Research on Technology in English Education
reviewed by Kiersten Greene - October 31, 2014
Title: Research on Technology in English Education
Author(s): Carl A. Young & Sara Kajder (Eds)
Publisher: Information Age Publishing, Charlotte
ISBN: 1623960851, Pages: 342, Year: 2013
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At a time when technology seems to be changing everything about how we consume information, process new knowledge, educate, and communicate, Research on Technology in English Education offers a series of snapshots that demonstrate how English teachers and teacher educators make sense of this shifting digital terrain. As Carol A. Young and Sara Kajder point out, while it is widely acknowledged that technology is transforming education, research on the impact of technology on educationand particularly English educationis still in its nascent stage. This collection of studies draws together timely research that posits theoretical frameworks for considering the role of technology in educational research and practice. Additionally, the authors contribute concrete, practical instructional techniques for both the K-12 English Language Arts classroom and pre- and in-service teacher education programs.
TIME FOR A NEW PARADIGM
One major theme permeating the volume is the need for a paradigm shift in our thinking about technology in education. Each of the authors uses Mishra and Koehlers technological pedagogical content knowledge (TPACK) (2006) as a foundational theoretical framework upon which to build their individual chapters. TPACK suggests that the knowledge required for teaching today stems from a triad of pedagogy, content, and technology. The authors argue that these three aspects of teaching are so interwoven that technology cannot (and should not) be approached as a separate entityit is not its own discipline, but is rather inextricably linked to both the how (pedagogy) and what (content) of teaching in the 21st century. Each of the authors provides a lens through which to consider TPACK in curriculum and instruction, whether as a classroom teacher, teacher educator, or educational researcher.
TECHNOLOGY AS TEXT
With the focus on literacy and English education as a central theme, several of the authors ruminate on the idea of technology as text. From digital portfolios and blogging, to the development of virtual worlds and digital video composition, each chapter takes the reader through a journey that positions technology as a possibility for transforming the practice of literacy engagement. The authors assert that literacy instruction no longer occurs only via print on the page; some even go so far as to say that digital is a new genre in and of itself. Although it is not explicitly stated, the authors imply that through TPACK, teachers and teacher educators must learn a new language in order to teach effectively in rapidly changing technological times.
Perhaps the most captivating part of this collection of research is the practical applications of instructional technology and digital pedagogy strung throughout the text. In Chapter One, participants in a study that examines the use of digital portfolios discuss the ways in which the architecture of a digital site necessitates reimagining the content of instruction. The author of Chapter Three reflects on various modes of online reflectionemail, discussion boards, blogs, etc.and argues for the continued exploration of their effectiveness in teacher education settings. Chapter Five provides annotated examples of how synchronous chat affects and enhances reading comprehension. The authors of Chapters Six and Seven portray examples of virtual realities in which students build literacy understanding via role play and other forms of online collaboration and interaction. Chapters Eight and Nine present fascinating, intricate ways in which digital video authoring might be embedded in literacy instruction. Chapter Ten offers a unique look at blogversinga practice of combined blogging and face-to-face conversing that allows students the opportunity to interact seamlessly through time and space, digitally and in person. Finally, Chapter Eleven challenges us to think about the role of social media and networking in the classroom by presenting a study on the repurposing of Twitter for the explicit exploration of language. While not exhaustive, the array of in-class uses presented in this volume provides an impressive spectrum of interactive pedagogical techniques from which practitioners in K-12 or higher education settings would benefit.
While not all of the authors mention professional development by name, the implication is clear. Technology provides a foundation upon which to build a bridge between teacher education programs, pre-service teacher candidates, in-service teachers, and K-12 studentsone that requires constant reflection, renewal, and professional development. Whether we plan for it or not, we are all involved in an ever-evolving digital world that requires that we not only consume but also produce digital texts, inside and outside of the classroom. The book is a call to action for teacher educators, researchers, and K-12 practitioners to find new, meaningful, integrated modes of collaboration that allow for multimodal, hands-on use of new technological capabilities.
One missing piece in the text is any mention of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). While both the development and implementation of the CCSS have been fraught with controversy, it seems necessary to link any research on literacy with this latest educational policy. Although the text was published in 2013, I am guessing the reason the CCSS is absent is related to the timeframe: most of the research contained within was conducted prior to 2010, when the CCSS was initially published. I would be interested to hear the authors updated analyses on digital pedagogy and instructional technology, given the challenges embedded in the new standardsparticularly those presented by scripted curricula that have been adopted by many school districts in the wake of CCSS implementation. Furthermore, there is little analysis provided on the socioeconomic challenges presented by the major cuts in funding faced by schools in recent yearscuts that have affected access to technology in public schools, particularly those located in under-funded, poor, and urban districts. This text would benefit from an analysis of digital access for both K-12 schools and teacher education programs.
The authors all seemed to draw on similar researchers and theoretical frameworks. While it was clear that TPACK was the glue that held the chapters together, I felt the text might benefit from casting a wider net in the literature on digital pedagogy theory and educational technology research. The editors are indeed correct that research in educational technology is new; yet as more publications become available every day, I would argue it is the fastest growing area of educational research today. This does, however, pose a challenge to researchers in the field, which this book exemplifies: the field of educational technology is shifting faster than we can get our ideas out there.
Despite its minor shortcomings, I found the text on the whole to be a very worthy read for any teacher, educational researcher, or teacher educator interested in literacy and the history and future of technology in education. The future path of instructional technology will continue to change the face of education for years to come, and it is research like the studies described in this textresearch that explores the inspiration and creativity of practitioners and researchers who are willing and ready to take the digital plungethat will help shape that future.
Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. J. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A new framework for teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 10171054.