In Web 2.0 and Emergent Multiliteracies, Bryan Alexander (2008) discusses the use of Web 2.0 tools in classrooms in order to meet the needs of today’s digital native students. One of the digital strategies he looks at is social software or networking. Social software has increased connectivity of individuals through such media as: blogs, wikis, podcasts, video blogs, MySpace, Facebook and Flickr. Individuals can then use this social software to add comments, information or edit material (microcontent). Alexander (2008) believes that this social connection, combined with the openness of the web and the ability to add microcontent is what lead to social filtering. Social filtering includes adding to existing work, tagging information on the web and creating social bookmarking sites. The purpose of social filtering is to connect people with similar interests and weed out irrelevant web material for the user. All these multiliteracies can be useful teaching tools in today’s 21st century classroom. The challenging task for teachers is to find ways to implement them.
Hicks and Reed (2007) state that the best way for teachers to begin integrating multiliteracies in their classroom is to first plan their own technology rich project. One way they can do this is by creating their own weblog. Teachers can learn a great deal about weblogs through the trial and error process of maintaining their own. What better way to introduce your students to blogging, than by showing them your own. Alexander (2008) sees blogs as being a “centerpiece” of the web. Weblogs are different than webpages because they can easily be created and updated. In addition, it is relatively easy to comment on other blogs. All these factors empower people to write. For students, posting a comment on a weblog makes writing more meaningful. Michael Drennan (2012) views blogging as more motivating than standard writing and views it as stimulating and enriching activity for the students. Knowing that their work is going to be published on the world wide web by a larger audience allows students to take more pride in their work.
Another reason blogs may empower people to write is because they consist of microcontent. Alexander (2008) points out that since content added is relatively small, blogs are much simpler to create than entire webpages. A wiki is another example of microcontent. As a weblog is a series of posts, a wiki contains small bits of information that is continually added or edited by different authors. Alexander sees Podcasts as another example of microcontent. Even though the file size may be larger, it still is a separate chunk of audio recording that has been added. Dawn Reed is an educator that decided to experiment with Blogs and Podcasts in her Speech class. She found that once students realized there would be a large audience on the web and that there would be a permanent copy of their speech, they performed better and were more careful with pronunciation (Hicks and Reed, 2007).
Social bookmarking can be a useful tool for filtering information on the web. Alexander (2008) suggests that schools set up their own social bookmarking site. This would allow for people with similar interests to connect. He also feels that teachers and students could both learn from viewing each others tagging strategies (Alexander, 2008). Teachers can register for a social bookmarking site and then tag important websites for their students. Mark Barnes (2012) sees bookmarking sites, like Delicious, as a powerful way for teachers to share websites. They save value time for students, as they do not have to take the time visiting unnecessary websites. Alexander (2008) comments on the potentials for using social bookmarking sites for group projects, as members can continue to tag important resources for group members.
Although Hicks and Reed (2007) feel the benefits of using social networking in the classroom are great, there is still room for caution. They state that, “We need to adopt a multiliteracies perspective that keeps the mode, audience, and purpose in mind” (Hicks and Reed, p. 18). Teachers still need to be teaching students about literacy, not just how to use the technology. If they decide to plan their own weblog, they can use it to model proper blogging etiquette, copyright issues, and literacy skills. Educators need to look at why they want students to use this technology and plan accordingly. Providing the skills necessary for writing a post for a blog or the reasoning behind choosing a particular picture to upload is just as important as providing the instructions for setting up a blog or wiki. Hicks and Reed (2007) conclude their article with a reminder that it is the literacy development of the student that needs to remain at the forefront and the technology they use as secondary.
Alexander, B. (2008). Web 2.0 and emergent multiliteracies. Theory Into Practice, 47(2), 150-160. Retrieved from http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00405840801992371
Barnes, M. (2012). How to use social bookmarking with delicious. Retrieved from http://learnitin5.com/social-bookmarking-in-the-k12-classroom
Drennan, M. (2012). Blogging in the classroom: why your students should write online. Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk/teacher-network/2012/jul/17/students-should-be-blogging
Hicks, Troy and Reed, Dawn M. (2007) “Keepin’ it real: multiliteracies in the english classroom,” Language Arts Journal of Michigan, 23(1), Article 4. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.9707/2168-149X.1133