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Study headed by SU professor and doctoral student explores how adolescents use their reading and writing skills outside the classroom
Kelly Chandler-Olcott, assistant professor of reading and language arts in Syracuse University’s School of Education, wants to know how adolescents use reading and writing outside of the classroom as well as in it. Chandler-Olcott and her co-researcher, Donna Mahar, a doctoral student in reading education who is also a seventh-grade English teacher, are exploring how adolescent girls use various electronic technologies in and out of school. The research subjects are Mahar’s female students at West Genesee Middle School. The project is supported by a $5,000 Elva Knight Research Grant from the International Reading Association. A study done last year by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) indicated that a gender gap exists between girls’ and boys’ interest in and access to technology. Girls tend to take fewer technology courses in their schooling and express less interest in careers using technology. The research in Chandler-Olcott and Mahar’s study, “Adolescent Girls’ Use of Electronic Technologies in Their Literacy Practices,” is focusing on seventh-grade girls who exhibit knowledge of the Internet, digital cameras, video editing, HyperStudio and other technologies. The girls in the study are surveyed, observed and interviewed both at their homes and at West Genesee Middle School by Chandler-Olcott and Mahar. “It is important to look at children in their home settings in order to learn more about them and make the classroom experience more responsive to their strengths, needs and interests,” [THERE IS NO ATTRIBUTION HERE.] Chandler-Olcott and Mahar hope the study will help teachers and researchers understand adolescent cultures in a more sophisticated way and help them develop more efficient instructional strategies. The research is also intended to inform educators on the impact of various technologies on society and on girls. Mahar was drawn to the research because of a myth she wanted to disprove. “A lot of literature states that girls are not as tech savvy as boys,” Mahar says. “The truth is that girls just may not be as willing to openly demonstrate that talent as boys.” Chandler-Olcott applied for the Elva Knight Research Grant because of her interest in children’s out-of-school literacy. She has previously researched adolescents’ reading habits of popular fiction. She sees this study as an extension of her earlier work that attends to changing trends in society.
“Literacy and technology have become and are going to become more increasingly linked,”Chandler-Olcott says. “There is a definite need to explore the literacy demands of that trend.” The research is scheduled to take place over the next year-and-a-half.