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Doctoral graduate wins national research award

March 12, 2008

A doctoral graduate of the Mary Lou Fulton College of Education has received the 2007 National Reading Conference’s Outstanding Student Research Award for her study of how teachers can use technology to enhance literacy in their students.

Elizabeth Stolle was honored for her exemplary student research paper presented at the National Reading Conference in November. Her paper, titled “Teachers, Literacy and Technology: Tensions, Complexities, Conceptualizations and Practice,” investigated high school teachers’ use and conceptualization information and communication technologies (ICTs) to enhance literacy practices and content learning in their secondary classrooms.

Her study examined how teachers can use podcasts, discussion boards and online communications to enhance literacy. She also looked at how they struggle with access, practice knowledge, fear of the unknown and fear of losing traditional literacy practices.

“My purpose was to create a space for teachers to voice their understandings and practices about using technologies in the classroom when a lot of people are telling them what to do,” she says. “I really explore the relationship between the way they conceptualize it and put it into their practice.”

Stolle says she was inspired to pursue the award five years ago when she attended her first NRC conference. When she told her advisers in the College of Education about her goal, they guided her work on the award-winning paper.

“They were wonderful,” she says of co-chairs Josephine Peyton Marsh, an associate professor of language and literature, and Gustavo Fischman, an associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies. “They were encouraging, positive and supporting the whole way through. They shared all their wisdom, insight and expertise, so I’m very grateful for that. For it to be really outstanding and really meaningful, I kept working and did lots of revisions.”

“We are very proud of her,” Marsh says, adding that Stolle’s qualitative research revealed the tensions teachers negotiate when conceptualizing and using ICTs in their classroom teaching.

“She described how a sample of secondary teachers felt pulled, stretched and extended between how they conceptualize the impacts ICTs have on literacy practices and learning, and how they use ICTs to enhance literacy practices and learning within the classroom,” Marsh says.

“Her research provided insights into how teacher educators and professional developers can help teachers negotiate these tensions, broaden their thinking about literacy and find ways to incorporate ICTs into their daily teaching.”

Through observation and interviews with teachers, Stolle learned that teachers still cling to traditional literacy practices, and that technology seems to be an add-on to support those well-established practices. She also found the use of technology and literacy is based on teachers’ individual classroom contexts, and the tensions these teachers experience ultimately limit their ability to see the potential of using ICTs to boost literacy.

The Annual NRC Student Outstanding Research Award was initiated in 1985 to encourage greater participation of students in NRC meetings and to honor excellent scholarship efforts. A version of the winning paper is published in the NRC Yearbook. This year, Regent’s Professor David Berliner’s invited keynote paper also will appear in the same yearbook.

Stolle is an assistant professor in reading and language arts at Grand Valley State University in Grand Rapids, Mich. While at ASU, she was the Language and Literacy Conference coordinator and leader in the student organization AUA, the ASU chapter of the honor society of the International Reading Association. She also taught undergraduate content literacy courses and participated in many other doctoral student activities.

Verina Palmer Martin,
(480) 965-4911
Mary Lou Fulton College of Education