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The literature review has revealed a considerable disagreement on issues concerning the scale and pace of change that is liable to be associated with the increased use of computers at home as well as in the education system (Beynon and Mackay 1993: 1-18). However, the diversity of literacy issues including language and computer literacy is of a continuing interest, especially, in a way these literacies affect each other. There are views that strongly support the use of IT both at school and at home. These views suggest that by engaging in IT interaction, (Tapscott 1998), school age children will acquire computer literacy, which may improve their learning in other areas. According to a report of the Department of Education (1998), incorporating Learning Technologies into all learning areas might assist the reluctant learners and those who are experiencing learning difficulties. On the other hand, an opposing view, (Lankshear et al 1997), is that the increased use of IT can distract and deskill our children from learning and practising the basics of handwriting, writing and reading skills. Some of the literature implied that the use of IT still requires adequate literacy skills in order to interpret and comprehend accessible information (Goss 1997: 15). Handwriting is another aspect of the literacy issue and is an integral part of literacy development (Cook 1997: 3-4). The lack of handwriting practice is due to the almost exclusive use of computers for writing.
The majority of parents' responses to the survey were that "their children need to keep up with the current development of technology [of any kind]". "For technology is taking part in all aspects of our society and our lives". Parents' responses were: "there is not much of a choice, everything is computers. ... Children need to have good knowledge of computers, ... that is the way the world is going". The other common technological device installed at home for students to use in their leisure time is the video games. This data demonstrates in a more complete way how students spend the time with screen based equipment after school hours. The parents also indicated the type of amusement equipment other than the PC their children have access to. 71.15% of parents answered that their children have access to both electronic amusement equipment and home computers.
Graph 1: Parents' estimated time their children spend on reading in hours per week
The data in Graph 1 indicates that 38.46% of parents reported zero hours of reading their children do. It is worth questioning this high figure of non-reading time of the children. The children may not be informing their parents about the set homework which in most cases requires extra reading. Indeed, the role of home and school-parent partnership is undoubtedly a significant influence on the children's acquisition and development of literacy skills (Cairney et al 1995: 31-32 and Cook 1997: 6).
Graph 2: Parents' responses on PC allowing their children to develop their writing skills.
The parents also realised that the frequent use of computers is not helping students' writing skills. 38.46% of parents replied "No" to the PC not allowing their children to develop their writing skills. Their comments were: "Writing skills are diminishing and deteriorating. They are losing the art of writing and becoming too reliant on the spell checker and grammar to correct their work". For example, 75% of children in this study use the word processing software application which has tool capabilities (like spell checker, thesaurus and grammar) that the students are relying on when it comes to school work. "The children these days are forgetting how to read and write because the computer does it all for them". Another quote from parents, "there are enough computers wherever they go these days. They should only concentrate on how to read and write. These are the basic skills they are going to need to operate any medium devices as well as surfing the Internet."
The teachers' general overview was "The regular use of IT both at home and at school is having an impact on the students' development in literacy skills." Even so, "some teachers are in favour of implementing the Learning Technologies, as directed by the DoE , right across the curriculum." They also expressed their concern about the students' capabilities in exploiting both the software and hardware. As far as addressing the literacy problem, "the use of IT is not going to solve the problem, on the contrary, there will be further problems with literacy development and acquisition. Nothing is as effective as the teacher in class teaching literacy. Computers should only be used as tools not as a substitute for the initial assessment."
The teachers are often not sure what they are assessing the product of a computer or students' own literacy skills. Handwriting is another issue of concern. "The students' handwritten work is not easily readable. There is too much emphasis on Information Technology, where there are students who can hardly read and write."
The important part of human life is when skill learning vitally occurs in the early years of growing up to enhance and comprehend the basic learning skills. The emphasis of learning today has shifted from literacy to technology based on the current trends of society and the global economy. We have to create a balance to succeed in the acquisition of both computer and language literacies. This area needs continuous study, for technology is vastly advancing and implying changes to all aspects of life.
Cairney, T. H., Ruge, J., Lowe, K., and Munsie, L. (1995). Developing Partnership: The Home, School, and Community Interface. Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Australia.
Cook, Margaret. (1997, July 29). Who is to blame when children fail? The Age. Education Section. Page 6.
Department of Education (1998). Learning Technologies in Victorian Schools: 1998-2001. Community Information Service, Victoria.
Goss, Sue (1997, November 25). Learning more about - literacy and access: Much more than reading and writing. The Age. Education. Page 15
Lankshear, Colin, Bigum Chris, Durrant Cal, Green Bill, Honan Eileen, Morgan Wendy, Murray Joy, Snyder Ilana, and Wild, Martyn. (1997). Digital Rhetorics: Literacies and Technologies in Education - Current Practices and Future Directions. Volume 2, Site Studies. Commonwealth of Australia. This project was funded by the Commonwealth Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs.
Tapscott, Don (1998). Growing Up with Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation. McGraw-Hill. New York.
|Author: Odette Radi works full time as a post primary teacher - teaching Information Technology and SOSE at a secondary college. Her other teaching methods are: Politics, Humanities and LOTE (Years 7-12). Qualifications: BA, Dip Ed, Postgrad Arts, Grad Dip Information and Communication Technology Ed; completed a minor thesis for Masters of Education, titled "The Impact of Information Technology on the Development of Literacy skills in a Secondary School", at the University of Melbourne in the Faculty of Education.
Please cite as: Radi, O. (2002). Parents' and teachers' report on students' use of the computer and its impact on reading and writing skills. In S. McNamara and E. Stacey (Eds), Untangling the Web: Establishing Learning Links. Proceedings ASET Conference 2002. Melbourne, 7-10 July. http://www.aset.org.au/confs/2002/radi.html