The Internet's influence on literacy instruction and literacy development in a middle-school language arts classroom
Culpepper, Jacquelyn McClain
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This instrumental case study explored how one exemplary eighth-grade language arts teacher’s use of the Internet influenced literacy instruction and literacy development in her classroom. A transformative view of literacy and technology, suggesting a continual redefining of literacy as it converges with new technology, was the theoretical perspective that guided this investigation with 23 students and their teacher. The study attempted to capture the participants’ own words by collecting the data during a four-month period in six formats: (a) descriptive fieldnotes of classroom observations; (b) email with the teacher; (c) transcriptions of informal interviews; (d) print outs of students’ online discussions; (e) open-ended questionnaires; and, (f) samples of students’ projects for which they used the Internet. The findings of this study are reported as a set of five assertions: (1) The use of the Internet influenced the teacher’s literacy planning and instruction by facilitating the location of appropriate instruction material; (2) The use of the Internet facilitated a learning environment that encouraged student-centered, collaborative learning; (3) The use of the Internet positively affected aspects of students’ reading and writing, specifically their motivation to read, their critical reading skills, and their sense of audience and word choice; (4) The use of email influenced the learning context by expanding the teacher’s contact with students and parents beyond the classroom; and (5) The use of the Internet promoted new instructional outcomes and learning goals related to using digital materials, although the teacher did not abandon conventional goals. Innovations in technology are as ongoing as is the process of transformations in the use of technology in the classroom. This study’s close observation of how and why the teacher created new possibilities for literacy and learning with the Internet may inform other teachers as they continue to address the problems associated with using the resources of today’s technology such as the Internet in their classrooms to enhance literacy learning. Further examination is needed, however, to explore the Internet’s influence of students’ literacy development.