Category Archives: Dissertation

A case study into the effect of children’s attitudes towards blogging

Its taken several months to complete my Independent research project into the effects of blogging on children’s attitudes towards literacy, as part of my Undergraduate degree classification. I have included the project (minus the interview transcripts) for anyone who may find it useful. Though it doesn’t raise any groundbreaking concepts, it does highlight some key points: children’s awareness of a worldwide audience; how commenting is essential for maintaining a blog, and finally the need to integrate the blog into the curriculum for children to become (at their own pace, and not forced) entangled and engaged in its potential.

My initial concept of this research project was to consider how literacy should be taught in school incorporating the need to teach and recognise digital literacy. University courses such as Journalism, have adopted their programme to include specifics on writing on the web for a different audience. Whether this, has any coloration or need to adopt practice in primary schools, was something I was interested in; however I would not be able to fully investigate during such a relative short time period. Through consolidating my ideas, I finial considered the effect of children’s attitudes towards blogging, especially since initiatives such as the 100WC, Quadblogging and have become profilent in the last year or so.

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Draft Literature review

I have to emphasise this is a draft – and in no ways a final version. I have to credit Doug Belshaw (@dajbelshaw) for his work on defining digital literacy. I used it his work as a my starting point to look at further areas of interest. There was so much I could add in, but will try to in other sections. Any comments would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

Literature review

In the last few decades the Internet has become a technological and a social phenomenon. It has become a “fact of life, a way of being in the world, a producer of social subjects that, find it unremarkable, so unremarkable that it seems ‘everybody uses it.’” (Lewis & Fabos. 2005:470) It has allowed new social access, eradicating the need for face-to-face communication.

To fully understand the term ‘digital literacy,’ literacy must be defined. At its very basic level, literacy is a form of communication, including the ability to decode symbols and messages for the purpose of sharing information and meaning. Current pedagogy (DfES.1999) goes beyond this, and as well as reading and writing, literacy involves the development speaking and listening skills.  People must be able to encode and decode symbols to be classed as literate or subsequently illiterate. Although an ‘United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’ (UNESCO) report addresses the issues in defining literacy:

“Literacy is a characteristic acquired by individuals in varying degrees from just above none to an indeterminate upper level. Some individuals are more or less literate than others but it is really not possible to speak of illiterate and literate person as two distinct categories.”

 (UNESCO. 1957:18)

A simple definition of being literate as being ‘able to read and write,’ sets up a “false dichotomy (between those who ‘can’ and those who ‘can’t’), but makes no allowance for reading and writing using various tools and for different purposes.” (Belshaw. 2011:50) Literacy viewed as making and creating meaning “has generally dominated curriculum and pedagogy.” (Dighe & Reddi, 2006). It is a set of skills that complete mastery of is never attained, as there is always a way in which a person can be more skilled, or a better reader or writer.

Street (1984) outlines two different models of literacy, the autonomous and the ideological. The autonomous model, states literacy as being independent of and impartial towards trends and struggles in everyday life. An ideological perspective, view “literacy as an active relationship or a way of orienting to the social and cultural world”; (Lankshear & Kobel. 2008:97) its reiterated by Lewis & Fabos (2005) who perceive that “all writing is socially motivated.” Digital illiteracies are ideological and subjective; they adapt with change and constantly need to be developed.

A definition of ‘Digital Literacy’ began from Gilster’s (1997) book entitled with the same name. Glister was criticised for giving multiple definitions (Belshaw. 2011); however at the beginning of the twenty first century his work was beginning to have an impact. Glister (1997) did not describe digital literacy as a set of skills but “as an ability to understand and to use information from a variety of digital sources and regarded it simply as literacy in the digital age.” (Bawden. 2008:18)

There is ambiguity when digital illiteracies are referred to, Bawden (2008) paraphrases Eshet-Alkalia  (2004) view that there are “particular inconsistency between those who regard digital literacy as primarily concerned with technical skills and those who see it as focused on cognitive and socio-emotional aspects of working in a digital environment.”(Bawden, 2008:24) Futurelab (2010) defines digital literacy as functional skills required to operate and communicate with technology and media with the ability to “participate in a range of critical and creative practices.” Belshaw (2011) in his doctoral thesis combines the work of many theorists and identifies eight core elements of digital literacy, namely:

  1. Cultural
  2. Cognitive
  3. Constructive
  4. Communicative
  5. Confident
  6. Creative
  7. Critical
  8. Civic

Belshaw (2011:82)

Belshaw (2011) moves beyond looking merely at the technological skills required, but highlights that digital literacy captures the notion that the literacy practices referred to are enacted in digital spaces. Martin (2008) similarly breaks down digital literacy and reiterates that it is more than a set of skills. However this emphasises that the term ‘digital literacy’ is ambiguous, and continually evolving in new and innovative ways.

An aspect of computer-mediated communication, which is an integral part to ‘digital literacy’ are weblogs or ‘blogs.’ A blog is an “instant publication of text or graphics to the Web… [with] ways for people to provide comments or feedback to each blog post, the opportunity to archive past blog posts by date, and hyperlinks to other bloggers.” (Hufaker. 2004) This medium allows one or many contributors to present and express themselves online in a way that is not possible in traditional literacy.

Blogs are created and maintained for diverse purposes and as elements or dimensions of diverse social practices. Lanskear and Knobel  (2008) identify some key topics of blogs, such as: personal diaries; critique of news events; to sell products; to express personal opinions; to achieve memories and so on. Though not to dissimilar to websites, blogs provide many advantages over traditional sites, including; providing a personal writing space; invite contributors and be managed accordingly and need little or no technical background knowledge. (Peter & Axel. 2006:2)

The educational benefits of blogs (Peter & Axel. 2006) allow children to develop their cognitive and critical potential though analytical thinking whilst reading, writing and collaboration on a topic to post. Its structure promotes taking critical risks and makes sophisticated use of language and design, (Peter & Axel. 2006:3) and provides a space in which children can reflect on their learning and review and comment upon other people work. Morris (2010) a class teacher, states, “blogging is authentic.” Students have a purpose and a genuine audience, where there can be a daily occurrence within a classroom. It gives children a meaningful audience “that will see their writing and personality through blogs.” (Ackerman. 2006:7) Traditional literacy conventions such as spelling and syntax can be taught in the “context of writing on the blog rather than stand-alone, one off lessons.” (Morris. 2010) Children’s lack of motivation directly collates with students not doing well (Kelly & Neal. 2002) where by framing tasks differently and giving students a real audience, “students are motivated to use technology to write.” (Ackerman. 2006:1)

Channeler (1997) states, “in the act of writing…we are written.” To motivate children emerging writing skills, to make writing purposeful, challenging and real to life, blogging offers this opportunity. Additionally, blogging provides a sense of community, where global connections can be made with other schools. Quadblogging develops this sense of community where each of the partnership schools has a week of hosting the blog, providing a focus for others to participate in and to make comments, offering an “environment where learning is not limited to the classroom.” (Huffaker. 2004) As the popularity of blogging continues, one provider stating 500,000 new posts every month (WordPress. 2012), is it an engaging medium for children to benefit from? And does it in turn improve their literacy skills? This research project aims to build upon previous research and asks the question:

‘How can one classes use of blogs promote positive attitudes in literacy?’

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Ackerman, J. D. (2006). Motivation for Writing Through Blogs. Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green State University. Available at: [Accessed: 06.02.12]

Bawden, D. (2008). Origins and Concepts of Digital Literacy, 17-32. in Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. Digital literacies: concepts, policies and practices. New York, Peter Lang.

Belshaw, D. A. J. (2011). “What is ‘digital literacy’?”  Available at: [Accessed: 20.01.2012]

Chandler, D (1997): ‘Writing Oneself in Cyberspace’ Available at: [04.02.12]

DfES (1999) The National Curriculum for England and Wales. London: DfES.

Dighe, A. & Reddi U. V. (2006) Women’s Literacy and Information and Communication Technologies: Lessons that experience has taught us New Delhi: Commonwealth Educational Media Centre for Asia (CEMCA) & Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

Eshet-Alkalai, Y. (2004). Digital literacy: A conceptual framework for survival skills in the digital era. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 13 (1): 93-106

Futurelab. (2010) “It’s not talk and chalk anymore”. Available at: [Accessed: 18.01.12]

Gilster, P. (1997). Digital literacy. New York, Wiley Computer Pub.

Huffaker, D. (2004) The educated blogger: Using Weblogs to promote literacy in the classroom. First Monday. Available at: [Accessed: 07.02.12]

Kelly, P,R., & Neal, J C. (2002). Delivering the Promise of Academic Success Through Late Intervention. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 18, pp.101-117.

Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2008) Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices: Introduction.  New York: Peter Lang

Lewis, C & Fabos, B (2005) ‘Instant Messaging, Literacies and Social Identities’ in Reading Research Quarterly. Vol. 40 (4), pp470-501

Martin, A. (2008) ‘Digital Literacy and the “Digital Society”‘ in Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2008) Digital Literacies: Concepts, Policies and Practices. New York: Peter Lang

Morris, K. (2010) Literacy Skills: How Far They’ve Come! Available at: [Accessed: 03.02.12]

Peter, D. & Axel, B. (2006) The Use of Blogs, Wikis and RSS in Education: A Conversation of Possibilities. In Proceedings Online Learning and Teaching Conference 2006. Brisbane. pp: 31-38.

Street, B. (1984). Literacy in theory and practice. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

UNESCO. (1957). World illiteracy at mid-century, a statistical study. [Paris], UNESCO.

WordPress (2012). Available at: [Accessed: 08.02.12]

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English and communication technology

© Communication Task Force

In the last few decades the Internet has become a technological and a social phenomenon. It has become a “fact of life, a way of being in the world, a producer of social subjects that, find it unremarkable, so unremarkable that it seems ‘everybody uses it.’” (Lewis & Fabos. 2005:470) It has allowed new social access, an instant connection to friends through a whole host of digital literacy’s. These new literacy’s have inevitably influenced the English Language; but it does not currently have a concrete place in the national curriculum. Yes, Information Communication Technology (ICT) is becoming a core subject in the new curriculum. But what about the communicative aspect of the Internet.

Several years ago, MSN had a huge popularity with teenagers. It had a huge impact of the linguistics aspects of the English Language. Lewis and Fabos (2005) research discovered that “in general, young people favoured IM over all other kinds of communication.” It provided an excitement of staying on top of multiple conversations; it was convenient because most people were constantly online and available. It also assuaged social relationships; making all potential threatening exchanges, such as face-to-face or via telephone, less problematic. Those interviewed in Lewis and Fabos’ study still occasionally used electronic mail (email) for telling longer stories, yet still preferred instant messaging over chat rooms, since “communicating with strangers was not nearly as engaging as communicating with one’s peers” (Lewis & Fabos. 2005:482)

Social networking has grown and became an integral part of commuter-mediated communication. Since the launch of ‘Myspace’ in 2003, Facebook in 2004 and Bebo in 2005, the Office for Communication (OFCOM) has found that “almost half (48%) of children aged 8-17 who use the internet have set up their own profile on a social networking site.” (OFCOM, 2008) Even though these sites restrict children aged thirteen or fourteen, OFCOM have found that “27% of 8-11 year olds who are aware of social networking sites say that they have a profile on a site.” (OFCOM 2008) Social networking “is now a mainstream form of communication, offering new ways for children to communicate and socialise.” (Dowdall. 2009:91) They, offer children the ability to create an online presence

In all of the above communication methods, children are involved in, and they are self motivated to learn the new communication methods.

In modern journalism courses, they have begun to teach how to write for an online audience. Why isn’t this integral part of what we now teach children? Blogs are emerging from teachers and students alike, from those with the technological know how, but it’s not all schools and not all children. As communicating online, whether through email, instant messaging or from social networking, is becoming an integral part of people’s lifestyle and social identity.

Should we introduce digital literacy into the classroom?

If yes, how can we introduce digital literacy in the classroom?

As part of my dissertation, I want to investigate these new literacies, and how do children communication differently on the world wide web.

(aspects taken from ‘English and Communication Technology’ linguistic assignment)


Lewis, C & Fabos, B (2005) ‘Instant Messaging, Literacies and Social Identities’ in Reading Research Quarterly. Vol. 40 (4), pp470-501

OFCOM (2008) ‘Social Networking: A Quantitative and Qualitative research Report into Attitudes, Behaviour and Use’. OFCOM. Available at [Accessed 11th February 2011]

Dowdall, C. (2009) ‘Impressions, improvisations and compositions: reframing children’s text production in social networking sites’ in Literacy. Vol. 43 (2), pp 91-99

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Dissertation – Language and literacy

Initial concepts for my dissertation on literacy and language.

The world is in constant change, so I feel that I want this piece of work which will reflect such changes.

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Whats the purpose of this blog?

I began thinking what the aim of this blog was. So it led me to this:

So for me this blog, is a reflection, a way I can discus my ideas in a linear format. I will hopefully use it a a diary of some sorts to discus concepts on my upcoming dissertation, and see where it goes from there.