Making Connections

It is reaching the time of the end of my participation in the MET program. During this journey I have learned enormously about Education and Technology… not only about these fields but also about the cultural transformations that we are experiencing due to the emergence and development of new technologies.

In this course, thinking on the several readings and discussions we held, I have particularly learned about text as a changing technology that has been experiencing and will continue experiencing remediation. An idea that keeps in my mind after analyzing some of the course readings (e.g., New London Group, Bolter, Ong), connecting them with previous knowledge, and the statements of other authors (such as Sir Ken Robinson, Marc Prensky, and Michael Wesch), is that we are facing a period of cultural and technological transformations. Within these changes, one of the things that we must address as educators is reconsidering and rethinking the way in which we educate and the whole education system, in order to engage our students with learning and to promote creativity and critical thinking skills. These skills are beginning to be required in the workplace, and will increasingly take place in these spaces.

Our students are developing new literacies, forms of communication, ways of thinking and understanding the world. They are in touch with new technologies, they search for and share information through them, and they use them to communicate with others.

If we do not address the need to rethink our culture and, particularly, our education system, we will be updated. As Postman (1993) has mentioned, every technology has positive and negative effects. The challenge for educators today is assessing the benefits of a wide number (that will increasingly grow) of technologies that can be used for educational purposes, and to integrate them effectively in instruction. Text technologies are changing (today faster than ever), our challenge is huge, but not because of this less thrilling.

I have mixed feelings about finishing this course and the MET program. I am glad for the work I have done, my effort to succeed, for having the chance of collaborating with and learning from amazing educators around the world, and for having the chance to perfect myself in order to be a better educator for my students. But I also will miss the chance to collaborate and learn from others, to build projects, know wonderful people, be updated on technologies and theoretical underpinnings behind Educational Technology. I guess that my natural desire to learn new Technologies and learn from the educational theories that promote its use will be stronger and will continue to update me on the field. In the future, hopefully soon, I wish to continue my graduate studies.

I would like to thank the instructors for their excellent job in promoting learning within the community of ETEC 540. Thanks to all my classmates, because all the concepts and ideas that we have shared and build in this course, has provided a huge learning opportunity and a rewarding learning experience.



Bolter, J.D. (2002). Writing Space. computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. New York: Routledge.

NLG (1996). A pedagogy for Multiliteracies. Harvard Educational Review 66(1). 60-92

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon 9(5), 2-6. Retireved January 7, 2011 from EBSCOhost

Postman, N (1993). The Judgement of Thamus.  In N. Postman. Technopoly: the surrender of culture to technology (pp. 3-20). New York: Vintage.

Ong, W. (2010). Orality and Literacy. New York: Routledge.

Robinson, S.K. (2011). Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative. West Sussex: Capstone



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Making Connections

A major theme of this term has been remediation. Gordana Jugo refers to Bolter’s concept of (2001) remediation as “a newer technology taking place of (an) older technology but keeping some characteristics of (the) older technology while reorganizing and improving other characteristics.” Throughout history, communication has been remediated by technology. For example, oral communication was remediated by the scroll which was remediated by the manuscript or codex which again was remediated by print (Tobin, kimprobable, ajevne). Currently we are experiencing a remediation of print by digital text. Angela Novoa states that “hypertext has brought a redefinition of the way in which we communicate, (e)specially regarding organization and design of text.” Hypermedia such as animation, images and sound are also changing how we read and write (Tobinkenbuis). Bpgore posits that “the new media make it possible to use the mode that is deemed most appropriate both for the matching the representation to the audience and also using the best medium to support the material.”

Many teachers, even in this course, complain about the decline of student skills in reading and writing. It is comforting to think that mass literacy is not in jeopardy but is expanding its definition (Garth). Leonora Zefi suggests “literacy no longer relates only to written text but to the deciphering of symbols, signs and visual narratives in all forms of media.” In a digital world, this includes being able to navigate and think critically about the overwhelming amount of information available to anyone online. A benefit of digital text is that it affords debate and collaboration between readers and authors, similar to how the codex used to be shared orally with others (Tobin).

Print has also been affected by digital media. One discussion board thread about Bolter’s chapter on “The Breakout of the Visual” referred to the changing appearance of text books which are more visual and less linear today. Jasmeet Virk cites Svobodny, who noted in 1985 that “publishers made their books more attractive by using bigger print, less content … illustrations, drawings, and engravings” to sell to schools. Print has changed in a response to a visual culture dominated by film, TV, billboards etc. (Tobin).

The current generation of students were born into a digital world. Prensky (2001) calls them digital natives. These students are naturally attracted to using technology, often spending much of their personal time online, texting, watching movies etc. Prensky (2001) states that “Kids born into any new culture learn the new language easily, and forcefully resist using the old” (kimprobable) So why don’t more educators use technology to motivate our students to learn? Some of my peers have mentioned over the term that their colleagues fear technology, don’t have the necessary resources or are too comfortable with their current lessons to want to change.

Some of my colleagues believe that even though students are digital natives, they don’t know how to use technology to its full potential. This makes it even more important for educators to guide students to becoming technically literate to prepare them for a technology dependant work world. Alvin advises, “rather than distancing education from new forms of technologies and information flows in 21st century society, schools have the responsibility to help students negotiate safely and meaningfully in our increasingly networked world, as well as to encourage critical thinking about both new and historical technologies”. Dennis Pratt supports this view by proposing, “new technologies are tools for change but do not create change by themselves. Educators have to teach students how to judge between valuable information and the insignificant.” I think Alvin raises a good point that teachers shouldn’t automatically use technology in teaching practices but should be mindful about how to best integrate technology to enhance learning. For example, television can be used as a tool to improve writing (Juliana).

Television also has the reputation of draining our students’ brains. It is the perfect example of how technology has both benefits and drawbacks. Many of my colleagues (Kim MelvinGordana JugoJulianaAngela Novoa)chose to write their first commentary on Postman‘s article called Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology in which Postman (1992) describes Plato’s Phaedrus, where Theuth presented his invention of writing to the God Thamus as an achievement that “will improve both the wisdom and the memory of the Egyptians” (p. 4). To which Thamus disagreed, “Those who acquire it will cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful; they will rely on writing to bring things to their remembrance by external signs instead of by their own internal resources” (p. 4). In his article, Postman cautions against seeing only the negative side of technology. Ajevne summarizes, “a key idea of Postman’s that is illustrated in this chapter is that all technologies produce both blessings and burdens for cultures that adopt them however, he still recommends that we think about new technology and err, if necessary, on the side of ‘Thamusian skepticism’ (p. 5), and to not let the inventors be the only voice in determining the value of their inventions.”

As the term closes, I will carry forward my learning into my classroom practice. I appreciated the opportunity to experience using a class blog as that is something I’d like to do with my own students. Blog affordances that stand out to me are the ability to:

  • include hypermedia to complement text,
  • link externally and internally. However, I’m not sure it was always obvious why I was linking internally. I wish we could link to a particular phrase or paragraph.
  • search for assignments by category instead of scrolling through all posts,
  • search for assignments by tags although I don’t think tagging was used as effectively as it could have been. For example, remediation was an important theme on the blog but it wasn’t a tag.
  • click on each blogger’s RSS feed to see their term work which I used when writing this assignment to find a connection I knew I had read previously;
  • leave comments on other’s assignments but I don’t feel this promoting a lot of conversation on the blog.

I would like to thank my peers in this course for much stimulating discussion on the discussion boards this term that encouraged me to reflect on my own teaching philosophies.


Bolter, J. D. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Postman, N. (1992). The judgement of Thamus. In Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology (Chapter 1). Retrieved from:

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. Retrieved from:,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Svobodny, D. (1985). Early american textbooks, 1775-1900. A catalog of the 
titles held by the educational research library. Retrieved from ERIC
database. ED264601

Posted in Making Connections | 3 Comments

connection and reflection

Making connection and reflection

What an epic journey this has been! When I just started out, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into. However, after delving in the rich discussions and readings, I was naturally drawn to the course and never let go ever since.

I am an instructor of literacy so I was very upbeat about orality and literacy even though I wasn’t too familiar with the term orality. However, after engaging with the reading, it started to fully register and resonate with me. First, I never thought about a culture where everything is done orally and print is absent. This opened up my eyes and took me way back to the situation that existed during the times when my ancestors were taken from Africa and placed in the Caribbean to work as slaves. It was there and then that I was puzzled and wondering how could such a situation exist. As I weighed my thoughts, I realized I was viewing the situation from my viewpoint since I am a part of a print culture. After careful analysis, I started reflecting on topics I discussed with my students in class about oral tradition and the impact it had on memorizing concepts.

In addition, I was fascinated by the discussions and readings centered around the invasion of our culture by technology or Postman’s technopoly as it relates to the cultural disturbances because of the sudden extension of communication technologies (Neil Postman, Technopoly, 1992). I am still very concerned about this erosion of culture by technology but never looked at it from postman’s viewpoint. When I compared what existed now and then as it relates to memorizing concepts, I realized that there were tremendous benefits in those oral societies. Today’s generation relies on technology for memory and also use it as external brains. In addition, it was amazing how this course brings the past and present so close. The connections made were so clear and vivid and the transitions from the former to the latter were obvious and put into perspective throughout; for example, the movement from writing on the walls of cave to hypertext especially when one considers that our written identity is, like hypertext, dynamic, flexible, and contingent.” (Bolter, 2001, p.190). From then I realized that every technology actually feeds off another.

Exploring digital natives also resonated with me and my current practice. As a result, of this course, I was able to zoom in on the netgeneration and contextualized my current situation. As a result, I was able to make connections with how I am currently teaching the netgen and the cutting-edge tools and applications involved. Also, how could I forget the definition of literacy and the advent of eBooks. I want to fuse both topics as the latter is integral in redefining literacy. I was always of the view that literacy cannot be defined without the inclusion of technology and this course put that into perspective. Ebook was a major factor in my interaction with this course and others as I figure it will be a major game-changer in literacy and how the netgen will learn in the future in collaboration with social media. Overall, this connection was great as one needs to know the past if he/she is to make the best of the future. Therefore, I intend to use this connection for the rest of my teaching career of which I know will be successful.

Last but not by no mean least, I want to say a big thank you to my professors and fellow classmates who were very supportive throughout the course. All the best to you all. :)


Bolter, Jay David. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. ISBN: 0-8058-2919-9.

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

Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The Surrender of Culture to Technology. NewYork: Vintage Books, A Division of Random House, Inc.


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Information and Media Literacy in Post Secondary Education

New literacy in the Digital Age: understanding the dynamics of needed information and media competencies in a post-secondary educational setting.


As we progress through the early stages of the twenty-first century, we are witnessing a dramatic change in the use of traditional text and words; they are rapidly being augmented and replaced with images. These images are becoming central to communication and meaning making and are no longer there to only entertain and illustrate (Mitchell, 1995). Thus we are quickly moving into a media rich, visual world made possible with advancements in computer technologies.  In 2008 for example, the photo sharing site, Flickr, had more than two billion images and in January 2008 YouTube had 79 million viewers and 3 billion videos (Felton, 2008). This visual, screen-based world is the domain of today’s post-secondary students who are visual learners, “intuitive visual communicators” and “more visually literate then previous generations” (Oblinger and Oblinger, 2005, ch. 2.). This pervasive new form of media requires the development of knowledge and skills to help value and interpret what they mean.

Information, whether it be text or visual based, is more abundant today through the Internet, then it was 20 years ago. Individuals no longer need to go out of their way to search for information by going to the Library. Today proliferating information sources are available instantly through the Internet, community resources, special interest organizations and television. Going further, information today is now searching for and finding individuals based on their previous search habits. This immediate access to volumes of information does have challenges as it is increasingly in unfiltered formats which question its reliability, validity and authenticity (ALA, 2000). Like media sources, text and visual information require a honed set of knowledge and skills to help determine the validity of this information and how to use it effectively.

From these examples and many other aspects of digital technologies, comes the need to expand the traditional definition of literacy beyond text and numbers to a whole new agenda of multi-literacies including visual, media, digital, computer and information literacies.


Post-secondary institutes invest large sums of money in information technology to support both teaching to meet the needs of students and to enhance student technology knowledge and skills to develop the graduates that employers demand (Lewis, Coursol and Khan, 2001). Employers expect graduates to have current technology knowledge and skills to support them and to provide growth in the workplace (Wilkinson, 2006). Many employers expect their employees to be information literate and consider information literacy as important as communication skills (ILAC 2003). However, expectations around information technology use and the associated required skills are constantly changing as technology rapidly evolves.

Associated with the development and use of digital tools and technology is the development of specialized literacies that are growing and changing rapidly as technology changes. Traditionally, literacy referred to reading and writing, and like numeracy, these skills have never been optional to be a fully functional member of society (Jones-Kavalier and Flannigan, 2006). Since the computer revolution for example, computer and digital literacy have appeared and evolved, and are currently merging into a broader literacy called information literacy.

There are several types of technology related literacy discussed in the literature: computer, digital, information, visual and media. Computer literacy deals with the use of computers and related technologies. Digital literacy goes beyond basic computer skills and deals with the use of information with digital technologies (Media Awareness Network, 2010). Information literacy deals with abilities to analyze information to support decision making. Some researchers (as reported by Higntte, Margavio and Margavio 2009) argue that the concept of computer literacy is dated and that we should focus on information literacy. Visual literacy as defined by Felten (2008), p. 60) “involves the ability to understand, produce and use culturally significant images, objects and visual actions”. Media literacy deals with critically analyzing messages that people watch, hear and read.

All of these different literacies are important; however this essay will focus on information and media literacy skills as they play a key role that supports workforces competing in the global economy (Finn, 2004). In addition, the Media Awareness Network (2010) reported in 2010 that Canada has fallen behind many countries in developing our digital economy. They also state that Canada has not made digital literacy a cornerstone of our digital economy strategy like some of our competitors have such as the UK, Australia, New Zealand and the US.

Information literacy stems from the need to find and use appropriate information, thus it has a cornerstone in library science. With the development of information and communications technologies over the last 20 years, information and library science have evolved to incorporate these technologies as tools to help find and process information.

Media literacy stems from the need to critically evaluate different forms of media and to effectively create content and communicate it through various forms, thus it has a cornerstone in media studies, mass communication, journalism and education. In post-secondary education then, media literacy is taught through either media or education lenses.

 Media and Information Literacy Standards

In the US, media literacy is defined as: “ ….the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and communicate messages in a variety of forms” Aufderheide, 1993, p. xx) and “a media literate person … can decode, evaluate, analyze and produce both print and electronic media” (Aufderheide, 1997, p. 79). Conceptualizations of media literacy include: “a) Media are constructed and construct reality; (b) Media have commercial implications, (c) Media have ideological and political implications; (d) Form and content are related in each medium, each of which has unique aesthetics, codes and conventions; and (e) Receivers negotiate meaning in media” (Aufderheide, 1997, p. 80). Canada has very similar conceptualizations with eight key concepts for media literacy (AML, 2011)

In the US, there are no direct media standards for post-secondary education, however there are two indirect media standards. The Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (ACEJMC) is responsible “for the evaluation of professional journalism and mass communications programs in colleges and universities” (ACEJMC, 2004, para. 1). These standards are aimed at practitioners. The second indirect standard is with the National Communication Association (NCA) that has media standards and competencies developed for K-12 education, thus these standards are aimed at students (Christ, 2004).

There are many different definitions of information literacy in the literature. The American Library Association (ALA) defines literacy as a set of abilities requiring individuals to “recognize when information is needed and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information” (ALA, 1989). In addition, the ALA describes an information literate person with the ability to: (1) determine the information needed, (2) access the information needed, (3) evaluate the information and its sources critically, (4) incorporate and use information effectively and (5) understand the economic, legal, ethical and social issues associated with accessing and using information.

Information literacy standards for post-secondary education are well documented by the Association of College and Research Libraries a division of the American Library Association (ALA, 2000). These higher education standards are designed to articulate with K-12 literacy competencies to provide a continuum of expectations for students of all ages and levels. The standards support information literacy abilities as follows: five standards, each with several performance indicators and these in turn supported with outcomes.

Similarly in the United Kingdom, the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL) have developed standards, or information literacy pillars. Seven pillars of information literacy were developed in 1999 and were recently updated and expanded in 2011 due to a broader range of terminology and concepts included in information literacy today (SCONUL, 2011). SCONUL currently defines information literacy broader than in the North American context as it includes digital, visual, media, academic literacy in addition to the traditional aspects of information literacy. The seven key pillar terms are: identify, scope, plan, gather, evaluate, manage and present.

Jarson (2010) provides a concise summary of issues and sources of information for information literacy in higher education. Included in these sources are definitions and standards, curriculum models, plans and instruction, embedded librarianship, assignment design, assessments, multi-institutional projects and toolkits.

 Post-Secondary Education

Media Literacy

Mihailidis (2008) describes the state of media literacy in US higher education as tenuous, inconsistent, marginal and often contested resulting in intangible and incoherent media literacy learning outcomes. He blames this on three general trends: late introduction, thus the US lags behind other major English speaking countries, second, most initiatives related to media literacy and scholarship has been developed for K-12 education and third, the US definition of media literacy is based on broad and figurative terminology.

Several scholars (as reported by Mihailidis, 2008), have connected the need for media literacy with civic processes, citizenship and democratic rights. Masterman (1985 and 1998) described the need for media literacy to support participatory democracy for citizens to have power, make reasonable decisions and to become change agents. He also encourages students to strengthen their values and beliefs about democracy through increased media literacy. Further, Mihailidis (2008) encourages citizens to pursue lifelong learning supported with media literacy to find and use relevant information related to their lives, community and country.

Holistic media education as described by Duran, Yousman, Walsh and Longshore (2008) takes media literacy beyond the traditional textural form of critically analysing messages, to a contextual form that deals with production and consumption of media. This involves asking questions such as: why are messages produced, who produces the messages and under what conditions and constraints were they produced (Jhally and Lewis, 1998).

In summary, the literature seems to agree that media literacy education stops for the most part at the end of a student’s K-12 journey. It only continues in post-secondary for students who are enrolled in media studies, mass communication, journalism and education programs.

 Information Literacy

Information literacy skills are important across most disciplines of post-secondary education. Information literacy is critical for any student gathering information or conducting research. A study in the US in 2009 revealed that college students almost always turned to Google or Wikipedia for everyday research, but for course related research they used course readings and Google first. They also used library resources; online databases, for course related research but underutilized librarians; only about 20% used librarians. The study concludes that in general, college students “dial down the aperture of all the different resources that are available to them in the digital age” (Head and Eisenberg, 2009, p. 3). These results are supported by research summarized by (Van de Vord, 2010) that indicates current post-secondary students lack critical thinking skills needed to evaluate information accessed and thus do not have the information literacy skills to be successful in the twenty first century.


There is a connection between information and media literacy. The critical evaluation and thinking skills developed to find and use appropriate information can also be used to critically analyze messages. Van de Vord, (2010) found a significant positive correlation between information and media literacy skills of distance students taking on-line courses. Thus critical thinking skills are the key to student media and information literacy skills. To build on the media and information literacy skills of students transitioning from K-12, post-secondary institutes need to apply critical thinking skills to situations in the curriculum that allow students to increase their media and information skills. This can and is being done through specific courses to address these literacies or integrated throughout the courses in programs. The Information Literacy Across the Curriculum Continuous Improvement Team recommends the course integrated approach ILAC, 2003). General education outcomes can be easily expanded to include media and information literacy by broadening the interpretation of critical thinking skills.


Accrediting Council for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication. (2004). Accrediting standards. Retrieved November 24, 2011 from

American Library Association (1989). Presidential Committee on Information Literacy: Final Report. Retrieved November 26, 2011 from:

American Library Association (2000). The information literacy competency standards for higher education. Association of College and Research Libraries. Retrieved October 15, 2011 from:

AML (2011) What is media literacy. Retrieved November 22, 2011 from

Aufderheide, P. (Ed.). (1993). Media literacy: A report of the National Leadership Conference on Media Literacy. Aspen, CO: Aspen Institute.  Retrieved November 24, 2011 from

Aufderheide, P. (1997). Media literacy: From a report of the National Leadership Conference on Media Literacy. In R. Kubey (Ed.), Media literacy in the information age (pp. 79-86). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

Christ, W. G. (2004). Assessment, media literacy standards, and higher education. American Behavioral Scientist, 48, 92–96.

Duran, R., Yousman, B., Walsh, K., and Longshore, M. (2008). Holistic Media Education: An Assessment of the Effectiveness of a College Course in Media Literacy. Communication Quarterly, 56 (1), 49-68.

Felton, P. (2008). Visual Literacy. Change. November/December 2008. Retrieved November 24, 2011 from

Finn, C., (2004). The mandate of digital literacy. Technology and Learning Magazine. August 1, 2004. Retrieved November 24, 2011 from:

Head, A.J., and Eisenberg, M. (2009). How College Students Seek Information in the Digital Ages. Project Information Literacy Progress Report. The Information School, University of Washington. Retrieved November 24, 2011 from:

Higntte, M., Margavio, T., & Margavio, G. (2009). Information literacy assessment: moving beyond computer literacy. College Student Journal, 43(3), 812-821. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.

Information Literacy Across the Curriculum (2003). Information literacy across the curriculum action plan.  Retrieved November 24, 2011 from:

Jarson, J. (2010). Information Literacy and Higher Education: A Toolkit for Curricular Integration. College and Research Libraries News. 71 (no10), 534-538. Retrieved November 24, 2011 from:

Jhally, S., & Lewis, J. (1998). The struggle over media literacy. Journal of Communication, 48, 109–120. Retrieved November 24, 2011 from:

Jones-Kavalier, B., and Flannigan, S. (2006) Connecting the Digital Dots: literacy of the 21st century. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 29 (2). Retrieved November 24, 2011 from:

Lewis, J., Coursol, D., and  Khan, L. (2001). College students Study of comfort and the use of  technology [Electronic version]. Journal of College Student Development, 42(6), 625-632.

Masterman, L. (1985). Teaching the media. London, UK: Routledge.

 Masterman, L. (1998). Forward: The media education revolution. In Hart, A. (Ed.), Teaching the media: International perspectives, (p. xi). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Mihailidis, P.  (2008). Are We Speaking the Same Language? Assessing the State of Media Literacy in U.S. Higher Education. Simile, 8 (4), 1-14.

Media Awareness Network (2010). Digital Literacy in Canada: From Inclusion to Transformation. A submission to the digital economy Strategy Consultation. Available at:

Mitchell, W. J. (1995). Picture Theory: Essays on Verbal and Visual Representation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press

SCONUL (2011). The SCONUL seven pillars of Information Literacy: Core model for higher education. SCONUL working group on information literacy. ). Retrieved November 24, 2011 from:

 Oblinger, D. G., & Oblinger, J. L. (2005). Educating the Net Generation. Boulder, CO: Educause. Retrieved November 24, 2011 from:

Van de Vord, R. (2010). Distance students and online research: promoting information literacy through media literacy. Internet and Higher Education, 13, 170-175.

Wilkinson, K. (2006). Students Computer Literacy: Perception Versus Reality. Delta Pi Epsilon Journal, 48(2), 108-120. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.

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Unwired Curriculum in a Wired World

There is a growing sentiment in our society that today’s students need to be multiliterate, in order to be successful, functioning members of society. Literacy today means something quite different than it did 700 years ago. To be literate in today’s world, one must be multi-literate; one must be able to communicate and gain meaning from “a burgeoning variety of text forms associated with information and multimedia technologies” (New London Group, 1996, p. 2). Multiliteracies accounts not only for the cultural and linguistic diversity of increasingly globalized societies, but for the plurality of texts that are exchanged in this context. (Dobson & Willinsky, 2011). Yet schools continue to focus on the basic skills of reading and writing using fiber-based media in the form of novels and textbooks. In fact, Kevin Leander claims “school structure and teaching practice have remained substantially unchanged for 700 years” (Leander, 2006, p. 26). Indeed, “dominant educational institutions – from Socratic dialogical circles, to medieval monasteries and universities, to the industrial era school – do not have outstanding track records engaging with new communications technologies” (Luke, 2003, p. 397).

While students’ needs are tremendously different today than they were 700 years ago, and society’s expectations for the upcoming generation has changed dramatically, tension lies in the fact that 21st century classrooms have not been able to accommodate the changing notion of what it means to be literate in today’s world. It is therefore important to consider just exactly what are the needs of today’s students, what it looks like to be literate today and to consider the challenges and tensions facing educators as they deal with these changing needs.

The authors of “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures” examine the changing social environment facing students and teachers. In their approach to literacy pedagogy, they argue that “mere literacy,” which looks at the basic aspects of literacy such as mastery of sound-letter correspondence lends itself to a more authoritarian kind of pedagogy (New London Group, 1996). Multiliteracies, on the other hand, focus “on modes of representation that are broader than language alone” (New London Group, 1996, p. 4) and include a multi-modal understanding of what it means to be literate. Thus, the New London Group identifies six different modalities that are important to being able to communicate meaning. Besides the linguistic mode, they identify visual, audio, gestural, spatial and multimodal, the latter of which links all the other modes together. It is important to remember, however, that “although the fundamental principles of reading and writing have not changed, the process has shifted from the serial cognitive processing of linear print text to parallel processing of multimodal text-image information sources” (Luke, 2003, p. 399).

Educators are bound by government-mandated curricula when they design their teaching practice. Teachers are expected to measure mastery of academic learning outcomes and to use traditional pedagogy to ensure the mastery of these outcomes. Students are tested on their knowledge in discrete subjects. Luke describes this as being “collection code curriculum,” which implies that “teachers deposit knowledge ‘bits’ in students who, in turn, accumulate, indeed collect, largely disconnected discipline-based facts and figures through skill and drill pedagogy” (p. 400). In contrast, Luke states that “digitalized knowledge and networked environments, critical understandings of the relations among ideas, their sources and histories, intertextual referents and consequences” to be “as important if not more so than mastery, reproduction and recombination of discrete facts“ (Luke, 2003, p. 400). Thus, there is a conceptual shift from “collection to connection” (Luke, 2003, p. 400).

21st Century students, rightly or wrongly, are considered to be “digital natives” (Prensky, 2001). What this implies is that students today have been born into a world full of digital media and as such are adept at manipulating a variety of different aspects of communication technology. One does not have to go far to see evidence of this. Students today come to school with cellular phones, are connected to their friends and family through text messaging and can look up anything at any time. They are gamers and solve problems in virtual reality. Their social space is vast. They tweet. They even blog. Yet when they come to school they usually are asked to leave their phones in their backpacks. Generally speaking, schools cannot cope with the various technologies to which students have access.

There are many theories that attempt to explain why it is such an uphill battle around the use of technology in schools. There are of course myriad superficial reasons for this antipathy to exist. These include everything from inconsistent wireless accessibility to lack of technology to lack of professional development for teachers.

Kevin Leander was able to study a girl’s private school, Ridgeview Academy, which was in the unique position of having no issues with the actual technology or reliability and accessibility. The students, from Grade 5 to 12, each had a laptop, which they brought to school every day. Yet, Leander found that the technology still interfered with the business of education, as understood by the administration and teachers at that school. In fact, he found that there is an underlying tension surrounding the integration of technology when providing learning opportunities that will meet the needs of today’s students. (Leander, 2007)

Leander identified four major areas of contention between the use of technology in a school setting and the fulfillment of curriculum goals. The concerns he identified revolved around the issue of internet safety, the effect technology had on classroom climate and space, concern about plagiarism and cheating on tests and the need to place books above information gained on the internet. Thus, he argued, “the challenge of integrating the internet into school is not chiefly technical… but rather spatial and temporal” (Leander, p.26, 2007).

He noted that technology at Ridgeview Academy was used to support well-established pedagogical practices, such as writing process pedagogies, student note-taking, online newsletters, distributing assignments and submitting work, and quick searches for online information (Leander, p. 28). He also noted that even though laptops were being used for supporting things such as writing practice, students were using their computers to research both inside and outside of school time, they were using email to gather information and conduct interviews, and that the laptops encouraged constant writing. It is fair to say that when technology is used in other schools, that these are common uses as well. While teachers at Ridgeview Academny wanted to develop strong young women, they were concerned that the students were vulnerable, and would possibly put the school community at risk through their possible misuse of technology (Leander, 2007).

Leander’s observation regarding the conflict between online resources and library resources, with the book being touted as the superior source of information has also been noted by Gunther Kress. Kress argues that writing as the predominant way of communicating ideas in the form of books has dominated our culture, making it difficult for multimodal forms of communication to gain a foothold. He argued that the representation of ideas and communication is closely bound up with social and ethical values within the wider framework of economic, political, social, cultural and technological change (Kress, 2005).

Leander also found the teachers’ observations that students could cheat on tests and plagiarise work when they were online to be of interest. He wrote that, “with an open information space, the idea of the skill set necessary to succeed changes entirely. In this case, rather than remembering information, locating, and if necessary, combining and synthesizing information are at stake” (Leander, 2007, p. 34). Thus, with respect to testing, Leander noted that the school began to close the newer space of open information through containment for testing (Leander, 2006).

Many teachers struggle with this dichotomy because we are asked to measure an individual’s knowledge of any given subject. Traditionally, testing is one way to measure assess mastery. Yet in recent years there has been a shift away from traditional modes of assessment, at least at the elementary level, to one where project-based learning, assessed with rubrics is becoming more commonplace.

Finally, Leander’s comment on the damaged nature of communication in the classroom space can be disconcerting for someone who is used to manipulating the conversation that happens in the classroom. It is a difficult place to be when one feels excluded from what is taking place behind those laptop screens. This supports Leander’s contention that the resistance to embracing technology in classrooms has to do with the space, both temporal and in terms of school organization (Leander, 2007).

While Leander identifies that the common conception at this school was that curriculum must remain at the center of anything new, this is a commonly held conception in the majority of schools. This is because of the government mandate communicated through curriculum guides. In addition, Leander’s finding that new technologies must support goals already in place from the curriculum is similarly true in regular schools. In current curricular practice, there is evidence to support the idea that technology is an “add-on” to support forms of practice that are well rehearsed, rather than be a transformative power to engage students in 21st century learning in multi-literate dimensions.

It appears that the problem of educating students to be multi-literate goes beyond the training teachers receive at university to the more ubiquitous structure of how education is provided in our school systems. Therefore, not only does there need to be change in the way teachers deliver curriculum, so that learning is student-centered and project based, using the technologies available to them to their greatest effect, but there needs to be a fundamental shift in the way government prescribes what is to be learned away from “collection” of facts to “connection” to the world. Even the space in which education takes place needs to move from the closed-in boxes that are our present day classrooms to a more fluid, interactive temporal space away from the constraints of traditional teacher/student interactions. Only when this occurs will we have a situation where learning opportunities will mesh with 21st Century learning goals in a multi-literate space.


Dobson, T., Willinsky, J. (2009). Digital Literacy. The Cambridge Handbook on Literacy. (pp. 1-30)
Kress, G. (2005). Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge, and learning. Computers and Composition. 22. (pp. 5-22).London: University of London
Leander, K. (2007). “You Won’t Be Needing Your Laptops Today”: Wired Bodies in the Wireless Classroom. In Lankshear, C., Knobel, M., Biguym, C., and Peter, M. (Eds.), A New Literacies Sampler. (pp. 25-48). New York: Peter Lang.
Luke, C. (2000). Cyber-schooling and technological change: Multiliteracies for new times. In B. Cope, M. Kalantzis (Eds.), Multiliteracies: Literacy learning and the design of social futures (pp. 69-91). Melbourne, VIC, Australia: Macmillan.
Luke, C. (2003). Pedagogy, Connectivity, Multimodality, and Interdiscip[linarity. eReading Research Quarterly, 38(3): pp. 397-403.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon. NCB University Press. 9(5): pp. 1-15
The New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review. 66(1). p. 60-92.


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Tension Between the Visual and the Verbal

Here is my Major Project, which explores the changing relationship between text and image from the medieval to the digital age.


The relationship between the visual and textual elements used in representation has changed in the time from the scribal culture of the Middle Ages through to the digital age, as new technology and changing sociocultural conditions have altered the balance between the image and the word.

Prior to the invention of the movable type printing press in the 15th century, scribes and copyists wrote manuscripts where the words and images were directly integrated, flowing from the same hand and pen and serving the same narrative goals. As Edward Tufte observed, “the words followed the images and the images followed the words” (2006, p. 90). However, the printing press separated the visual from the verbal (even in their physical production), leading eventually to a situation where the picture became subservient to the word.

Throughout the age of print culture, now seemingly in its waning days, text has fought off challenges from visual modes such as photography and film; however the emergence of computer technology has led to what J.D. Bolter has described as the “break out of the visual” (2001. p. 47), where the image has reasserted itself on the computer screen and now competes for control with text.

This competition presents challenges for designers and educators who must reconsider the roles of the author and audience – formed during the age of print culture – while they create digital content; as Gunther Kress noted, the “digital age brings with it a profound change in the relationship between authors, readers and knowledge” (2005, p.10). Additionally, text and visual modes offer different affordances, and content creators, no longer contending with technological constraints, now face an array of design decisions that did not exist in the age of print.

In this paper, I will analyze the historical relationship between the visual and the verbal, and how this relationship has served the construction of knowledge in the reader. I will discuss the implications of the current destabilized digital landscape where text no longer holds sway while also raising the question of how literacy may be defined in the digital age.


Astrological signs and the human body: 14th century manuscript

Astrological signs and the human body: 14th century manuscript

Text and image tended to be unified in representation during the Middle Ages in Europe, with hand produced manuscripts integrating words and pictures together in designs that were inherently multimodal, in part to make sense to a largely illiterate population.

With each manuscript drawn by hand, skilled scribes would create pages that seamlessly wove text and images together producing a unified visual-verbal display that was as much a picture as it was a written work.




Manutius from   

Manutius from Hypnerotomachia Poliphi from the 15th century


Early printing methods also maintained a unity between visual and verbal elements as printing remediated the medium of manuscripts. Text and images were physically created and cut together in a woodblock (in relief in reverse mirror image) and printed as one unit resulting in, as Edward Tufte observed, in his description of the Hypnerotomachia Poliphi (a famous woodcut print published in 1499), a “harmonious whole combining type and woodcut illustrations”. (2006, p. 88).      And, while only 6% of this book is image, the text itself acts as a visual element. (Tufte, 2006).

Tufte argues that, as printing techniques began to segregate the production of images and text, the relationship between the two elements began to change. This can be seen in a number of publications  in the 16th and 17th centuries as technologies evolved.


Galileo's "The Starry Messenger" from 1610.


Galileo’s “The Starry Messenger” published in 1610 used copper engravings to create images and embed them in the text, producing a beautifully integrated book; however the cost and complexity of the embedding process made it prohibitive for many publishers, who preferred to separate the pictures from the text.




This can be seen in Newton’s Opticks in 1704, a physics book presenting new information on the properties of light – certainly a topic lending itself to visual display – that presented its images in flaps separate from the text (Tufte, 2006), which may have been cheaper to produce but at the cost of verbal-visual unity. Stuart Sillars (2004) also noted that technology constraints in the 19th century continued to limit the number of images in books, as too many illustrations on a plate caused production difficulties. While late 19th century lithographic technology made it possible to simultaneously print text and image more efficiently, for much of the print era economics and technology promoted the separation of the elements, contributing to a imbalance between text and image in publications.

Pictures continued to have a role in representation as the post-printing press period progressed, but typically in the service of text (Bolter, 2001), with images supporting the narrative advanced by the text, either by placement – with the illustration slightly preceding the next to arouse expectations to be fulfilled by the text (Sillars, 2004) – or to act as graphical navigational tools (Drucker, 2008).

According to Bolter (2001), in the print era, writers used imagery and metaphor in order to produce the effect of visual display. Bolter refers to “ekphrais”, which is the process where words are used to demonstrate that they can describe visual scenes without the use of images. On this point, Drucker (2008) has noted that a unique affordance of text is that it allows the reader to take in textual representation and then visualize the story. Bolter suggests that prose and poetry met the challenge of newer visual media (photography and motion pictures) in the 19th and 20th century with even more extreme attempts to produce a sensory dimension. This is an example of remediation, where a newer medium borrows or imitates characteristics of an older or outmoded medium.

The Nature of the Verbal and the Visual

By its nature, communication is multimodal (Kress, 2005) but different modes have different “logics” and they create different relationships between the author, the reader/viewer and knowledge. Text representation possesses an authority that “transcends the material presence of words on a page” (Drucker, 2008, p. 95), and the reader is required (in most cases) to follow the thought order established by the author (Kress, 2005). Knowledge is presented in a linear sequential form, lending itself to the development of a narrative (envisioned and structured by the author), which reinforces the authority of the author’s voice. In contrast, visual content offers immediacy, and easily satisfies the desire to see the world (Bolter, 2001). Bolter also observes that visual display seems natural and appears not even to be representation at all. On the other hand, as cognitive neuroscientist Maryanne Wolf (2007) noted, reading is not a natural activity and our brains were not designed to do it. It is a learned activity.

The relationship between text and image is “blurred and complex” (Prior, 2005, p. 26) though, and the elements are not completely distinct. There is a visual grammar and spatial dimension to the presentation of text that influences the meaning making of the words. (Dobson, 2011) Over the years, print culture has developed methods of using graphic devices (indentations, page numbers, paragraphs, image location, etc) in order to aid navigation and support the narrative. These devices gradually became part of print culture writing conventions with readers largely being unconscious of their navigational role. (Drucker, 2008). However, their absence is striking when viewing manuscripts and early prints that do not use these tools.

The Digital Age

The onset of the digital age upset the balance between text and image, undermining the domination of the word, and pushing speech and writing “to the margins of representation to be replaced at the centre by the mode of image” (Kress, 2005, p. 17). As computer technology and graphic design improved, even better and more integrated image display became possible. The affordances of new media created an opportunity for images to break free from the limitations of words ultimately producing a unity between text and image on the computer screen not seen since the medieval codex (Bolter, 2001). Delivery had become truly multimodal, with text still providing its own distinct logic (sequential and narrative based) but having to share space with the immediacy of the visual, whether it was a still image or video. As Bolter (2001) observed, prose has become the last resort of a website designer, used when he or she had run out of ideas, time or resources. Websites followed a non-linear image-based logic offering multiple entry points (Kress, 2005) reducing blocks of text to pictures.

The altered balance between text and image on the computer screen has changed the relationship between author and reader, and has influenced how the reader – or more appropriately, the viewer – makes meaning from a variety of sign systems not just the alphabet, leading to a situation where the concept of reading (and literacy) may need to be rethought. Knowledge is no longer supplied; information is, which the viewer must order according to their own “lifeworld”, and then construct his or her own meaning. The role of the author as an authority is diminished; he or she must now, as a designer, consider the “aptness” of the mode of representation and how well it aligns with the needs of the imagined audience (Kress, 2005).

This makes the role of the designer considerably more complex than the author in the age of print, who, possessing the authority of a subject matter expect, was expected to express him or herself with words on a page, occasionally using pictures to support the order of the narrative. The creator of multimodal digital content has a series of design decisions that require knowledge of the affordances and “logic” of each mode and an understanding of the interaction of each one of them. As well, as our cultural understanding of how we navigate through textual and visual environments has largely been shaped in the age of print, and this understanding creates assumptions in the viewer on structure and design of sign systems (Drucker, 2008). In order to produce comprehensible work, designers must still function within the constraints of these culturally formed conventions. Also, literacy has historically been understood in terms of reading; the definition may need to be enhanced to include meaning making from a wider range of media.


However we a understand the post-printing press relationship between image and the word, it is clear that text is not now, and likely will never be again, the dominant mode of representation. Textual display has defined our understanding of meaning making for 500 years, but now, in the late age of print, tension between word and image has increased as they have become competitors for space on the computer screen: each one offering their own logic – one temporal and the other spatial. Still, even as scholars discuss the differences between modes, we must also remember that these elements are not entirely distinct and that there has always been interaction between the two: for example the spatial characteristics of textual data influence our understanding, and visual display may possess narrative properties as well. There is complexity to the relationship as new media remediate older forms.

The challenge before designers and educators is to function within an increasingly multimodal cultural and educational space, and to select appropriate modes for who they imagine their audience to be. They must also recognize that viewers still rely on culturally determined graphical and textual devices to support navigation and meaning making, and that these must be considered as new designs are conceived. Designers risk irrelevance is they move too far ahead of their audience.

Finally, entering the digital age will require us to think carefully about how we define literacy and how we want students to develop the capacity to make meaning from the range of sign systems they work within, and then, to develop meaningful measures of this capacity as we go forward.


Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Dobson, S. (2011). [Review of the paper Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge, and learning, by G. Kress]. Seminar. Net: International Journal of Media, Technology & Lifelong Learning, 7(2). Retrieved from n-the-new-media-age-by-gunther-kress.

Drucker, J. (2008). Graphic devices: Narration and navigation. Narrative, 16(2), 121 -139. doi: 10.1353/nar.0.0004

Kress, G. (2005). Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge, and learning. Computers and Composition. 22(1). 5-22. doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2004.12.004

Prior, P. (2005). Moving multimodality beyond the binaries: A response to Gunther Kress’ “Gains and Losses”. Computers and Composition, 22(1). 23-30. doi:10.1016/j.compcom.2004.12.007

Sillars, S. (2004). The illustrated short story: Towards a typology. In P. Winther, J. Lothe & H.H. Skei (Eds), The art of brevity (pp 70-80). Columbia, S.C: University of South Carolina Press.

Tufte, E.R. (2006). Beautiful evidence. Cheshire, CT: Graphic Press LLC.

Wolf, M. (2007). Proust and the squid: The story and science of the reading brain. New York, NY: HarperCollins Publishers.

All images Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

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Final Project: Social Semiotic Theory of Multimodality

To publish my project, I explored with the blogging tool Serendipity.

Please visit my space here, where you will find my theoretical paper, my concept map, and a few other resources related to my topic.

The story of how I installed Serendipity (created using Slideroll) can be found here.

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Through Death and Rebirth

My final project, Through Death and Rebirth, is a series of stories exploring the changes to how the story of death is told through changing text technologies over time.


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Commentary #3 – Alexander’s Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning? and Web 2.0: Storytelling, Emergence of a New Genre

Alexander (2008) defines the Web 2.0 as a way of creating Web pages focusing on microcontent and social connections between people, which exemplify that digital content can be copied, moved, altered, remixed, and linked, based on the needs, interests and abilities of users. Microcontent refers to small bits of data (usually, text or visuals) that are posted on a Web page where users can respond to the data through conversation, including their approval, or disapproval of it. According to Solomon and Schrum (2007), Web 2.0 has “morphed from static HTML pages where readers could find and copy information to interactive services, where visitors can create and post information.” They include that Web 2.0 tools transition users from isolation to interconnectedness. Alexander adds that Web 2.0 platforms are organized around people and their interests, instead of hierarchies and directory trees. Solomon and Shrum list some features of the transition from the old Web 1.0 to the new semantic Web 2.0 as Web-based, collaborative, online, free, open source, as well as having shared content and multiple collaborators. Schools and teachers are striving, and sometimes struggling, to teach students with Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms in an attempt to remain current and give students every technological advantage possible. Twenty-first century skills, including Web 2.0 tools, are proving difficult to teach as schools struggle to keep up with technological innovation. Web 2.0 has become a part of our everyday lives as we use the technology to interact and connect with those around us, which in turn, is making our online interactions more human.

The New London Group (1996) noted that the Web needed to overcome regional and ethnical bounds, creating a community of learners. Web 2.0 tools currently accomplish this community through common literacy, reflection, and feedback mostly from anonymous visitors. Solomon and Schrum (2007) suggest 21st century literacy skills include Web 2.0 use in the teaching of content areas like global awareness, financial literacy and health awareness. They go on to expand on how today’s students are surrounded by Web 2.0 tools; schools need to teach students how to use these tools to acquire new skills, not just play with them. Today’s kids are surrounded by websites and Smartphone apps such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter and Wikipedia. They use these Web 2.0 tools to socialize with friends, follow the news, research school projects, and communicate with each other. These programs are constantly changing as the users mature and new technologies become available. Evidence of how Web 2.0 creates a community has been observed lately as it has assisted in political uprisings and social change. As more people and businesses find ways to apply Web 2.0 tools they become solidified parts of our technological society.

Web 2.0 is continually evolving as the collective users overcome hurdles such as online information storage, security issues (Solomon and Schrum, 2007), computer crime, and low publishing standards (Alexander and Levine, 2008). As with any online platform, there are some inequalities among users and programs. Bates and Poole (2003) address these inequalities in technology through their SECTIONS framework. They explore how each portion of their framework (Students, Ease of Use, Cost, Teaching and Learning, Interaction and Interactivity, Organization, Novelty and Speed) needs addressing before educators can effectively use them in their teaching. Some Web 2.0 tools are not appropriate for academia, as Alexander (2006) suggests, and institutions often block sites, as they feel students cannot use the tools effectively, without distraction. These reasons may be why some educators are reluctant to use Web 2.0 tools at all in their classrooms. Solomon and Schrum (2007) argue that these tools need to be fostered as they, “promote creativity, collaboration, and communication, and they dovetail the learning methods in which these skills play a part.” They go on to support their stand by adding, “The new way is collaborative, with information shared, discussed, refined with others, and understood deeply.” Twenty-first century students are immersed in technology at home, but often suffer a lack of it at school, where they are forced to write with pen and paper without links or visuals. Many students may become bored, uncreative, and complacent because of little or archaic technology in their classes. These are all real issues that educators and students face in these uncertain technological times. Ironically, Web 2.0 tools can help us discuss these issues in education and we can collectively find solutions to the problems at hand.

Web 2.0 may not be here to stay, but many aspects of it are making technology more human in its features. They way humans connect with each other, explore their surroundings, approach tasks and even process information are becoming mirrored in technology use. The more human-like technology becomes, the more apt we are to use it as a society. Web 2.0 is no exception. As we catalogue, tag, and share information we become a part of the technology that we use. I echo Alexander’s (2008) closing remarks where he invites educators to, “give Web 2.0 storytelling a try and see what happens.” You will never know what is behind a closed door until you step over the threshold.


Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for innovation for teaching and learning. Educause Review. March-April, 2008.

Alexander, B. (2009). Web 2.0 and emergent multiliteracies, theory into practice. National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education. 47(2). p. 150-160.

Alexander, B. & Levine, A. (2008). Web 2.0: Storytelling, emergence of a new game. Educause Review. November-December, 2008.

Bates, A.W. & Poole, G. (2003). Effective teaching with technology in higher education: Foundations for Success. New York. Wiley, John and Sons Incorporated. P. 75-105.

Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. Mahway, NJ. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Solomon, G. & Schrum, L. (2007). Web 2.0: New tools, new schools. International Society for Technology in Education. Washington, DC.

The New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review. 66(1). p. 60-92.

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Multiliteracies & the Marginalized

MultiliteraciesThis was a fun project, at least once I got over my hesitancy about submitting something in this format!  It was an interesting journey building this concept map, but it satisfied my need for text plus a desire to try something new.  I’d never used Spicy Nodes before. 

I found it hard to write in a non-linear style, but I also found that making the links after the fact made things clearer to me.  I wondered if this concept map was more useful to me than for my readers!

 I’ve also attached a pdf of just the text, in case you would rather read it that way, but it really doesn’t flow like a normal linear text.

Multiliteracies for the Marginalized (text only)

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Hypertext and Constructivism

Link Me a Story – Hypertext as Constructivist Learning Tool

Children ask their parents or teachers to ‘tell me a story’. Storytelling is a part of our human nature. It is a “fundamental instrument of thought.” (Mark Turner as quoted in D. Pink, 2005, p. 101) In the age of digital stories, this often heard phrase may evolve to ‘link me a story’. The process of linking story to life and learning can bring meaning to both. Within this project, I investigate understandings of hypertext as it links to constructivist theory of learning.

Connect to this blog site to read more: Link Me a Story

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Commentary #3 – The imperative of developing critical media literacy skills



 Kellner and Share’s article “Toward critical media literacy: Core concepts, debates, organizations, and policy” (2005) focuses on the imperative need for new pedagogical approaches and strategies to help students develop critical media literacy skills.  They state that “Critical media literacy not only teaches students to learn from media, to resist media manipulation, and to use media materials in constructive ways, but is also concerned with developing skills that will help create good citizens.”(Kellner and Share, 2005, p.372)

Such a pressing need for teaching critical media literacy skills has emerged as a result of the rapid developments in today’s technological society where “information, education, advertising and entertainment are becoming seamlessly interwoven.” Canada’s Media Awareness Network (2008). 

The other contributing factor is related to the reality that although inexplicitly, “media culture is a form of pedagogy that teaches proper and improper behaviour, gender roles, values and knowledge of the world (Kellner, 1995a, 2003). Canada’s Media Awareness Network (2008) observes that media literacy helps students “develop an informed and critical understanding of the nature of the mass media, the techniques used by the mass media, and the impact of these techniques on individuals and society.”

While the emergence of new technologies affords a myriad of opportunities to promote active learning or “student-centred” approach due to the abundance of interactive functionalities and tools, Canada’s Media Awareness Network  raises the concern that “the majority of “media” courses still focus on using media as an educational tool, or using media to produce learning resources. Courses that focus on bringing critical thinking skills to popular culture, or on classroom strategies for media education, are beginning to grow in number but they are still relatively scarce” (para.30).

In describing the challenges of developing critical media literacy skills, Kellner and Share (2005) highlight that “it is not a pedagogy in the traditional sense, with firmly established principles, a canon of texts, and tried-and-true teaching procedures.” (p.373)

So, what is critical media literacy and what can be done to help our students develop those much needed critical media literacy skills?

Canada’s Media Awareness Network (2008) defines critical media literacy as “the ability to understand how all speakers, writers and producers of visual texts are situated in particular contexts with significant personal, social and cultural aspects.”

Kellner and Share’s (2005) definition of critical media literacy goes beyond understanding the message; it extends to the development of the ability to critically analyze and “criticize stereotypes and dominant values and ideologies, critically dissect media forms, to investigate media effects and uses and to construct alternative media” (p.372).

Developing critical media literacy skills therefore means that students develop the competency to understand and interpret media messages of any form and that they question and challenge the purpose and the meaning behind the message and, analyze the impact it has on their daily lives. It also means that students realize that the message may be perceived and interpreted differently by different people – an attitude that helps to foster responsible citizenship in a diverse, global society.

In this video clip, Tessa Jolls focuses on the definition of media literary and five core questions that I think all of us educators should strive to teach students to consider at all times. Upon a close analysis, I see these questions as the foundation of pedagogical approaches that help students develop critical media literacy skills.

1. Who is the author of the message and what values, lifestyles and viewpoints are being represented or left out in the message?                              (questions 1 and 3 merged)

Developing critical thinking skills is connected to activities that encourage students to question and analyze media messages. In trying to answer this question, the students will start to discern facts from opinions and also distinguish whose values and viewpoints are being represented through the media message; whose viewpoints and values are not included. Kellner and Share (2005) explain that “along with critical discussions, debate, and analysis, teachers ought to be guiding students in an inquiry process that deepens their critical exploration of issues that affect them and the society. (p.373) For example, involving students in conducting research and presenting and discussing how their favourite character from a movie or show influences their everyday lives would be most beneficial.  

2. What techniques are being used to send this message?

Being exposed to the process of media production is bound to increase awareness and understanding of media tools used to influence a specific behaviour or value. Amongst other authors, Sholle and Denski (1994), Buckingham (2003), Semali (2000b), suggest that “critical discussions about the political nature of media texts and the audiences for which they are created should be accompanied by media production.” (Tobias, 2008)    The process of creating or experimenting with media tools helps students to explore what the representation of concepts or content means and uncover the real purpose for using those tools to accomplish the desired representation and message.

3. How might other people understand this question different from me?

Being involved in collective discussions prompts students to reflect on the images and messages and begin to see them in a different way as a result of sharing of diverse views among group members. Scharrer (2002) argues that one of the pedagogies is “to incorporate activities related to watching and experimenting with media tools and leading collective discussions to discern, interpret and discuss messages respectfully and critically.” (Tobias 2008)

Kellner and Share (2005) point out that “the ability for students to see how diverse people can interpret the same message differently is important for multicultural education.” (p.375)

4. Why was this message sent?

Such a question helps to address the importance of understanding the real purpose of the message that more often than not is to influence opinions and behaviours of target audiences and gain power over them. Kellner and Share (2005) explain that “too often students believe the role of media is simply to entertain.” (p.376) Students will better understand the real purpose behind the media, if involved in activities where they research and explore the type of “corporation that produces the media.” (Kellner and Share, 2005, p.377) This exploratory activity followed by a discussion can help students understand biases and hidden agendas behind the media message.

In conclusion, as Pat Kipping (1996) once said “Critical media literacy is an important resource we must develop in our children. It would be a form of violence to deny them this resource while we wait for something better to come along.” (para.10)


Centre for Media Literacy (2011) Media Education Foundation: Media Literacy, Education and Choice Retrieved from

Kellner, D., Share, J. (2005) Toward critical media literacy: Core concepts, debates, organization, and policy Discourse: studies in the cultural politics of education (26) (3) 369-386.

Kipping, P. (1996, January-February) Media literacy: an important strategy for building peace Peace Magazine Retrieved from

Media Awareness Network (2008) Media Education in Canada: An Overview Retrieved from

Tobias, J. A. (2008) Culturally Relevant Media Studies: A Review of Approaches and Pedagogies Simile, 8 (4), 1-17. Retrieved from

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Commentary #3 – Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Are we designing social futures in Canada?

                                                         Pedagogy of Multiliteracies

In 1996, the New London Group created a manifesto that they eventually published as A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies:  Designing Social Futures.  In the article, the authors outline “a new approach to literacy pedagogy” (New London Group, 1996, p. 1) that expands existing definitions of literacy to include the diversity found in both societies and text forms.  The purpose was to serve as a starting point for discussion, generate research ideas and provide a focus for curriculum experiments.  Ten years later, Cope and Kalantzis (2009) re-examined the work and updated the concept of multiliteracies and how it has influenced pedagogy.  As a nation with a strong multicultural background, these discussions are relevant to the Canadian context.  How does it fit into the view of literacy in Canada today?  As the term digital literacy becomes a part of our common lexicon and a focus in government policy (Government of Canada), the idea of multiliteracies has become integral to the ongoing debate about literacy (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009).

The New London Group

The New London Group identified “full social participation” (New London Group, 1996, p. 2) as the goal of learning and agreed that differences should not hold students back from success in their academic and social futures.  They agreed that social and technological change meant that literacy pedagogy needed to shift with the times.  They hoped to show how social changes affect the “what” (design elements) and the “how” of literacy pedagogy (New London Group, 1996).  Their keyword became multiliteracies as it captured two main ideas:  multimodal (the many modes of meaning making and representation) and the importance of increasing diversity (languages and culture).

They examined the issues through three different lenses:  working, public and private lives and these issues still seem current today.  The world of work has changed and the new business model requires new types of workers, consequently pedagogy has to change so that students are prepared to function in the new system (New London Group, 1996).  Our public lives are changing too as we move away from the welfare state to a more market driven system. In our private lives there is a plurality of overlapping communities and their multiple discourses need to be recognized.

Cope and Kalantzis (2009) wrote their article ‘Multiliteracies’: New Literacies, New Learning after 10 years of continued study and collaboration with the New London Group and it is clear that multiliteracies is now an accepted term.  They questioned whether the structure created in 1996 is still valid.  They noted that the evolution of technology has increased its pace and the number of new modes of representation has also increased. As a result of their research and the changes in social practice, the authors reshaped the original concept while keeping the basic premise intact.  The idea of a knowledge society is gaining ground.  Again, the issues are examined through the same three lenses.  Changes in working lives are putting even more expectations on the workers to participate in the new economy and the education system has to prepare workers to do so.  If not, Copes and Kalantzis say barriers exclude full participation.  This applies to public lives as well.  In private lives in the last 10 years, there has been a shift in agency and people are more active than passive.  Thus, they introduce revisions to the pedagogy based on knowledge processing which allows for diversity and connections between school and life.

Literacy and Essential Skills

In Canada, the Office of Literacy and Essential Skills (Human Resources and Skills Development Canada) is responsible for improving adult literacy.  Their website states that “Literacy and Essential Skills:

  • are needed for work, learning and life;
  • are the foundation for learning all other skills;
  • help people evolve with their jobs and adapt to workplace change.”

The definition for literacy refers to reading, writing, document use and numeracy.  The essential skills  include computer use, thinking (problem solving; decision making; critical thinking; job task planning and organizing; significant use of memory; and finding information), oral communication, working with others and continuous learning.  The definition for computer use is minimal:  “computer use indicates the variety and complexity of computer use within the occupational group” and multimedia could be included in the document use description but overall, the descriptions have not recognized the current reality of different representations of meaning as defined by the New London Group. The New London Group is focused on the school system but still it shares a vision of preparing citizens to participate in meaningful work, and public and private life.  How does digital literacy fit into this scenario?  What is being done about people who are not going to be helped by this shift in pedagogy?

Influences and impact of “digital literacy”

In May 2010, as a response to the Government of Canada commitment to establish a digital economy strategy for Canada, a Digital Economy Consultation  process was established to invite public consultation and input to be posted on a website.  The consultation paper identified five issues for “improving Canada’s digital advantage” (website).  The fifth one, Building Digital Skills for Tomorrow poses questions around training and learning.  Clearly, improving digital literacy and skills has been identified as an area that needs to be included in a plan to grow our digital economy.  One of the submissions is from the Media Awareness Network and gives an excellent overview of the situation in Canada today.  In the paper, Digital Literacy in Canada: From Inclusion to Transformation (Media Awareness Network, 2010), they specifically address the fifth point in the paper and make recommendations for a strategy and actions for implementation.  Their definition of digital literacy acknowledges multiliteracies as a term that goes beyond the technical aspects.  Their structure is based on “use, understand and create” (p. 5) which shares some of the viewpoints discussed by the New London Group such as global digital society and social inclusion (p. i).  A press release on  November 14, 2011, announced a new pilot program that includes funding for colleges to deliver services for technology training.  It will be interesting to see further results of the consultation process and whether the government commits to the funding to support the types of programs that will strengthen a digital literacy strategy for Canada in the near future.


Cope, B., Kalantzis, M. (2009). ‘Multiliteracies’: New literacies, new learning.  Pedagogies: An International Journal4(3), 164-195. Retrieved from

New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92. Retrieved from

Media Awareness Network. (2010). Digital Literacy in Canada: From Inclusion to Transformation.  Retrieved from

Government of Canada:



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Ken’s Digital Story experimentation – Rip.Mix.Feed

After reading about digital stories in our course readings I was intrigued and wanted to experiment.  It was also a creative journey that allowed me to test the various theories of the technology of text, outbreak of the visual and various theories we studied in the course.

I created a Tumblr page called Creative Dystopia on which I published the results of my creative endeavours.  See it here:

In the Creative Dystopia blog I created a fictional space within which to practice some digital story experimentation utilizing many programs from list of Web 2.0 programs, as well as my own graphic and animation work.

Included on the Tumblr page are the following elements:

  • a quote to engage reader interest – as a bard might have used to engage his/her audience in ancient times.
  • a video artistically depicting Vancouver in 2022 as a major node in the global network society
  • a short story dealing with various themes and issues uncovered in the MET courses
  • a Wordle creating an artistic arrangement of text from the story
  • A graphical advertisement for a fictional company I created called Interminds Digital Solutions Corporation, whose product is the ability to upload minds to the internet
  • A video utilizing multiple Web 2.0 tools and my webcam, along with an online text-to-speech tool (script for the video is below)
  • a link to a Twitter account I set up:!/CDystopias in which I am experimenting with a fragmented Twitter-based story

Overall it was an incredible creative adventure consisting of over 3 weeks of work, long hours and little sleep.  However, I really wanted to test the concept of a digital story by creating a completely fictional space complete with banners, graphics, movies, text, visual imagery, special effects and social media integrated into a social blog.  

All graphics have been purchased or downloaded from true copyright/royalty free sources ( and and the graphics, animations, movies and stories are my own creation.

I hope you enjoy the various elements as much as I have enjoyed putting them together in a huge creative flow!

Kenneth Buis
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Why Professor Johnny Can’t Read: Understanding the Net Generation’s Texts

I chose to do a commentary on “Why professor Johnny Can’t Read: Understanding the Net Generation’s Texts”, by Mark Mabrito and Rebecca Medley. In their essay, they compared the learning styles of the Net Generation (born after 1982) to the way these students are presently being taught by their older instructors. This comparison brings to light what is called the information-processing gap.

The Net Generation students are the first real generation of virtual learners. It has been suggested that the highly technological culture in which they grew up has influenced their strategies for processing information and affects both how they think and what they think about. There are indications in brain research that suggests that when the brain is exposed to the same stimuli repeatedly for a prolonged period of time it will actually undergo physical changes. This means that students are literally wired differently than previous generations (Mabrito & Medley 2008).

N-Gens learning is dynamic and all of the things that they do naturally do not mesh with the static way in which they are likely being taught. They interact, compose, blog, share, multitask, collaborate, edit, create, update, change, compose, constantly edit and yes, they write. They integrate words, graphics, sound and video presenting ideas visually rather than through text alone. They share, edit and publish in a non-traditional way (Mabrito, 2008) and they have no need for editors or publishers. They decide, what the community accepts, what to publish. They value the creation of a visual presence on the Web and they like to share using sites such as Flikr and YouTube. In fact, N-Gens are 1.5 times more likely these two sites than the average Web surfer (Bausch and Han, 2006). Even bookmarking has changed and social bookmarking using sites such as allow users to tag and write a short description of their favourite websites. This allows sharing with like-minded people and having the influence over people’s choices rather than having an authority to decide what the description should be (Alexander, 2006).

The changes in communication have been substantial and have improved the accessibility for people to collaborate and contribute to not only their own work but also that of others. Traditions are being challenged. It only makes sense to take consider redefining the traditional cultural norms of today (Bolter, 2008).

The information-processing gap exists because most faculty members do not fit the profile of the Net generation. While professors may be technologically literate they do not share the same learning styles as their students. They still teach in text based linear fashion rewarding knowledge that is stored in the head and learned independently (Mabrito 2008). Their professors do not live the same kind of lives, nor did they grow up surrounded with the same degree of interactive technology. Education in their time was content heavy and treated as an individual activity. It was centered around printed text and had its fair share of its traditions, hierarchies and a unidirectional flow of communication (Bolter 2001). It is not easy for professors who have not grown up in a digital world to be able to fully comprehend and evaluate the N-Gens different learning style. In fact, the N-Gens may appear to be lack the necessary skills attributed to someone who is academically successful in the traditional sense (Mabrito, 2008).

Mabrito and Medley suggest that today’s instructors should study the online texts of N-Gens to gain a better understanding of how they processes and interaction with information (2008). The Net generation’s social gathering places need to be looked at as alternate classrooms where e-texts are created, consumed and reshaped.

Within these classrooms students learn skills, considered to be of a social constructivist nature. By replacing slideshows with collections of images on Flickr and inviting students to tag, post notes, and comment on the images the presentation immediately becomes interactive, collaborative and closer to their learning style.

Mabrito and Medley emphasize the idea that it is not enough for educators to be technologically literate. In order to understand the learning methods they must immerse themselves into the environment and study the online texts of the N-Generation (2008). In reality, instructors generally do not have the same interest in creating, sharing and updating profiles. Even if they were immersed I am not certain that they would really get the same out of it as years of growing up with technology.  For example, all age-ranges are on Facebook but it is not used in the same way across the generations.

Mabrito and Medley make full use of hypertext in this article, linking both the cited articles and exhibits, which were examples of the topics about which they were writing. This is not conventional to the regular practice of showing them as inset pictures. However, I am not certain that this is such a useful tool. What once took a gaze to see the example is now a full click away. This is definitely a shift in the “look and feel” of reading and writing as suggested by Bolter (2001 p 24)

The emphasis of this article is definitely focused on the need for educators to “live” the technological way of the Net-Generation. In reality there is always a generation gap but now it is more apparent because of the advances in technology over such a short period of time. Their ideas of immersion are interesting and valid but are not practical, nor realistic.



Alexander, B. (2006) “Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning?” Educause Review, 41(2), 34-44. Retrieved, October17, 2011, from



Bolter, J. D. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.


Mabrito, M., and Medley, R. (2008). “Why Professor Johnny can’t read: Understanding the Net Generation’s texts”. Innovate 4 (6). Retrieved November 1, 2011 from


Net Ratings Inc. (2006). “Youtube U.S. Web Traffic Grows 75 Percent Week Over Week, According to Nielsen//Netratings”. Retrieved November 8, 2011, from







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The Influence of Text Technologies on Politics

Text has influenced society’s political landscape throughout history. To describe this affect of text, Bulwer-Lytton (1839) in his play decreed, “The pen is mightier than the sword” (p 52). Text and how text is disseminated continues to influence politics as the technologies of text continue to change in the 21st century.  Today’s text technologies are proving to be mightier than the sword.

Text has been viewed in a variety of spaces over the past two millennia using the technologies of the scroll, the codex, the moveable type printing press and digital media.  With each remediation of text there was a change in the technology of the text tools (Bolter, 2001; Roberts & Skeat, 1983). The changes in the text technologies alone did not change the political and religious landscapes but were an instrumental factor in the development of society and culture. As Bolter (2001) describes, “ It is probably best to understand all technologies in this way; technologies do not determine the course of culture or society, because they are not separate agents that can act on culture from the outside” (p 19).

Illuminated Manuscript, Saints' Lives, Walters Art Museum Ms. W.71, fol. 66r

Example of Christian Codex - Illuminated Manuscript, Saints’ Lives by Walters Art Museum

One example from history of the influence of text in politics is the Christian adoption of the codex. There are a few theories to explain why the Christians adopted the text technology of the codex. One theory is that the Christians wanted to use the codex to differentiate their text from other religions (Grout, 2011;Roberts & Skeat, 1983, p 57). Another theory is that the Christians wanted to hide their writings and considered the codex a better form to transport their writings secretively  (Cowley & Wilkinson, 2007). A third theory is that the Christians adopted the codex because the entire gospel could be included in one codex instead of many scrolls (Grout, 2011; Roberts & Skeat, 1953, p 57). Regardless of the reason for the adoption of the codex for Christian text, this change in technology allowed for the widespread dissemination of the Christian text throughout Europe. These works in turn influenced many societies to adopt Christian attitudes and beliefs.


A replica of Gutenberg's Moveable Type Printing Press - munich_130 by saketvora

A second example in history of the influence of text in politics is Johann Gutenberg’s development of the moveable type printing press. Gutenberg did not know that his invention would lead to the decentralized authority of the Christian religion (Edwards, 1994, p7). The bibles created using this technology took less time to produce and many more people were able to own their own bible. “The advent of the printing press in the fifteenth century resulted in books becoming more widely available to the general populace” (Weise, 2004, p 8). The personal interaction with the text allowed individuals to become their own theologian and rely less on Church authority to interpret the religious texts (Edwards, 1994, p 7).

Luther's 95 Theses

A replica of Luther's 95 Theses by Keren

A second auxiliary factor of the technology of the moveable type printing press was that Martin Luther’s Ninety Five Theses and subsequent writings were quickly disseminated throughout Europe to help spread the Reformation (Edwards, 1994, p 7). “[The moveable type printing press] broadcast the subversive messages with a rapidity that had been impossible before its invention” (Edwards, 1994, p 7). Luther’s ideas spread quickly and were able to find like minded individuals. “The Reformation saw the first major self conscious attempt to use the recently invented printing press to shape and channel a mass movement” (Edwards, 1994, p.1).

These historic examples in the changes of the text technologies have demonstrated that text and the form of that text have influenced the political landscape in societies. More recently, there has been another conscious attempt to shape and channel mass movements using today’s digital text technologies.

In the late 20th century a graphic user interface (GUI) was developed for the Internet. This GUI development changed the way individuals interact with their computer in two significant ways. The first significant change is that the GUI made the computer experience “more familiar, inviting, effortless and interesting for people to use” (Bolter, 2001, p 68).  A second significant change by having a GUI is that the Internet became an interactive space of sharing text with each other.  As Shirky describes in his book, “Human beings are social creatures – not occasionally or by accident but always” (Shirky, 2009). Therefore the number of Internet users increased dramatically alongside the development of social media. In 2010, Statistics Canada reported that 80% of individuals aged 16 years and older used the Internet for personal use.  (Statistics Canada, 2010)

As the use of the Internet increased and the number of interactive Internet spaces increased, Aaron Smith of the Pew Internet and American Life Project reports that the “online political experience was qualitatively different this year (2008) than it was in 2000, 2004, and 2006” (Smith, 2009, p.20). Digital spaces of text in the 21st Century are being utilized to shape and channel mass movements just as the text technology of the printing press was utilized in the 15th Century. As a result, “The study of social media is becoming a subject of increasing importance for political science” (Faris, 2010).

One of the first large scale examples of the use of social media to shape and channel mass movements is the United States Presidential Campaign of 2008. Smith (2009) in his study The Internet’s Role in Campaign 2008 discovered that 55% of the entire United States voting age population used the Internet to join the political process (p.3). This was double the population who used the Internet to join the political process in the 2000 elections (Smith, 2009, p.4).  Smith explains that “many social media features that were in their infancy during the previous presidential race had become commonplace by 2008” (Smith, 2009, p.20). The study found that those who used the Internet “used a wide range of digital tools and technologies to get involved in the race, to harness their creativity in support of their chosen candidate, and to join forces with others who shared the same political goals and interests” (Smith, 2009, p.21). These tools include Facebook, YouTube, MySpace, Twitter and Political Party Web Sites. Smith continued this research and in his report The Internet and Campaign 2010 echoed the findings of his earlier report. He found during the mid-term elections 54% of all the United States voting population used the Internet to join the political process (Smith, 2011, p.2). He describes that, “These sites have emerged as a key part of the political landscape” (Smith, 2011, p.2)

Barack Obama

Barack Obama by Matt Ortega

The winner of the 2008 Presidential Election was the Democratic candidate Barack Obama. Although the Democratic candidate Howard Dean has been credited with pioneering the use of the Internet for fundraising and campaign organization in the 2004 primaries, as Kaid describes in her article, “Most observers of the 2008 campaign agree that the Obama campaign’s use of the Internet was key to his success” (Kaid, 2009). Barack Obama’s campaign used the Internet successfully in two ways. The first was to use multiple social network sites to organize over 1.5 million volunteers and the second was to raise over $600 million dollars in campaign contributions (Kaid, 2009).

The Obama campaign used a variety of digital texts to shape and channel a mass movement. They used social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace aggressively (Ord, 2008) to recruit and organize millions of local volunteers. These social networking sites also allowed the Obama campaign to “keep supporters involved and active on his behalf” (Kaid, 2009). The Obama campaign’s created a texting list of more than 2 million users and used the SMS text message system to announce the Vice-Presidential nominee Joe Biden (Kaid, 2009). The campaign also established the use of video by creating a Barack Obama YouTube channel. The use of these sites by Barack Obama supporters far exceeded the use of these sites by the supporters of Republican candidate John McCain. (Kaid, 2009). June 11, 2008

The second notable use of the Internet by the Barack Obama campaign was in the use of online fund raising. The Barack Obama campaign raised a record $600 million dollars through an online form on their website. (Flanagan, 2009; Payne, 2008) What was unique about this method was that many funds were raised from approximately 3 million individual donors making small $10 and $25 donations (Flanagan, 2009; Payne, 2008). The resulting campaign fund allowed the Obama campaign to decline public funding and exceed the spending caps as described in the Federal Election Campaign Act (Kaid, 2009). This allowed the Obama campaign to outspend the McCain campaign, which was a first for a Democratic campaign “in recent memory” (Simba, 2009, p 188). As Michael Luo described in the New York Times, “the impact on the way presidential campaigns are financed is likely to be profound, potentially on the tombstone of the existing public finance system” (Luo, 2008).

The Huffington Post June 26, 2008

Another influential development in the 2008 Presidential Election was the rise of the blogger (Kaid, 2009) or citizen journalist (Mitchell, 2009).  As many Americans used the Internet as a source for election information (Smith, 2009) new media sites such as The Drudge Report, The Huffington Post and Politico became prominent (Kaid, 2009; Mitchell, 2009). The Drudge Report had over 798 million views during the month prior to the Presidential Election in 2008, which was six times more than the number of views during the month prior to the Presidential Election in 2004 (Ord, 2008).  “The 2008 election has solidified the political blogger as an authority voice in politics” (Ord, 2008). These online news sources forced the traditional media to pay attention to and cover political stories that were already viewed by millions of American voters. (Ord, 2008)

The success of using text in digital spaces to shape and channel mass movements by the Barack Obama campaign in the 2008 Presidential Election has inspired others to adopt similar strategies.

Tahrir Square 7Feb

Tahrir Square 7Feb by RamyRaoof

In December 2010, a fruit vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire to protest his mistreatment by police. The incident was spread through digital text technologies and encouraged protests throughout the region. In January of 2011 demonstrations toppled the long time authoritarian government led by ruler Zine El Abidine Ben Ali (Smith, 2011). Revolutionaries in other authoritarian regions were inspired by the Tunisian events and began protest in Egypt, Syria, Libya, Bahrain, and Yemen. David Faris (2010) in his dissertation Revolutions without Revolutionaries? describes the use of digital text technologies by Egyptian digital media activists in 2010 a full year before the protests in Tahrir Square. He cautioned that an uprising in Egypt will, “still depend on political, social, economic, and even natural forces, which can’t be predicted in advance, and which we will almost certainly struggle to understand if and when they are unleashed”(p 229).

The Egyptian revolutionaries were already using digital text technologies in the years leading up to the events in Tahrir Square. They required a focal point event to rally momentum for their cause. The digital text technologies are not enough to make change just as Howard Dean discovered in his unsuccessful 2004 Presidential bid. This echoes the idea that technology alone will not create change. However the use of digital text technologies in the Egyptian and other Arab uprisings has been credited to help shape and channel mass movements.

As we have seen in the prodemocracy protests in Egypt, young people often rely on sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube in order to communicate and organize. Moreover, these new media sites promote a decentralized social structure: people with different backgrounds and interests link together over a shared set of demands. These bottom-up social movements begin without a set agenda or organizational hierarchy; instead, new media social movements combine technology with spontaneity, offering a new way of interacting with the world (Samuels, 2011)

In a similar fashion to Gutenberg’s moveable type printing press, digital text technologies allow for the broadcast of subversive messages with a rapidity that had been impossible before its invention. Digital text technologies of the 21st Century do not cause the revolution but empowers the revolution to occur. It continues to be the blood of the revolutionaries that maintain the movements.



Bolter, J. (2001) Writing space: Computers, hypertext and the remediation of print. 2nd Edition Routledge: New York

Bulwer-Lytton, E. (1839) Richilieu; Or the conspiracy a play in five acts. Harper & Brothers: New York. Retrieved from

Cowley, D. & Williamson, C. (2007) The world of the book. Miegunyah Press: Melbourne

Edwards, M. (1994) Printing, Propaganda, and Marrting Luther. Berkeley: University of California Press. Retrieved from

Faris, D. (2010) Revolution with revolutionaries?: social media networks and regime response in Egypt. Publicly accessible Penn Dissertation. Paper 116

Flanagan, J. (2009) High Tech- High Touch. Retrieved

Grout, J. (2011). Scroll and codex. Encyclopaedia Romana. Retrieved from

Kaid, L. (2009) Changing and staying the same: Communication in campaign 2008. Journalism Studies 10:3 DOI:10.1080/14616700902812728 Retrieved from

Köhler, N., & Ward, C. (2011, Oct 17). War on wall street. Maclean’s, 124(40), 36-36. Retrieved from

Luo, M. (2008) Obama recasts the fund-raising landscape. New York Times October 19th, 2008 retrieved

Mitchell, G. (2009) The web: Why Obama won?. Editor & Publisher, February 3, 2009. Retrieved

National Public Radio, 2011. October 20th , 2011 Thursday Exploring Occupy Wall Street’s ‘Adbuster’ Origins

Ord, R. (2008) Eight reasons the Internet has changed politics forever. Retrieved

Occupy wall street protest. (2011, Oct 16). Question Period – CTV Television, pp. n/a. Retrieved from

Payne, M. (2008) Election tech: 7 New technologies that shaped an election. Retrieved from

Roberts, C & Skeat, T. (1983) The birth of the codex. Oxford University Press: London

Simba, M. (2009) The Obama campaign 2008: A historical overview. The Western Journal of Black Studies. 33:3

Smith, A. (2009) The Internet’s role in campaign 2008. Pew Internet & American Life Project: Washington

Smith, A. (2011) The Internet and campaign 2010. Pew Internet & American Life Project: Washington

Smith, P. (2011) New York Time Upfront. 144:2 p 6-7

Statistic Canada. (2010) Individual Internet use and e-commerce. Retrieved from

Weise, F. (2004) Being there: the library as place. Journal of the Medical Library Association 92:1 p 6-13

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Major Project – Digitization of Apprenticeship Training

Here is my final project.  It is entitled “Digitization of Apprenticeship Training”. 

In this presentation, I will be talking about how workplace training has changed through history.  Workplace training is different than other educational topics in that its primary goal is to teach a skill to a worker. In early history, workplace training primarily was in the form of apprenticeship training where the worker would be under the tutelage of a Master or mentor.  However over the years, this model of one-on-one training has changed drastically. I will show how the expertise of the Master or mentor has been broken down and been made accessible to greater numbers of workers and how technology is providing an avenue for the practicing and competency assessment stage of an apprenticeship.  I will also discuss how this paradigm shift has resulted in the worker having to learn other skills to appropriately succeed in today’s work environment.

Please forgive my voice quality while listening to this presentation.  I had to do the narrations while recovering from a nasty cold.

I hope you enjoy the presentation. If you have any questions, please let me know.


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Commentary 3 – Web 2.0: Creating New Students and New Educators

            Schools are equipped with computers and wifi, and students are coming to school as experts in these new technologies (Alexander, 2008). As students become more expert at web 2.0 tools such as blogging, social networking, and sharing images, they become less engaged in the technology that schools have to offer. Teachers are now recognizing the potential web 2.0 holds in engaging our students in educational activities and are slowly bringing them into the classroom as educational tools. Web 2.0 has revolutionized the internet, and it is beginning to revolutionize the classroom. Alexander (2006) lists a variety of web 2.0 tools that are being used in the classroom, but teachers are still relatively slow at fully integrating web 2.0. Changing the classroom is a difficult thing to do. Fifty years ago the classroom was very much a teacher centred structure:

Rows upon rows of students

Then the emergence of computer education provided the potential to break away from the traditional classroom. What we got was more of the same:

Rows upon rows of students and computers

Adults struggle with issues related to web 2.0, such as safety and access, while children are becoming experts with all of the tools that web 2.0 provides (Livingstone, & Haddon, 2008). While these adults are coming to terms with the new technology nearly half of post-secondary students have contributed photos or video online, 2 in 5 have contributed to wikis, and 1 in 3 have blogged, all before they are finished high school (Diaz, 2010). These are all features that require social awareness, contribution, at least a basic understanding of literacy, and a connection to people with similar interests. While many adults are grappling with the question of whether it is appropriate to bring these technologies in the classroom, students are using them ubiquitously, and are subsequently becoming online authors without the encouragement or direction of anyone else (Alexander, 2008; Yancey, 2004).

Connectivity and literacy are some of the tools that initiate the excitement when considering web 2.0 as a learning tool in the classroom. Web sites that are built for people to connect, such as Flickr and Facebook, are filling the web (Alexander, 2008). However, social networking and sharing of information are areas that make adults wary of introducing web 2.0 tools in the classroom.

Evidence might suggest that too much caution is unwarranted. The internet, and web 2.0 especially, has created a shift in reading and writing that has not been seen since newspapers and mass produced books first made reading accessible to a large audience (Yancey, 2004). Not only is writing in web 2.0 accessible to anyone with a computer or a cell phone it is deeply communal. Anyone with a particular interest can find thousands of people with a similar interest and learn with and from each them. Collaborating together online creates a vast amount of knowledge as demonstrated by the hugely popular website (Dobson and Willinsky, 2009).

The ubiquitous use of web 2.0 tools leaves people in a typical authority position, such as parents and teachers, with virtually no authority when it comes to creating online text (Bolter, 2001). Authority is being replaced by flexibility and collaboration. As web 2.0 writing takes off, the typical authority figure’s role, while drastically changed, becomes vitally important. However, instead of the traditional tactic of delivering direction from the front of a classroom, a teacher must now equip students with the skills necessary to recognize that they are actually writing when they are online and sharing photos, or updating a status. The web 2.0 examples provided by people such as Alexander (2006) in ‘Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning?’ are examples that teachers can use to equip students with the skills and experiences necessary to be consumers and contributors to the internet.

Web 2.0 has changed the way the classroom looks as teachers are no longer the experts. Students can be proficient in using the technology and teachers have the ability to encourage real learning that is student centred. The internet has changed because of web 2.0 tools, so have the users of the internet, our children, and now our classrooms are beginning to make that same transformation.


Alexander, B. (2008). Web 2.0 and Emergent Multiliteracies. Theory Into Practice 41 p.150-160. doi: 10.1080/00405840801992371

Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning? Educause Review, 41(2), 34-44. Retrieved from:

Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, New York, NY.

Diaz, V. (2010). Web 2.0 and Emerging Technologies in Online Learning. Online Education 2010(150) 57-66. doi: 10.1002/cc.405

Dobson, T., and Willinksy (2009). Digital Literacy. In David R. Olson, and Nancy Torrance (Eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Literacy (pp.286-312). New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Livingstone, S., & Haddon L. (2008). Risky experiences for children online: Charting European research on children and the Internet. Children & Society 22 314–323. doi: 10.1111/j.1099-0860.2008.00157.x

Yancey, K.B. (2004). Made Not Only in Words: Composition in a New Key. College Composition and Communication. 56(2) p.297-329.

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Web 2.0 tools

I confess that I have been very busy with fighting off a bad cold and finishing my final projects for my courses, so I have not had a lot of time to explore the Web 2.0 tools.  However, I would like to list my contribution of the Web 2.0 tools that I have explored through the MET program:

Picasa – This is a great photo and video album.  You can also create slide shows and presentations using the platforms features.  I have sometimes uploaded some videos to this site if I am having any issues on Youtube.  For slideshows you can add captions, but this platform does not have the capability of adding music and it does not have any panning capabilities.

Youtube – Youtube has been a crucial tool in my time during the MET program.  It is one of the easiest ways to upload videos and slideshows, but you do need to be aware of the time limit.  Youtube even has a way to create interactive videos.  I have yet to experiment with this particular feature of Youtube.

SlideRoll – This is an easy to use program that can be used to create slideshows.  You can upload pictures, add captions and music to the slideshows too.  This program is great in that it also has panning capabilities too.  I can vouch for how easily you can re-organize your slides.  For the Digital Storytelling project in ETEC 565a, my initial attempt ended up being a presentation, so I needed to hurriedly rearrange things to meet the assignment’s criteria.

Moodle – Moodle is a great LMS.  I have used this when doing a project for ETEC 565a.  I encourage everyone to try this program as it is open source and free.  It really gives you a feeling of what you need to think about if you are creating a course that has an online component to it.

ToonDoos – This program is a quick and easy way to create cartoons.  I will warn everyone, that it is so fun that it will distract people from doing their work!  I really enjoyed this program as it really allowed me to express myself in a very visual and funny way.  Programs like these really allowed me to express myself artistically, quickly and without frustration.

Google Blogger – This blog site is a great site to start off with if you are just starting to blog.  However, I will say that I find Google Blogger to be a little static and not very customizable.

Google Docs – This is the staple of all group work in the MET program.  I don’t think any of us could have completed the group work without it.  I love this program and the fact that we can now do collaborative PowerPoint presentations, drawings, tables, spreadsheets and collections.  I remember for one of my past projects, I had our class contribute PowerPoint slides which would communicate their views on a particular concept and after about a week we then created a video of the resulting PowerPoint slides.  It was very collaborative and it was interesting to see everyone’s thoughts in such a visual way.

WordPress – I am ending this post with this site as it is what I use for my e-portfolio.  I like its flexibility and how easy it was to set up.  I also like how it has so many nice themes to it.  Please feel free to check out my e-portfolio.  It also has projects where I have used some of the above Web 2.0 tools.

Future Directions:

In future I do want to explore Kerpoof and some of the other sites listed on CogDogRoo.  I think Xtranormal would have come in handy this week with my media projects as it would have relieved me the necessity of having to narrate the presentations while battling a hacking cough. 

Oh well.  May be next time.


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Commentary 3: Web 2.0 Digital Stories and Distributed Cognition

In the digital space of flows, where ideas collide and coincide across a fluid state of chaos within data streams across the nodes of our network society, there exists a new level of creativity impacting global society.  Like sparks of creative flows across the synaptic pathways of the brain, media-rich stories are being created across the internet uniting author and reader into a combined and seemingly paradoxical role of both producer and consumer.  In this creative space, Web 2.0 digital stories move beyond the linear construction of the printed book into a more unpredictable, open-ended, participatory, hyperlinked and flexible form of media.  Alexander and Levine (2008) describe the Web 2.0 digital story as a new form of storytelling based on microcontent and social media.  Microcontent is self-contained, embedded and in continual flux, whether it’s a blog post, a wiki edit, online video or podcast.  This new space for creative production and consumption is easily accessible through keywords and exists in a virtual place of distributed discussion (Alexander & Levine, 2008).  Web 2.0 stories are narratives constructed in a participatory space, buttressed by social media, and enabled with flexibility to enable consumers to leave and return through hyperlinking.  Similar to oral traditions, digital stories are structured around people, yet beyond both oral and print methods, rich media provides a multimodal experience.  This hearkens to the theories of the public sphere of Habermas, wherein a communication space is created for people to gather to conduct conversations about cultural matters and to share their lifeworlds (Valtysson, 2010). The digital story also incorporates Castells’ theory of the Network Society (2004), since it operates in a data flow across the various nodes of the Internet enhancing the experiences of viewers who interact with the world through the computer across a global interconnected society based on informationalism.

Open Spaces of Communication and Distributed Cognition

The space of communication and cultural transformation provided by the digital story enables public interaction and reflection on global cultural issues, and combines elements of both orality and literacy.  The digital persona creating the story is similar to the Bard in the agora of ancient times, who structured the narrative based on audience commentary.  Ong (2002) describes the heavy patterning and communal formulas used by orators who utilized additive oral style and aggregative oral structures, as seen in The Odyssey by Homer.  In the same manner, Web 2.0 stories exist within an additive digital framework and are integrated with social media to shape their existence through the digital conversation of the audience.  Valtysson (2010) writes that the digitization of culture redefines culture and identity through the creation of new cultural forms and redefinition of older ones.  The digital story is not fixed, but open to endless combinations, revisions and individual customization, thus changing cultural participation. This flexible space of flows enables a new relationship between author and reader, who become producer and consumer.  This new relationship, described by Manovich as “prosumer”, is a paradoxical remixing of blurred roles of participatory creation and consumption (Valtysson, 2010). The art of the story is thus transformed from the symbolic representation found in oral cultures to the interactive and participatory media-rich format found in the digital culture of Web 2.0.

Digital storytelling goes beyond a media form to become a field of cultural practice incorporating text, graphics, motion, collaboration and social interaction impacting digital culture and creativity (Burgess, 2006).  These new forms of stories are mediated across multiple global networks changing ways people access culture. Burgess (2006) defines creativity as a cultural resource based on material and shared knowledge that is recombined in new ways.  With digital stories, the possibilities for remixing media, narrative and formats is accessible to all netizens and unlimited in creative potential.  Since ordinary people are able to bypass the barriers of print media, there is a new intersection of everyday life and popular media to create what Atton describes as “everyday cultural production” (Burgess, 2006, 206).  This enables an incredible amount of media-rich digital experiences disseminating quickly and interactively across the internet.  A digital world of widely shared creativity provides a chance for a multitude of people to contribute to the digital culture (Valtysson, 2010), creating a new global cultural practice.

Along with this creative input comes a change in individual and cultural identities.  Vasudevan, Schultz and Bateman (2010) describe the multimodal experiences of digital storytelling which develop and showcase differing literate identities.  This opportunity to experiment with digital identities is reflected in the work of Turkle, who writes that while we are dominated by our digital devices, technology offers us a powerful substitute for connecting with people face-to-face (Olds, 2011).  The digital social interface enabled through the participatory nature of Web 2.0 stories, transforms our identity from the tribal village of oral societies and independent reader of print culture to new multiple identities existing in a digital world integrated with the personas of the physical world.  Collective memory of the community is replaced by the databases of the network society, and identity is transformed by the context and experience within the digital spaces of rich media stories impacting our lifeworlds.  The transformative, participatory and ultimately creative spaces within digital stories provide an autonomous and important contribution to public global and digital culture.

Social media supports the digital story by providing a virtual coffee house in which to discuss, interact and provide a live audience for the digital story, complete with simultaneous conversations across multiple networks.  I would suggest that digital stories, in their open, flexible and hyperlinked rich media formats are based on distributed creativity and therefore are reliant on distributed cognition.  Hutchins developed the theory of distributed cognition, which was based on the concept of collective knowledge, through which people assimilated technology into their daily lives impacting culture, identity and learning (Petrina, Feng & Kim, 2008).  Hutchins postulated that knowledge and cognition is distributed across objects, tools, environments and artifacts (Perry, 2003), and this model fits the distributed, open structures of Web 2.0 storytelling.  Digital storytelling enables a cultural change through a remix of archetypal constructs, combining both oral and print modes of communication to produce a media-rich, multimodal communication technique that is a remediation of both oral and print storytelling techniques.  By drawing on the wisdom of the crowd, the prosumer or visitor/creator enables a creative voice and representation of the global network internet society experience.  In an open, creative and participatory space, the digital story enables digital identities, collective lifeworld exploration, distributed intelligence and cognition.  The digital story thus provides a new space for communication, interaction and collective wisdom based on new art forms and the remediation of both oral storytelling traditions and print-based productions, enabling the interaction of audience and bard as well as collective production, identity and experience.



Alexander, B., & Levine, A. (2008). Web 2.0 Storytelling: Emerging of a New Genre.                  Educause Review, 43(6), 40-56.

Burgess, J. (2006). Hearing Ordinary Voices: Cultural Studies, Vernacular Creativity and        Digital Storytelling. Continuum: Journal Of Media & Cultural Studies, 20(2), 201-214.       doi:10.1080/10304310600641737

Castells, M. (2004). Informationalism, Networks, And The Network Society: A Theoretical      Blueprint. In Castells, M. (Ed.), The Network Society: A Cross-Cultural Perspective.          Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar.

Olds, J. (2011). Digital Dystopia. American Scientist, 99(4), 344-345.

Ong, W. J. (1982). Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London:                       Methuen.

Perry, M. (2003). Distributed Cognition. In J.M. Carroll (Ed.) HCI Models, Theories, and           Frameworks: Toward an Interdisciplinary Science. Morgan Kaufmann. pp. 193-223.

Petrina, S., Feng, F., & Juyun, K. (2008). Researching cognition and technology: how we             learn across the lifespan. International Journal Of Technology & Design Education,             18(4), 375-396. doi:10.1007/s10798-007-9033-5

Valtysson, B. (2010). Access culture: Web 2.0 and cultural participation. International              Journal Of Cultural Policy, 16(2), 200-214. doi:10.1080/10286630902902954

Vasudevan, L., Schultz, K., & Bateman, J. (2010). Rethinking Composing in a Digital Age:           Authoring Literate Identities Through Multimodal Storytelling. Written                                   Communication, 27(4), 442-468. doi:10.1177/0741088310378217


by Kenneth Buis

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