Kids, blogs and literacy

Carrington, V. (2005) ‘I’m Dylan and I’m not going to say my last name’: some thoughts on childhood, text and new technologies

This article is about children’s response to new technologies, specifically the media response to children and technology and the children’s own views.  What can children’s blogs tell us about the way we percieve childhood in a “post-traditional” world?

Carrington shows that childhood is a process of creating a self-narrative via reflexivity; that is, individualisation in recent years has led to people creating their own narratives independent of traditional roles.  She values Literacy skills but argues that the approach to literacy in schools must change because students now have access to information unmediated by adults either through schooling or books, and that their online literate interactions span all physical settings they find themselves in.

The research was undertaken using google to find articles on children and the internet, and also blogs by children.  Two articles were chosen based upon their place at the top of the google search, two blogs were also chosen on the same basis.  Carrington uses text analysis to look at all of the material and makes judgements which show the different attitude to technology held by newspapers and by children themselves.

Carrington is writing about an area which has had relatively little previous research but manages to reference many of her assumptions to sociological and educational research.  A few assumptions are unreferenced and she seems to rely upon British and American research.

The evidence produced was a qualitative analysis and evaluation of the different approaches to technology and children.  In particular, she found that newspapers are likely to be hysterical and vastly overplay the dangers associated with children’s online lives while the children themselves are less concerned and take basic privacy precautions such as withholding their names or pictures.

Carrington drew the conclusion that children’s online activities are part of their ongoing “self-narrative” that should be taken strongly into account when policy is decided.

My Thoughts

Of course I agree.  Personal experience indicates that when literacy is treated as the study of artefact text – that which is set-in-stone, the answers are correct or incorrect with no real grey area, writing is a process of only reacting to other people’s work, information is controlled or withheld – this often disengages children.  They begin to see the process of acquiring literacy skills as an endless dreary slog through moralistic, flowery text that is promoted, like vegetables, as good for you but very boring.  This is so wrong I don’t know where to begin!

Most institutions are now using software like Blackboard and Moodle to bring learning to their students.  In the future, literacy will and should be geared more towards the use of this and future technology to help students treat text as an opportunity to express their own opinions, gaining feedback in a much more efficient way than the days when you’d wait several weeks for feedback on written work – technology allows us as teachers to feed back on work as soon as we have marked it rather than waiting for the next lesson (and then probably forgetting to pile it all into the cart because we have that much else to cart around!)

So using technology has the potential to engage students, improve feedback, let us give them more and more effective homework, and let us carry much less paper around.

Win/win really.

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