Problems!

As my thinking behind my research ideas moves on, I am being faced with a few problems.

My plan was to introduce the use of Twitter into a local primary school holding structured interviews with the children before and after the process focusing on their attitudes to writing. The problem within this is that the children’s attitudes might improve simply because the activities they will be involved in are new to them. Will it actually be Twitter that has the impact on attitudes and how can this be measured?

To solve this, I could to do 1 of 2 things. I could implement the use of Twitter in the classrooms earlier, so that the children will have a longer time to use it and become more comfortable using it, eliminating the ‘wow’ factor that could cause for an impact on attitude. Or, I could work with an older age group (Y5/6) who are already used to the communicative nature of the Web 2.0 world. If they already have Facebook profiles, Bebo pages or blogs, then they are not necessarily going to be affected by this ‘new’ mode of communication, meaning that the impact of Twitter can be measured more reliably (I hope!).

Current question ideas:

Can the use of Twitter in the classroom impact boy’s attitudes to writing? Is this question too general? Not focused enough? How do I measure the impacts? Is it possible? What aspects of writing?

Bringing interactive digital discourse into the classroom: a focus on the impact on boy’s attitudes to writing. A case study?

Can the use of Twitter remove barriers to boy’s writing and improve attitudes in the primary classroom?

Hmm…the ideas go on!

Boys and Writing

As my research question will (eventually) be clarified to an aspect of boy’s writing in the primary schools, I have been reading around the issues involved with writing, and more specifically the theory around the gender gap between girls and boys in English attainment at KS1 and 2.

National Curriculum Test Levels from 2008, show 68% of children achieved a Level 4 or above in their writing at the end of KS2. In terms of gender, there is a big gap between girls and boys attainment as 75% of girls and only 61% of boys achieved this level in writing. The statistics state this is an increase of 1 percentage point from 2007. The provisional results for 2009 currently show a 0% increase from 2008, with the percentages staying exactly the same.

Having seen the figures, it is clear that work still needs to be done to narrow the gap in attainment and bring boy’s writing levels up to the standard of girls. It is important to note with all of this that there are, of course, a large amount of boy’s who do achieve good levels in their writing in the primary schools, it is just that when generalizing, the boy’s attainment falls below that of the girls.

An interesting questions that was raised for me during this reading was: Why is there still a gap? Professionals have been considering this gender gap for over a decade, publishing research into what needs to be done to raise attainment, and the evidence is that teachers and schools are listening and following advice. Despite this, there is still a generalized ‘low’ in boy’s writing. In pointing this out, I wish to say I am not criticizing any teachers work, and am not saying that not enough is being done, I am just making an interesting point.

Having noted the clear gap in boy’s writing I was interested to find out what theories or ideas were being implemented to attempt to try and raise boy’s attainment. One recurring theme of this reading was that in order to raise attainment, we need first to transform boy’s attitudes to writing and motivate them to want to write, to see the benefits of writing, and to enjoy it. It is this that I hope to make the link to in my research. With the ceaseless ‘revolution in the landscape of communication’ (Kress, 2003) children are engaging in many different modes of literacy outside of the classroom.

There is a certain dissonance between home and school environments and within this, the value of different contexts of writing. Currently there are children ‘sitting in our classrooms who view themselves and the world in quite new ways and who have needs around text and literacy that cannot be met within these models of the curriculum’ (Carrington, 2005). This needs to be addressed.

One thing that scares me…it was 5 years since that was written. Time and technology development is exponential, is the curriculum following suit?

Reading, reading, reading…

I am still making progress towards developing a question for my research project. As an inexperienced researcher, I am following the informed advice of my tutors (who are incredibly helpful) in reading widely surrounding my area of interest.

Finding published work surrounding the use of Twitter in education is proving difficult – especially with a focus on primary education. I have been sent a few links via Twitter (*note to self – great way of gathering information) and am making my way through the linked papers.

In light of this, I am searching for publications, journal articles and books that sort to discuss the impact ‘digital literacies’ can have in the field of education. ‘Digital literacies’ is a term that is bringing up a whole range of differing opinions, and there is much argument surrounding the term ‘literacy’. Merchant (2007) discusses the differing opinions of many writers into which aspects of traditional literacy we should still value, and portrays the dissonance amongst government publications and the needs of 21st Century ‘digital natives’ (Prensky, 2001).

Whilst there are opinions that print based texts should initiate the learning processes involved with writing, I have begun thinking about the place of this in an increasingly technological society, in which, children are utilising new media from an incredibly early age. If 4 year olds are accessing iPhones and downloading music without any adult intervention (Prensky, 2009), then surely the reading and writing process has begun even before schooling starts? Although within this I realise and take into account that there may not be any formal transcription involved in accessing music downloads. Hmm…contradicted myself there?

Also the ‘hole in the wall’ research could come in useful here – children in rural India were exposed to a computer in the village for the first time – within a short amount of time the children had taught themselves a few words of English and were searching and browsing the internet. (*Needs more consideration in a writing context).

Oh well, should probably read more to clarify the ideas!

Right, back to the reading…

Dissertation time!

Having just finished my 3rd Year placement it is now time to get back to the academic side of the course. With modules coming at me from every angle it is sure to be a hard term here in Plymouth! Despite this, I am looking forward to it, and am already excited about my dissertation research project for my English module.

We are choosing our own focus for the research; a freedom that I enjoy having. Initial ideas surrounding the use of new technologies and their impact on the teaching and learning of English appealed to me and so I set out researching the areas within this to focus on.

I have decided to focus on twitter and its educational potential within English, specifically writing. I am beginning to clarify my research question; something that is proving difficult. I wish to focus on the impact using twitter could have on attitudes or attainment in boys writing. It is clear from the wealth of writing on the internet that twitter is beneficial when used in education, however, I wish to focus specifically on teaching and learning in writing.

If anyone has any thoughts/feelings towards this idea, or any ideas they wish to contribute, please leave a comment or get in touch!