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A systematic review of the impact of ICT on literature-related literacies in English, 5-16. Teacher perspective (2)

Research question

What is the impact of ICT on literature-related literacies in English, 5-16?

Summary of results

The review indicates the importance of the teacher as mediator in the two-way relationship between ICT and literacy learning, showing that teachers matter more than technology. There is also evidence of a mismatch between commercial multimedia literature software and response-based teaching, though some packages may encourage literature-related literacies.


The broad background to this review is the growing international concern that huge investment in ICT in schools is not impacting on literacy development, despite the widely held opposite belief - especially among governments and schools - that ICT is beneficial in a number of other respects, providing powerful learning opportunities. Locke and Andrews set out to determine, as far as possible, the nature of the impact of the new technologies within a wider notion of the symbiosis between ICT and literacies. Research studies of the impact of ICT on this specific area of the curriculum are thin on the ground, and the review sought to set out definitions and concepts specifically relevant to literature-related literacies.


The earlier descriptive map of the overarching review described the process of identifying, including and characterising the studies which comprised the original systematic review, and for this specific review, the literature-based literacies map describes a parallel process. Potential studies were identifies through an updating of the original electronic searches and hand searches, and the updated database for 2001-2002 was also screened. A systematic quality assurance procedure was also followed. The agreed criteria for gauging the quality of the research were methodology, research design, focus relevance and overall weight of evidence. A narrative synthesis was undertaken, including the above weight of evidence judgements. No meta-analysis was possible due to the mainly qualitative nature of the evidence.


Twelve studies were identified as relevant to the review's key focus on the impact of literature-related literacies. Of these, half were from the USA and half from Australia or Canada. Half focused on the primary years, 40% on the secondary years, and the rest bridged the two phases. The studies were then reduced to a core of seven which were seen to have evidence relevant to the focus of the review.

A common theme that emerges from the research studied is that teachers matter more than technology. Teachers mediate impact, specifically via the discourses that teachers and students use; learning outcomes are explicitly affected by the ideology, values and practices of the teacher who sets up the ICT interaction. Moreover there is a clear mismatch between commercial multimedia software packages and response-based teaching. There does seem to be some motivational impact when ICT is introduced into the literature programme, though there is a suggestion that duration of exposure to a technology can also demotivate. Other themes identified are 'e-credibility' and a need for more emphasis to be given in future research to the topic of literary writing as opposed to literary reading.

Several studies (especially USA-based ones) place literature-related literacy squarely within a fairly orthodox response-based tradition, while others view 'literature' more broadly and assume, for example, that it now encompasses more than simply print-based mediation. It is clear that a carefully conceptualised broad-spectrum view of literature-based literacy allows for the identification of a wider range of potentially desirable learning outcomes, with both social and cognitive dimensions. Positive ways in which ICT can foster collaborative ways of making meanings around texts were suggested.


This report indicates the inherent challenges of literature and literary study itself, as well as the changing nature of all texts - including 'literary' ones - in a multimedia age. The role of the teacher remains central, as it is the teacher who filters or mediates the pupils' experience of literature-based literacies. Issues such as textual practices under technological pressure, and the difficulties of narrowly conceived learning outcomes are raised, as well as the ideology, values and practices of the teacher at the interface of literature and the new technologies. The review concludes that these implications are relevant to policy, practice and the future research agenda.

The writer is an experienced teacher of English Language and Literature at secondary level and a part-time PGCE tutor in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of York. She is also a senior examiner, moderator and coursework adviser for the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance examination board. The writer is not a member of the Review Group nor an adviser for the Review, and is writing in a personal capacity.

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