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The digital daily lives of pre-school student teachers

1 May 2019 10:40 | Contact (Administrator)
Fredrik Hanell, Senior Lecturer, Linnaeus University Information Institute
May 1, 2019

The transformative force of digitalisation can be said to affect all parts of society as the ways we communicate and use information are increasingly being mediated by a wide range of digital tools. This notion is certainly true for educational settings, but at the same time, the discourses surrounding use of digital tools for learning and teaching are saturated with technological determinism and exaggerated optimism.

In the recently published doctoral thesis in Information Studies – Teacher students’ digital daily lives: information literacy at a pre-school teacher education – I contribute to a critical analysis of how demands for increased digital competence in Swedish teacher education are underpinned by a global policy discourse with an economic and competitive perspective. The dissertation also provides detailed netnographic accounts of how information activities are mediated by digital tools, negotiated and given meaning in the context of Swedish pre-school teacher education. The overarching aim of the doctoral thesis is to create a deeper understanding of how students’ information literacies are enacted when digital tools are used and appropriated in the daily life at a pre-school teacher education, in relation to conceptions of the digitalisation of teacher education in national policy.

In the netnographic accounts, insights are drawn from a rich empirical material consisting of online material, primarily from Facebook Groups, field notes from participant observations, transcribed interviews and a field diary. The netnographic material was produced at a Swedish teacher education between 2012 and 2015, and the material is analysed using a socio-cultural perspective on information literacy, with particular focus on the concepts appropriation and identity. The findings show how views on learning and identity interact with the materiality of the digital tools and the enabling and constraining properties of the local learning environment when information literacies are enacted. Information literacies are found to be enacted in two different ways: as a relational information literacy and a pragmatic information literacy.

The relational information literacy entails a view on learning as co-learning, rooted in the historical development of pre-school teacher education, and a non-hierarchical understanding of teacher and student roles. Typical information activities when this form of information literacy is enacted include sharing of information which builds relations and initiates open discussions. The pragmatic information literacy, on the other hand, reflects instrumental and neoliberal views on learning and a traditional understanding of teacher and student roles. Typical information activities include sharing and requesting information considered to be relevant and correct.

In relation to the global policy discourse found in the studied national policy documents, I identify a gap between what is described as important in policy documents and what student teachers and teachers describe as important when digital tools are used in teacher education. The economic perspective of the global policy discourse on digital competence, emphasising measurability and quantification, is partly compatible with a pragmatic information literacy. However, the idea of co-learning, that is found to be influential but not fully accepted at the studied pre-school teacher education, comes across as difficult to combine with an economic perspective. Consequently, in the dissertation I argue that the focus on measurability, quantification and competition prevalent in the global policy discourse surrounding the concept digital competence might constrain the development of creative and critical aspects of information literacies.

The full dissertation, including four articles in English and an introduction in Swedish, is available Open Access through Lund Studies in Arts and Cultural Sciences.

Fredrik Hanell received his PhD in Information Studies from Lund University. He is currently a senior lecturer at Linnaeus University.

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