Pre-service teachers' perceptions and practices: integrating digital literacy into English education

Master Thesis


Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

University of Cape Town

Teachers are increasingly expected to use digital resources to facilitate learning. Recent research in Higher Education has indicated the existence of a digital divide among students. With the changing role of the English teacher as a facilitator of critical skills and the traditional centrality of literacy to the English classroom, digital literacy has an integral place in English teacher education, despite its absence from the current South African English curriculum. However, integrating digital literacy is challenging and often resisted by teachers. This qualitative case study provides a detailed description and analysis of how pre-service English teachers perceived their own, their learners' and other teachers' digital literacy practices, and how these perceptions relate to their own practices. The study is informed by post-structuralist theory, drawing on the New Literacy Studies (NLS), which views literacy as embedded in social practice, imbued with power and highly dependent on context. It is believed that gaining a deeper understanding of perceived and actual digital literacy practices within specific contexts could lead to an in-depth knowledge of how digital literacy may be integrated in teacher education. The case comprises four English Method students at a relatively elite South African university who were enrolled for the Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) professional qualification. The participants viewed their own proficiency in digital literacy as limited. The data were gathered from four sources: the participants' detailed lesson plans where digital literacy has been integrated; their reflections upon these lesson plans; questionnaires providing background on their biographies and experiences with technology and a focused group interview. The study found that the participants associated some digital resources with their own and their learners' private lives and therefore did not recognize the value of these resources as educational tools. In addition, the participants experienced the internet as overwhelming and conflated digital literacy with 'Internet Literacy'. They did not find good examples of practice from other teachers at the schools where they undertook their teaching practicals. The way they perceived their learners' practices could have serious consequences for how they facilitate learning and negotiate power differentials in the classroom. Drawing on these findings, the thesis ends with a framework for the integration of digital literacy into teacher education. The framework draws on insights from Authentic Learning, New Literacy Studies and constructivist notions of learning to propose a carefully-scaffolded model which starts with students' own internet practices and provides models and authentic tasks in order to show them the affordances of digital literacy for promoting learning in the English classroom.