7th) On the way: Nation’s first tech-literacy exam  eSchool News, website.  Available at http://www.eschoolnews.com/2008/10/07/on-the-way-nations-first-tech-literacy-exam/?ast=18  Accessed on 29/3/2010

Hague, C. & Williamson, B.  (2009)  Digital participation, digital literacy, and school subjects  www.futurelab.org.uk  Available at http://www.evernote.com/shard/s18/res/9fa93f4e-5433-4361-be22-2ddbdcc248d2/HagueWilliamson.2009.DigitalParticipationDigitalLiteracyAndSchoolSubjects.pdf?search=digital+literacy  Accessed on 30/3/2010

Partridge, H.  2007.  Redefining the digital divide in the ’smart state’ Available at http://ausweb.scu.edu.au/aw07/papers/refereed/partridge/paper.html  Accessed on 26/3/2010.

Prabhu, Maya T.  (2010, April 2nd)  New test measures students’ digital literacy  eSchools News, website.  Available at http://www.eschoolnews.com/2010/04/02/new-test-measures-students-digital-literacy/  Accessed on 6/4/2010

How and when should, or can, digital literacy be assessed.  NAPLAN testsEnglish and Mathematical literacies – should there be a digital media component, if we are serious about preparing students to be active participants in a digitally geared society? 

USA developed test (http://www.eschoolnews.com/2010/04/02/new-test-measures-students-digital-literacy/).  It appears to be vocationally based, although claims to have academic level application also.  This is only one concrete example in a world that is increasingly digitally dependant; the research and creation of desired outcomes and assessment models is falling behind the need for them.

What about the rate of change in ICT’s?  There is a problem that a test set today, may be outdated by next year.  iPad released 4/4/2010 http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/04/04/2863758.htm.  Net-pads have already purchased for use in Stromlo high (lecture 6/4/2010).   If a testing regime is created to ensure a literacy level, consideration must be given to the compliance cost, in terms of hardware and software. 

This leads back to the digital divide issue.  If schools do not have the required resources, they can not effectively teach the required skills and thought processes.  If these are not taught, the cycle of divide will continue.

Who will teach the teachers?  “A lot of ICT CPD for teachers currently concentrates on skills training rather than the practice and pedagogy of using ICT effectively and thoughtfully.  (Page 28 of pdf) http://www.evernote.com/shard/s18/res/9fa93f4e-5433-4361-be22-2ddbdcc248d2/HagueWilliamson.2009.DigitalParticipationDigitalLiteracyAndSchoolSubjects.pdf?search=digital+literacy 

New teachers, like ourselves, are receiving intensive training to bring us ‘up to speed’.  What about teachers already practicing, who do not have this skill-set?  “there are wide variations in the confidence, skills and knowledge that individual teachers themselves possess around digital technology and media. (page 27 of pdf) http://www.evernote.com/shard/s18/res/9fa93f4e-5433-4361-be22-2ddbdcc248d2/HagueWilliamson.2009.DigitalParticipationDigitalLiteracyAndSchoolSubjects.pdf?search=digital+literacy 

“These [barriers] include: teacher attitudes and beliefs about ICT; access to ICT resources; teaching strategies and practices and adequate professional development with ICT.” http://education.qld.gov.au/learningplace/pdfs/acer-connected-learners.pdf 
Greg Black, CEO education.au discusses their view of a 6 point plan to improve ICT training & implementation in Australia. http://www.educationau.edu.au/der-skills-agenda This essentially lays out a broad plan for implementation at a system/school level, as well as creating a system to educate and support teachers in their use of ICTs in education.  This is an introductory level presentation, very little detail is offered.




Whose responsibility is is to guide children through internet research?  We have spent hours ensuring our 9 year old does not just copy & paste, we insist that she read, take notes and then reword the information she has found.  Is this process reinforced at school?  Can a teacher in a class of twenty-five children, realistically ensure that each and every child is following the full process?   The wealth of internet sites dovoted to instructing teachers how to instil these skills in their students, seem to make this a fore-gone conclusion. 

If we view the school curriculum as a set of skills, knowledge and understanding organised to prepare young people for“a flourishing personal and civic life” then it follows logically that the curriculum must respond to the challenges and opportunities that digital media provide.”  (page 5 of pdf) http://www.evernote.com/shard/s18/res/9fa93f4e-5433-4361-be22-2ddbdcc248d2/HagueWilliamson.2009.DigitalParticipationDigitalLiteracyAndSchoolSubjects.pdf?search=digital+literacy

We need to be concerned that research standards could drop (even further?).  If children have a limited set of resources (ie. a set of topic-relevant books in the classroom), the teacher can easily faliiarise themself with the contents & style, thus making it likely that any misinterpretation, mis-use, or plagiarism of a particular text will be picked up. 

Should parents, with widely varying access and skills themselves, be expected to guide children through the process of online research?  What product will result by mid, or end of schooling?  If it is the parents’ responsibility, are we just entrenching the digital divide, condemning children to live their parents’ experiences?

What about ethical issues?  “some critics claim that technology and media make it more likely for children to become voracious consumers, and think schools need to provide digital literacy skills to combat this.  (page 11 of pdf) http://www.evernote.com/shard/s18/res/9fa93f4e-5433-4361-be22-2ddbdcc248d2/HagueWilliamson.2009.DigitalParticipationDigitalLiteracyAndSchoolSubjects.pdf?search=digital+literacy  This is a socio-politically loaded point of view.

At high-school level, during school hours, who is, and who should be, responsible for digital media literacy?  It is increasingly falling to English teachers, as part of a broad ‘literacy’ definition, to educate students  on how to responsibly and effectively use the internet and other digital media to gather and process information.  In other words, to research using these new tools.  If the English teachers do not teach these literacies, then who should?  Perhaps there should be a whole stream of studies, a new KLA, to cover these skills.  USA seem to be going this way http://www.eschoolnews.com/e/eSN/020210ResourceCenter.htm.  They intend to introduce testing on Technology literacy in 2012. http://www.eschoolnews.com/2008/10/07/on-the-way-nations-first-tech-literacy-exam/?ast=18

Is there a model for ‘double marking’?  A system where one teacher instructs students in digital media literacies, but leaves assessment tasks to teachers in other KLA’s (eg. English, History, Science).  This would put less strain on an already crowded curriculum, as only a few extra classes would have to be catered for, with all assessment then marked by both teachers to give two seperate marks in the two KLA’s (eg. English and “digital media”).  “To date, however, there is little research providing indepth evidence about how to effectively integrate digital literacy and digital participation in everyday school settings.  (page 8 of pdf)  http://www.evernote.com/shard/s18/res/9fa93f4e-5433-4361-be22-2ddbdcc248d2/HagueWilliamson.2009.DigitalParticipationDigitalLiteracyAndSchoolSubjects.pdf?search=digital+literacy

Lecture & tutorial material informs us that digital media literacy is more than being able to press buttons.  For example, is my three year old digital media literate, because she can turn on & navigate by ‘clicking’ to her preferred web-based game?  No, the computer is set up to assist her, by having the home page loaded to Nick Jr.  It is a memory sequence, as soon as anything does not perform as expected, she is lost.

Is my 9 year old digitally literate?  She can browse Google (sometimes needs support to find the right question, or topic), and she can copy and paste swathes of information, pictures and diagrams on the relevant topic.  She is not yet ‘literate’ because she has to be prompted to read thoroughly what she is using.  She also has little to no ability to assess the validity of what she is reading.

Digital literacy is: using information and communications technology (ICT) to gather and assess information, collaborate, innovate, think critically, and solve problems. http://www.eschoolnews.com/2009/08/14/measuring-21st-century-skills-2/

editor,  (2009, Aug 14th)  Measuring 21st Century skills  eSchool News, website.  Avalailable at http://www.eschoolnews.com/2009/08/14/measuring-21st-century-skills-2/  Accessed on 30/3/2010