Web 2.0 and Multiliteracies

The types of jobs and the skills required for them are changing today. It would be logical then for educational practices to reflect that. In this commentary I will examine The New London Group’s (1996) article on multiliteracies and how pedagogy need to address this changing educational expectation. I will also look at Alexander’s (2006) article on Web 2.0 as a new innovation and what it means for educators. Finally I will examine Alexander’s (2008) article on multiliteracies and how Web 2.0 is shaping the way students and educators interact and learn.

In the article “A pedagogy of multiliteracies” (The New London Group, 1996) the goal of literacy in learning is so that students can have equal access to the language necessary in their everyday life and to make meaningful social connections. It is recognized that we need to address the growing diversity and global connectedness that is today’s reality. Therefore the definition of literacy needs to be extended to include these changes. Our ways of teaching and our pedagogy need to be reevaluated to also reflect this change. Since the writing of this article, I think educator’s pedagogy has been evolving. For example, this is evident in BC math and science curriculum changes that were implemented in the last 10 years. Technology and different modes of learning are better addressed.

The article also discusses overcoming the barriers of language, culture and gender (The New London Group, 1996). That while our communities are becoming more diverse, subcultures are created within these communities. And our private lives are becoming more public. I think this is an important topic address in educational practices. The connectedness to the world can be a compromise on privacy of information. At the same time, that information and our diverse learners should be fostered to overcome these barriers to learning. Multiliteracy here refers to more than linguistic modes of learning but to visual, audio and spatial to name a few (The New London Group, 1996).

In Alexander’s (2006) description of web 2.0, no single definition is given. That is because web 2.0 encompasses a wide range of projects. However what they do share in common is that they are social software and are composed of microcontent, which are small chunks of information. It is highly user generated and is not static information. The user can decide on the amount of time spent on a web 2.0 projects and the requirement to become involved in this community is few. This would appear to be a great solution in education for students to become involved in literacy, in writing and in creating content.

Alexander (2006) raises issues regarding web 2.0, such as IT support, its use in higher education and violations of copyright. In current education practice, there is a desire to implement web 2.0 projects such as blogs and wikis as teaching tools. They have value in motivating students to write and to connect with others. They also teach students digital literacy necessary in today’s world. However copyright issues are much more difficult to teach, but need to be addressed. How should the guidelines of plagiarism be redefined? We take content from the web and make it our own. If the act of violating copyright has become easier for the average person then are we teaching our children to disregard copyright?

In Alexander’s (2008) article on web 2.0 and its implication on multiliteracies, the extension of web 2.0 into education is examined. The author believes that education often falls behind these web 2.0 innovations. Many schools and institutions use course management systems (CMS) to enrich learning. However the open web provides students with many more learning opportunities and promotes higher thinking skills as compared to CMS. CMS can feel very structured and teacher-centred, but they don’t necessarily need to. Student-student and student-teacher interactions be can more frequent in an CMS environment. And CMS may be an option for higher education, but might not be the best choice for younger students.

The open web could arguably give students more opportunities to write (Alexander, 2008) and to read but they need to first understand copyright and privacy. Password protection, such as in CMS solves many of those issues. In a protected environment, the teacher can moderate the content that is shared, give feedback, and protect the students’ privacy. Many parents are concerned about their child’s safety online and in being aware of cyber bullying that can occur unmonitored with the social connectedness that is web 2.0.

Educators should reexamine tools available to them such as web 2.0 to address the emergent multiliteracy. This multiliteracy is more than linguistic. We should ask what our future workforce will look like, and therefore how can we change our classroom to address it?

References:

Alexander, B. (2008). Web 2.0 and emergent multiliteracies. Theory Into Practice, 47(2), 150-160.

Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0: a new wave of innovation for teaching and learning? Educause Review, 41(2), 32-44.

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

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