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Literature Review: Teaching and Learning for L(IT)eracy: the use of Information Communication Technologies to support achievement of literacy outcomes for students with learning difficulties

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Literature Review Teaching and Learning for L(IT)eracy: the use of Information Communication Technologies to support achievement of literacy outcomes for students with learning difficulties Penelope Coutas June 4, 2004 Literature Review: Teaching and Learning for L(IT)eracy: the use of Information Communication Technologies to support achievement of literacy outcomes for students with learning difficulties* Introduction Recently, there has been increasing pressure by the Commonwealth and State governments for educators to focus on and improve the literacy skills of Australian children (see DEST, 2004; DEYTA, 2000; EDWA, 1999). By the end of their compulsory years of schooling, students must be sufficiently literate to function and communicate in everyday society. The ways in which we function and communicate in society, however, have been transformed in the past decade by advances in Information Communication Technologies or ICTs. ICTs are not just computers and peripherals, but include any technology that allows for communication and dissemination of information (EDWA, 1999). Hence, there has been increasing emphasis for all students not only to be literate, but also what some have dubbed 'l(IT)erate' (van Kraayenoord, 2002; Paveley 1999). In the following, I will review recent literature on the topic of using ICTs to support literacy for students with learning difficulties in order to summarise and synthesise the arguments and ideas of leading educators and theorists in the field. I became interested in this topic after seeing time and time again students who were identified as being 'at risk' totally engaged with computer tasks and producing much higher level work with the aid of a desktop computer than they did with pen and paper. Why is this the case? What can we as teachers do to better facilitate achievement of fundamental literacy outcomes with ICTs? What is 'best practice'? What are the disadvantages and issues that arise? How do we facilitate inclusive literacy learning with the aid of ICT? There is an vast amount of information available on these topics, and so this review cannot hope to cover the available literature in great depth. ...read more.


The importance of context has been noted by many researchers working in this area (van Kraayenoord, 2002; Goodison, 2002; Rother, 2003), and yet there is little literature available on research by 'regular' classroom teachers in 'regular' situations on ICTs to support reading. I also question how these researchers measured 'motivation' and 'engagement' and what talking books they used, as most of the programs available (see Kennedy's [2003] reviews) are aimed at the primary school level, and are culturally biased. Although the content level may be appropriate for adolescents with low literacy skills, the story may not be. Writing and ICTs Although research has shown that talking books, other computer programs and ICT texts support learning of reading skills with positive results, both Dorman (1999) and Murray (1999) suggest that this is not enough. They explain that there are a great number of ICT tools available to move students with learning difficulties from being mere consumers of predetermined reading packages to actual producers of texts. According to Dorman (1999), the introduction of simple multimedia authoring packages, such as Microsoft PowerPoint or Apple's Keynote, move children from the passivity of readers and responders to the activity of writers and authors. After all, reading instruction is most effective when combined with writing instruction (de Lemos, 2002, p. 21), and the power to create gives authority and ownership to work which also aids engagement and motivation (Chalk, 2004). Morgan (1998) gives an example of this by describing the successes of a year four teacher named 'Ken' and his Aboriginal 'at risk' students who created their own talking books as part of an Australian Language and Literacy Project funded by DETYA. They created shared resources for their community, inviting elders to participate in the 'talking' which they would then also 'translate' into written standard Australian English so that it could be shared with urban schools. This is a great example of ICT facilitating development of literacy skills for students with learning difficulties in a remote setting, and yet inclusive of local and distant communities. ...read more.


Initiatives such as the 100 Schools Project in Western Australia are proactive and will 'revolutionise' teaching and learning practices in those particular schools, but there is still much to hope for in coming years if the full potential of ICTs supporting learning with students with learning difficulties is to be realised in all schools, and for all students. Conclusion There is no denying that literacy is one of the most important outcomes of schooling. By the end of their compulsory education, students must be sufficiently literate to function and communicate in every day society. Society, though, is increasingly constructed by and constructing many different forms of literacy which require new literacies and l(IT)eracy. Students with learning difficulties are identified as being 'at risk' of failing the major outcomes of schooling. Lack of literacy skills seriously diminish opportunities and life chances, and so it is essential that all stake holders are prepared to support literacy learning for students with learning difficulties. There is great scope for ICTs to be used effectively to add value to the learning experiences of all students, especially in the area of literacy. They can lend motivation and encourage engagement, offer avenues for explicit learning, development and practice of skills, enable communication and collaborative learning in different environments, facilitate inclusive and equitable learning, and become very powerful tool in supporting the achievement of literacy outcomes. However, ICTs are tools, not 'miracle machines,' and effective teacher pedagogy and support is critical for success in creating inclusive and equitable learning experiences. Unfortunately, contemporary literacy programs in Australia have not yet begun to creatively explore the full potential of ICTs, but this is changing. In short time, no doubt new literature will reveal even more answers, questions, themes and issues about the use of ICTs to support literacy and l(IT)eracy for students with learning difficulties. Perhaps it will even get to the stage where literacy is synonymous with l(IT)eracy, and the use of ICTs to support literacy development as obvious as using a pen or pencil to practice handwriting. We shall see. ...read more.

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