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Desktop publishing: a literature review.


Potential studies were identified using electronic database searches, hand searches of key journals, and by searching the reference sections of identified studies. First, electronic databases using Google Scholar were used. Next, articles involving desktop publishing in the three major databases in the education field were identified. ERIC, Education Full Text Wilson, and ProQuest Educational Journal were used from 1997 to 2011. The search strategy included these key words and the Boolean operator "AND" for these combinations of words: "desktop publishing" AND "classrooms" AND "writing." Furthermore, additional studies were obtained through hand searches of these relevant journals: Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy; Information Technology in Childhood Education Annual; Review of Educational Research; Educause Quarterly; Threshold Magazine; Journal of Applied Educational Technology; School Media Quarterly; English Journal; Technology, Pedagogy and Education; Education Technology Research and Development; The International Journal of Technology and Design Education; and Reading Research Quarterly for the dates January 1997 to April 2011. Finally, the reference sections of articles were searched, which met selection and rubric criteria. Additional hand searches and bibliography searches produced 27 and 24 additional studies, respectively. A total of 115 articles were reviewed in full and several were excluded because the source did not meet the definition of a desktop book format or because they were published more than a decade ago.


Young children live in a world where technology permeates their lives and daily routines. Today they are exposed to technology at a much younger age than they were years ago (Kervin & Mantei, 2009). Any tool that can place students in a world of productive learning produces receptive students, who in turn facilitate the love of learning and writing. Gentry (2005) states "students' publishing their own books as authors with the help of a computer to share with fellow students, teachers, and the world is learning" (p. 25). The world of instructional technology has altered the fabric of education over the last twenty years (Cohen & Portney, 2006). Yet, in recent years the development and use of various kinds of digital technologies has ushered in an era in which advances in technology integrated with language arts have helped to improve the learning of concepts in reading and writing.

Researchers in the field of education have begun to look at the power of digital learning environments to improve student learning. Instruction can be delivered by a teacher or with the use of media. Dixon and Judd (as cited in Clark, 2001) found no disparity between instruction performed by a teacher versus a computer. Clark (1983) lays out his basic premise that instructional designers gain no learning benefits from employing a specific medium to deliver instruction. Clark (2001) shares strong evidence for the hypothesis that the use of computers or other media for instruction does not make any necessary psychological contribution to learning, motivation to learn, or the transfer of what is learned from instruction.

Kozma (1991) disagrees with Clark's perspective and states that Clark's view of media as delivery trucks creates an unnecessary schism between medium and method. He proposes an alternate theory of learning where by the learner strategically extracts information from the environment and integrates it with information already stored in his or her memory. Kozma (1991) argues that media is an integral part of the instructional design process and has an important role in learning. For example, media can provide for students certain model cognitive operations that are salient to a learning task often ones learners cannot or do not perform for themselves. Kozma (1994) notes that, in its simplest form, media and method are inseparable.

Anderson-Inman (1997) found that using computers to improve writing achievement was particularly effective if combined with appropriate teaching strategies and learning environments. The use of computer word processing and computer instruction in developing early-grade writing skills has yielded mixed results (Barrera, Rule, & Diemart, 2001). It is still not certain if the use of technology to aid learning correlates with improved student reading and writing skills.

Lien (2000) suggested that the amount of experience students have with activities using the computer was related to how successful they were with interacting with technological resources. The study examined the Internet activities employed by 123 students in Grades 2-12. Students' activities in reading and writing were analyzed relative to their success in locating the information they sought. It was reported that only students who had extensive experience with technology appeared to have success with their literacy activities when using the Internet than those students who had not had extensive experience with technology.

In earlier years, young students' writing achievement was examined through the use of specific computer-assisted instruction programs or of computer word processors found in early computers, such as Apple's IIGS (Barrera et al., 2001). Moreover, according to Barrera et al. (2001), computer-based writing programs did not produce sufficiently strong results to convince researchers of the superiority of computers in enhancing writing achievement. Becoming a good writer is an accomplishment. Students who write, learn.

Smith and Ellis (2003) report research studies exhibiting students using technology in the publication of students' works has been shown to enhance students' writing. They cite many researchers produced a research summary pertaining to the publication of children's writing which, discussed the two major roles students personify, audience member and author, in the process of publishing and sharing their published books. They found that students who author and share their published books improved their writing and reading skills (Smith & Ellis, 2003). This learning situation of role reversal between author and audience has been identified as a quality instructional practice. Smith and Ellis (2003) maintain that studies conclude that students using technology enhances the development of their writing. From a new perspective, a primary goal for using computers is for students to learn something and share what they have learned with others. Online writers and readers do not just read or write, they communicate with others continuously as a means of processing what they are learning (Zawilinski & Leu, 2008; Henry, 2006; Richardson, 2006). Student publishing is learning and an expression of one's learning.

The motivational value of writing for publication is that it impacts the level of commitment children have for striving for excellence in their compositions (Gentry, 2005). With digital cameras, color printers, and computers more accessible to teachers and students, local book publication in language arts classes is increasing. As computer technology improves and changes, such improvements may produce different effects (Barrera et al., 2001).

DeBell and Chapman (2006) reported about two thirds of children in nursery school and 80% of kindergartners use computers. According to DeBell and Chapman (2006), about 23% of children in nursery school use the Internet, 50% by Grade 3 and rises to 79% in Grades 9-12. The relevancy, cultural responsiveness, and linguistic match ups are being recognized and supported in the language arts curriculum for primary children (Daiute, 2003).

Daiute (2003) noted that advanced computer applications such as desktop publishing present instructors with a new way in which to teach what might no longer fit traditional notions of writing. Daiute (1985) discussed the "fun" that children and adults have when writing on the computer. She states the writing process came to life with the cut and paste functions of the word processor. With desktop publishing, writers are able to express their thoughts and ideas worthy of professional publishers.

Daiute, Ausch, and Chen's (1997) research from the City University of New York, advocates linking technology with literacy because of the impact they saw the World Wide Web had on developing the writing abilities of their students. In their study of more than 100 students, they found that computers enhanced their student's written language and their motivation to learn to write. Results also indicated that students who used computers for compositions were also involved in critical literacy as they continued to master the mechanics of writing (Daiute et al., 1997).

Kinzer and Leu (1997) research focused on the challenge of change when exploring literacy and multimedia technologies available to students. The Young Children's Literacy Project is relevant because of its involvement with younger children. The project integrated multimedia technology and focused on children in the primary grades. Kinzer and Leu (1997) wanted children to understand the power, use, and importance of literacy. Their findings showed that students who viewed video stories could sequence and retell the story that was just presented using the computer's recording system successfully. Two positive outcomes occur when primary children use the Internet to access stories they had written. First, the child's story shows a portion of the web home page available through the Young Children's Project. Second, students from around the country and the world saw and read the ongoing literacy activity that was being used in other classrooms.

Baker (2000) identified results from an ethnographic study that examined two approaches to integrating literacy and technology. The inquiry and process writing approaches was implemented in a fourth grade teacher's literacy and technology class. The result where literacy instruction and technology was implemented was found to be successful for this classroom (Baker, 2000). Baker (2000) noted that the study's findings may provide helpful insights to other elementary teachers who seek to integrate literacy instruction and technology.

Daiute (2003) found primary students who used technology in literacy showed an increased role and commitment when developing their writing stories. She noted that the use of computers motivated students and their attitudes to learn. Findings related to outcomes that affect children's learning in technology also increased.

Harste (2003) argued that mastering the basics of reading and writing is more important than ever before because of the increased volume of information and the speed at which it reaches the reader. Harste proposed the need for an altered perspective on literate practices to empower consumers to read with a critical eye. The power of a text to position an audience is increased with creative professional production and an increased potential audience afforded by technology, challenges the reader to make informed decisions. Technology has impacted significantly on language and how it is used.

Jewett (2003) contends that the connections between literacy and social practices are exemplified within the digital era. Educators must acknowledge that technology has the power to change the nature of what is considered texts for classroom study, authorship of text and how it contributes to learning.

Labbo (2005) points out most contemporary curricula are designed to capitalize on computer technology potential, which allows teachers and children to access central facilities even for short periods of time. This is a valid starting point for teachers to operate within their zone of proximal comfort by using technology within tried and trusted teaching methods before adopting newer pedagogies. The zone of proximal development is the distance between what a person can do with and without help. In other words the zone of proximal development refers to the range of tasks that a learner cannot yet do alone, but can accomplish with the help of instructors or more capable peers (Vygotky, 1978). Labbo (2005) insists more research is needed about how teachers can adopt to a literacy paradigm that recognizes and embeds information and communication technology within classroom literacy experiences.

Dede (2005) and Oblinger (2003) maintain that, for teaching to be supported by technology children are accustomed to through open learning experiences, it must authentically reflect real-world problems and value their cultural practices. Dede (2005) argued a partition exists between the technology that is used within everyday life and the technology used in many classroom settings. The capabilities of information and communication technology are well reported, as is the need for their inclusion within the classroom setting. According to Dede (2005) the debate of how this should be achieved and whether the technology is the learning or it supports the learning continues to be argued.

Mawson (2007) sought to establish the technological knowledge, understandings, and capabilities of 5 year olds. His research and findings was completed in an inner city primary school located in Auckland, New Zealand. The findings relate to factors that affect children's learning in technology. Mawson focused on specific factors that affect children's learning in technology. Findings indicated that primary children need opportunities to explore technological activities. Moreover, Mawson noted that primary children need to be given opportunities to explore technological activities, which are vital for integration to consist of authentic technological learning if positive outcomes are to be expected for these young children.

Warren, Dondlinger, and Barab (2008) found much of the application of technology in writing instruction has been relegated to the use of the word processor for student writing. Although the word processor has done much to enhance writing performance as it relates to outcome achievement, it does little to enhance writing instruction, provide feedback, or encourage reflection. The results of a digital learning environment designed to improve elementary student writing by Warren et al. (2008) indicated that students were motivated by the narrative structures to engage in more free-choice writing practice in the treatment class. Their results addressed the need to establish rich narrative contexts that situate students within a rich context. The role of the digital environment in this instance was primarily due to the design of the instructional technology used within the classroom for the primary students.

Warren et al. (2008) further states computers have the potential to transform and deepen literacy experiences for primary children who are given suitable classroom task that promote the integration between literacy, technology use and learning. By providing more of a rich context for student writing while providing students additional external motivation fosters intrinsic motivation (Warren et al., 2008). To achieve this with the support of technology, teachers must understand not only the needs of the children but also the advantages of the technology, the skills, strategies and language acquisitions for being literate, and how these can combine to provide rewarding classroom experiences.

Research is still in a nascent phase with limited findings from studies that address changes in student achievement in content areas (Dondlinger, 2007). Students of any age can learn by instruction delivered via technology (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright, & Zvacek, 2009). Early research findings indicate there are a number of common factors that can encourage and empower scalability. Many researchers have worked extensively on ways to achieve scale for educational innovations; technology can assist in many ways in achieving scale (Dede & Rockman, 2007).


Research indicates when students in primary grades use technology in literacy, four impacts happen: the role and commitment in writing development increases (Dauite et al., 1997); the use of the computer motivates students and their attitudes to learn (Lund & Sanderson, 1999); desktop publishing, a vital tool for primary children, enables them to develop a stronger ability in both reading and writing (Smith & Ellis, 2003), and findings that relate to outcomes which affect children's learning in technology increases (Mawson, 2007).

Opportunities for primary children to create, share, and publish digital picture ebooks are increasing and according to research can now be easily accomplished as the role of technology in publishing children's writing is addressed (Condon & McGuffee, 2004; Smith & Ellis, 2003). As students share their published books, they incorporate new ideas and consider new information that has come their way.

Publishing students' written work gives the meaning and purpose for writing (Smith & Ellis, 2003). However, there is a need for more and better research when implementing digital publishing into the language arts curriculum for young children (Barrea et al., 2001). One common thread which was apparent is that studies on desktop publishing agreed that writing skills are enhanced when technology is available and facilitates publication for relevant, authentic authorship experiences among primary children (Daiute, 2003; Daiute et al., 1997; Smith & Ellis, 2003). This experience that allows children to create and explore using technology may ultimately leave them with the idea that they can someday be an author, who can share their writings and thoughts with others (Gentry, 2005).

Zull (2002), an authority on learning's connection to the brain, proposed that an individual possesses two biologically engrained brain needs for efficacious learning. He identified the needs as control and pleasure (p. 51). Zull (2002) found the brain gives children an atmosphere of control when learning to create a book, and then gives them pleasure when sharing their learning and book through desktop publishing. Desktop publishing offers support to these two brain needs and grants an individual control of the text and pictures to create the individualized story of learning and the pleasure of a final personalized story publication (Gentry, 2005).

In summary, research synthesis provides preliminary evidence that digital books can be used to support comprehension goals with students in pre-K through grade three (Zucker, Moody, & McKenna, 2009). Desktops books are likely to be most effective when teachers play an active roll in their use including providing explicit ground rules for individual learners (Mercer, Fernandez, Dawes, Wegerif, & Sams, 2003; Wood, Littleton, & Chera, 2005). In order for technology to be authentic and pedagogically appropriate it needs to be utilized in ways, which supports literacy and learning experiences for children. Finally, teachers must promote an environment that empowers students as informed decision makers as they challenge and expand upon what they do when authoring text.


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Bridget A. Bonczyk, 3130 Millwood Terrace M207, Boca Raton, FL 33431-3818.

Telephone: (561) 394-7148.

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Author:Bonczyk, Bridget A.
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Date:Dec 1, 2011
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