New Learning in the 21st Century: A Case Study of Digital Technology Implementation in Early Primary School Classes

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Zhao, Lina (2020) New Learning in the 21st Century: A Case Study of Digital Technology Implementation in Early Primary School Classes. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


In recent years the use of digital technologies in education settings has increased dramatically worldwide, as devices such as tablets, digital cameras, interactive smartboards, and user-friendly software and applications have enabled teachers to harness the digital world. Research shows that digital technologies in educational contexts have had a very positive impact, because they allow teachers to enhance their teaching practices and support their students' learning. My study explored and presented the use of digital technologies in an Australian primary school by their teachers and students. The main objective was to describe early primary school teachers’ perceptions and teaching practices of including digital technologies (i.e. iPads and smartTV), and to show how young students used digital technologies enhancing their learning experiences. The research involved one single case of a school in western Melbourne. The data collection occurred during four terms in August 2016-July 2017. Foundation Year and Year One/Two learning communities were selected for classroom observation; students were aged between 5 and 8 years which fitted in early childhood range as well as in formal education setting (the primary school sector). The case study involved interviews with six classroom teachers, and observations of four learning communities (one Foundation Year learning community, and three Year One/Two learning communities) and students’ digital artefacts. These enabled me to generate an in-depth description of the contexts and meaning of digital technology mediated learning and pedagogical practices in a contemporary Australian classroom. I employed a constructivist paradigm to inform the research design and adopted a Learning by Design framework to help explain the findings. My study found that the participant teachers presented positive perceptions towards the use of digital technologies by young children and demonstrated a high level of understanding of the role and value of digital technologies in terms of supporting learning and teaching. These teachers used digital technologies in various ways to scaffold young students’ learning including offering rich learning resources, multimodal tools, game scenarios and in-built instruction and feedback. Learning activities involving digital technologies were categorised in the themes of I- Ready, I-Practise and I-Create to provide a complete picture of current implementation in the studied learning communities. Three themes of learning activities are important in terms of implementing digital technologies with young students. This is because young students need to be well prepared with digital operational skills with the learning activities in the theme of I-Ready. They also need to develop an understanding and gain knowledge about abstract concepts and theories from literacy and numeracy curricula in the theme of I-Practise. Since young students obtain digital operational skills and conceptualised knowledge, it is important to elevate their learning practices in the theme of I-Create which support them to be a digital producer who can apply their knowledge and skills of digital technology, literacy and numeracy to create multimodal texts and solve the new problems. In addition, my analysis of the I-Create theme implies that early childhood and primary school teachers need to increase their promotion of learning activities for supporting young students to be digital producers. Therefore, they may need practical and rich examples to inform their future implementation of digital technologies. Documenting and sharing practical uses of digital technologies would inspire teachers to tailor these learning examples and implement them in their own classes.

Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1303 Specialist Studies in Education
Current > Division/Research > College of Arts and Education
Keywords digital technology; children; learning; literacy; numeracy; documenting; collaboration; iPads; Australia; primary school
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