My research interests stem from my work on the intersection of social justice issues and information and communication technologies (ICTs), particularly the ways in which they can be used to promote or hinder educational and social equity. This interest has grown out of my dissertation research examining the ways in which children develop technology literacy skills and translate those skills to educational contexts. In addition, my research interests have been refined in previous publications in the Handbook for Research on Instructional Systems and Technology
that focused on game design as a vehicle to promote social justice and the development a methodology for guiding socially responsible information and educational technology research. Significance
This research derives its significance in that it illustrates the ways that unequal technology access for socio-economically disadvantaged children is a real and substantial problem in American society and it provides a potential impetus for changes in the way that technology access is conceived and allocated and for the ways in which teachers and schools educate using technology. The importance of pursuing a solution to this situation ranges from practical to ethical. Practically, given the ever-increasing reliance on technologically literate workers and the increasing need to seek diverse perspectives in dealing with growing economic uncertainty, it is in the best economic interest of the country to guarantee that even those with only a high school degree are competent and comfortable integrating into a high-tech workforce and have the realistic possibility of having their voices heard in regard to global economic issues. Ethically speaking, given the rising prevalence of the electronic dissemination of information in our society, and the founding principle that we are a participatory democracy, every individual in American society is entitled to fair and equal access to all sources of information and the opportunities that this access provides.Key Questions
- What is “technology literacy” in the Information Age?
- In what ways are technology access allocated to individuals in American Society?
- How does the existing system of technology access allocation reinforce power relationships in American society?
- Who is responsible for the development and cultivation of technological literacy skills in children?
- In what ways can computer games be designed to provide some of the technology literacy skills necessary for an individual to be a successful member of an information-age society?
- What responsibility do information technology researchers have for ensuring that their work does not perpetuate any unequal power relationships within the society they are examining?
My future research projects are rooted in my interest in the ways in which technology and technological literacy intersect with issues of social justice. I currently have two research tracks that have been explored in previous publications and that form the basis of my future research. I plan to develop my dissertation research into a longer longitudinal study with a larger group of students, leading to a series of scholarly articles examining technology literacy formation and the social variables affecting it. This work will also lead to the publication of a book detailing the methodology for conducting socially responsible IST research that I outlined in the book chapter, “Developing a Socially Responsible Approach to IT Research” in the Handbook for Research on Instructional Systems and Technology (2008). My other research focus develops a project that I proposed in the Handbook chapter“Computer Games as a New Arena for IST Research,” (2008) by creating a user-customizable game for educational purposes. The game, once completed, provides an opportunity for research and scholarly article publications on both game design practices and the ways in which this popular medium can be used to help disadvantaged children develop technology literacy skills. A related publication arising from this research will be an edited handbook for the creation and implementation of educational computer games.
Defining Technology Literacy: A gap in the information technology field that I encountered while writing my dissertation was the absence of a concrete and comprehensive definition of technology literacy. I plan to publish an article which establishes a theoretical definition for the field that includes not only the quantifiable technical skills required for an individual to be considered technologically literate, but also the range of sociological dimensions of multi-modal literacy or new literacy studies which include ethical considerations of ICT use, the ecological implications of technological innovation, the social dynamics governing interaction within these new technologies and new or changing world views related to the use of ICTs. This work provides a needed bridge between the information technology field and literacy studies, which will inform future work on the increasingly important area of technological literacy.
Children Without Toys: Expanding Dissertation Research: I would like to expand research begun in my dissertation that examines differences between children who do and do not have access to computers in their homes and the ways that they develop technology literacy accordingly. My current study examines a small population of students over the course of one school term. It is my plan to replicate and expand this research as a longitudinal study with a larger group of students. Ideally, this study would follow a group of children through a longer portion of their educational careers, such as the six years encompassing junior and senior high school. Observing a larger subject pool, such as an entire junior high team or other heterogeneous cohort group, would provide for a broader range of technology access, socio-economic diversity, racial/ethnic diversity and gender diversity and thus make the study relevant to a larger array of educational contexts. This study is important for the field of educational technology because it advocates for changes in the way that technology access is conceived of and allocated and the importance of meaningful in-home exposure. A series of scholarly publications based on this research will examine technology literacy formation in homes and in schools and examine the ways in which social, technical and teacher-related aspects of technology use in schools impede or facilitate literacy formation. This research will also serve as the basis for a longer manuscript which details a methodology for conducting socially responsible information technology research. This work was previously outlined in a book chapter, “Developing a Socially Responsible Approach to IT Research,” but would be expanded to encompass a comprehensive methodology including site selection, systemic considerations, instrument design and generalization of the findings. This book would provide a critical methodology for shaping the ways in which technology researchers account for unequal systems of power in their work.
Recreational Game Design for Educational Use: Computer games represent a vastly underutilized avenue for education, particularly for disadvantaged children who may not be able to afford home computers but may have access to gaming consoles. These consoles currently serve only recreational purposes, but have the potential for expanded educational uses. This potential gap challenges information technology professionals and educators to utilize this resource for the development of software that promotes technology literacy. I plan to follow through with the proposal I laid out in “Computer Games as a New Arena for IST Research” (2008) to design, develop and implement a user-customizable computer game which incorporates the engagement qualities of recreational games and the academic content necessary to be meaningful for educational uses while promoting the skills and confidence associated with advanced levels of technology literacy. This game would include easy-to-use tools that educators could use to create custom game environments, allowing their students to explore educationally relevant contexts such as ecological, historical, literary or other scenarios. In creating this game, instructional and information technologists would collaborate with the gaming industry to generate a new paradigm of game development that merges levels of engagement and playability currently found only in recreational games, with the rich academic content and the social interactions necessary to engage users deeply in educational activities. The development of this project would lead to several scholarly articles on both the development process and the implementation of the game within an educational context. This project explores the possibility of using a popular medium to bridge the technology gap resulting from the inequitable distribution of home computer access. It is significant for both IT researchers and the gaming industry in that it informs both areas in regard to practices that can be mutually beneficial. IT researchers stand to learn a great deal from the gaming industry’s development process, and the gaming industry will benefit from a formal understanding of what makes games engaging, as well as from access to a new market for educationally relevant games that meet the standards that recreational gamers expect.
Children Without Toys:
How Home Computer Use Impacts School Achievement, Behavior and Attitudes
Justin W. Marquis
Indiana University, 2009
This study chronicles the home and school technology practices of a group of 7th grade middle school students representing varying social and economic backgrounds for the purpose of exploring possible ways in which exposure to computer technology in the home helps to inform the ways in which children demonstrate technology literacy when using computers in an academic setting. Further, this study seeks to illustrate that differences in the quality of access to technology and familial support at home are reflected in the behavior, attitude and achievement levels that these children exhibit in school when engaged in technology-related academic activities.
For the purpose of illustrating the exhibited differences in technological literacy skills of the students under consideration, the study describes in detail both the type and depth of computer use in the home; including familial support, parental and sibling knowledge and attitudes and other non-academic influences outside of school (friends, etc.). The participants’ home technology literacy practices are examined through in-home observation and interviews and are presented in conjunction with data gathered from in-school observation, interviews and artifact/record analysis in order to highlight the ways in which enhanced or limited literacy activities in the home are reflected in the students’ in-school behavior, attitude and achievement in relation to in-school technology use.
The significance of this study is that it begins, through representing a small sample of limited contexts, to illustrate that there are differences in demonstrated technology literacy between children, in this case 7th graders, who do and do not have access to opportunities to develop and nurture high-level technology skills within the home. Evidence of this discrepancy could serve as the basis for further investigation into ways that the unevenness presented in conjunction with this unequal access could be mitigated either through social programs providing “head-start” type in-home access for socio-economically disadvantaged children who are statistically less likely to have high quality access and support in the home or through a modification of school curriculum and priorities so that children exhibiting lower-level technology literacy could receive remedial attention in those areas. The importance of pursuing a solution to this situation covers both practical to ethical considerations. Practically, given the ever increasing reliance on technologically literate workers in the general work force and the increasing need to seek diverse perspectives in dealing with growing economic uncertainty, it is in the best economic interest of the country to guarantee that even workers with only a high school degree are competent and comfortable integrating into a high-tech workforce and have the realistic possibility of having their voices heard in regard to global economic issues and potential ways of approaching these issues. Ethically speaking, given the rising prevalence of the electronic dissemination of information in our society, and the founding principle that we are a participatory democracy, every individual in the United States of America is entitled to fair and equal access to all sources of information and the opportunities that this access provides. Discrepancies in the ways in which individuals acquire basic technology/information literacy points to a need to address the unevenness so as to ensure equal opportunity for all to participate in the democratic process.