Perceptions on digital literacies and implementation practices: Perspectives of English teachers

Puskar Chaudhary

Abstract

This study explored the English language teachers’ perceptions of digital literacies, and how and why these skills need to be integrated into English language instruction. Case study was the research method and the data were gathered through semi-structured interviews, from six non-native English language teachers who were in teaching different educational levels: basic education level and secondary education level. The results indicated that teachers were aware that they needed to become digitally literate by developing the collection of skills and mindsets about digital tools and technologies.

Keywords: English language teachers, Digital literacies, English language instruction, 21st-century skills, case study

Introduction

In the 21st century, fast-evolving technologies have transformed everyday communication and literacy practices for many young children and teachers as they find themselves immersed in multiple digital media. The digital media have also offered tremendous benefits to all of us. They have provided the platforms that allow us to connect and collaborate by opening up opportunities to learn about new and important issues, and have empowered innovation in ways that were unimaginable just a few years ago. Moreover, it has transfigured the definition of literacy and is always changing, and now more than ever, the definition is shifting to include the ability to have contemporary skills that help to find, access and use information digitally (Nacy, 2017), which is extremely relevant in the lives of all adults, including English language learners (ELLs). Law et al. (2018) further conveyed that literacy is about the uses people make of it as a means of communication and expression, through a variety of media. Similarly, International Literacy Association (2018) states that literacy is the ability to understand, interpret, create, compute, and communicate using visual, audible, and digital materials across disciplines or variety of the context. Therefore, there is a shift in the meaning of literacy which is not limited to just being able to read and write. Today, digital tools have gone hand-in-hand with the growth of English and are changing the way in which we communicate. It’s the time that being digital literate by using digital tools and technologies is essential for teachers and students in the 21st century.

Regarding digital literacy, scholars have used various terms and definitions. Dudeney et al. (2013) stated digital literacy is the creation of any digital materials and sharing it online with having creative, cultural knowledge and social appropriacy skills. The European Commission (2006) stated digital competence is the competency which involves the confident and critical use of Information Society Technology (IST) for work, leisure and communication. In this regard, it is inevitable that today people should acquire digital media literacy as one of the major competencies, and the 21st-century teachers are challenged to integrate digital literacy in the teaching-learning process. The drastic technological and digitally enhanced teaching-learning change have consequences for the development of early literacy and the ways in which parents and educators are able to equip today’s young learners for getting knowledge digitally. It has attracted a lot of researchers, educators and practitioners to conduct various studies including the evaluation of students‟ digital literacy (Zhang & Zhu, 2016) as well as the use of digital tools in remotely or online (Hobbs, 2013; Park & Burford, 2013; Nowell, 2014; Young, 2008). Thus, digital literacy has become the part of learning in the present era for teachers, parents and students to conform to ourselves building a community of teaching digitally and using them in the time of emergency or during the time of the global pandemic. More specifically, Hatlevik and Christophersen (2013) define digital competence as the skill to use digital tools or technologies to gain, manage and evaluate information, create and share information by using digital tools. The success of digital literacy in classroom settings is often related to teachers‟ key role as a facilitator in the teaching-learning process. Young (2008) states that teachers, students, and overall technology use rely on how a teacher utilizes the technology in the classroom, so the lack of teacher competence becomes a major obstacle in technological device application in the teaching-learning process. In addition, Williams (2012) who studied perceptions of digital immigrant teachers toward their digital native students‟ use of social media showed that even though they had positive perceptions on social media use in terms of collaboration, teacher-student relations, and communication, at the same time they gave negative perception in terms of improperness of formal writing, interpersonal communication skill, and too much drama. In this regard, such drawbacks of social media can result in alterations of students‟ affective and cognitive behaviour. Besides, as for teachers, this negative perception might reduce their awareness of the primacy of technology in the classroom. Meanwhile, Eshet-Alkalai (2004) concludes that digital literacy is a large variety of complex cognitive, motor, sociological, and emotional skills that may be used as a measure of the quality of the students` work in a digital environment. Bachlin and Wild (2015) proposed three frameworks which are addressing the past, developing in the present, and broadening perspectives in the future that aimed at helping teacher trainees in developing the appropriate skills to apply technology in the classroom in an ever-changing digital environment. From this context, the teacher’s digital literacy is the ability to operate and use digital tools efficiently in the teaching and learning process. Siddike (2010) proposed that the digital competences which are foundation digital literacy competencies, basic digital competences, intermediate digital literacy competence, advanced digital literacy competence, technical digital competences, and digital literacy proficiency.

The essential elements of digital literacies

There are quite a lot of skills or things involved in digital literacies. It is not just to create the word document, technical skill is one thing but there are more difficult skills involved in it like cultural knowledge, social appropriacy, collaboration and redesigning etc. Therefore, several educationists or groups have given different frameworks or models of digital literacies: Dudeney et al. (2013), Belshaw (2014), European Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp) (2015), Digital Capability Framework (Jisc) (2016). DigComp (2015) frames digital literacies into five areas: information and data literacy, communication and collaboration, digital content creation, safety, and problem-solving. Whereas Digital Capability Framework (Jisc) (2016) opined that there are six major elements – information data and media literacies, digital creation, problem solving and innovation, ICT proficiency, digital learning and development, digital communication, collaboration and participation and digital identity and wellbeing.  Belshaw’s (2014) digital literacy model has eight elements which are cognitive, constructive, communicative, civic, critical, creative, and confident and culture. These components are meaningful signify that it’s not only one skill that makes us digitally literate but needs to have those all skill sets. There are many digital literacy models or frameworks which all focus on having digital skills, helping people to develop attributes, skills and attitudes.

Although there is no single model or framework to measure the digital literacies, a framework of digital literacies created by Dudeney et al. ( 2013) was taken as the reference for the current study. This framework was designed to guide teachers of English and other languages in preparing their students to engage effectively with the communicative, collaborative and creative demands and opportunities of the 21st-century era, the framework was being used to inform a number of European language learning initiatives. It suggests a set of four overlapping skill sets corresponding to four main areas i.e. focus on language, information, connections or collaboration and (re-)design.

The first area focus on language which includes the following literacies:

texting literacy: the ability to read and gather information from the text and be able to communicate either synchronously or asynchronously taking part in real-time online text chat conversations

hypertext literacy: the ability to use the hyperlinks and navigate the information

multimodal literacy: the ability to understand images, text or different media for getting the information

technological literacy: knowledge about digital tools

code literacy: a basic understanding of coding for logical thinking and programming

The second area focus on information: fundamental skills that help us navigate the flood of digital information provided by the internet. These include:

search literacy’ (the ability to get information online),

tagging literacy (labelling or tagging online information),

information literacy (being able to evaluate sources information),

filtering literacy (knowing how to manage useful or useless  information),

attention literacy (Being mindful when to switch off as well as on).

The third area focus on connection or collaboration includes the skills of:

personal literacy ( knowing how to manage our online identities, being aware of personal data)

network literacy ( being able to leverage information online  and becoming a global citizen)

Participatory literacy (being able to involve in the professional group and being able to create and produce digital content)

Cultural/intercultural literacy (being able to communicate well with the group of people of other cultures)

The final area focus on (re) design consist primarily of:

critical literacy (being able to observe new trends with digital technologies, thinking on e-waste and digital tools)

remix literacy (being able to mix the information and making something new digitally)

As can be seen, the framework of digital literacies created by Dudeney et al. (2013) definitely makes us clear that digital literacies are essential skills that both English language teachers and students to need to acquire for full participation in the world beyond  or inside the classroom. It does not only entail the safe and critical use of computers to obtain, evaluate, store, produce present and exchange information and to communicate and participate in collaborative online networks but well trained, digitally literate teachers can give schools a competitive edge by making learning relevant, motivating students and helping them develop valuable life skills alongside language skills.

The purpose of the study

The study explores models for thinking about digital literacies and examines benefits and challenges associated with systematically addressing a selection of digital literacies in ELT settings. Finally, it reviews adaptable activities designed to help English Language Learners (ELLs) develop the 21st-century skills that will serve them in the classroom and beyond. Hence, the study investigated the English language teachers` perceptions of digital literacies and their practices of incorporating them in English language instructions. The first, technology usage is growing fast so that the English teachers should be aware of the technology changes and literate in the digital tools. The next, digital literacy is needed so that the technologies put in place can be maintained or adapted to be used effectively in EFL teaching. The last, it is an essential thing for the English teachers to provide the new digital tools in teaching and learning processes.

Significance of the study

By evaluating the English language teachers` perceptions of digital literacies and practices it can give some significance. The first, theoretically, the teachers need to know or clarify about the digital literacies and their digital literacy competences in order to support the teaching English in digital era. In addition, they would be aware of how and why these skills can be integrated into English language instruction. The second, practically, digital literacy is needed for English teacher in order to examine the benefits and challenges associated with systematically addressing a selection of digital literacies in ELT settings. The last, pedagogically, digital literacy competencies can help the English teacher to be more digitally literate in the digital teaching era. Besides that, English language teachers will be able to help their and English Language Learners (ELLs) develop the 21st-century skills that serve them in the classroom and beyond.

Research methodology

To find out a group of English language teachers’ perceptions upon digital literacies and implementation practices in the English language instructions, this qualitative study made use of multiple descriptive case study design, and collected data through semi-structured, one to one interviews. The interview questions were created collaboratively by the researcher to examine the issues under investigation.

Sampling

The current study used purposeful sampling which is one of the sampling techniques commonly used in qualitative research (Palinkas et al., 2013). Having a very close tie to the research objectives, this type of sampling signifies a series of choices about whom, where, and how the research is done (Palys, 2008). Keeping this in mind, the group of teachers participating in the study was purposefully chosen since they were aware of digital literacies and incorporating them in the English language instructions in various ways. They were also motivated and open to communicate their experiences and opinions in a reflective manner. Therefore, it was thought that taking a snapshot of their perceptions regarding digital literacies and implementation practices might bring rich data. To preserve anonymity, the participants were assigned numbers from T1 to T6.

Table 1 Teacher characteristics

Participant Gender Level of teaching Digital competences Teaching experiences
T 1

T 2

T 3

T 4

T 5

T 6

Male

Female

Female

Female

Female

Female

Secondary

Secondary

Basic

Basic

Basic

Basic

Advance

Basic

Basic

Basic

Basic

Novice

7 years

11 years

8 years

4 years

3 years

2 years

 

As can been seen; only one of the six teachers was male, who had the advance digital skills or competency. Four of the teachers had basic digital skills competency whereas one of the teachers had just the general knowledge of digital skills. The teachers were teaching at different levels from Basic Education Level (BEL) to Secondary level and had been practicing digital literacies having varied years of experiences.

Data collection and analysis

As previously mentioned, the data were gathered through one-on-one, semi-structured interviews which were audio-recorded and supported by field notes. After the initial transcriptions, the researchers continuously and recursively worked on the transcriptions and looked for words and phrases reflecting emerging ideas about the teachers’ perceptions of digital literacies and implementation practices in the English language instruction. Keywords and phrases that seemed to refer to digital literacies and skills were also picked. The emergent themes which were thought to refer to the same broad idea were put into the same category and labelled.        

Findings and discussion

This study aimed to find out six English language teachers’ perceptions of digital literacies and implementation practices in the English language instruction. Therefore, the findings gained via the interview data were put into two sub-sections; perceptions of digital literacies and perceptions of implementation practices of digital literacies in the English language instruction. The details pertaining to each section are presented and discussed below in Table no 2.

Perceptions of digital literacies

In the interviews, teachers were firstly asked to define what digital literacies are. The analysis of the data yielded different responses which were put under two main categories and presented in the table.

Table 2 Themes

Digital literacies perceptions Themes
1. Having Digital Skills/ competences

 

 

 

 

 

2. Having additional digital Skills/competences

The Use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

Ability to use the internet access

Accessing videos on YouTube

Creating any digital contents and Sharing learning materials in the Internet

Communicating digital content

Creativity, Cultural knowledge, Social Appropriacy, Participate in internet or  (sub) culture

 

As it demonstrated in the table, definitions for digital literacies were categorized having basic digital skills or competencies and having additional digital skills or competences. Digital literacies were perceived as the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), ability to use the internet access, accessing videos on YouTube, creating any digital contents and sharing learning materials in the internet, communicating digital content. The teachers were aware of using ICT to deliver the lesson in the English language classroom. They were also enabled to use the internet either to provide the teaching materials from the internet and share their own lesson through emails or online mode.

The second category of perceptions of digital literacies, having additional digital Skills/competences, included creativity, cultural knowledge, social appropriacy, participate in the internet or  (sub) culture skills. They opined that they need to understand different online contents and how to interact appropriately in them. They had the skill that helped them to navigate the information from the internet or search effectively and tag them and evaluate them critically. They knew how to use technology to increase civic engagement and social action.

Perceptions of  how and why to implement Digital Literacies in the English language instructions

Table 3 Reasons for implementing digital literacies

Digital literacies practices perceptions Themes
1. Attending webinars and online classes

2. Learning basic and advanced computer courses

3. Connecting classroom teaching digitally

4. Collaborating with colleagues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking online courses –webinars, MOOCs from Cousera, Canva, British council, American Embassy

Learning MS – words , Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, And graphic designers, Internet connections

 

Using computer/laptop, projector to deliver the lessons

Engaging in email/video chat and social media for exchanging the information

Utilizing storytelling media to allow students to create and publish stories

Setting up a blog site/ Facebook Page  or Edmodo or periodical post

Engaging students in discussions about the impact of mobile phones/technologies in the 21st century

 

Sharing knowledge and experience

Receiving peer feedback

As table no. 3 shows, the findings of the this questions yielded several responses which were categories as attending webinars and online classes, learning basic and advance computer courses, connecting classroom teaching digitally and collaborating with colleagues.

For the first category, the basic practices were taking online courses –webinars, Massive open online course (MOOCS) from different online learning platforms like Coursera, Canva, British council, American Embassy etc. Whereas, for the second category, learning basic and advanced computer courses, learning MS – words, Excel, PowerPoint, HTML, And graphic designers, Internet connections were the main perceptions. On the other, hands, for the third category, using computer/laptop, projector to deliver the lesson, engaging in email/video chat and social media for exchanging the information, utilizing storytelling media to allow students to create and publish stories, setting up a blog site/ Facebook Page or Edmodo or periodical post and engaging students in discussions about the impact of mobile phones/technologies in the 21st century were the basic practices. The last category was labelled as collaborating with colleagues which included sharing knowledge and experience and receiving peer feedback.

In sum, the finding shows that the teachers are aware of digital literacies in the 21st century so that they could make their learners digitally literate and they have been practicing in different ways to express their ideas in digital media not to just teach the core elements of the language but also the create the position globally.

Conclusion

This paper investigated a group of English Language Teachers to explore the perceptions of English language teachers on digital literacies and how and why they are incorporating them in the English language classroom. Being digitally literate helps teachers to present text in a very highly structured way and pace the introduction of new concepts and skills depending on the progress of the students. It also helps to provide aural feedback to the pupil in a timely fashion and work patiently for as long as the pupil is prepared to keep trying.

Digital technologies are impacting the lives and learning of teachers and the young children; and experiences of using digital resources can serve as the foundation for present and future development. It also explored the diversity of teachers’ and students’ literacy skills, practices and expertise across digital tools, technologies and media, in English language instructions. The results revealed that digital technologies have influenced English language teachers and digital teaching learning resources have transfigured not only teachers and but also students’ digital and multimodal literacy practices. The English language teachers who are digitally literate are able to help the students acquire not only the language skills needed for the academic achievements but also some digital skills that they inevitably also need in the 21st-century education. Therefore, the English Language teachers are being digitally literate by educating themselves and gaining digital skills and knowledge through massive of online classes, webinars, reproducing teaching materials digitally and sharing them with the learners and colleagues.

[Note: since you have come up to here reading it, please share your feeling, feedback or any question related to it in the comment box below, which will encourage the author. Thank you!]

[To cite it: Chaudhary, P. (2020, April 20). Perceptions on digital literacies and implementation practices: Perspectives of English teachers. Retrieved from: http://eltchoutari.com/2020/04/perceptions-on-digital-literacies-and-implementation-practices-a-perspective-of-english-language-teachers/]

The Author: Puskar Chaudhary is currently teaching and researching at Triyog High School where he also coordinates as Triyog Friend of Zoo (FOZ) Head with the collaboration of The National Trust for Nature Conservation (NTNC). He is pursuing MPhil in English Language Education from Kathmandu University. His professional memberships include NELTA, TESOL, Toastmasters International and IATEFL. He has taken professional and pedagogical training from online classes and MOOCS. His interest and research include teaching English to Young Learners, critical thinking skills and digital literacies.

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