Documenting, assessing, and teaching digital literacy for students with disability, via an evidence basis of subject matter expertise, teacher knowledge, scholarly discourse, and student ability

Year: 2019

Author: White, Emily

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Digital literacy learning, including technology use, is important for all students in the 21st century (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development [OECD], 2015), with alldeemed to be irrespective of the presence or severity of disability, as students with disability have a right to equitable access to learning (United Nations [UN], 2006). For students with disability, technology use can serve as the means by which learning becomes accessible. As accessibility is a right for students with disability (UN, 2006), digital literacy learning can be also considered a right for these students.

Yet at the time of this study, no globally agreed-upon construct of digital literacy existed for students with or without disability (OECD, 2015), nor could adequate definitions be found for the purpose of developing a learning progression of how students with disability become digitally literate. A learning progression can support teachers to understand and plan for individual learning. By drawing on scholarly discourse and subject matter experts, the study defined the construct of digital literacy. Through this integrated approach, indicative behaviours of the construct and their performance quality criteria – descriptors of how well each behaviour could be expressed as a student increased in capability – were described for the purpose of developing a learning progression.

With input from those experienced in the education of students with disability, and informed by a taxonomy and scholarly discourse, a hypothesised criterion-referenced framework was built of classroom behaviours indicative of increasing digital literacy proficiency. From this framework, an online assessment was created for teachers to collect data on how their students with disability demonstrated digital literacy capability. The partial credit model (Masters, 1982) was applied to calibrate the data, from which a learning progression was derived that described six levels of increasing digital literacy capability. Using expert teacher input, targeted teaching strategies were developed for each level. Findings indicated the measure and its related outputs have strong arguments for their validity, due partly to the instrument’s high quality and expert teacher endorsement.

This study demonstrated that digital literacy learning is relevant for, observable in, and teachable to students with even severe disabilities. Through robust psychometrics, the expertise and experience of teachers, scholarly discourse, and high quality data from 1413 Australian students with disability, the outcomes advocate for the rights and abilities of students with disability to engage in digital literacy learning to access their 21st century world, and provide evidence-based planning and teaching resources.