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Open Educational Research of Literacy Practices Across Digital Spaces

By W. Ian O’Byrne
 | Mar 11, 2016

ThinkstockPhotos-184883775_x300As the importance of digital literacy and digital freedoms for all learners grows, so does opportunity for transformation from Pre-K through higher education. In this context, “open education” is a critical focus for literacy and technology supported programs, both those strictly online as well as blended learning environments. Open learning, or open education, is a set of practices, resources, and scholarship that are easily accessible, free to use and access, and to repurpose. As an emerging practice, definitions of open learning are currently being developed, impacting aspects of educational learning design, practice, pedagogy, and theory.

To better understand these spaces, researchers increasingly are conducting research and interacting openly online. Open research is research conducted in the spirit of free and open source software, making elements of the research methodology, data, and results available online. Open research practices such as sharing data, materials, and analysis alongside published articles have many benefits, including easier replication and extension of studies, increased availability of data for theory building and meta-analysis, and increased possibility of review and collaboration even after a paper has been published. Although modern digital texts and tools make sharing easier than ever, uptake of open practices and research has been slow.

As an example of an open research project, Michelle Schira Hagerman from the University of Ottawa and I are starting a project to study the knowledge, skills, and dispositions used by educators as they embed digital texts and tools in literacy instruction, The Digitally Literate Project. This research and their reflections will be carried out openly online. The ILA’s Literacy, eLearning, Communications, and Culture Committee tapped us as project leads for this work to identify the challenges, changes, and consequences experienced by teachers worldwide in integrating digital literacies into the literacy curriculum.

The research project is just getting started. If you are an educator and have a story to tell about the integration of digital literacies into literacy instruction, we want to hear from you. This research will be conducted globally online and needs a sample from a global audience. Please get involved if you’re a literacy educator and integrating new and digital literacies in an international classroom with an online survey so we might better understand the challenges and opportunities educators are facing. Following this, interviews will be conducted and distributed online. Visit the project’s website for more information.

W. Ian O'Byrne is an assistant professor of Literacy Education at the College of Charleston. His research examines the literacy practices of individuals as they read, write, and communicate in online spaces. You can follow him online on Twitter,and his blog. O’Byrne also publishes a newsletter on literacy, technology, and education.

This article is part of a series from the International Reading Association’s Technology in Literacy Education Special Interest Group (TILE-SIG).
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