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Literacy and Technology

 | Jun 20, 2013

jen scott curwood
by Jen Scott Curwood
The University of Sydney
June 20, 2013


In and out of school, young adults use digital tools and online spaces to create, collaborate, and communicate through multiple modes and mediums (Curwood, Magnifico, & Lammers, 2013). For example, research by the Pew Internet and American Life Project indicates that 80% of adolescents use online social network sites, 38% share original creative work online, and 21% remix their own transformative works, inspired by others’ words and images (Lenhart, Ling, Campbell, & Purcell, 2010; Lenhart, Madden, Smith, Purcell, Zickuhr, & Rainie, 2011).

But how do teachers view digital literacies and how do they integrate technology in meaningful and transformative ways in schools? Two recent studies address this question.  The first study below reviews a decade of research within the New Literacy Studies and examines the increased focus on digital tools and online spaces. The next study highlights the ways in which teachers’ beliefs and practices significantly shape how technology and digital literacy practices are positioned within (or absent from) the curriculum.

Teachers’ perceptions of integrating Information and Communication Technologies into literacy instruction
Hutchison and Reinking’s (2011) study is the first national survey to investigate literacy teachers’ beliefs and practices related to technology. Notably, nearly all teachers have access to Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) and technology support in their schools, but “relatively few literacy teachers have moved from assimilation of ICTs within their teaching to a deeper curricular accommodation where ICTs are more central to their conceptions of what comprises literacy and literacy instruction” (p. 328). So how can ICTs be centrally and effectively used in the classroom? Another recent study helps address this question.

A review of research on literacy and technology
The New Literacy Studies is a line of research that began three decades ago; it conceptualizes literacy as situated within social and cultural contexts. As such, a young child’s literacy development is inextricably linked to their home and community environments. Mills (2010) reviews 90 peer-reviewed articles and outlines the growing “digital turn” in New Literacy Studies. This is evidenced by empirical studies that show how technology can support collaboration, digital media production, and online communication. For instance, the Computer Clubhouse in South Central Los Angeles offers young people the opportunity to become producers, rather than just consumers, of digital media and take part in the creative process (Peppler & Kafai, 2007).

To learn more about literacy and technology, see the National Educational Technology Standards and the International Reading Association’s New Literacies Position Statement. Also consider how the Common Core State Standards can be met through integrating new literacies and digital tools into school-based learning.


Curwood, J.S., Magnifico, A.M., & Lammers, J.C. (2013). Writing in the wild: Writers’ motivation in fan-based affinity spaces. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 56(8), 677-685.

Hutchison, A. & Reinking, D. (2011). Teachers’ perceptions of integrating Information and Communication Technologies into literacy instruction: A national survey in the United States. Reading Research Quarterly, 46(4), 312-333.

Lenhart, A., Ling, R., Campbell, S., & Purcell, K. (2010). Teens and mobile phones. Pew Internet and the American Life Project. Retrieved from

Lenhart, A., Madden, M., Smith, A., Purcell, K., Zickuhr, K., & Rainie, L. (2011). Teens, kindness, and cruelty on social network sites. Pew Internet and the American Life Project. Retrieved from

Mills, K.A. (2010). A review of the “digital turn” in the New Literacy Studies. Review of Educational Research, 80(2), 246-271.

Peppler, K. A., & Kafai, Y. B. (2007). From SuperGoo to Scratch: Exploring creative digital media production in informal learning. Learning, Media, & Technology, 32(2), 149–166.

This post was invited by the IRA Literacy Research Panel. Reader response is welcomed. Email your comments to LRP@/

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