The impact of socioeconomic status on the use of digital literacies in schools

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  • The University of Queensland, School of Education

  • 2007


This project investigated the differences and similarities in low and middle socioeconomic schools related to digital literacy practices; teachers’ perceptions of the value of students’ digital literacy knowledge and skills; and the connections made to academic literacy. 

The aim was to study the digital literacy work done in schools in both low and middle income areas in order to explore the differences and similarities between teachers’ practices and the impact of socioeconomic status on any differences identified.

One of the expected outcomes of this research project was the construction of four in-depth case studies that highlight the uses that teachers can make of students’ digital literacies skills and knowledge in order to improve their academic literacy skills and knowledge.

Results Achieved

In the schools serving low socioeconomic communities, ‘deficit discourses’ about students’ lack of access to digital technologies were not present in the teachers’ talk or evident in their teaching practices. However, in all four schools, the teachers failed to take into consideration the depth of knowledge and understanding that their students have in relation to using digital technologies. This is a significant finding as the literature commonly attributes teachers’ lack of engagement with students’ home practices to their understanding of the importance and value of particular literacy practices. Regardless of the socioeconomic status of their students, the teachers in their study put a high value on academic conventional literacies, where the emphasis is on books, chunks of printed words with the occasional graphic or illustration, and the traditional writing of essays and responses to examination questions.

What worked well and why?

In some ways, all four classes were involved in work associated with authentic uses of ICTs. The construction of an infomercial helped students see how they were persuaded by similar digital texts in their own lives outside of school. The construction of a healthy food brochure provided students with some sense of purpose for collecting information from a variety of sources. A lesson on retrieving information, and constructing a concept map of this information, was related to the real life practice of researching on the Internet.



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