By Dr Lisa Kervin and Dr Jessica Mantei, Language and Literacies, Faculty of Education and members of the Interdisciplinary Educational Research Institute (IERI).
Digital reading, or reading from a computer screen, may seem like second nature to many adults, but what challenges face young children when they read digitally?
Literature examining how children learn to read is plentiful, but there is little literature that discusses young children’s ability to read digitally, which is fundamentally different from the act of reading traditional print based texts.
To address this gap in the literature, we are working in collaboration with Jan Hutton, Michelle Rodwell and Kristy Kervin from the Catholic Diocese Office in Wollongong, and Grant Elmers from Creative Arts (UOW), to design an assessment tool to capture information from early readers, focusing in particular on Kindergarten and Year 1. Initially, the team analysed the “Concepts about Print” assessment (Clay, 1972), a well-respected assessment tool in the literacy field. We identified the under lying principles of assessment and determined which of those principles could be transferred to a digital environment. Next a tool was designed which took the form of a webpage. Professor Don Leu (University of Connecticut), reviewed the tool, providing critical feedback. After making some further refinements the webpage was trialled in the classroom.
Initial findings have proven interesting. When the children looked at the site one of the first questions they were asked is, “what do you notice?” Interestingly, every child focused on something different when initially looking at the screen. This has given a small indication of just how difficult and demanding it can be to read in a digital environment. Further funding for this project is being sought, so as to continue to refine the instrument while working with teachers to see how discoveries made might be applied to transform classroom pedagogies.
This article was originally published in the Interdisciplinary Educational Research Institute Newsletter Issue 6, Winter 2012.
By Dr Wendy Nielsen, Faculty of Education
As a science educator, I am sometimes asked, why do our kids have trouble learning science? The related question is, ‘what is wrong with science education?’ These questions may reflect an echo from a media story or an education minister’s complaint about weak science knowledge or PISA results posted by our students. Most often, they reflect the questioner’s personal memory of how science was learned (perhaps from the perspective of one who was successful at learning science). The predominant experience and/or memory for most people is from their own high school science classrooms, where students sat in rows and copied notes that were either written by the teacher or recited in a lecture style. You too may ask, well, what is the problem with that? Those that can, will learn the information, and those that can’t, well, they don’t really need to, because they aren’t going to be scientists anyway.
The problem is that this is a 1960s attitude toward the nature of science knowledge: science as a field of study weeds out the best students so that they will be trained as scientists. Science is important for all students because they learn about how societal understandings have been built over human history, including the structure of knowledge; the bases for evidence and logical argument; a critical ability to question claims (made across all sectors of society); an open view of the nature of knowledge and how new knowledge is built; a passing fluency with the big discussions that have historically puzzled humans and human ingenuity; a foundational ability to contribute to discussions about big issues, involving for example, the environment, land and resource management, agriculture, urban infrastructure, transportation and communications, to name just a few. In short, learning science teaches students about how to think and how to inquire into problems. A population that is a) unable, or, b) unwilling, to engage with these and other issues that have science knowledge at their core is impoverished and retrospective, rather than innovative, entrepreneurial and future-oriented and, further, lacks the capacity for problem-setting, let along problem-solving. Continue reading ‘What’s wrong with Science education?’