Parents’ Use of Digital Literacies to Support their Children with Disabilities in Online Learning Environments

Mary Frances Rice, Kelsey Ortiz


An emerging research base has highlighted various roles and responsibilities that parents of students with disabilities accept when they enroll their children in online schools. Since finding and using online texts and using various programs and applications that require search and evaluation skills to do work are typical for online learning, it follows that part of parent responsibilities in many families might involve using basic technological literacies or even more advanced digital ones. To focus on the range of technological literacies that parents employ, researchers gathered self-report data from parents about how they engage with online education technologies while working with their children with disabilities. Interviews with (n = 32) parents across six states in the West, Midwest, and Southern United States revealed that parents employ various skills with a specific set of purposes in mind. Literacies were used to (a) perform basic technological computing tasks, (b) evaluate information to supplement existing instructional materials, and (c) communicate with the school about children’s needs. Reported purposes for using these skills emerged as (a) instructing, (b) monitoring, (c) advocating, and (d) learning school expectations. Implications of this study include the potential for literacy-based approaches to parent preparation for supporting vulnerable children in online settings.


K-12 online learning, students with disabilities, virtual schools, parent roles in online learning , technological skills

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