In order to understand how computer technology can be applied in the classroom to enhance literacy instruction, it is necessary to take a broader look at the influence of computer technology in our culture and the shifting paradigms of educational theory. When viewed through the complementary lenses of New Literacies/Multiple Literacies and Educational Constructivism, computer technology as an educational tool becomes essential to the future of literacy instruction. These theoretical frameworks can help us understand how changing literacy needs can be addressed through new models of classroom instruction. The paradigm shift from behaviorism as an educational model towards a more Dewy-based constructivist pedagogy works in conjunction with the need for students to engage in our new media culture in order to inform their own learning and be discerning about the information presented to them (Kellner, 2004). In the following sections I will describe the frameworks of New Literacies/Multiple Literacies and Cognitive/Social Constructivist theories and explain why these theories provide a much needed perspective for viewing technology in literacy instruction.
Multiple literacies and new literacies
Multiple literacies encompass the different areas in our lives in which we must be literate in order to function successfully in society. Kellner (1998) describes multiple literacies as incorporating social, cultural, and ecoliteracy as well as media and multimedia literacy. New Literacies theory is an emerging framework that has grown out of the Multiple Literacies framework. According to Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, and Commack (2004), new literacies include skills and strategies needed to successfully incorporate the Internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs) into our literate world. Leu, et al. further describe how these new literacies help us to find, discriminate, and synthesize new information in a rapidly changing technological society. Kellner (1998) argues that in order to meet the challenges of new technology we need to identify and learn new literacy skills. He further describes the need for education to include a variety of literacies in order to be relevant to the demands of current society.
Early literacy education begins with both explicit instruction and implicit learning in the use of tools for reading and writing. Students learn how books are opened, the correct direction for reading print, how to turn a page and save the current location in a book when having reached a stopping point. New literacy studies are focusing on how these skills can now be extended to the use of computers and communication devices that have become proliferate in society. In addition to the new literacy tools of mouse, keyboard, and scroll bar, students must learn how to read and interact with computers. Kellner (1998) notes that teaching new literacies “is part of a critical pedagogy that attempts to empower individuals so that they can...