This report is of an in-depth review of research studies into the impact of networked ICT on literacy learning in English for 5-16 year olds. The studies were identified in a search of international databases.
The methods used were devised by the Evidence for Policy and Practice Information and Co-ordinating Centre at the Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.
The results are inconclusive, for a number of reasons. For example:
- many studies have flawed designs, making the results unreliable;
- much research assumes that networked ICT has a positive impact on literacy development, and just explores how - rather than whether - such an impact is made;
- the conception of literacy in the studies is narrow, based on a pre-digital notion of reading and writing: there is nothing on visual and other literacies.
There are indications - although suggestive rather than authoritative - that:
- projects such as email collaborations and web contacts between schools can have a positive impact (with regard to literacy development), and this can be increased by working with networked ICT;
- on-line mentoring can have a positive impact on the literacy development of, particularly, less confident learners;
- working with networked ICT may offer learners empowerment and ownership in an increasingly digital world.
For secondary teachers, it is salutary to note the absence of much authoritative research in this area, as New Opportunities Fund funding nears its end, and as the use of ICT becomes increasingly embedded in teachers' practice and in pupils' independent work.
What this study does perhaps indicate is the need and opportunity for teachers to engage in useful research in this area. For example, action research projects - such as those funded by the DfES through 'Best Practice Research Scholarships' could provide valuable evidence, which would complement more large-scale and statistically-based studies.