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How do Learning theories support Digital Literacy Education?

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Laura Hughes

on 10 January 2014

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Transcript of How do Learning theories support Digital Literacy Education?

How does Constructivism support Digital Literacy Education?
Using Scaffolding in a classroom environment
Applying this theory to the learning of coding, for example, could take place in the form of a short CAA (computer assisted assessment) that tests the background knowledge of a child prior to the teaching of the subject. It could test for an understanding of technical terms, the ability to follow basic instructions and use simple and child friendly interfaces. As the teaching progresses, the CAA may be repeated so that the teacher can understand how a child is progressing. By being continuously aware of the child's development, the teacher and even the programmes the child is using can be adapted to make sure that the pupil is always reaching for his or her next attainment level.
Social Constructivism and the application of this theory
Another facet of Constructivism is Social Constructivism. This terminology refers more closely to the way in which children assimilate new information via social and cultural relationships, giving context and meaning to new information that they gather. Furthermore supportive of student centered learning, Wilson and Lowry (2000) describe that collaborative projects can be highly effective in encouraging divergent sharing of knowledge between pupils and even classes that can make full use of global communications technology- resulting in the possibility of collaborative work between pupils across different parts of the world. An example a little closer to home that also adheres to the Key Stage 1 curriculum could be a collaboration between three or more pupils to write and code a programme together.
Other ways to integrate Theory
Whilst the focus here has been on integrating Constructivism and the new Computing curriculum specifically, it must be acknowledged that there are many other ways to make technology a regular part of UK schooling. Through the appropriate use (that is to say, that teacher's must not form an over reliance on technology), many other subjects in the curriculum can be enhanced and taught in a new and exciting way. Furthermore, an encouragement of collaboration could be highly beneficial in developing team work skills for future employment.
Applying the theory to the
2014 UK curriculum
The new curriculum can be viewed as being somewhat complex and out of reach for very young children to understand. The Key Stage 1 guidelines, for example, state that children should have a basic understanding of algorithms and be able to "create simple programs". (GOV, 2013). Therefore, it can be said that it is the responsibility of the teacher to adapt and contextualize the framework for the children to be able to understand and assimilate new information; in this case through a suggested use of scaffolding.
In understanding any previous knowledge the child has of digital literacy, the teacher will be able to adapt his or her teaching to the level of the child.
Vygotsky (1978) was one of the forefront thinkers of "Constructivism". Using terms such as "Zone of Proximal development", he sought to describe the way in which children learn new information and the best ways in which to support this. This "Zone" describes the capacity a child has for advancing to the next stage of a concept or subject, and tells us that it must be recognised that any new information a child learns is an addition to their foundation of knowledge.
In terms of education, this means that teachers should use context in order to fully help a child learn a new concept. Describing abstract principles such as networking and coding should be simplified and related to the child as much as possible, with clear child friendly interfaces. Bruner (1978) was a clear supporter of this ideal, suggesting that language also plays a strong part in this cognitive development. In terms of digital literacy, it is important to remember that there is a large quantity of new vocabulary for a child to acquire and that a strong support network is wholly necessary in order for the child to grasp these new concepts.

Scaffolding is a term used to describe the process of supporting a child just enough to reach their next stage of development, but allowing them to take responsibility for their learning. Applebee(1986) described five stages for effective scaffolding:
"1. Student ownership of the learning event. The
instructional task must allow students to make their
own contribution to the activity as it evolves.
2. Appropriateness of the instructional task. This
means that the tasks should build upon the
knowledge and skills the student already possesses,
but should be difficult enough to allow new
learning to occur.
3. A structured learning environment. This will
provide a natural sequence of thought and
language, thus presenting the student with useful
strategies and approaches to the task.
4. Shared responsibility. Tasks are solved jointly in
the course of instructional interaction, so the role of
the teacher is more collaborative than evaluative.
5. Transfer of control. As students internalize new
procedures and routines, they should take a greater
responsibility for controlling the progress of the
task such that the amount of interaction may
actually increase as the student becomes more
(Applebee, 1986, Foley, 1994, p101-102)

Applebee, A. N. 1986. 'Problems in process approaches: Towards a reconceptualization of process instruction' in A. R. Petrosky and D.Bartholomae (eds.) The Teaching of Writing. 85th
Year book of the National Society for the Study of Education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pp101-102 (Within Foley, 1994)

Bruner, J. 1978. 'The role of dialogue in language acquisition' In A. Sinclair, R., J. Jarvelle, and W. M. Levelt (eds.) The Child's Concept of Language. New York: Springer-Verlag.

Foley, J. (1994). Scaffolding. ELT Journal. 101-102.
Accessed: 1st January 2014
Available at:
eltj.oxfordjournals.org/content/48/1/101.full. pdf

GOV (2013), National Curriculum in England: Computing Programmes of Study, Department for Education
Accessed: 28th December 2013
Available at:
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-curriculum-in-england-computing-programmes-of-study/national-curriculum-in-england-computing-programmes-of-study (GOV)

Wilson, B., & Lowry, M. (2000). Constructivist learning on the web, Journal of New Directions for
Adult and Continuing Information, Volume 2000, Issue 88, pp79-88
Accessed: 1st January 2014
Available at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ace.8808/abstract

Vygotsky, L. (1978), Interaction between learning and development, Journal of Mind and Society, pp79-91, Harvard University Press.

What is the
impact on learning
digital literacy?
What resources exist to help teachers?
Available resources
A website for setting up primary school based coding clubs- an example of collaboration
Website for Raspberry Pi, a small cheap computer ideal for learning coding
A great resource with contextualised information on coding for kids
An informative list of technological tools every teacher should familiarise themselves with
In summary it is clear that Constructivism has a large part to play in the teaching of a modern curriculum. Teachers are able to supplement teaching in many novel ways and encourage pupils to take ownership and responsibility for their learning. Furthermore, equipping students with these skills will enable them to continue their independent learning far into higher education, encouraging them to find an inherent passion for learning.
In addition, I believe that it is imperative that teachers are supported in their acquisition of digital literacy, so that they are able to support their students, and also for the purposes of professional and academic development. It can be said that today's teachers cannot afford to be digitally illiterate.
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