Literacy and Technology Special Issue from Research in the Schools

It’s snowing here in Boulder and time for me to catch up on some reading!  Guest edited by Marla Mallette, this special issue from Research in the Schools focuses on ‘Literacy and Social Networking’.

The articles can be accessed online at

As you can see from the table of contents below, the authors address a broad range of topics, from Diane Barone’s article on young children’s experience with social media and Web 2.0, to Frank Serafini’s piece on reading multimodal texts in the 21st century, to Don Leu and Elena Forzani’s article on Web 2.0 –  now and into the future!  Blaine Smith and I also have an article in this issue about how teachers design Internet-based literacy and learning lessons with Strategy Tutor, a free online authoring tool developed by Cast, Inc. (

Enjoy reading and please post a comment, question, or related resource.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!


In the latest issue: Spring, 2012, Volume 19(1)
(Special Issue on Literacy and Social Networking)

Mallette, M. H., & Mthethwa, P. M. (2012). Guest editorial: Web 2.0 and literacy: Enacting a vision, imagining the possibilities. 19(1), i-iv.

Barone, D. M. (2012). Exploring home and school involvement of young children with Web 2.0 and social media. 19(1), 1-11.

Dalton, B., & Smith, B. E. (2012). Teachers as designers: Multimodal immersion and strategic reading on the internet. 19(1), 12-25.

Serafini. F. (2012). Reading multimodal texts in the 21st century. 19(1), 26-32.

Alvermann, D. E., Hutchins, R. J., & McDevitt, R. (2012). Adolescents’ engagement with Web 2.0 and social media: Research, theory, and practice. 19(1), 33-44.

Beach, R. (2012). Uses of digital tools and literacies in the English language arts classroom. 19(1), 45-59.

Karchmer-Klein, R., & Shina, V. H. (2012). 21st century literacies in teacher education: Investigating multimodal texts in the context of an online graduate-level literacy and technology course. 19(1), 60-74.

Leu, D. J., & Forzani, E. (2012). Discussion, new literacies in a Web 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, …, [infinity] world. 19(1), 75-81.

What Do Instructional Natives Need to Know about Technology?

By Thomas DeVere Wolsey

Students seem to know how to do all kinds of things digitally. They can tweet and text. Email is so last decade. iPads and Samsung Galaxy Tabs offer so many ways to connect to friends, family and the world at large via the Internet. Anyone can sign up for a MOOC. Fifteen-year-olds are outlining educational approaches—on a Washington Post blog, no less. Education professionals might be wondering just where they fit in the world where information is readily available.

Just what can teachers and other education professionals do when digital environments make data and information* seemingly ubiquitous? What is their role, if there is one? Last week, the National Council of Teachers of English updated its policy statement titled The NCTE Framework for 21st Century Curriculum and Assessment. What is notable about it is what is does not contain. There are no references to tools such as blogs or wikis. The word “computer” appears only once, and then only in the appendix. There is not a single reference to a SMARTboard or similar technology.

Rather, what is notable about this Framework is that is focuses on the dispositions of “Active, successful participants in this 21st century global society” (para 3). Verbs that characterize these 21st century outcomes include: design, create, develop, and manage. These verbs lend vibrancy to the technology and media students do and will continue to encounter even as the tools themselves continue to evolve (cf. Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004). One aspect of the Framework is one that has long fascinated me; though the Internet can bring volumes of information right to the desk of anyone with access, the real strength of the internet lies in how it brings people together in new ways across and within cultures, affinity groups, geographical regions, and more. The Framework emphasizes this aspect, too.

Build intentional cross-cultural connections and relationships with others so to pose and solve problems collaboratively and strengthen independent thought.

This week, Project Tomorrow and BlackBoard, Inc. via the Speak Up National Research Project released a study exploring how those who want to be teachers are employing technology in their quest to become teachers and in their daily lives. The report also explores what aspiring or preservice teachers expect to encounter once they become teachers. The report delves into many nuances; however, here it is worth noting that though aspiring teachers use technology more than current teachers, they need and want models of how those technologies can be used in service of learning. Moreover, the principals for whom they might someday work hold high expectations that the new teachers entering the profession will be able to employ digital technology in service of learning.

The Project Tomorrow report continues to emphasize the problematic “digital native” metaphor (see last week’s post, for example); however, it does provide guidance for teachers who work with aspiring teachers including cooperating teachers in schools and teacher educators. Education professionals, as instructional natives, can help meet the needs of aspiring teachers and the demands of the 21st century, now well into its second decade. It is not necessary, or even realistic, to believe that any teacher, student, or teacher educator can “keep up” with every development on the technological horizon.

Some dispositions characterize instructional natives (Wolsey & Grisham, 2011) that may help:

• Teachers and teacher educators can use technology to assist them to better their own professional knowledge and connect with other educators.

• Teachers and teacher educators may not know how to use every tool available (and the secret is that neither do their students), but they can find online resources and ask their own students for help. Seeking the advice of students seems counterintuitive, at first, but I assert that this one quality is the hallmark of the 21st century instructional native.

• Teachers and teacher educators can trust their students to use media in responsible ways, with thoughtful guidance and questions from their teachers who are instructional natives.

• Teachers and teacher educators can and should regularly try out new technologies even if doing so is not quite comfortable at first.


Leu, D. J., Kinzer, C. K, Coiro, J. L., & Cammack, D. W. (2004). Toward a theory of new literacies emerging from the Internet and other information and communication technologies. In R. B. Ruddell & N. Unrau (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of reading (5th ed., pp. 1580-1613). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.

Wolsey, T. D. & Grisham, D. L. (2011). A nation of digital immigrants: Four principles [online editorial]. The California Reader Online, 44(2), 1-9. Retrieved from

* For an interesting discussion of the difference between data, information, knowledge, and wisdom, read:
Stewart, T. (1997). Intellectual capital: The new wealth of organizations. New York: Doubleday.

Current Issues in the Digital Divide Debate

Almost 35% of the world’s population are now online! The most recent World Internet Usage and Population Statistics (shown below) suggest high levels of access to the Internet in, for example, Europe (63.2%), North America (78.6%) and Australia (67.6%). Issues of physical access to technologies remain between the ‘haves and have nots’ (Warschauer, 2003). However, from the figures shown you can see phenomenal growth in access to technologies over the past decade or so in ‘developing’ countries, such as Africa.

World internet stats

The focus in the ‘digital divide’ debate has shifted in recent times from issues related to physical access to digital technologies to issues related to (a) the quality of access to digital technologies to enhance literacy and provide deep learning opportunities for our students; and (b) equality of opportunity in access regardless of socio-economic status (SES) or print-based reading capabilities.

The assumption that most of the ‘digital native’, Google, M2 generation have highly developed technological and information-seeking skills on the Internet lacks credibility within the research-based literature (e.g. Livinstone & Helpser, 2007; Williams & Rowland, 2007). To borrow from Ito and colleagues’ (2010) great title ‘Hanging Out, Messing Around and Geeking Out, Kids Living and Learning With New Media’, our students are great at ‘hanging out’ on social networking media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter; great at ‘messing around’ uploading and downloading videos from YouTube; and are great at spending considerable time online (Rideout, Foehr & Roberts, 2010). However, when it comes to ‘geeking out’ it is clear that the M2 Google generation are not a homogeneous population with a uniform digital upbringing, are not sophisticated users of technology, and have not realised the potential of the Internet as a site for deep learning and knowledge construction. If we erroneously assume that our student population have highly developed Internet and technology skills if gives us a free pass as educators and policy makers to disregard the need to explicitly explore and teach new literacies with our students or to fully integrate and embed digital technologies for literacy as essential components of the classroom curriculum.

Research evidence also suggests differences in equality of opportunity in access to technologies depending on SES (e.g. Volman, van Eck, Heemskerk, & Kuiper, 2007). While the Internet and other digital technologies have the potential to motivate and engage struggling readers from low SES communities, the converse is also true. The Internet could further compound the difficulties experienced by these students either through limited access to technologies (it’s too difficult for them) (Karchmer, 2001) or using digital technologies to develop decontextualized, constrained skills. While students from low SES school communities may be engaged in low level skill development using digital technologies, research suggests that their peers from more affluent schools are engaging with higher order, problem solving inquiry based skills and strategies. Those students who have limited home access to Internet technology, those who are struggling with print-based literacy “are precisely those who are being prepared the least” (Coiro, Knoebel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2008) for life in an information age.

So how can we provide improve learning outcomes for all students through the integration of the Internet and digital technologies with subject areas of the curriculum? I leave you today with a non-profit research and development organisation dedicated to building student engagement through the integration of digital technologies with subject matter content and skills. The CAST organisation bases its work on the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) (Rose & Meyer, 2002). We have previously blogged on two free online tools developed by CAST; Book Builder and Science Writer. I would urge you to explore their website and view the brief video embedded below.

Coiro, J., Knobel, M., Lankshear, C., & Leu, D. J. (2008). Central issues in new literacies and new literacies research. In J. Coiro, M. Knobel, C. Lankshear, & D. J. Leu (Eds.), Handbook of research on new literacies (pp. 1-21). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Ito, M., Baumer, S., Bittanti, M., Boyd, D., Cody, R., Herr-Stephenson, B et al. Hanging out, messing around and geeking out: Kids living and learning with New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press:
Karchmer, K. A. (2001). The journey ahead: Thirteen teachers report how the Internet influences literacy and literacy instruction in their K-12 classrooms. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 442-467.
Livingstone, S., & Helsper, E. (2007). Gradations in digital inclusion: Children, young people and the digital divide. New Media and Society, 9(4), 671-696.
Rideout, V.J., Foehr, U.G., & Roberts, D.F. (2010). Generation M2: Media in the lives of 8- to 18-year olds, Menlo. Park, CA: Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.
Rose, D. & Meyer, A. (2002). Teaching Every Student in the Digital Age. ASCD. Available free online:
Warschauer, M. (2003).Technology and social inclusion: Rethinking the digital divide. Cambridge MA: The MIT Press.
Williams, P., & Rowland, I. (2007). Information behaviour of the researcher of the future. The literature on young people and their information behaviour Work Package 11. A British library JISC study. Retrieved September, 2, 2008 from

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