Responsive literacy practices in digitalised classrooms (RESPONSE)
RESPONSE is the shorthand title of a research project within the broadly conceived topic of digital literacy. The chosen term is deeply associated with dialogical engagement and involvement and with the experience of relevance. At the same time it points directly to communicative action; in this case to observable literacy events in classrooms.
The project is initiated by the national Reading Centre at the University of Stavanger, and aims at mutual competence development in close cooperation with a municipality that has decided to provide tablet computers for all pupils in its three secondary schools, starting with new 8th-graders in August 2014. Teachers and pupils in these schools have continuous access to new technology and digital resources. When made good use of, this may contribute to the development of innovative teaching practices that enhance pedagogical core values such as active involvement, participation, and collaboration.
The primary objective of the project is to develop new knowledge about digitalised literacy practices that may promote knowledge-based professional practices and facilitate high quality teaching and learning processes. For this purpose it is designed as a series of comparative case studies of schools and classes, teachers and students, all embedded in the more comprising case of one municipality followed over an implementation period of three years. In the first place the study focuses on the integration of digital technology and response in classroom activities such as text-based conversations, and in writing processes where computer tablets are used to give and share peer and teacher response to student texts. In the second place it looks into the involved teachers? response to challenges caused by an innovation that changes their everyday work situation.
During the first year of data collection the researchers have focused on getting and giving an overall picture of everyday life and common literacy practices in the digitalised schools and classes involved. In May and June 2015 results mainly based on classroom observations were presented at two research conferences (one Nordic, one international) in project symposia including four papers each. The concept of transitional practices (in Norwegian: "Overgangspraksiser") was used in the titles of both symposia. On our part this concept was coined as an attempt at conveying a general finding related to tensions between well established teaching practices and new technology. Paper presentations at both symposia highlighted examples showing that such tensions may be conceived of as productive in that new rooms for dialogic participation emerge.
Towards the end of the first school year, observations focused on specific subjects and teaching and learning processes. This was followed up in the second school year, but with less extensive observations that were supplemented through running conversations and interviews with teachers. Paper presentations from the first year were revised and submitted to Nordic and international journals. In addition, cooperation with our Danish partner, Nikolaj Elf, has resulted in an internationally published article. Towards the end of the year, in May 2016, six of our researchers met North-American researchers and PhD-students at an intensive seminar, arranged in cooperation with James Paul Gee, who is literacy researcher at Arizona State University. All participants presented papers, and we discussed common interests and challenges as well as possibilities for future cooperation. In May experiences and results from the first two years of the project were shared with headmasters and leaders of the cooperating municipality.
During the last year of the project we have focused on what now characterizes an ordinary week in the seven digitalised classrooms followed. To tap more systematically into student perspectives on going digital we have during the same period had focus group interviews with students in all involved classes. Findings from the second and third year was published on international conferences on literacy and writing in the spring term 2017. The team is now working with articles for an open access book pulication (Universitetsforlaget), which will be published autumn 2018.
Grasping and understanding change is an important challenge in our time. Fjord municipality was a pioneer in large scale digitalization of secondary school in Norway in 2014. Four years later, approximately 50 % of Norwegian municipalities had decided on 1-1 digitalization of secondary schools. Also, the meaning of "digitalization" seems to have shifted over the course of these years from referring to computer availability to aspects of school life being digitalized.
A main insight for all participants in the Response project is access to digital tools in school is a good thing. If we want changes in the social structure of classroom practices, we are up against cultural models of what education is and should be. Negotiating frameworks for education in the Internet age, seems to be an important task ahead. This is the answer from the Response project to research pointing out isolation and individualization (Selwyn, 2017; Slotte, 2019) as effects of digitalization.
"Response" is an interdisciplinary project focusing on professional practice and competence-development concerning responsive literacy practices in digitalized classrooms. The project starts in an established cooperation between the University of Stavange r and Randaberg Municipality. The focus will be on the municipality´s implementation of new digital technology in three secondary schools. The prime objective is to develop new knowledge concerning responsive literacy practices that promote knowledge-base d professional practice and facilitate high quality learning processes in digitalized classrooms. In order to produce such knowledge three areas of investigation is defined: a) Knowledge-based teacher and peer response in digitally shared processes of wri ting, b) New literacies in digitalized classrooms, and c) The teachers' professional life-world in a time of changing learning contexts. The areas are structured into three work packages, where different kinds of data is produced and analyzed; a) digital student texts and teachers responses, b) classroom observation and c) interviews.
Digitalizing of school is happening fast and right now, and research based knowledge about the specific features of the Norwegian educational context is important as a bas is for relating to international research leading the way towards the school of tomorrow. The joint effort of building competence between Randaberg and the research group anchored at UiS will have a large potential for transfer to the Norwegian and intern ational school context, and it will have the potential of becoming a point of reference for Norwegian and international educational policy making. Randaberg as a partner will receive research based support, guidance and quality feedback in their process o f innovative change.