Promoting Social Inclusion through literacy and technology
Submitting InstitutionNottingham Trent University
Unit of AssessmentEducation
Summary Impact TypeSocietal
Research Subject Area(s)
Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education
Language, Communication and Culture: Linguistics
Summary of the impact
The impact of this work is in 2 key areas: using new technologies to
raise literacy levels and engage disaffected students and using technology
to increase language learning opportunities for primary and secondary
students in socially deprived areas. Teachers, trainees, students and
teaching assistants report increased confidence in using new technologies;
students with low literacy and/or English as a second language report
greater engagement, understanding and ability to access the curriculum. As
a result of the research, improved literacy levels, greater engagement in
lessons and a willingness to use new technologies in the modern foreign
languages classroom are evidenced.
Research in the Unit of Assessment has investigated the role of
technology to support the development of English and foreign language
literacies across primary and secondary schools, both internationally and
The work in the area of English language literacies, led by Dr Boulton is
underpinned by research into the use of emerging technologies. The
Training Development Agency (TDA) funded a project which demonstrated that
new technologies could be used in core secondary subjects to improve
literacies and engage disaffected students in 5 schools across the East
Midlands12. The origin of this project began when working with
trainee teachers in developing the use of a range of technologies such as
wikis1,blogs6 and ePortfolios6,7, then
identifying how/if these are cascaded into their teaching as a newly
qualified teacher (NQT) and whether they engaged students1.
This early research raised some key concerns relating to the lack of
confidence of teachers in schools in using new technologies and also the
barriers faced by new teachers in using new technologies when qualified1,7.
The initiatives and projects in the area of modern foreign language are
informed by Dr Hughes' work into blended language learning. He has also
looked at the feasibility of developing practical language learning
initiatives on a public/private basis. This led to the Learn and Teach
Spanish initiative that was jointly funded by Nottingham Trent University
and a private sector partner, the Cool Creative Company http://cool-creative.co.uk/.
The context, evolution and the impact of the partnership are discussed in
"The Ups and Downs of third-stream collaboration in modern languages: the
Blended Language Training Initiative at Nottingham Trent University"3.
Funding was also made available by the Routes into Languages national
project to develop "Ambassadors Learn Languages" 8. This is a
multimedia learning resource with beginners units in: Chinese, French,
German, Hindi, Italian, Latin, Polish and Spanish. Each unit contains a
rich mix of reading, writing, listening speaking (and singing) activities
based on audio recordings, visual input and interactive games. It is
available in 8 languages via the Routes into Languages website at https://www.routesintolanguages.ac.uk/eastmidlands/resources
Latterly internal funding has been attracted for English language learning
working in collaboration with a Nottingham-based charity, Education For
The Children (EFTC), which runs primary and secondary schools for street
children in Guatemala.
The research demonstrates the importance of the range and variety of
online and face-to-face learning opportunities courses designed on a
blended learning basis offer 5. Of particular note is the way
the blend of elements motivate students to engage outside the classroom,
in a focused and sustained way, with many of the types of activities
considered effective in promoting foreign language literacies such as
exposure to second language input, social interaction with peers and
native-speakers and the production of meaning-focused written and oral
communication. The results demonstrate that an approach which integrates
an emphasis on technology is an effective, efficient and popular method
for developing literacy skills that has implications in a range for
different learning contexts 4, 5.
References to the research
The quality of the research is evidenced through the examples listed
having been subject to peer review prior to publication.
1Boulton H, and Hramiak, A, (2013) Cascading the use of Web
2.0 technology in secondary schools in the United Kingdom: identifying the
barriers beyond pre-service training, Journal of Technology, Pedagogy and
Education Doi: 10.1080/1475939X.2013.802994.
2Boulton, H. and Hramiak, A., 2012. E-flection: the
development of reflective communities of learning for trainee teachers
through the use of shared online web logs. Reflective Practice:
International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives.
3Hughes, N (2012) The Ups and downs of third-stream
collaboration in modern languages: the Blended Language Training
Initiative at Nottingham Trent University, Language Learning Journal,
4 Hughes, N & Rolls, A (2012): Blended learning and disciplinarity:
negotiating connections in French Studies in regional universities, The
Language Learning Journal, DOI:10.1080/09571736.2011.640406
5Hughes, N (2008) Blended Learning in Languages Education: The
Case of Hispanic Studies at Nottingham Trent University, The
International Journal of Learning, Vol. 15, Issue 9, pp.257-264.
6 Boulton, H. and Hramiak, A., 2012. Writing Virtually. In: L.
CLUGHEN and C. HARDY, eds., Writing in the disciplines: building
supportive cultures for student writing in UK higher education. Bingley:
Evidence of Grants
• 72012: £5k Research and Development Awards (TDA), Title:
EPortfolios in Teacher Education. Award Number: GRANT REFERENCE NUMBER: GL
CODE: A133ABAELRGNT3198. The grant was awarded to Dr Helen Boulton from
2009 to 2010.
• 82011: £20k to develop `Ambassadors Learn Languages'
blended learning training resources in Chinese, French, Hindi, Italian,
German, Latin, Polish and Spanish for East Midlands Routes into Learning.
• 92009: £30k in-kind incubation funding from The Cool
matched £10k NTU investment to develop the Blended Language Training
initiative in partnership with the Nottingham-based SME.
• 102009: Grant to develop a blended learning exemplar in
French Studies for the Centre for languages, linguistics and area studies,
LLAS. Available at
• 112012: £5K Literacy and Technology: Towards Best Practice
(TDA). GRANT REFERENCE NUMBER: GR00416, GL CODE: 2080. The grant was
awarded to Dr Helen Boulton from 2011 to 2012.
Details of the impact
The extent of community impact of the research is with primary and
secondary teachers, classroom assistants, pre-service teachers and
students, many of whom are now using the resources developed from these
research projects. Statements by teachers evidence changes in practice
which impact on students and increased knowledge, understanding and skill
in meeting the needs of students with low literacy levels, and those
identified as disengaged; this is evidenced through teacher's class
records. This addresses a significant area of concern raised at Government
level where a) students with special educational needs are identified as
underachieving in schools, and b) newly qualified teachers report that
they are unprepared to meet the diverse needs of students with special
educational needs in their classrooms`. For example of 70 teachers
involved in the project led by Dr Hughes, 60% indicated they are using the
resources and methods acquired during the training in their teaching; this
is evidenced by evaluations completed by participants. While students
involved in Dr Boulton's research found the use of technology engaging
through working collaboratively and co-constructing new knowledge with 5
secondary schools who have higher than average levels of students with
English as a second language and free school meals. Many students reported
that the technologies made learning fun and enjoyable. Teachers reported
increased levels of literacy for most students, increased confidence in
learning by all students and increased levels of engagement for all
students who had been identified as disengaged learners by their school.
Significant engagement was observed by students who had English as a
second language. One school reported significant benefits for a physically
Hughes' 2009 project impacted on approximately 70 primary school teachers
and teaching assistants across the region taking part in training
programmes using Learn and Teach Primary Spanish 1. The nature of this
impact has been on teachers' increased knowledge, understanding and skill
in meeting the language needs of primary school students and confirmed by
teachers, see Section 5. Two of the primary schools involved in the
project, Seagrave and Cantrell Primary, are located in deprived parts of
the city and have significantly above-average numbers of students entitled
to free meals and/or with learning difficulties. The project was the
catalyst for the development of a new primary language upskilling strategy
in Nottingham modelled on the train-the-trainer principle in 2009/10.
Developing collaborations with Cool Creatives, Education for the Children
(EFTC), and schools is contributing to one of the most important aspects
of the university's external agenda, providing support for the community
within which it is embedded and thus providing further evidence of wider
impact within the community; see Section 5.
Dissemination has been through international and national conference
presentations by both Dr Hughes and Dr Boulton for example:
HUGHES, N., 2009. Blended learning: an effective, efficient and popular
approach to language learning in HE. In: Fourth International Blended
Learning Conference, University of Hertfordshire, 2009. pp. 53-63.
BOULTON, H., 2012. Can technologies raise literacy levels? In:
Association of Information Technology in Teacher Education Annual
International Conference, Oxford University, Oxford, 5-7 July 2012.
As a result Hughes has been invited to speak at international, national
and local conferences and invitation to visit University of Newcastle in
New South Wales, Australia (2009 and 2010).
Resources from the projects are located on national websites and made
available via CDROMs such as `Learn and Teach Primary Spanish 1', and via
Resources> Resources for Use in Schools for CPD,
— click link under `Ambassadors Learn Languages', http://partners.bte.sws.ntu.ac.uk/moodle/
thus reaching a wide readership and audiences both nationally and
Sources to corroborate the impact
Head of Languages, Walton Girls' High School and Sixth Form corroborates
the claim that the blended learning approach is an effective and efficient
approach to language teaching and training. She also states that as a
direct result of involvement in Dr Hughes' project `Spanish will be
rolled out at Key Stage 3 from September 2012'.
Principal of the City of Peterborough Academy corroborates the claim that
the approach to training and up skilling developed as a result of the
research, was adopted as model by Nottingham City Council in 2009/10
Head of Science, National Academy will corroborate that involvement with
the research project led by Dr Boulton 82% of the students involved in the
project enjoyed the lesson more than usual with 63% rating their own
engagement in the lesson as more than usual. More than half of the
students commented that the technology used in the lesson helped them to
learn about the concepts, believed that the ICT used helped them
understand keywords more, and the technology impacted on their learning
more than usual. As a result of the project various staff development has
taken place across the school on using new technologies in the classroom
resulting in an impact on the confidence of teachers in using technologies
and more innovative classroom practice.
Deputy Principal, Greenwood Academies Trust corroborates that the
students achieved higher literacy levels and engagement through the
project and became more confident learners and dissemination of the
project has contributed to an increased confidence in the use of
technologies in the classroom.
Head of French, Newcastle University (Australia) corroborates the
effectiveness and popularity of the blended leaning approach in a range of
language learning and teaching contexts.