Summary of results
The English Review Group found out that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is helping us to think about the concepts of English literature differently. It is obvious from this review that teachers are still vital to learning, that available software needs more development before being very successful in the classroom, and that using ICT is not a perfect way to motivate students.
What did they want to find out?
The English Review Group asked the question: what is the impact of ICT on literature-related literacy learning in schools for students aged 5 - 16? That is, how do computers change the way we learn in English literature?
The Group decided that this review was needed because they knew that the government has spent a lot of money on ICT in literacy learning in schools recently, and they felt it was important to find out about the effect it has on our learning.
Instead of setting up experiments and collecting data themselves, the English Review Group found information by studying existing evidence from other reviews and then organising and analysing it to answer their own question - to find out about the impact of ICT on literature-related literacy learning.
What did they do?
The English Review Group's main research source was the database they compiled in 2002 and updated in 2003, which had listed many studies on ICT and literacy. This time they reorganised them to make it relevant to this research question. They searched these studies to find ones relating to literature.
When deciding which studies would be included for this current review, the English Review Group had to work fairly, so they made sure that several different people made decisions on their own and then compared what they decided.
They had to decide how useful the research shown in the studies was, so they judged each piece of evidence on the quality of the research methods used, and how appropriate the research was to this specific review.
The evidence found on the impact of ICT on literature-related literacy was all verbal data rather than made up of numerical statistics, so the Group had to analyse it in a way that would take this into consideration.
What did they find out?
Eventually, the English Review Group narrowed their research down to seven relevant studies, showing the impact of various different ways of using ICT on learning in literature.
They came to some clear conclusions. Firstly, they found out that although ICT can benefit our learning in literature, the teacher is more important, and the impact of ICT on literacy learning is very much down to the teacher and the learning environment. They found out that the ICT software available now can't cope with the individuality of the reader of literature, and so cannot be very effective, since so much of literature learning is dependent on the reader's personal outlook. They concluded also that, although ICT can initially motivate and engage the student, this motivation soon wears off, so it is not a solution to the problem of engaging demotivated students. They decided from their review that there needs to be a shift in focus in ICT in teaching literature in English lessons to concentrate more on creative writing rather than reading literature.
The study of the relationship between literature and ICT has helped people to understand that literature is just one form of using language, and ICT is beginning to question the idea that literacy means literature (i.e. that reading and writing always refers to books).
So what does this mean?
The implications of these results are that there needs to be further development in software before it can have a positive impact on literature-related literacy learning, to cater for the personal background that the reader brings to reading. The potential of the use of ICT in the English classroom is yet to be fulfilled, and at the moment we still rely greatly on the teacher, rather than on the ICT, to learn.
The writer is a sixth-form student known to the Review Group Co-ordinator. This perspective is written in a personal capacity.