04 SES 09 B, Developing Children’s Literacy in an Inclusive Environment
The aim of this paper is to from a special educational perspective make a contribution to the European field of inclusive education. Focus is on how preschool class-teachers and primary school-teachers design and orchestrate digital learning milieus and learning situations to afford all children, including children in need of special support, literacy-development. Here all pupils do not refer to quantities, but to inclusiveness from the perspective of special needs education: all includes pupils with different physical abilities, dispositions, backgrounds and needs in varying school contexts. Intentions with, design and orchestration of learning environments and situations play an important role in pupils’ learning and meaning-making and these aspects are even more important for pupils with special educational needs.
Research questions addressed how digital literacy development environments and situations were designed and orchestrated and how learning and meaning-making were expressed. In this paper I will focus on the teachers’ intentions for design and orchestration of digital literacy development environments and situations.
At the interface of three domains
The basic assumption that all children and young people, but particularly children with special educational needs,are affected by how and why teaching environments and situations are designed and orchestrated opened up for a variety of perspectives. The study therefore draws on perspectives from various domains. The theoretical framework was designs for learning, the contextual focused on digital learning environments. The study further payed attention to special needs education. This study is thus located at the interface of three large research areas: designs for learning, digital learning environments and special needs education.
Designs for learning
Designs for learning may be defined and understood as a social practice that prioritizes agency, dynamics and objects before content and method (Lund & Hauge, 2011). A design-oriented perspective on learning opens up for the opportunities to see the learning process of how we understand something (Lindstrand, 2006). Designs for learning highlight the prerequisites for learning, as a resource for productive learning (Selander & Kress, 2010). Design cannot predict or describe how the teacher actually teaches the assigned task or situation, but it can offer support for the teachers' orchestration of the activity (Dreier, 2003; Edwards & Mackenzie, 2005). Design for learning also allows for a possible fusion of technical design and learning design (Jewitt, 2009).
Digital learning environments
In this study, digital learning environment is equated with a digitalised classroom, i.e. a classroom in which digital tools such as computers, tablets, projectors, digital cameras and television screens are available and used. The studied school was also connected to the internet and teachers had completed professional development in areas such as social media and media pedagogy.
Special needs education
Teachers should be guided by the principle that all pupils have to be successful in school and that principle will benefit pupils across the board (Tjernberg, 2013). Research has shown that the organisation of learning situations is decisive for pupils in need of specific support (Ahlberg, 2009). School organisation creates the structural conditions for school activities and provides a framework for the organisation of teaching. It also involves the ways in which a school allocates and prioritises resources. Special educational resources are allocated differently, depending on how a school views learning and specific support. Different educational needs and individuals require different organisations on individual and/or group basis (Myrberg & Lange, 2006). The organisational role of special needs education, seen from a relational point of view, is to ensure cooperation between all parts of the organisation. Then all initiatives have a holistic aim: they involve the pupil, pedagogue and learning environment, instead of being aimed categorically at the pupil (Persson, 2008).
Methods/methodology The study was based on two case studies with ethnographical components. Ethnography is to be seen broadly, since the scope of the study was limited both in terms of the period covered and the data collected (Bryman, 2011; Heath & Street, 2008). The notion of partial ethnography may therefore be an apt description. In partial ethnography, researchers examine specific situations and this study focuses on the design of learning environments and situations (Alvesson & Deetz, 2006). The study was performed 2012 to 2014 at one school in Sweden. Six teachers (two from preschool class and four from primary school), one resource pedagogue and one literacy-developer took part in the study. The school was chosen while digital tools had been used for some semesters. Case study 1 included interviews with two preschool class teachers, two Grade 1 teachers and two Grade 2 teachers. Case study 2 constitutes a follow-up to Case study 1 and included interviews with Grade 3 teachers, a classroom assistant and a subject coordinator in languages, as well as observations in the two Grade 3 classes. I performed eight observations where digital tools were used to varying degrees. The interviews were of semi-structured nature and were conducted with an interview guide that consisted of a list of themes and questions. In order to investigate the teachers' intentions for how they designed and orchestrated their learning environments and learning situations, the design- theoretic concepts design, orchestration, learning and meaning-making served as analytical tools. Despite the centrality of these concepts, they are often used slightly differently by different design-oriented scholars. The tools for analysis that were used in previous design-theory research were not self-evident to be able to respond to the research questions of the present study. This meant that I had to construct a separate conceptual apparatus for analysis. I had to formulate operative definitions of these concepts based on a bricolage of relevant scholarly ideas. In this concept-defining process, an analysis, a separation of elements initially appeared, of what design-oriented theory would regard as design, orchestration, learning and meaning making. Following this, a synthesis, a fusion, where the individual parts, the elements were joined to a new representation created a new understanding of how the concepts would be defined to serve as an analysis concept in the study.
Findings The results show that the teachers’ intentions for designs for learning focused on the children in need of special education. The teachers’ intentions may be classified in three different categories: intentions regarding participation and meaning-making, motivation, and learning. The dominant factor was intentions regarding participation and meaning-making. This category involved inclusion of pupils in the classroom, all children’s right to literacy education, and equal opportunities for meaning-making. The recipient perspective was important. New methods and activities such as Skype and class blogs offered different structures for interaction which afforded more authentic communication of pupils’ texts than before. The pupils in their classrooms participated on local and global levels: the classrooms entered the world and the world entered the classrooms. Presenting pupils with an audience external to their own school would, according to the teachers, increase the authenticity of schoolwork. Through working with actors outside of their school, pupils and teachers created a sense of meaningfulness. The category intentions regarding motivation highlighted the teachers’ enthusiasm and their intentions for pupils’ motivation and enthusiasm for schoolwork. The teachers were inspired and eager to try out the digital tools, even if some of them initially described themselves as not particularly interested in technology. They struggled with the technology and with questions about what the new methods would bring to the classroom, in positive and negative ways. The category intentions regarding learning became obvious in the teachers statements related to development of communicative competences. The teachers observed distinct differences between their present classes and their earlier classes. Some of the most obvious was the higher grade of the children’s linguistic awareness. While working with blogs the children started to comment both content and form very early. They had been commenting grammar and spelling, how the texts could be received and responded to.
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