Maureen Walsh is one of the authors of Touching, Tapping… Thinking? Photo from the Australian Government Office for Learning & Teaching.
The first piece of reading I did on the topic of technology in the classroom was written by Maureen Walsh and Alyson Simpson, scholars from the University of Sydney in Australia. The article is heavy on academic jargon, perhaps not surprisingly given the authors’ history of research and peer review in the area of digital communication in literacy and pedagogy.
In Touching, Tapping… Thinking?, Walsh and Simpson examine the effect of the physicality of touch screens upon the reading experience — previous articles had explored the differences between traditional texts on paper and modern milieu such as computer screens. Results fell in line with other research, all of which questioned the already fluid definition of literacy, and suggested a difference between linear communication and the multimodal intake of information that comes with online reading.
The emergence of portable touch screens (on tablets and smart phones) adds a new wrinkle, as tactile interaction now moves from the indirect, limited motion of a mouse to the multifaceted, direct touch of fingers upon the text itself. Swiping, pinching, expanding and flicking pages all present physical contact with the digital page.
Literature is divided on whether touch pads provide positive or negative influences upon elementary school learning. The authors of this paper observed 11-year-old students with iPad tablets and a website called Corkulus. Through this site, students were able to collect texts, photos and videos in order to explain the life cycle of a star. Connections between textual and visual elements were described “as a sort of mental hyperlinking” (153).
Commentary after the jump.