Title

Exploring new literacies pedagogy and online reading comprehension among middle school students and teachers: Issues of social equity or social exclusion?

Date of Completion

January 2007

Keywords

Education, Reading|Education, Technology of

Degree

Ph.D.

Abstract

This study had three main purposes. First, it sought to evaluate middle school students' online reading comprehension achievement, comparing performance between students from economically privileged districts to those in economically disadvantaged districts. Second, it sought to evaluate middle school teachers' online reading comprehension achievement, comparing performance between teachers from economically privileged districts to those in economically disadvantaged districts. Third, it looked to extend the conceptualization of the digital divide to determine what factors best predict students' and teachers' online reading comprehension. By looking closely at these factors, we can begin to understand which might support and which might impede the development of online reading comprehension. Grounded in a new literacies perspective (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000; Lankshear & Knobel, 2003; Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004), this study presents research suggesting that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) legislation (U.S. Department of Education [DOE], 2002) may have unintended consequences for those students who need our help the most, students in urban, economically disadvantaged schools.^ This research used a mixed methods design. Quantitative data were collected using two measurement scales, Digital Divide Measurement Scale for Students (DDMS-S) and Digital Divide Measurement Scale for Teachers (DDMS-T), administered to sample populations of middle school students and teachers. These instruments included items designed to measure Internet access, Internet use, and online reading comprehension. Qualitative data were also collected and analyzed using content analytic techniques (Carley, 1990; Krippendorf, 1980; Mayring, 2000; Miles & Huberman, 1994). Interviews, focus groups, and artifacts provided richer explanations of issues related to the digital divide.^ Results from ANOVA analyses indicated that students and teachers from economically privileged districts had significantly higher mean scores on a measure of online reading comprehension compared to those from economically disadvantaged districts. HLM results showed that elements of a primary level digital divide (Internet access) and a secondary level digital divide (Internet use) were good predictors of online reading comprehension. Results of content analyses showed that NCLB and lack of funding were two contextual factors that may impede the development of online reading comprehension. These results suggest that factors of primary and secondary levels of the digital divide may indeed create a third level digital, which is indicated by an online reading achievement gap between middle school students and teachers from economically privileged districts and those from economically disadvantaged districts. ^