Digital Practices and Literacy Identities: Preservice Teachers Negotiating Contradictory Discourses of Innovation

Oct. 01, 2013

Source: Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 13(4), 285-324. (2013)
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

The purpose of the study was to examine how preservice English teachers in a teacher-education program were thinking about technology in relation to their teaching practices. Specifically, the author asked what goals they had for using those technologies and what meanings those technologies acquired in their classrooms and in their professional development.

The participants were seven preservice teachers, who enrolled in an secondary English professional development school (PDS) program of collaboration between the university and the local school district.
The study was conducted in an English education program among preservice teachers enrolled in a year-long internship.
The data analyzed consisted of interview and group discussion transcripts as well as semiotic artifacts (inquiry papers, written reflections, and short videos) produced by the seven participants.


The findings reveal that two contrasting approaches to the role of technology in the teaching of literacy were identified.
The first approach, tool-for-result, separates means (technology, teaching, and learning activities) from ends (literacy skills).
It concerns center on the effects of technology on the motivation of students in traditional learning classrooms or on the level of distraction from literacy that is produced by the use of technology.
By contrast, the integrated view, tool-and-result, conceives of technology as being intrinsically implicated with new kinds of texts and emerging literacy practices and, thus, as an essential component of any literacy classroom.

The results also show that most of the students had views that placed them within tool-for-result approach.
They displayed more contradictions in their narratives, with some development toward an integrated approach but still caught up in the tension between a more traditional view of literacy and a simultaneous appreciation and concern for the effects of technology.

One of the tensions encountered by the participants regarded the rigidity of academic definitions and spaces as opposed to the fluidity of new literacies.
Many participants commented on how digital media broke down the walls of school and referred to an immediacy in communication that changed the way teachers operated.
Hence, the participants were aware of how the technology is inseparable from the process of activity in which it is involved.
The tool-and-result approach represents such an awareness.
Furthermore, the data suggest that English teachers who adopt a tool-and-result perspective can promote a culture of critical literacy practices in their classroom and involve their students in critical participation in relevant discourses.
Literacy teacher-education programs should engage in these kinds of practices in order to create vibrant professional communities that transcend the limitations of dominant discourses on education.

The practice of inquiry and experimentation constituted a purpose of the PDS program, which was to educate teacher-researchers.
The preservice teachers were allowed and encouraged to take initiative and try new ideas, to reflect on the implementation of those ideas, and to transform their teaching practices.
They had the opportunity to experiment with innovative practices and construct conceptualizations or emerging theories.
All of the participants were constantly experimenting with new approaches, reflecting on their teaching practices, building explanations, and considering student responses as a way to rethink their curriculum.

The participants had multiple spaces to establish a dialog about their teaching and research.
They also participated in a wider professional community through online interaction and involvement in professional organizations such as the National Council of Teachers of English.

The creation of communities of collaboration often occurred not only among study participants but also among their secondary school students.
They also worked in groups to create a news webpage related to the novel that they were reading, and they created study material for one another when producing their vocabulary podcasts.
The production of multiple genres and modes of texts is a way to participate in multiple social discourses.
The participants in the study, as well as their students, not only analyzed texts in different media as part of the media literacy curriculum, but they also engaged in multimedia productions (digital movie, podcasts, and webpages).


The article concludes with an identification of the conditions afforded by the teacher education program and the school setting that facilitated the development of tool-and-result.
The four forms of tool-and-result engagement presented here can serve as a framework for English education programs that aim to promote the development of teacher-researchers and communities of inquiry.
The program within which the research was conducted facilitated ample conditions for some of these engagements, particularly the first three: inquiry and experimentation, professional collaboration, and practical engagements with multiple kinds of texts and technologies.

Updated: Apr. 28, 2015