The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Connections

In trying to make some final connections between my own research on Graphic Novels, increased literacy and multimodal texts, I read a few of the projects that seemed most relevant to me.  What follows are my thoughts. (Just pretend the italicized words are my thought bubbles.)

I just want to remind myself to consult Drew Murphy’s Wiki on using Digital storytelling for the reluctant reader.  It might be an interesting contrast to what I did for my project.

http://wiki.ubc.ca/User:DrewRyan#Creating_Classroom_Community_Through_Digital_Storytelling

I turned out his project was more about engaging students in storytelling using digital media, rather than getting them to read more.  I think that would be an excellent next step to promoting reading with graphic novels and other types of visual media.  As I thought when I read the title, this is an excellent example of a further remediation of text.  As Bolter describes it, one technology building on the other.  In the same way, the skills learned using multimodal texts allow the reader to progress onto the next, more sophisticated media.  The use of digital texts also allows even more input and creativity from the writer (consumer as producer).

This quote from Noah Burdett: “With the need for speed a literate person needs to be able to think critically about the material in terms of its relevance and its authority.”  NoahBurdett_ETEC540_majorproject  http://blogs.ubc.ca/etec540sept09/2009/11/30/final-project-literacy-and-critical-thinking/

“To become multiliterate “What is also required is the mastery of traditional skills and techniques, genres and texts, and their applications through new media and new technologies” (Queensland, 2004). “from Learning Multiliteracies by Carmen Chan

Philip Salembier discussed the New Literacy and Multiliteracies in From one literacy, to many, to one.

He really explains how we have to be prepared as teachers and parents to understand that literacy means more than reading and writing and that digital literacy is not just understanding how to navigate the internet.  All of these are aspects of the new literacy, along with social networking skills.

Fun interactive story http://wiki.ubc.ca/Course:ETEC540/2009WT1/Assignments/MajorProject/ItsUpToYou by Ryan Bartlett.  Might use this style to get the seniors to do a research project on Social Injustice.

Finally, just because this one blew me away! From Tracy Gidinski http://blogs.ubc.ca/etec540sept09/2009/11/29/the-holocaust-and-points-of-view/ I hope I can use this style at some point either with my Marketing or International Business class or perhaps even a simpler storyline for an FSL course.

December 2, 2009   No Comments

Order Amidst Disorder: How will our children find their way?

Order amidst Disorder: How will our children find their way?

Commentary #3      Delphine Williams Young

ETEC 540                University of British Columbia

November 29, 2009

        “Technological devices and systems shape our culture and the environment, alter patterns of human activity, and influence who we are and how we live. In short, we make and use a lot of stuff-and stuff matters” (Kaplan, 2004, p. xiii).There is no doubt that the evolution of various types of technologies throughout the ages have always impacted the socialization of each generation of children. Whilst Plato cautioned about the technology of writing possessing the potential to weaken the intellectual processes used prior to its emergence, it is obvious based on the variety and abundance of technologies existing in present day society we have much more to be concerned about.

 Walter Ong (1982) suggests that the technology of writing has transformed our consciousness as humans in a way that we will never be able to recapture it. Postman (1992), likewise, bemoans the difficulties children would have organizing their thoughts due to the impact of television and computer based media. The New London Group though basically in support of the positive impact the accessibility to such a wide variety could have on education, also identifies that “[a]s lifeworlds become more divergent and their boundaries more blurred, the central fact of language becomes the multiplicity of meanings and their continual intersection” (The New London Group, 1996, p. 10). Grunwald Associates conducted a research in 2003 which revealed that two million American children had their own websites. Alexander (2006), (2008) describes an even more rapid increase in writing technologies that are affordable and readily available. With such a body of information and new ways of presenting information, where is the teacher in all of this? How does she/he face the reality that confronts her with students who are already podcasting and blogging?

Brian Lamb (2007) makes the suggestion that all we need to do is to keep abreast of the new technologies emerging and use them in the classroom rather than be overly concerned about them. But we have to be concerned somewhat. If students are to be fully digitally literate, they will have to be literate in the original sense (that is to be able to read and write) then be trained to use the technology available. However, even as we attempt to do this we will find and that there are some children who will find it difficult turn back the clock to learn foundational concepts like memorizing timetables and spelling words, having been exposed to technology which gives them the answer immediately at the click of a mouse.

 So while technology has diversified and transformed educational practices, Len Unsworth ( 2006) concedes that for teaching to be effective there will have to be more sophisticated planning and preparation to “scaffold” properly do that students with high interest needs.  Researchers: Miller and Almon (2003) in the U.S.A., Fuchs and Al (2005) in Germany, and Eshet and Hamburger (2005) in Israel have all confirmed that technological mastery has nothing to do with deep thorough thinking.  Deep thorough thinking can be accomplished through technology but this technology has to be used effectively. With every new technology that has emerged there are complaints that the earlier one had more authenticity than the newer one.

Whilst the Web 2.0 is a manifestation of where we wish to be technologically, it has to be approached with caution or we could create a generation that later on would be writing doctoral theses about getting back to the foundation of these technologies. The teacher should assess the writing spaces before sending the children to the wiki or website because the “public, community and economic life” (The New London Group, p.1) that he or she wants the children to be exposed to might not be as authentic as desired.

Despite the challenges of having a multiplicity of literacy tools and information; there are children who have been developing gradually and do not seem to have problems as others sifting through the matrix. Andrea Lunsford (2009) in a recent report on a study she carried out discovered that many students, that despite the criticisms being leveled at today’s digitally literate, write more and with richness and complexity than their counterparts in the 1980’s.  She suggests that the social networking that they always involve writing and thus implying that writing is becoming a habit among them. But we still have to look seriously at the upcoming generation of digital natives who are  Internet surfing as much as sixteen hours per week from as young as age six.  Will these youngsters be able to sift all the material that they interface with? Thus, I end with a call that as educators, we become intimately involved so that we will be able to pass on the basics which will assist the young in understanding the quality of work and critical thinking that we want them to cultivate. The Web 2.0 will not have the positive impact we want to see, according to Bryan Alexander (2008), unless educators “… revamp and extend their prior skills new literacies requisite of a Web 2.0 world.”

 

References

Alexander, B. (2008). Web 2.0 and Emergent Multiliteracies. Theory into Practice , 150-160.

Aphek, E. (n.d.). Digital, Highly Connected Children: Implications for Education. Retrieved November 25, 2009, from www.creativeatwork.com : http://www.creativeatwork.com/…aphek/digital-literacy

Bolter, D. J. (2001). Computers, Hypertext and the Remediation of Print. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Group, T. N. (1996). A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies. Harvard Educational Review , 60-92.

Ong, W. (1982,2002). Orality and Literacy. London and New York: Routledge.

November 30, 2009   1 Comment

From one literacy, to many, to one

There is no question that for students in the K-12 system in North America the ‘new’ literacies afforded by digital technologies play an integral role in their lives.  The question is what role they should play in schools.  Most of these students have never known a time without the Internet and have not had to do research when Google (circa 1998) and Wikipedia (2001) were not options.  The question of whether these new tools for finding information and the skills required to use them1 are literacy is moot for these students.  It is a question posed by those attempting to make sense of a rapid change in the learning styles and methods of their students—and in that sense it is necessary and useful.  However, any consideration of new literacies as ‘lesser’ literacies entirely misses the point.  The new literacies of what Bolter (2001) repeatedly terms “the late age of print” are additive in nature.  That is, though there is much debate about the relative merits of various forms of representation, the effect is evolutionary and cumulative rather than revolutionary and exclusionary.  Many literacies co-exist, supplement one another, extend into one another, and borrow and trade metaphors.  As Dobson and Willinsky (2009) note, “…the paradox [is] that while digital literacy constitutes an entirely new medium for reading and writing, it is but a further extension of what writing first made of language” (p. 1).  Certainly, for K-12 students, ‘new’ literacies are not new, they are simply literacy.  Thus, multiliteracy, new literacy, digital literacy and information literacy, while useful concepts in the effort to problematize and deconstruct the changes, are all facets of one, evolving and growing literacy.  Writing in 1996, the year many students currently in the eighth grade were born, the New London Group argued that “…literacy pedagogy now must account for the burgeoning variety of text forms associated with information and multimedia technologies” (p. 2).  Whether accounted for or not, those forms and technologies are taken for granted by most students.  It seems likely that ignoring this results in a type of cognitive dissonance for students which may make it more difficult for them to learn in classrooms in which print literacy is still the dominant, if not the only, mode.  A danger, however, as Dobson and Willinsky (2009) note, is the tendency to assume that “…adolescents’ competence with new technologies—is often inappropriately reconstrued as incompetence with print-based literacies” (p. 11).  Some technology enthusiasts, notable among them Marc Prensky, call for a wholesale shift from print to digital literacy.

Marc Prensky speaks in 2008.

Marc Prensky speaks in 2008.

Prensky has gone so far as to claim that “…it is very likely that our students’ brains have physically changed—and are different from ours—as a result of how they grew up” (Prensky, 2001, p. 1) and their immersion in digital technologies.  While there has been some interesting research in recent years on brain plasticity, particularly with reference to interactions with technology, Prensky is justly criticized for going beyond the scientific evidence (McKenzie, 2007).  Yet he does highlight important characteristics of the way students now learn and socialize2 using technology.  Similarly, Prensky’s classification of parents and teachers as Digital Immigrants, and their children and students as Digital Natives, though overly simplistic is not entirely unhelpful in conceptualizing the current situation in classrooms.  As with other immigrants, some adults have a more difficult time adapting to a new culture than do their children who have been raised in that culture.  Of course, the situation is not as black and white as Prensky would have us believe.  It is also sometimes true that adults who have made the choice to emigrate, and have done the research and made the sacrifices necessary to act on that choice, are more knowledgeable and participate to a higher degree than do their children who take the advantages and freedoms of the new country for granted.  It is normal to find students today who have high

Ubiquitous texting teenager.

Ubiquitous texting teenager.

 speed Internet access at home, access to a family desktop computer or a desktop, laptop or netbook computer of their own, a cellular telephone (capable of texting and taking photos and short movies), and an iPod or other MP3 player.  In fact, the preceding is almost a list of standard equipment for a teenager in early 21st Century North America.  And while it is still true that many schools do not encourage the use of most of these technologies in the classroom, an interesting phenomenon can be observed when teachers make an attempt to do so.  The teacher, likely a Digital Immigrant in Prensky’s terms, has made some study of the technology to determine the ways in which it can be most usefully employed in pursuit of particular curricular objectives.  What often becomes clear is that many of the Digital Native students, who appear quite facile with technology to the casual observer, are both a.) using only limited aspects of technology primarily for social purposes (MSN, Facebook, Twitter, etc.); and, b.) not fully comprehending the implications of the uses they do make of the technology.  This is particularly evident with regard to services such as Facebook where it is not uncommon to find that students rely on default privacy settings, do not read the contract they agree to when opening an account which states that all material posted to the site becomes the property of Facebook, and do not consider the potential long-term consequences of statements or images they post.  In short, students are not only taking the technologies and literacies for granted, they have little or no explicit understanding of them. What this argues for is again something that was anticipated by the New London Group thirteen years ago:  the need for teachers and students to come together in a learning community to which both parties bring their knowledge, experience, learning styles and literacies.

To be relevant, learning processes need to recruit, rather than attempt to ignore and erase, the different subjectivities, interests, intentions, commitments, and purposes that students bring to learning.  Curriculum now needs to mesh with different subjectivities, and with their attendant languages, discourses and registers, and use these as a resource for learning. (New London Group, 1996, p. 11)

Dobson and Willinsky (2009) hit exactly the right “Whiggish” note in the closing remarks to their draft chapter on digital literacy: “We must attend to where exactly and by what means digital literacy can be said to be furthering, or impeding, educational and democratic, as well as creative and literary, ends” (Dobson and Willinsky, 2009, p. 22).  It is clear that the result of this attention must be an expansion of the definition of literacy to include many aspects made possible by its digital evolution. 

Notes

up1 Dobson and Willinsky (2009) point out that literacy in the digital age includes the skills, often defined as information literacy, “… not just for decoding text, but for locating texts and establishing the relationship among them” (p. 19).

up2 “Social software constitutes a fairly substantial answer to the question of how digital literacy differs from and extends the work of print literacy” (Dobson and Willinsky, 2009, p. 21).

References

Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Dobson, T. and Willinsky, J. (2009). Digital Literacy.  From draft version of a chapter for The Cambridge Handbook on Literacy.

McKenzie, J. (2007).  Digital Nativism, Digital Delusions, and Digital Deprivation.  From Now On, 17(2).  Available: http://fno.org/nov07/nativism.html

Prensky, M. (2001).  Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.  On the Horizon.  NCB University Press, 9(5).

November 29, 2009   1 Comment

Commentary 2 – Literacy

Literacy n. 1 the ability to read and write.  2 competence is some field of knowledge, technology, etc.  (computer literacy; economic literacy)  (Oxford Canadian Dictionary, 1998, pg. 836)

Literacy has been discussed and will continue to be a topic of discussion far into the human future.   The need to learn and to facilitate learning and the economic drivers that push technology changes will impact learning and how we view and define literacy.   Ong states that “Literacy began with writing but, at a later stage of course, also involves print”.  (1982, pg. 2)  One would assume that literacy would and should develop to become multifaceted to include all information and communication techniques and the social factors that influence those modes.  As the identified by the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, literacy should imply an understanding, along with the ability to read and write. 

In the article A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures, The New London Group presents the concept of multiliteracies – a redesigned ‘literacy’ with mutual consideration for “the multiplicity of communications channels and media, and the increasing saliency of cultural and linguistic diversity.” (1996, pg. 4)  The new globalization, with ever increasing diversity, has resulted in an encroaching on the workplace, in public spaces and in our personal lives.  These influences are driving a demand for a language “needed to make meaning” (1996, pg. 5) of our economic and cultural exchanges.   How we perceive and how others perceive us is a factor in success.  This success impacts and affects all facts of our lives.   But in a global village, can we ensure that success is attained by all.  It would appear to me that the requirement for multiliteracy is needed mostly in areas of economic disadvantage and disparity.  Where access to even “mere literacy” (New London Group, pg. 4) is limited. 

Cross-cultural communications and the negotiated dialogue of different languages and discourses can be a basis for worker participation, access, and creativity, for the formation of locally sensitive and globally extensive networks that closely relate organizations to their clients or suppliers, and structures of motivation in which people feel that there different backgrounds and experiences are genuinely valued.  (New London Group, 1996, pg. 7)

To increase cross-cultural experiences within the workers’ education, the use of facilitated online study circles are excellent venues to create a dialogue for success and facilitate the “making of meaning” in workers’ participation.  The International Federation of Workers’ Education Associations (IFWEA) employs study circles to attempt to close the gap in both worker education and multiliteracy in disadvantaged groups.  These educational events provide an opportunity for Study Circle members to engage in the four elements of pedagogy as described including: Situated Practice; Overt Instruction; Critical Framing; and Transformed Practice.  (New London Group, pg. 5) 

The division of pedagogy into “the how”, places a new role and responsibility on the teacher and the school.  In the articles, the teacher is described as a facilitator of cultural differences, and a developer of critical thinkers.  This individual must navigate not only the knowledge of required instructional content, but also the technical and the cultural.   The school, as the organization tasked to make differences out of homogeneity (The New London Group, pg. 11) must now reconfigure the classroom to include both global and local content and relationships, flavoured by diverse cultural distinctions.   “Local diversity and global connectedness mean not only that there can be no standard; they also mean that the most important skill students need to learn is to negotiate regional, ethnic, or class-based dialects”.  (The New London Group, pg. 8

While the New London Group article was written in 1996, it was bold to address some of the utopian ideals within education and literacy; individualized education at both a local and global level, with no standards and a high regard for cultural and linguistic differences in the classroom.   Sadly, literacy is influenced by the very diversity and globalization that is forcing most of our social changes.  These changes can be best described using the very words of described by the authors; “Fast Capitalism” (pg. 10); “rigorously exclusive” (pg.6); and “market driven” (pg.6).  As Dobson and Willinsky states “a gender gap still persists in many parts of the world, being wider in some countries”.  (2009, pg. 12)  This gap may be an indicator “that in certain respects there has been very little movement in the gender gap in the last two decades”.  (pg. 13)  Perhaps with such disparities in our global context, the goal of our educational organizations and facilitators should be to ensure that a standard is met with regards to information literacy- “ the ability to locate, evaluate,  and use effectively the needed information”  (Dobson & Willinsky, 2009, pg. 18)  This would ensure that a “competence is some field of knowledge, technology, etc.” (Oxford Canadian Dictionary) is achieved.

References:

Dobson, T. & Willinsky, J.  (2009).  Digital Literacy.  Submitted to The Cambridge Handbook on Literacy

International Federation of Workers’ Educational Association.  (unknown).  The international programs.  Retreived online 10 Nov 2009 from the World Wide Web: http://www.wea.org.uk/Education/International/

New London Group. (1996). A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies. Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.

Ong, Walter (1982). Orality and literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen.

 Oxford Canadian Dictionary.  (1998).  Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

November 14, 2009   1 Comment

Formal Commentary #2 by Dilip Verma

Hypermedia Literacy and Constructivist Learning Theory

The changing form of representation in modern media, and the changing relationship between reader and author in hypertext both call for a change in the method by which literacy is taught. The way that hypertext, or better still hypermedia, is experienced and produced requires a different set of skills than those taught in the traditional classroom. The fact that some of the changes called for by the New London Group closely mirror practices suggested in constructivist learning theory gives added weight to the impetus for a shift in classroom methodology. In constructivism, learning is student centered, and meaning is personal, being constructed actively by the student within a social context. These teaching techniques are precisely what are required to produce students literate in hypermedia.

Hypermedia incorporates multi-modes of meaning involving design decisions in, at the very least, the linguistic, audio, spatial and visual realms. Education has traditionally focused on the linguistic logical intelligence, but multi-literacy requires designers and viewers to develop multiple intelligences (as defined by Gardner) and multiple grammars for different modes of representation. Though parallel means of representation do exist between grammars (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006 citing Kress, 2000b and Kress and van Leeuwen, 1996), on the whole, different modes of representation present meaning differently. For example, speech, and consequently writing, organizes events temporally, whilst images represent spatially arranged entities (Kress, 2005, p.13). Therefore, language literacy requires a different grammar to visual literacy. Individual students naturally vary in their mastery of these grammars; one may have an instinctive understanding of spatial representation, while another is more aware of linguistic meaning. Traditionally, literacy has been taught mono grammatically, whereas constructivism embraces the idea of individual perspectives in a classroom that work collectively to create meaning.

The Pedagogy of Multiliteracies (The New London Group, 1996) calls for the active construction of meaning and teaches learners how to be “active designers of meaning” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p10). In the traditional classroom, learners are encouraged to repeat modes of representation in the production or consumption of media rather than construct new, personalized designs influenced by their own perspective, a perspective influenced by cultural mediation based on Vygotsky’s Cultural Historical Activity Theory. In the “Multiliterate” classroom, students become constructors of meaning and are transformed in the process. “Meaning makers remake themselves” (The New London Group, 1996, p15). The Pedagogy of Multiliteracies is a student centered, active process that furthers a Constructivist agenda.

In the traditional text, as in the traditional classroom, the author offered a single vision or mode of representation to which the student adapted herself and “followed the strict order established by the writer while needing to interpret the word signifiers, turning them into his or her signs” (Kress, 2005, p.9). In hypermedia, it is the visitor, not the author, who determines the path (Kress, 2005) and students are “agents” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p. 7) of their own knowledge path. Rather than being passive, hypermedia readers are “meaning makers (that) don’t simply use what they have been given; they are fully makers and remakers of signs and transformers of meaning” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p.10). The fluid nature of meaning suggests a constructivist epistemology and a shift from the author or teacher as authority. The New London Group does not see meaning as a concept external to the learner, but rather as internal. Traditional teachers, just like authors, were authorities, establishing a path through their text, which the reader or student followed diligently. Digital authors and teachers are no longer mappers of knowledge; they are not sources of knowledge, just sources of information. If the students of today are to be “actors rather than audiences” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p. 8), a student-centered focus for education is called for.

Finally, digital literacy requires a “more holistic approach to pedagogy” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p.3). The interconnected modes of representation suggest a classroom where the focus is on ways of knowing rather than the division of knowledge into isolated areas. Modern literacy requires a knowledge of multiple grammars, those of linguistic, visual, audio, gestural, and spatial and representation (The New London Group, 1996, p. 17). Moreover, an understanding of how these modes combine synaesthetically is a separate grammar all together. This last form, the multimodal representation of meaning, is special in that it represents the way the other modes play off each other to create interconnected patterns of meaning (The New London Group, 1996, p. 17). This multimodal grammar is important for digital literacy as children are naturally synaesthetic, in the way they combine their modes of representation, and “much of our everyday representational experience is intrinsically multimodal” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p. 13). If literacy is to be relevant to learners, then pedagogical activities must be authentic and related to students’ experience in a world of multimodal communication. Hence it is counterproductive and unnatural to compartmentalize modes of meaning as traditional pedagogy has done.

References

Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2006). ‘Multiliteracies’: New Literacies, New Learning. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 4(3), 164-195.

Kress, G. (2005). Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge, and learning. Computers and Composition, 22(1), 5-22.

The New London Group. (1996). A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies. Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.

November 14, 2009   1 Comment