Connecting the bits: Inquiry-based learning, the World Wide Web and literacy acquisition in an urban fifth grade classroom
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The purpose of this study was to develop an understanding of the use of inquiry-based learning, and new literacies and technologies in the literacy acquisition of fifth grade students. The participants were one teacher and seventeen fifth grade students in an urban elementary school. Six students and their parents were selected for in-depth study. Grounded in sociocultural theory, culturally relevant pedagogy and ecological perspective, the study employed case study and collaborative research techniques. Major data sources included a survey, observations, field notes, audio and video tapes of classroom interactions, formal and informal interviews. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics and qualitative research methods, including cross case analysis. The key findings were as follows: Teacher's instructional approach was a very important factor in effective literacy acquisition. Secondly, a careful integration of inquiry learning and new literacies and technologies were found to be not only culturally responsive, but also capable of bridging students' in and out-of-school literacies. Finally, teacher-researcher collaboration was found to be effective in teacher learning and change. The study also highlighted the challenges inherent in the integration of both inquiry learning and new literacies and technologies and suggest the need for educators and policy makers to pay more attention to an integrated curriculum that balances between print, digital technologies, inquiry learning and students' out-of-school literacies. Implications included the need for a rethink about what constitutes epistemology, pedagogy, professional development of teachers, curriculum design and implementation.