Children’s ‘writing’ in the 21st century: the challenge of moving from paper to screen

Clare Dowdall, Plymouth Institute of Education, Plymouth University

In England, current recommendations for policy and pedagogy relating to children’s writing focus on the development of technical skills, with scant regard for the opportunities available to educators to develop children’s literacies in global, digital contexts (Burnett, 2015).

Statutory requirements for young children’s ‘writing’ in the new Englishnational curriculum(DfE, 2013) and the associated assessment practices imply the development of what can be called a 'skills-based, linear writing process’; one that involves clear stages of instruction, planning, writing down, and reviewing, using paper-based technologies for text production.

In a diverse and technologically-evolving 21stcentury textual and communicative landscape, these requirements might be regarded as at odds with contemporary, socially-driven interpretations of what it means to be literate in the new media age (Kress, 2010).

Using focus group conversations with teachers in 5 primary school settings in the South West of England, this small-scale research project set out to explore how teachers currently view the place of ‘writing’ in the curriculum and their children's lives. Conversations were conducted with teachers who worked together in the same age phase (Reception and KS1, lower KS2, upper KS2) and particularly focused on how teachers can support children to become agentive and playful crafters of text, with a strong sense of identity, voice, purpose, and aesthetic, whilst fulfilling statutory obligations.

Initial analysis of the 5 focus group conversations suggests that teachers’ views about how children can be supported varies considerably depending on the age of the children taught, the ethos and policy of each setting, and the access to screen-based technologies and CPD. Within each conversation, tensions between the ideals and beliefs of the teachers, that related to the promotion of children’s voice in writing, and their practices as framed by accountability and curriculum forces, could be noted. In addition, the method of focus group conversation served to create a welcome and rare space for rich discussion between colleagues that was affirming and challenging, and that supported professional development.

For further details please contact Clare Dowdall [email protected]