The Integration of Technology in the Teaching of Literacy: A Study of Teacher Learning

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The Integration of Technology in the Teaching of Literacy: A Study of Teacher Learning

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Literacy and technology have historically informed and transformed each other. This mutual interaction creates cultural shifts that redefine what it means to be literate, and also impact the ways in which literacy is taught in contemporary classrooms. Literacy teaching and learning has been the focus of much study during the past 50 years (Dressman, 2007), and we have a reliable knowledge base regarding how teachers learn to effectively teach literacy (Dillon, O’Brien, Sato, & Kelly, 2011; Hammerness, Darling-Hammond, & Bransford, 2005; National Research Council, 2001). We also have a growing knowledge base regarding contemporary literacy (Coiro, Knobel, Lankshear, & Leu, 2008). However, there is a pressing need for research to examine and portray how teachers learn to teach in contemporary contexts and how teachers’ understandings of literacy develop through practice (Curwood, 2014; Schmidt-Crawford, Tai, Wang, & Jin, 2016). The purpose of this study was to better understand how teachers learned to teach literacy through the use of technology, and how teacher conceptions of literacy developed and were enacted in elementary classrooms. Using embedded case study methodology (Yin, 2014), I examined ways in which elementary teachers learned to integrate technology for literacy instruction. In addition, I explored specific learning processes that teachers used to support the integration of technology for literacy instruction. In this study I also sought to understand how teacher conceptions of literacy developed through the situated practice of everyday teaching and learning. Social cultural and social cognitive understandings formed the theoretical framework undergirding my study, particularly as interpreted through a communities of practice lens (Wenger, 1998). Qualitative methods (Patton, 2002) were employed to collect data at three levels of inquiry: school context level, grade level team, and individual teacher. Analysis indicated that teachers learned to integrate technology for literacy instruction in both formal and informal modes, including through district professional development offerings, learning in community, and learning in and through the act of teaching. Communities of practice frameworks revealed that processes of legitimate peripheral participation, reification, negotiated meaning, identity formation and locality were helpful ways of understanding the critical processes involved in shifting into contemporary literacy practices. In addition, social cognitive processes of modeling, self-efficacy, goal setting, and visioning assisted teachers in enacting new understandings of literacy. Findings generated from data analysis indicated that teacher conceptions of literacy shifted in response to reflection on practice, and often in response to student reactions to technology integration. This study offers practical insight into how teachers learn to teach in contemporary literacy contexts, and presents suggestions for school leaders, teacher educators, teachers, and researchers as society continues to reimagine the meaning of literacy.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. May 2016. Major: Education, Curriculum and Instruction. Advisors: Deborah Dillon, David O'Brien. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 184 pages.

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Allen, Kathryn. (2016). The Integration of Technology in the Teaching of Literacy: A Study of Teacher Learning. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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