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Children's uses of new technologies in classrooms

Girl on iPad


Professor Cathy Burnett

Project date


Investigating how on/off-screen spaces are used in primary classrooms

Much has been written about the potential for using digital technologies to empower and engage learners to collaborate with others to interpret, evaluate, broadcast, critique and re-mix knowledge gained from varied perspectives and engage with new participatory contexts for learning. Less has been written about the ways in which classrooms frame such activity and the kinds of meanings that teachers and learners make around digital texts. Understanding this meaning-making process is complex. Learners may navigate diverse and multiple textual spaces, often gathering meaning from multiple sources. At the same time, they may do so within classrooms designed to reflect quite different assumptions about teaching, learning and literacy.

Drawing on classroom research and working collaboratively with primary teachers, these two companion projects explored what happened as digital technologies were integrated within literacy provision in varied ways. They emphasise the importance of examining what children do on-screen always in relation to what they do off it, generating insights into the significance of relationships, routines and prior experience to children’s engagements. They highlight the significance of incidental, everyday and ephemeral practices associated with classroom technology-use, suggesting that we must acknowledge the distinctiveness of technology-use in classroom contexts but also see the spaces associated with those contexts as continually constructed, relational and heterogeneous.


United Kingdom Literacy Association (Investigating the use of networked technologies in primary classrooms)

Sheffield Hallam University (A longitudinal study of classroom literacy practices surrounding digital technologies in primary classrooms)


  • Burnett, C. (2015). (Im)materialising Literacies. In: K. Pahl & J.Rowsell. (Eds.)The Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies. London: Routledge. Pp.520-531.
  • Burnett, C. (2015). Being together in classrooms at the interface of the physical and virtual: implications for collaboration in on/off screen sites. Learning, Media and Technology. 41(4), 566-589.
  • Burnett, C. (2015) Investigating children's interactions around digital texts in classrooms: how are these framed and what counts?, Education, 3-13, 43:2.
  • Burnett, C., Merchant, G., Pahl, K. & Rowsell, J. (2014). The (im)materiality of literacy: the significance of subjectivity to new literacies research. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, 35, 1, 90-103.
  • Burnett, C. (2014). Investigating pupils’ interactions around digital texts: a spatial perspective on the ‘classroom-ness’ of digital literacy practices in schools. Educational Review, 66, 2, 192-209.
  • Burnett, C. & Bailey, C. (2014). Conceptualising collaboration in hybrid sites: playing Minecraft together and apart in a primary classroom. In: Burnett, C., Davies, J., Merchant, G. & J. Rowsell. (Eds.) New Literacies Around the Globe: Policy and Pedagogy. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. Pp.50-71.
  • Bailey, C., Burnett, C., Gill, E., Monkhouse, J. & Rayner, J. (2012). Digital Texts in Classrooms: what do children make of them?, English 4-11. Autumn 2012, 46, 3-6.
  • Burnett, C. (2011). The (im)materiality of educational space: interactions between material, connected and textual dimensions of networked technology use in schools. E-Learning and Digital Media (Special Issue: Digital Epistemologies), 8, 3, 214-227.
  • Burnett, C. (2010). Technology and literacy in early childhood educational settings: a review of research. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy (Special Issue: Literacy and Technology), 10, 3, 247-270.
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