Barriers to Teachers Using Digital Texts

| June 3, 2010

Honan, E. (2008). Barriers to teachers using digital texts in literacy classrooms. Literacy, 42(1), 36-43.

Article Review

Honan (2008) reports findings about teachers’ perceived barriers to having digital texts (e.g., game, software) in the classrom. She draws on New Literacy Studies in her exploratory study of barriers to teachers using digital texts in their literacy classrooms, in the contexts of ongoing tensions between school prescripted literacy curricula and government policies and initiatives in the U.K. by encouraging teachers to connect teaching to students’ digital worlds. The study is aimed at investigating the teaching practices of digital literacy in a school in Australia and the resources adopted by teachers in classroom teaching of digital texts there, as well as engaging teachers in self-reflexive work in their classes using digital texts. Honan used The Four Resources Literacy Framework (Freebody and Luke, 2003) to look at the resources encouraged by teachers in their classroom teaching, including: 1) breaking the code of texts; 2) using texts functionally; 3) participating in the meanings of texts; and 4) critically analyzing and transforming texts. The uniqueness of the methodology of this study, instead of looking at exemplary teaching practices, is that Honan selected an “average” primary school with adequate equipment and further selected four teachers from the staff to participate in the study (during her teacher-development workshop at the school). The participants were released from their classrooms for 5 full days over a three month period to attend meetings discussing their on-going and possible literacy teaching practices based on the Four Resources Framework. The second unique part of the data collection is that the participants were fully involved in the data collection process in that the discussions were audio-recorded based on attendants’ instant decisions on whether or not the discussions should be recorded, with a recorder reachable in the center of their meeting table. During the discussions, teachers talked about the absence of digital texts in their classrooms and discourse analysis was implicitly discussed in the study. Honan found institutional and societal “discourses of deficit” shown in teachers’ discourses which devalued students’ funds of knowledge from their digital worlds. In addition, findings also conclude that operational barriers of newly-learned digital tools shift the focus of learning literacy skills to technical skills; the production of digital texts is deemphasized because of the requirement of producing a final task (e.g., PowerPoint presentation) instead of the text itself.

The theory informed Honan’s (2008) discourse analysis is not explicitly mentioned and the author presented her analysis in two ways: 1) from micro to macro level, connecting teachers’ discourses in digital-text integration to institutional and societal discourses; and 2) showing thematic categories of barriers teachers talked about in their classroom use of digital texts. Honan’s findings are meaningful in explaining why digital tools cannot enter many classrooms and offer suggestions for improving the design of teacher development programs today. One idea Honan (2008) needs to reconsider is that “information literacy” and “technical skills” are not clearly separated, while information literacy could have a broader definition compared with “technical skills”: the former can include students’ online navigation skills such as critical thinking in doing online research and awareness of online safety (Jenkins et al., 2006); the latter is limited to the functional use of technologies at school.

EdLab Connection

Is technology a set of skills or a set of new ways of teaching and learning brought by the “skills”? The article might let the EdLab think about more options to involve pre-service and in-service teachers through library resources such as library mini-courses and library workshops. In addition to helping teachers change their mindset of viewing technology as functions and skills, the library activities might help teachers to develop their own network on web. The design of library workshops such as the use of Pressible, NetPosse, and Critter might help teachers feel more comfortable in using digital tools, which might potentially encourage teachers to apply more digital tools in classroom on a daily basis.