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A systematic review of the impact of networked ICT on 5-16 year olds' literacy in English. Student perspective

Do computers help us to read and write?

In 2001 and early 2002, a group of researchers investigated the impact of ICT on literacy learning.

What exactly are they trying to investigate?

This research study is aiming to investigate how ICT (Information and Communication Technologies - the use of computers) can help us learn…especially in literacy (that is, in reading and writing in English). The study is focusing on how ICT can help students who are still in compulsory schooling (age 5-16).

The researchers are asking this question:

'What is the impact of networked ICT on literacy learning in English, 5-16?'

Or, in other words:

'How does using ICT (especially the Internet and e-mail) in our English and language lessons affect us?'

Why do they need to investigate this?

Many pupils use computers to help them with their work, and knowing about how ICT can help us will be useful for all sorts of people:

  • Teachers will be encouraged to involve more ICT in their teaching, which will make the lessons more fun and interesting. From this study, the teachers can also learn about other ways of using ICT in their English and language lessons, and can assess their current use of ICT;
  • The Government (especially the people who decide on what we learn) will find it useful so that they can assess our current use of ICT, and so that they can encourage more people to use ICT to assist education;
  • Parents need to know the facts about ICT so that they can help with home/school communication electronically, in terms of homework for ICT education;
  • Most importantly, we as students will find out about more ways to make our work more interesting by using ICT in our English lessons.

How did they go about researching this topic?

In order to research the use of ICT in literacy learning and answer the research question, the researchers:

  • wrote a plan to map out what they were going to do;
  • searched, using the Internet, books, journals, and reports, for studies that were relevant to the topic; there were nearly 200 of them;
  • looked more closely at those studies to find the ones that were specifically about networked ICT in literacy learning (16 were found);
  • made a list of the different topic areas within ICT and literacy (e.g. word processing, the Internet, using multimedia);
  • took out the data (or information) needed from the 16 studies identified.


Many studies on various sub-topics were found, mostly from the USA but also some from the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Some were focused on primary/elementary schools, and some on secondary/high schools. Some referred to literacy as reading and writing in English, and some referred to it as a matter of social communication in learning (that is, communicating with other people while learning). Some focused on writing, and some on reading.

Overall, the results were inconclusive (that is, the research did not provide a definite answer to the question). Information was found about ICT in out-of-school activities; word processing; ICT used in speaking and listening in education; and also ICT used to help special needs education.

The results suggest that using ICT helps to 'widen the concepts of literacy', extending literacy education to more than just reading and writing. They also suggest that using ICT helps to increase confidence in pupils, makes learning in English and language more enjoyable, and helps education to keep up with modern technology in the world.

In conclusion, the use of networked ICT in literacy learning affects students aged 5-16 in many positive ways, but more and better research is needed to answer the research question fully.

Over the next year, the English Review Group is going to look at the effects of other aspects of ICT (like CD Rom use and reading on-screen) on 5-16 year olds.

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