I’ve been inspired by the conversations on #phdchat on twitter to try to articulate my PhD research topic in an easily comprehensible way. If you’d like to read some other examples, go to the phdchat wiki. I still consider myself to be in the very early stages of my research and feel a bit bogged down by what my aims are so this is a particularly useful exercise at exactly the right time. In fact, while my general topic area is one I’m committed to and passionate about, I can see my actual research questions and focus changing the further my reading into current research goes. Anyway, here goes – comments and suggestions would be appreciated.
It is widely acknowledged that children’s experiences before they start school contribute to their development of literacy skills. In Australian schools, this is supported through the assessment of students at the beginning of each of their first three years of schooling to identify the experiences they have had and skills they bring with them into the classroom. Many of the classroom practices in the Early Years are then shaped by the experiences it is assumed children will have had at home (such as bedtime story reading or writing letters or cards to relatives).
However, what constitutes literacy outside of school has changed and continues to do so with the advent of digital technologies. By the time they come to school, children will have been exposed to and interacted with a range of technologies such as televisions, computers, mobile phones, ipods and games consoles. The skills they have developed to ‘read’ or interact with these technologies are different again to those that they require for interaction with books, paper and pencils.
My research focuses on the gap between the literacy skills students are bringing to the classroom in their first 3 years of schooling and what schools focus on as literacy during this period. This will involve a definition and analysis of children’s literacy practices at home and at school to see how digital technologies are used and viewed in both settings. I also intend to consider how teacher perceptions of the students’ ‘digital literacy’ skills alter their classroom practice.
If we accept that part of the role of education is to prepare students for full and active participation in society, this gap between literacy practices in-school and out-of-school becomes a crucial one. Potentially, such a gap creates a situation where students arrive at school already skilled in a range of literacy practices however are assessed in the classroom as failing because the in-school and out-of-school literacy practices do not match. It also raises questions about the relevance of classroom content and how this is preparing students for a technologically rich world that they are already experiencing outside the school walls.