The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Posts from — November 2009

Negotiating Spaces and Making Connections

Throughout this course we have interacted with several spaces for reading and writing: our course wiki, the community weblog and the discussion boards. We have also engaged with several spaces outside of the course through peer projects that make use of websites, videos and Web 2.0 technologies. For me, this course has really been about how reading and writing changes within each of these digital spaces.

Bolter (2001) states that “the reflexive character of each technology permits writers to find themselves in the texts they create and therefore to know themselves in new ways” (p. 189). The discussion forums were an essential reflection tool for our course. In the Digital Literacy and Multi-literacies forum, Kathleen Cavanagh reflected on writing in online forums and provided a list of best practices on creating postings that grab the attention of the digital reader (Do Web Browser Affect Literacy, Nov. 21, 2009). In the same thread Erin Gillespie pointed out the importance of generating community for knowledge creation. She also mentioned how ‘the personal touch’, ‘shared insights’ and ‘co-construction of knowledge’ are what makes discussion forums motivating and engaging (Nov. 24, 2009). Drew Murphy followed up by stating that “posting[s] could become a very intense learning experience when people’s ideas are squeezed into a small, community space” (Nov. 24, 2009, para. 2).

Within the short 13-week span of our course, I believe we have built a learning community through simultaneously making use of multiple digital reading and writing spaces. Though work-related challenges limited my participation at times, this environment for me, extended my understanding of the course concepts as my peers provided unique points-of-view. Through individual postings, we collectively pulled together ideas and in turn each person could come away with a new understanding of themselves.

Online, our thoughts can be hyperlinked and thus be flexible, interactive and quickly disseminated. This made me think about how the spaces within our course shift our writings from being informal (discussion threads or weblog comments) to being formal (assignments posted to the weblog, wiki, etc.). However regardless of what is posted, in these content spaces we continually move between being consumers and being producers. Just look at the Community weblog to see exactly how much content, we as a group have generated in such a short amount of time. Then look at all the links we have generated!

In terms of readings, I particularly enjoyed Bolter’s chapter “The Breakout of the Visual” as well as Dobson and Willinsky’s article “Digital Literacy”. With the proliferation of images in multimodal realms there is a need for students today to be multi-literate. In the Multimodality and the Breakout of the Visual forum, Dilip Verma stated that he sees graphic design skills as eventually becoming “as valued as spelling and grammar in the 21st century” (Nov. 5, 2009). In another thread entitled “Visual/Textual?” Kelly Kerrigan reflected on how visual representation has become prominent in society today and that MET courses reflect this transformation by encouraging students to explore different modes of representation. ETEC540 supports this claim as we have had the opportunity to present our work in shared digital spaces, leaving room for us to make use of hypermedia and hyperlinks. It was interesting to peruse the projects where people took a more visual approach:

Final Project – Graphic Novels, Improving Literacy
Catherine Gagnon

A Case For Teaching Visual Literacy – Bev Knutson-Shaw

Pen and Paper Project – Ed Stuerle & Bruce Spencer

Navigating the Hypermedia Sea – Marjorie del Mundo

Hopscotch and Hypertext – Liz Hood

I thoroughly enjoyed this course and appreciated the opportunity to engage frequently in the various spaces of the course.


Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers.

November 30, 2009   2 Comments


Working from the starting objectives of the course I have linked some of the best examples of how we as a learning community have met these objectives and how the objectives have influenced my understanding and changed or confirmed my opinions.

Through the posts, the authors examined such varied topics as the invention of specific aspects of writing, determinist and digital divide concepts, current technological innovations and the impact of the visual.  As a group of authors, I feel that the commentaries and the projects reflect the movement as a group through a thoughtful consideration of how writing has and is modifying human societies.

On a personal level I feel that we are currently involved with that modification, and those that reviewed and discussed current debates appear to fell the same.

I have used key words from the below course objectives entered them in the community weblog search engine here is what it cam back with.

  1. Students will consider how the invention of writing, the fundamental technology of all literate societies, has modified human ways of knowing.


Title is very self-explanatory.


The desire to make orally transmitted information permanent.


This was harder to place but the nature of the Digital Divide and deterministic challenges I would place it in this category.


I found the discussion surrounding the search for information particularly interesting after having made the argument that we need to include critical thinking as part of literacy in my major project.























In revolution of communication Sara brings up a great point, one that I wish to expand upon. The rise of web 2.0 allows us to move back towards a characteristic of oral societies and that is knowing the person on a close level that is communicating.  With web 2.0 we are able to develop relationships and build communities with many people around the globe and thus interact and partcipate with the knower on an ongoing basis.  A possibility that was not available due to physical special and time constraint that held back other forms of writing.


Deb Giesbrecht explored the concept of invention through the invention of the idea of Web 2.0 and discussed the recent applications that have been invented to facilitate the interactivity and interconnectivity and participation characterized by the concept of web. 2.0.

November 30, 2009   No Comments

I could not help but add a rip, mix feed…

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November 30, 2009   1 Comment

Final project: Literacy and Critical Thinking

Here is the abstract of my final paper and a link to both a podcast and a print version.


The New London Group (1996) starts their discussion of multi-literacy by presenting the needs of future citizens in the work place of tomorrow. They argue that to engage and negotiate critically with a working environment, students need to have multi-literacy skills or the ability to communicate meaning through a variety of mediums. Students also need to participate in literacy activities as members of communities; they need to be able to discern meaning from multiple media sources and produce meaning using these “new media.” The change in participation and literacy is in part because hypertext, the Internet, and associated applications have changed the way knowledge is created and presented.

The author is no longer the authority. As we all become authors of a collective knowledge the authority of knowledge is no longer clear, print is no longer associated with truth as it may once have been. Knowledge is created changed and rework, represented mixed and fed in to what is becoming known as a participatory media culture. The following is both a historical and modern understanding of how western society has understood the transmission of knowledge and how the transformation of the transmission has changed what it means to be educated or knowledgeable.

Critical thinking


November 30, 2009   No Comments

Final Connections

            After reading all of the commentaries 1 and 2 and up to last night the commentary 3that had been posted I have several conclusions to share. Bolter 2001 mentions “analytical reflection” (p.193) and this has been evident in many of the commentaries that I have read. As teachers many of us have accepted that technology must be part of our future curriculum, but not without reservations. We are worried about teacher training, adequate access to technology for everybody, not just the privileged few, critical thinking skills and finally assessment.

            We have voiced our fears and some have shared their knowledge and skills with those of us who are just beginning on this journey. We have formed connections, some of which, I hope will last for a long time. Bolter (2001) says that “writing unifies the mind”, but I think writing these posts have unified many of our thoughts.  He further states that “Electronic communication is increasingly the medium through which we form and maintain our affiliations” and I hope that our blogs and wikis will prove this is correct.

          This is a formal goodbye, but I hope to meet many of you again someday whether online or in person. Thank you for all of your knowledge and wisdom.

November 30, 2009   No Comments

Making Connections / End of Semester Reflections

End of semester reflections.

This was my first semester in the MET program and the past few months were quite a change from what I am normally used to. Not only were these my first online courses I also had to readjust to being a student again. I decided to take a sabbatical from my district this year in order to work on the MET program fulltime, and it was quite a challenge for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed the reading for this semester. I particularly enjoyed reading the Bolter book. Although the Orality and Literacy book was a dense read, the information presented in the book was extremely useful and relevant, not only in this course, but in all of my courses. In taking 3 courses this semester a few things occurred to me. The MET classes are certainly a community in their own right. I have started to recognize names and even the type of writings and views that many of my peers have. I have really enjoyed getting to know everyone, in a virtual way at least.

Posting the projects to the community weblog was a unique experience. Although I am versed in internet and technology technologies this was a challenge for me. Although I read many, many blogs and wikis, I rarely contribute. I am not sure why this is. By requiring us to post on the weblog, it helped me in terms of feeling like I was part of a community. As well, it made me realize that this really is the way that literacy is going to be taught and presented in the future. All in all I had a great experience in this class, and in the semester in general.


November 30, 2009   No Comments

Adaptive Reading Technologies

Kurzweil 3000 is an adaptive technology that provides support for students who have reading and writing difficulties. In order to better present this technology’s affordances please view this video that I have created.

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November 30, 2009   4 Comments

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

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

Commentary #3      Delphine Williams Young

ETEC 540                University of British Columbia

November 29, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

November 30, 2009   1 Comment

Final project, Comment#3

cmaptransitional learning copytablenewloresThe article “Does the brain like e-books” in our readings is relevant to my educational work since I deal exclusively with adult learners who are not “digital natives” (term after Pranskey, cited in Mabrito & Medley, 2008). A typical student in my online class has grade 12 education, and ages range from 18-65, with many students engaging in online constructivist collaborative learning using modern hypermedia for the first time. The typical student seems to have a period of adaptation which is required for them to become comfortable with the new skills needed for use of computer and Internet, and to develop independent self-learning and critical thinking skills.
I dealt with the issue of the aspect of independent learning (learning how to learn) “the what” (after the New London Group, 1995, p 24) and its importance for students new to hypermedia in commentary #2. This commentary will focus on the learning of the content itself (the “how”, after the new London Group, 1995, p 24), and the social focus of web 2.0 learning, for students in transition between traditional literacy and learning methods, going into a web 2.0 environment. The research here will help to support or disprove my driving question of whether the transition learning period requires different pedagogy, as my daily observations seem to suggest. This subject is perhaps not as relevant for those in K-12 learning since these students are either digital natives or well versed in multiliteracy (term after the New London Group, 1996), and not faced with many first-time issues. The commentary will close with a reflective summary I developed to help understand integration of teaching initiatives outlined in the New London Group paper.
Other study groups such as Liu’s in California, the ”Transliteracies Project” (October, 2009) are shedding valuable light on this area. Liu reports “Initially, any new information medium seems to degrade reading because it disturbs the balance between focal and peripheral attention”. His observation does seem typical for newly-online learners who do in fact get sidetracked in class. Even for those adult learners with educational backgrounds, some time to adjust is required. In the MET 540 discussion forum Prizeman (2009) observes “The hypertextuality of digital writing spaced at first confused my linear mind, but now that I have spent a great deal of time interacting with them, I feel like “I’ll never go back”!” Her insight certainly reinforces the sense that there is a transitional period.
Liu (October, 2009) also concludes “It takes time and adaptation before a balance can be restored, not just in the “mentality” of the reader…but in the social systems that complete the reading environment.” This makes good sense as all literacy occurs in context, and so the student would be expected to adapt to the new way of learning in a bigger sense. Traditional pedagogy is didactic and students are used to being passive, linear and focused on one package of learning at a time as described in the Mabrito & Medley (2008) article. The Liu group confirms that in early phases of transition to new media “We suffer tunnel vision, as when reading a single page, paragraph, or even “keyword in context” without an organized sense of the whole. Or we suffer marginal distraction, as when feeds or blogrolls in the margin (”sidebar”) of a blog let the whole blogosphere in.”
The multidimensional environment calls on the learner to multitask. The open-ended resources on the Internet can be overwhelming at first as the learner enters this novel research realm. It is not the reading comprehension that suffers, as most students are adept at reading on a screen. In the “Does the Brain like e-Books?” article, Aamodt concludes, “Fifteen or 20 years ago, electronic reading also impaired comprehension compared to paper, but those differences have faded in recent studies.”
Aamodt (October, 2009) also reports that “Distractions abound online — costing time and interfering with the concentration needed to think about what you read. “ The deep concentration which is required to reflect on what is read, heard and seen may be reduced in this type of environment. Learning to focus on the work at hand and dismiss the outliers is a learning strategy that can be coached. Aamondt points out that, “Frequent task switching costs time and interferes with the concentration needed to think deeply about what you read.” Mark (October, 2009) concurs “When online, people switch activities an average of every three minutes (e.g. reading email or IM) and switch projects about every 10 and a half minutes”. That is bound to impact reflective learning. Mark also reports “My own research shows that people are continually distracted when working with digital information” so maintaining focus is confirmed to be a challenge, and her study did not just include learners new to hypermedia. She agrees with Aamondt about depth of engagement, “ It’s just not possible to engage in deep thought about a topic when we’re switching so rapidly.”
Well adapted online learners with established multiliteracy are comfortable with social networking, and multitasking in hypermedia, so more experienced learners will need more flexible environments to correlate with their skill set. Prizeman (2009) in our forums put it very well “The possibilities are endless, and the once hierarchical order that knowledge was presented in print, no longer exists in hypertext–I feel more in control of my learning, and with flexibility and freedom, I am able to search out the information that I need, as well as explore the connections between it and my world.”
The interface with online learning needs to evolve with a new appreciation of interacting with media versus human communication. Ong explores this concept and determines “communication is inter-subjective” (Ong, 2002, p 173). Ong refers to a media model of communication that focuses on informational, performance oriented interpretation, versus true communication which requires one to have advance appreciation for the other person’s inner self. That new setting is important as he points out that getting inside the minds of persons you will never know is not an easy thing to do, “but it is not impossible if you and they are familiar with the literary tradition they work in” (Ong, 2002, p. 174). Learning online does require this re-set of human communication through the window of the computer screen, and learning a new type of literary tradition, which takes time to become internalized.
Guided learning will help to address the distracting environment for transitioning students. Use of learning objectives, goal-oriented learning agreed upon by instructor and student and web or wiki quests help to direct newly-online learners to a subset of what is a large resource pool for relevant information. This limited structure is a guide not a limit. Bolter (2001, p169) points out that “relationship between the author, the text, and the world represented is made more complicated by the addition of the reader as an active participant”. A transitional learner will need to become adapted to the necessity of being more engaged and constructive when interfacing with electronic materials compared with one-way media. Use of RSS feeds can help students find key learning materials that are of high relevance. Another strategy to help a learner in that adaptation phase is to pair them with a mentor who is comfortable in web 2.0, and can be a resource for them. As well, collaborative grouping will allow students to split up a literature search or web search so that each has a self assigned area to focus in. Critical analysis of resources can be integrated with that orientation session. Some of these strategies will only be needed until new-online students’ multiliteracy is established.
The appendix table below will provide a summary of the critical pedagogy strategies that may be used to cultivate the intellect, and how they can be utilized in courses for learners of varying competence in multiliteracy.
In conclusion, it does appear that the literature supports observations that transitioning learners may need to have some early scaffolding and support and that their learning is constantly evolving through that period. Once transitioned, students can enjoy the full richness of multiliteracy and online networked learning.
A hanging issue is sparked by the observation reported by Mark (October, 2009 in “Does the Brain like e-Books?) “More and more, studies are showing how adept young people are at multitasking. But the extent to which they can deeply engage with the online material is a question for further research” Baxter (2009) mirrors these concerns when she posted “I’m not convinced that getting used to the extra activities does actually enable one to concentrate fully in spite of them. I’m more inclined to think that – along with a lot of other abilities, like amusing themselves during a power outage – the “digital generation” is losing the ability to concentrate fully on something that doesn’t engage them.”
Though these learning strategies summarized below will help us understand the transition to multiliteracy in an online learning environment, that is another realm of future enquiry; addressing the hanging issue of how transitioned students can effectively internalize and reflect on what they have learned which has been left as a question mark in the summary table.



Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd ed]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
[Ed’s] Does the brain like e-books? (October 2009) featuring Liu, A., Aamodt, S, Wolf, M., Mark, G. Accessed online at the New York Times, November 1, 2009 at: from
Ito, M., Horst, H., Bittani, M., Boyd, D., Herr-Stephenson, B., et al. (2008). Living and learning with new media: Summary of findings from the digital youth project. From: , University of Southern California and the University of California, Berkeley.
Mabrito, M & Medley, R. (2008). Why Professor Johnny Can’t Read: Understanding the net generation’s texts. Innovate. Vol. 4, No. 6. Retrieved online November 1, 2009 from: Page 1 of 7

New London Group (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, Vol. 66, No. 1, 60-92. Retrieved online from :

Ong, W. (2002) Orality and Literacy: The technologizing of the word. London: Menthuen.
Prizeman, S. (2009). From Calculator of the humanist-Miller MET ETEC 540 Forum on November 23, 2009 10:34 am.
Baxter, D. (2009). From Origin and nature of hypertext-Miller MET ETEC 540 Forum on November 27, 2009 1:18 pm

November 30, 2009   2 Comments

Learning Multiliteracies

There are approximately 5000 – 10,000 different languages in the world (Wikipedia, 2009). According to statistics from 2001 Census of Canada, the population of visible minorities living in Canada is approximately 29,639,030 out of Canada’s total population of 3,983,845 of that 1,029,395 are Chinese, 917,075 are South Africans and 198,880 are Southeast Asians(Statistics Canada, 2001). Although many are aware that Canada is a multilingual and multicultural nation, most are ignorant about the results such differences can have on society. Today’s classrooms especially in metropolitan cities consist of students of various backgrounds; however, the current traditional approaches to teaching and learning cater mostly to students’ whose mother tongue is English. The melting pot is boiling over. The current literacy education structure needs to be re-designed and re-organized in order to better prepare students for the multiliteral and diverse environments.

In the article “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures” the New London Group views that considering the multiliteracies of diverse students with various cultural backgrounds is important to teaching and learning multiliteracies for they believe “effective citizenship and productive work now require that we interact effectively using multiple languages, multiple Englishes, and communication patterns that more frequently cross cultural, community, and national boundaries” (The New London Group, 1996). Queensland’s Department of Education and Training is also advocating multiliteracies and communication media through diversity. They believe “the ability to operate in the middle world between cultures can be generated in very young learners of another language. While the experience of the so-called third place may occur through the learning of one language, it is a skill that can be transferred to dealings with other cultures in other contexts. Knowledge of the intent and tone of the language allows a true understanding of the messages in intercultural communication” (Queensland, 2004). To make intercultural communication possible the traditional four wall classroom needs to be reorganized and thought of as a borderless learning and teaching community where students can venture off to classrooms of different cultures and experiment with multiliteracies. This can be made possible with the use of various communication technologies and the analysis of various cultural texts. This valuable experience will help to equip isolated students with skills to attack real world challenges.

New London Group argues that the current literacy education system is inadequate and cannot effectively prepare students for full participation in their working, community and personal lives. We exist in an information age where information is vital to success and even survival. Even though information is more accessible than before, information is hiding behind different faces or representations. The New London Group urges that schools’ literacy curriculum be mindful to include multiliteracies closely associated with communication technology of the 21st century. According to Queensland’s Department of Education and training“multiliteracies and communications media refers to technologies of communication that use various codes for the exchange of messages, texts and information. Historically, communications media have included spoken language, writing, print and some visual media like photograph and film. Since World War II, the various electronic media such as television and other digital information technologies have provided much more complex audiovisual layers to these” (Queensland, 2004). Communication technologies alter the way people interact with information and culture. Keeping up with new communication technologies used in our information age is vital because they “change the way we use old media, enhancing and augmenting them” (Queensland, 2004) To become multiliterate “What is also required is the mastery of traditional skills and techniques, genres and texts, and their applications through new media and new technologies” (Queensland, 2004).

Multiliteracy is more than knowing how communication technologies affect information, it also includes how various texts are used together to construct meaning. Text today is blend of traditional print, visual arts and audio text. These texts do not exist in solitude. Their relationship on a page creates the overall meaning that the creator is attempting to establish. For instance, the graphs and charts that accompany a newspaper article are vital to the readers’ general understanding of the subject. The inability to read or interpret charts is the same as the inability to understand the visual images used along with written text. Decoding information from various representations to which it can be understood and analyzed requires one to have prior experience with such texts. Therefore, teaching information literacy is important in schools for such skills and capabilities will enable students to “locate, evaluate and use effectively the needed information” (Dobson & Willinksky, 2009). To do this, The New London Group emphasizes on the concept of design “as curriculum is a design for social futures, we need to introduce the notion of pedagogy as Design” as design is “the idea of Design is one that recognizes the different Available Designs of meaning, located as they are in different cultural context” because it is “through their co-engagement in Designing, people transform their relations with each other, and so transform themselves” (The New London Group, 1996). The result of the meaningful transformatin is the creation of new meanings and identities where individuals are “creator of their social futures” ( The New London Group, 1996).

The job of today’s educators is challenging because they are having to constantly learn new practices and revise learned approaches to effectively prepare young learners for the rapidly changing world. However, once learners have master the fundamentals of multiliteracies they will be able to explore and learn independently.

Dobson T, Willinsky J. Digital Literacy. In: Olson D, Torrance N, editors. Cambridge Handbook on Literacy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2009. Retrieved the November 24, 2009 from:

Multiliteracies and Communications Media. Queensland Government: Department of Education and Training. Retrieved on November 25, 2009 from

New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92. Retrieved, November 25, 2009, from

Wikipedia. Retrieved on November 25, 2009. Retrieved from
Statistics Canada. Retrieved on November 24, 2009. Retrieved from

November 30, 2009   1 Comment

Navigating the Hypermedia Sea

Final Project Site: Navigating the Hypermedia Sea

Interactive (Non)Fiction
For my project, I used interactive fiction to explore the use of hypermedia and how it has affected my development of digital literacy. I consider my technical abilities to be advanced but I still have the same experiences as that of a technical novice. This self-exploration has enabled me to compare my experiences with studies and articles and also provides some insight into the implications of media literacy and education. The experiences are reflections into how I have come to see, engage and interact with print through its published and online formats. As well, it has given me the opportunity to list some of the many distractions online.

The story begins with a short narrative and then, in interactive fiction form, asks the user to choose a path. Not all the links are found at the bottom of the page and have been embedded within links inside secondary pages. A site map has been included for full exploration of the web site.

The WordPress platform provided the best environment for which to create my interactive fiction work. Furthermore, it is a platform which I am comfortable with. This work permitted me to write creatively while maintaining a scholarly position at the same time. The web site’s appearance is simple, clean and basic.

Critical Issues
Hypermediacy contains a wide range of issues that I wanted to cover as much as possible in this interactive (non)fiction work. Through use of common distractions such as search engines, news sites, and social media, I was able to cover the issues in a general fashion. The main issues discussed in this interactive fiction piece include multiliteracy, gaming literacy, and media literacy in general. Consequently, there is discussion of how print literacy has evolved into the online world along with the implications of this change.

The New London Group (2006) posits that teachers and students need a language for talking about language, visuals, texts, and meaning-making interactions. Otherwise called a metalanguage. Each reflection conveys the implications of the various aspects and issues in education – how one learns through exploration or with assistance and how the metalanguage affects the user in a variety of different media formats, with respect to the major Web 2.0 tools as well as traditional print materials.

The theme of distraction is congruent with the notion of the multimodal design of the web and the challenges associated with meaning-making (New London Group, 1996). In my reflection on distractions and multimodality, I have come to appreciate the technologies of the past and the present and, with this project, I hope the audience can also reflect on and relate to the implications of digital and hypermedia literacy.


New London Group. (1996). A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review. Retrieved from

November 30, 2009   3 Comments

From one literacy, to many, to one

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

Marc Prensky speaks in 2008.

Marc Prensky speaks in 2008.

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

Ubiquitous texting teenager.

Ubiquitous texting teenager.

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

McKenzie, J. (2007).  Digital Nativism, Digital Delusions, and Digital Deprivation.  From Now On, 17(2).  Available:

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

November 29, 2009   1 Comment

It’s Up To You

For my course project, I decided to create an interactive fictional story for students learning English as a foreign language.  The target audience is a small to medium class of upper intermediate students between the ages of 15 and 25 who have recently learned the difference between direct and reported speech.  Appropriate level reading material for non-native English students is hard to come by, especially in a non-English speaking country and is greatly appreciated when available.  As indicated in the directions to be read before students start their reading journey, the activity can either be completed individually or as a group.  Often when there is a competitive element to activities such as these, students are much more motivated to participate as a group.  It could potentially be completed remotely but would best be suited for a face-to-face-to-screen computer lab scenario.   

This project is a product of my exploration and experimentation of the mixed media hypertext as a teaching tool.  Therefore the focus should be much more on the medium than on the actual content.  The storyline is of course fictional and is relatively inconsequential other than providing some authentic dialogue (between the reader and their cellmate) and vocabulary appropriate to the students’ level.  The story is somewhat shorter than I originally expected, however as I was writing it, I realized that it would be better to start with a simple storyline both for students and a writer that are new to this genre and the tools to create it. “An interactive fiction is an extension of classical narrative media as it supposes a direct implication of spectators during the story evolution. Writing such a story is much more complex than a classical one, and tools at the disposal of writers remain very limited compared to the evolution of technology” (Donikian and Portugal, 2004).  I also had an idea of how the story would go before I started writing, but the direction changed in the process as well and I learned that creating a graphic storyboard is very helpful for organizing the different directions it can take readers.  There are multiple endings, yet students are redirected to try the story again until they reach “the end.” 

Bush, Nelson, and Bolter were the three main authors we read in ETEC540 in order to gain an understanding of the origins, complexity and implications of hypertext.  Both Bush and Nelson were primarily concerned with hypertext as a natural means to disseminate nonfictional information, while Bolter’s chapter on fictional hypertext is the by far longest chapter in Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print.  In that chapter, he presents many literary techniques using hypertext to move readers between elements such as time, place, character, voice, plot, perspective, etc.  Although these techniques are intriguing, their complexity is not appropriate for my target audience.  Bolter’s analysis of hypertext goes further by pointing out that instead of being nonlinear, it is actually multilinear. He points out that all writing is linear, but hypertext can go in many different directions.  Even in his chapter titled Hypertext and the Remediation of Print, he writes, “The principal task of authors of hypertextual fiction on the Web or in stand-aloe form is the use links to define relationships among textual elements, and these links constitute the rhetoric of the hypertext” (Bolter, 2001, p. 29). 
Unlike a traditional storyline, hypertextual storytelling gives the students the freedom over how they read it.  This (perceived) control is a much more common characteristic to the way we interact with digital information today and therefore should be incorporated into classroom activities regularly.  Putting the student in the proverbial driver’s seat is indicative of a constructivistic teaching approach, which is especially effective when employing ICT in the classroom.  However, as Donikian and Portugal observe, “Whatever degree of interactivity, freedom, and non linearity might be provided, the role that the interactor is assigned to play always has to remain inside the boundaries thus defined by the author, and which convey the essence of the work itself” (2004).  For that reason, I have suggested that students actually modify and customize the story after they have read it.  They could do that individually or in pairs in class or for homework.  Most often, the more control students are given, the more they are motivated to participate and learn.  For their final project, they could create a complete story with multiple endings.

There are so many possibilities when writing fiction with hypertext and I have hardly scratched the surface in my first exploration into this genre.  This project has given me a solid base from with to create longer and more complex pieces for wider teaching contexts.  I hope you enjoy it and that it inspires you experiment with this exciting medium as well.  Click here to access the story or copu and paste this url:


Bolter, J.D. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. Mahway, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, pp. 27-46, 121-160.

Bush, V. (1945). As we may think. The Atlantic Monthly, 176(1), 101-108.

Donikian, S. & Portugal, J. (2004). Writing Interactive Fiction Scenarii with DraMachina. Lecture notes in computer science, pp. 101–112

Nelson, Theodore. (1999). Xanalogical structure, needed now more than ever: Parallel documents, deep links to content, deep versioning and deep re-use.

November 29, 2009   2 Comments

The Holocaust and Points of View

My Project

I chose to take the following photograph as a start to a project for students, as a way to teach aspects of point of view, short story reading and writing, social responsibility, and social studies content:

Classroom Humiliation

Classroom Humiliation

I wrote three short stories, all using different points of view, as models for students, and created a writing assignment for them.  I used tips from the Bolter text to create a site that I, tomorrow, will have the students start working on.  (I find my best learning – and best retention – happens when I use a practical application of materials!)  The following is the project information included on my website; here is the site itself.


This project has been prepared for a grade 6/7 class that has already been studying background information on the Holocaust, and that has already been taking on the persona of a variety of different people connected to the Holocaust in numerous paper journal entries (e.g., Hitler, a Jewish person being moved into the ghetto, a member of the Hitler Youth).

I received electronic permission from the Yad Vashem website ( in order to use the photo, and although their website says the picture is from Germany, other websites that used the same photo referred to it as being from Vienna, Austria, so I took the artistic liberty of calling the location Vienna.

Materials Used

By using photoshop’s slice function, I was able to make the large picture clickable in a variety of locations.   I used my previously established Mambo website for the majority of the project, but used an SMF bulletin board for homework and Classblogmeister for student blogs.  (Student responses may not be up at this time; they will be doing this assignment shortly.)


I chose to use this particular photograph as a starting point as it allows for students to connect with people from the past who were roughly their own age.  Earlier in the year, my students had reacted quite strongly to this image, in disbelief that a teacher would post such a message and humiliate students.  This photograph also allowed for an explanation of several different points of view, the star conveniently representing the omniscient, or all-seeing point of view, thus creating a multidisciplinary assignment that addresses learning outcomes for Language Arts (both Reading and Writing), Social Studies, and Health and Career Education.

I included hypertext in the short stories to reinforce information that students have already learned, or to introduce new information that will help in their understanding of the stories, thereby extending the ability of print to improve understanding. (Bolter)  These hypertexts open in new windows, to prevent students from “losing” the original stories through a series of mouse clicks, yet allowing for further research as the students wish.

As my students have already been establishing their own educational blogs, I chose to have students post two different assignments related to this activity on their blogs: the first asks them to reflect on point of view, the hyperlinks, and content, whereas the second requires students to show their understanding of both point of view and Holocaust content by writing a story that connects with the sample stories, that is written in one consistent point of view.  This isn’t necessarily interactive fiction in the way Bolter describes, yet for younger students, it is a manageable start.  Students will have opportunities to read and comment on other people’s stories as they complete their activities.

Their marking rubric for this last assignment is included in our class homework electronic bulletin board.  This lets both students and parents to know the criteria for assignments.

By using a variety of different electronic platforms that all link together, students not only develop knowledge and skills in academic subject areas, but also improve their technology knowledge and skills.  The use of blogs for their final drafts of their short stories also gives further incentive to producing good quality work, as their audience is not just the teacher, but the world.  This alone “remediates print.”

Works Cited

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

Yad Vashem Shoah Resource Center. (n.d.). Retrieved October 12, 2009, from Yad Vashem – The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority:

November 29, 2009   3 Comments

Adventures in storytelling…

Here is post 2 of 2. I have played around all week with Kerploof, Tikatok, and writing a story that didn’t sound lame. Needless to say, each time I played around on the websites I was annoyed at what I had written/created. So, there is no link here as to what I’ve done, but instead I’ll share my thoughts about these sites.

I was really intrigued by the ease of the Tikatok website, and since it was designed for primary students I  created a few mini-lessons for my own students for next year. Kerploof was also easy to use in creating a story. What I really liked was the way that one could enlarge, rotate the graphic and even add a text box. I think this website would appeal to my students as well.

After I created, deleted, and recreated over and over again, I decided to check out other ways to tell a story. For my intermediate students, the Dandelife timeline site will be an excellent addition to the social studies curriculum. It would be neat for the students to create a timeline of  themselves throughout elementary school and share with their peers, teachers, and parents at the end of the school year. They could add photos and link to other students in their class.

Overall, I enjoyed this activity more the second time around, as I have more time to take what I have learned and write up some lessons for the upcoming year.

November 29, 2009   No Comments

Web 2.0 tools: educational friend or foe?

Commentary #3 ~ K. Kerrigan

After reading Bryan Alexander’s article, “Web 2.0 A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning? (2006), my assumption that I was a teacher who was “with the times” came suddenly crashing down. Alexander gives even a modest techie a run-down on what Web 2.0 can now offer. As a teacher, one must ask: are these tools an educational friend or foe? Within the classroom, the importance of using Web 2.0 tools, such as social networking, has a mixed reaction among educational professionals. Walling (2009) points to two different camps in education, those who think that social networking is a distraction to the education process, and those who see this tool as way to exchange ideas and enhance the education process. Motteram and Sharma (2009) discuss that by using Web 2.0 tools it allows students to be social in many sorts of ways: textually, orally, visually, and aurally.  For example, podcasting, weblogs, wikis, Skype, Google Docs, and chat programs like MSN Messenger. “The process of creating Web 2.0 materials involves the engagement of a community, consisting of developers who create tools and the users who produce the content using a range of digital technologies” (Motteram & Sharma, 2009, p. 88). Current debate is whether those users should be students within a classroom.

Why would a teacher want to use these tools?

Alexander states that “ …Openness remains a hallmark of [the Web 2.0] emergent movement, both ideologically and technologically” (Alexander, 2006, p.34). For today’s students, this openness is an easy task, whereas for teachers and parents it is a bit harder to grasp. This open, social environment can be conducive to learning with the right teacher and the right tools.  “Tech-savvy teachers who work with students to produce media will find that openness to exploring Web 2.0 strategies for idea networking and creative sharing can be highly productive” (Walling, 2009, p. 23). One might argue that it shouldn’t just be those ‘tech-savvy teachers’ who utilize these resources. Are other students and entire schools missing out on Web 2.0 and what it has to offer? For benefit of all students,  it will require for some teachers to move away from their technophobia and worries about the constant sharing of information.

Motteram and Sharma (2009) state that  “…when we stop seeing such technologies as somehow extras and when they blend into the background, they will have become as accepted as books are now, as a part of the classroom furniture” (p. 86).Teachers must first look at the inherent value of these tools and the effect it will have on their students. Web 2.0 responds more deeply to its users versus Web 1.0. As Motteram and Sharma (2009) declare, “Web 1.0 tools deliver information to people, Web 2.0 tools allow the active creation of information by users”  (p. 88).  Students are a lot more social today with the utilization of these tools. For many, it is almost second nature to blog, bookmark, or tag something for themselves and for their peer community to view. Within the classroom these tools, especially social networking sites, create a new and exciting environment for the students. “It enables the face-to-face class to be extended in various kinds of ways and also extends the time that the students spend on tasks” (Motteram & Sharma, 2009, p. 90). Students are also encouraged to be more collaborative within this environment. This can be accomplished by using wikis or weblogs.  As Alexander reminds us that “these services offer an alternative platform for peer editing, supporting the now-traditional elements of computer-mediated writing-asynchronous writing…” (2006, p.38). Editing, reading, and writing are affected when a student uses one of these tools. When they realize that their peers are going to be reading their work (via a weblog or wiki), many students create work surpassing that done within the f2f classroom. The changing face of literacy in today’s classroom also allows for the student to become the author, the producer and the critic of text. They are now active learners with these technologies, rather than passive consumers of text (Handsfield, Dean & Cielocha, 2009).  Having students who are active learners, who are passionate about literacy, and who want to post their work, means that the teacher can spend more time supporting and encouraging their students rather than fighting them on basic assignments.

In short, Web 2.0 tools need to be embraced by all teachers within the classroom. It will not only enhance their curriculum, but excite and motivate all students. Web 2.0 tools are friend to the teacher and ultimately the student, offering a plethora of resources and opportunity for collaboration among peers globally.


Alexander, B. (2006). A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning?. Educause Review, 41(2), 32-44.

Cox, E. (2009). The Collaborative Mind: Tools for 21st-Century Learning. MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 16(5), 10-14. Retrieved on November 26, 2009 from Academic Search Complete database.

Handsfield, L., Dean, T., & Cielocha, K. (2009). Becoming Critical Consumers and Producers of Text: Teaching Literacy with Web 1.0 and Web 2.0. Reading Teacher, 63(1), 40-50. Retrieved on November 26, 2009 from Academic Search Complete database.

Motteram, G., & Sharma, P. (2009). Blending Learning in a Web 2.0 World. International Journal of Emerging Technologies & Society, 7(2), 83-96. Retrieved on November 26, 2009 from Academic Search Complete database.

Walling, D. (2009). Idea Networking and Creative Sharing. TechTrends: Linking Research & Practice to Improve Learning, 53(6), 22-23. Retreived on November 26, 2009 from doi:10.1007/s11528-009-0339-x.

November 29, 2009   2 Comments

Rip, Mix, Mashups

HI, for this exercise I elected to do a merger of dada poetry and environmental art by Bansky. As a traditional poet, I am not a particular fan of dada so this is a stretch, but I found an online dada generator and had fun plugging in our readings! If anyone wants it, I can dig it up.

For this exercise I tried slideshare for the first time and did not realize I needed to upload audio files separately. It was pretty easy to use though!

My link is at:

November 29, 2009   1 Comment

Major Project: Integrating Online Technology into Classrooms

This paper examines the issue of effective integration of online tools and technology into classrooms.  For me, there is a deeper issue other than funding and support that is stalling education’s participation in the technological shift. This deeper issue revolves around the remediation conflict currently occurring between the classroom space and the online space. Developing an effective model for integration involves understanding this conflict and creating an online tool that allows teachers to make the transition towards effective integration of online technology into their classrooms.

Below is the research paper. I’ve posted the paper at Zoho with support materials.
Click here to see this online version…

A Model for Integrating Online Technology
Drew Murphy

The Remediation of Classrooms
Business, communications, politics, media, are all experiencing significant change under the influence of online technology innovation. Yet, as we witness technology inducing staggering change in the world at large, classrooms are conspicuously absent in their participation in this phenomenon.  Many people will point to inadequate funding, lack of technical support and professional development as significant obstacles (Tech Talk Survey, 2006) However, new technologies are eroding these barriers.  Essentially, there is a deeper issue that is stalling education’s participation in the technological shift. This deeper issue revolves around the remediation conflict currently occurring between the classroom space and the online space.  Bolter refers to this remediation issue in terms of print text and digital text where “This debate turns on the question: which form is better at constituting the real, the authentic, or the natural” (1995, p.43) This debate holds true for classrooms and computers as well. For print centric classrooms to participate more actively in the greater technological shift, teachers and technology need to reconcile at a deeper classroom cultural level, pay homage to one another and restructure together in incremental but important ways.

The Impact of Web 2.0 Online Services
With the development of new online technologies, the improvement of hardware and software systems, and the access to high speed internet connections, new possibilities are available for classroom teachers.  In the new millennium, the web has exploded with interactive content, social networking and user generated content functionality.  Coined as Web 2.0 (O’Reilly, 2005”), these online applications and resources are creating new possibilities for classroom technology integration.  Needing little or no training and often provided for free, barriers around cost and onsite support traditionally inhibiting technology integration are eroding.

For teachers in particular, there are a multitude of services for creating interactive slideshows, photo galleries, timelines, flowcharts, sketchpads and more. However, a closer look reveals that most of the applications are aimed at a broad market of internet users and not classrooms specifically.  Without specific classroom conscious remediations many of the applications don’t adapt well to the time pressured practices of traditional classrooms.  Wikis and blogs are somewhat of an exception.

Wikis and blogs are getting serious attention as tools that offer classroom integration possibilities. These tools create opportunities for new online teaching methodologies which emphasize creative, resource rich, self-directed learning experiences for students. (Bruns, 2005). Yet these, powerful, flexible Web 2.0 tools still require significant technical understandings on the part of classroom teachers.  These online spaces also create a whole new environment of engagement , access and control that represent significant shifts away from traditional classroom cultures (Bruns, 2005), where the teacher still leads the learning process, orchestrates classroom talk, designs and sets the activity schedule and measures learning progress.  Thus Wikis and blogs, although pedagogically valuable, are broad and challenging tools that remain as peripheral, somewhat complicated innovations.

For most teachers, web 2.0 tools are complementary resources offering novelty engagement or broad innovations requiring leaps of professional faith.  It is the technology itself that is often the innovation.  The ability to create the slideshow, the video, the flowchart in an online environment is an innovation in and of itself but it is not an innovation that directly impacts the inner workings of the classroom delivery model.    They are innovations that represent radically new modes of teaching and genres of communication for teachers.  Can they be beneficial for students? Yes.  Do they represent innovations that can readily integrate into traditional classroom methods and practices, unlikely.

The Nature of Classrooms Today
Understanding why technology integration in schools is happening slowly, against the backdrop of rapid social integration, involves understanding certain key aspects of classroom cultures.  Classrooms are pre online technology environments.  Technology, in general, is not new to these classrooms where the use of overheads, tv’s, vcr’s and projectors, has been common for years.  However, these older technologies have become part of the methods and practices developed by teachers over many years and are deeply engrained in the culture of the classroom medium.  At its core, the classroom model is a learning production model within a hierarchical leadership structure. The are exceptions and pockets of innovation but in general for most classrooms, the teacher leads the learning process, orchestrates classroom talk, designs and sets the activity schedule and measures learning progress.( Helena Austin, et al, 2002)  Resources such as desks, textbooks,  handouts,  whiteboards, overheads, projectors, etc.., all contribute to the efficiency and productivity ethos of this curriculum delivery system.  Classrooms are still primarily print based cultures that value and promote print based literacy.   And, it is a model where, over the years teachers have discovered and exercised numerous efficiencies and economies of scale to create effective learning environments.  Persuading teachers to integrate new technology and the accompanying new methods and practices into this kind of deeply entrenched classroom culture requires a special type of innovation.

Looking for Incremental Innovation
Looking at the characteristics of effective innovations, we find research shows that incremental change to current practices is a common feature of effective innovation (Marquis, 1969).  This makes sense for classrooms too.  Relevant innovation for teachers means constructing web tools that make key incremental improvements to current classroom practices.  Radical innovations, although offering possible pedagogical improvements, are typically much more difficult to integrate.  Effective incremental innovation comes from understanding how teachers work in classrooms and how they currently engage with the online environment.

As previously mentioned, classroom teachers typically lead the learning process, orchestrate classroom talk, design and set the activity schedule and measure learning progress.  Within this general process, teachers use a variety of tools and resources including the internet.  In particular, research indicates that the majority of teachers use the web most often to look for online content that might be used to support their curriculums. (Kenton, 2005, NSW Department of Ed., 2007).  Numerous content aggregation sites aimed at teachers such as WatchKnow , 2Learn and Teachertube attest to the usage of the web as a major source of classroom content.  Connected to this usage is the act of browsing for websites as a common teacher activity (Project Tomorrow, 2008) as evidenced by the popularity of bookmarking services such as  All of this online activity makes perfect sense in the context of a classroom.  Using web tools to find appropriate and engaging online content is itself an incremental innovation that both builds on and adds to the methods and practices teachers currently use in classrooms.   The question for educators is what are the next incremental innovations that might induce effective integration further.

Discovering the Moment of Remediation Conflict
If we build on the current online behaviors of teachers and link them back to their fundamental classroom methods and practices, we can start to piece together an incremental innovation model that is both realistic and transformative.  Research shows that teachers inherently understand the value of technology to enhance teaching and learning. (Teacher Talk, 2006). Furthermore, the popularity of web browsing as an online teacher activity and the use of the web as a source of content demonstrates a fundamental connection the web has with traditional classroom practices.  In other words, the web has content and classroom teachers will seek it out to use it.  The question thus arises as to how do teachers integrate this web content into classrooms.

Studies show that teachers typically accompany visits to websites with paper handouts of instructions and questions.(Kenton, 2005 NSW Department of Ed., 2007)  Other typical integration practices involved writing instructions on the board or giving oral instructions regarding the teacher’s desired usage of web content.  Herein, lies the point of conflict between classroom spaces and online spaces. Traditional print based mediums and teacher oratory are being used to cast off students into online content spaces. This bridging of print to screen is a radical transformation because the nature of the digital screen “changes methods of organization, structure, consultation, even the appearance of the written word.” (Chartier,1995, p.15).   Having students switching between paper based information or board posted instructions as they interact with browser based content is a major obstacle to effective integration of online content into classrooms.  The changing modalities of paper and screen interrupts the cognitive flow for the student as they mentally re-focus back and forth between the conflicting stimuli of what McCluhan called the hot precise and visually arresting nature of print text versus the cooler meaning making nature of online multimedia mediums (1964). The mixture of mediums creates subtle confusions of organization and meaning and changes the focus away from learning and more on mechanically understanding the instructions as students look back and forth to verify what they are reading.  Kress describes the screen as an environment of “spacially organized representation” (2005, p14) where the placement of elements in relation to one another conveys significant meaning.  Kress goes on to say that “the arrangements of visual representation, which we can also aptly call syntax, are also developments and elaborations from the logic of spatial display” (2005, p14). In the case of the text handout, the lack of proximity of the teacher’s text to the spacially organized syntax of the screen implies a grave syntactical error in the “grammar” of the teacher’s instructional process.

In my own experience I have often observed other teacher’s classes shifting between handouts, the board, a word processor and a website.   Needless to say these “trips to the lab” are loud and disruptive affairs where the teacher’s hopes for an engaging web experience are never truly manifested in the actual lesson event. And so the impetus to integrate technology into classrooms is mired in an ineffective remediation process between classrooms and computer screens, where at the moment of transaction when the teacher says “Read your handouts and go to this website and do this….” students fend for themselves in the new modality.

A Tool Designed for Remediation
A possible incremental innovation is, however, possible in the form of a new web tool design.  The tool should build on the teacher and the student’s classroom relationship and tie their online content experience more closely together.  Once someone is online, user’s eyes and minds should remain online, starting with the teacher’s initial experience of browsing for content.   Once a teacher finds a site they like, teachers should not have to create a handout as a student guide.  Instead, the teacher calls up an online application that attaches a simple expandable side bar to the web page.  The sidebar is a widget into which the teacher may give instructions, pose questions, post a discussion, or create a simple activity for that site. The sidebar also contains a form into which students submit their responses. All student responses are collected in a separate feedback window for the teacher to view, respond, moderate or assess.  Now, when teachers send students to the site, the sidebar activity is waiting there for them in direct visual proximity to the site and thus the web experience stays in a single modality. The sidebar is integrated into the spacially organized representation of the screen and implies a syntactical cohesion with the other elements on the webpage. The sidebar also conveys a sense of authorship on the part of the teacher that accompanies the students into the space and mediates a constant relationship between the student and web content.  The sidebar’s direct proximity to the web content, creates a new online relationship between student, teacher, and computer and opens up new pedagogical possibilities.

This simple idea incrementally builds on what teachers already do in traditional classrooms, namely design activities around content. Of course this is a simplistic model and teachers want to do more than just ask questions about content.  But if the tool also allows for multiple questions, discussions and tasks in various combinations for any one or many websites, the pedagogical possibilities begin to rapidly expand. The mindsets of traditional teachers can now enter into the vast wealth of online content with incremental simplicity attaching simple questions to sites or, in time, building out into richer processes and sequences of enquiry and discussion.  Once the handout is eliminated the full focus of teacher and student can be on exploring and exploiting web content. The proximity of the sidebar also puts the pedagogy of teachers into closer contact with online media. Questions and discussions become lenses through which teachers can shape critical responses to web content.  Teachers are also composing directly in context to web content and constructing meaning making processes of inquiry and discussion born from their direct experience of the online in the moment. Finally, with the feedback window, the teacher stays in the online feedback loop, moderating and assessing the process and helping themselves migrate over from their classroom space into their digital web presence and discovering new efficiencies and economies of scale that come with digital database functionalities.

Over time, as the teacher collects and creates more activities, teachers begin to harness web content in a codex like fashion categorizing activities in terms of durations and themes, archiving activities into sets and building out a personal canon of lesson content. The plethora of web content is thus repackaged and republished in the daily course of teacher planning.  Ultimately this innovation allows for the incremental blending of classroom practices into their digital realm.

This, of course, is one of many possible routes to incremental innovation that could be considered and it is by no means perfect or even proven.  However, its persuasive design potential comes from understanding the remediation processes occurring between classrooms and computers in schools today.  Through this process we can establish possible foundations on which other incremental design innovations might be built so effective integration can occur.

Austin, Helena, et al. (2002).Schooling the Child: The Making of Students in Classrooms. New York: Routledge-Falmer.

Bolter, J. D. (2000). Writing Space:  Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation
of Print. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Bruns, Axel, Humphreys,Sal (2005) Wikis in teaching and assessment: the M/Cyclopedia project, Proceedings of the 2005 international symposium on Wikis, p.25-32, October 16-18, 2005, San Diego, California

CDW-G, (2006), Teachers Talk Tech Survey. Retrieved November 19, 2009 from

Chartier, R. (1995). Forms and meanings: Texts, performances, and audiences from codex to computer. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Kenton, Jeffrey. (2005, December 22). Toward technology integration in the schools: why it isn’t happening The Free Library. Retrieved November 26, 2009 from technology integration in the schools: why it isn’t happening.-a0138483291

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

Marquis, Donald, G. (1969). The Anatomy of Successful Innovations . Innovation, November, 1969, Technology Communication Inc.  retrieved November 20, 2009 from

McCluhan, Marshall. (1964). Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man; 1st Ed. NY; McGraw Hill

NSW Department of Education and Training (2007). How do NSW DET teachers discover, access, and use online learning resources in their practice? Strathfield,  NSW: Centre for Learning Innovation.

Project Tomorrow (2008). Speak Up 2007 for Students, Teachers, Parents & School Leaders Selected National Findings – April 8, 2008. Retrieved November 19, 2009 from

O’Reilly, T. (2005). What Is Web 2.0: Design Patterns and Business Models for the Next Generation of Software.  Retrieved November 19 from

November 29, 2009   No Comments

Rip, Mix, Feed, Reloaded with SlideShare

Hello Everyone

Here’s my contribution to Rip, Mix, Feed and Reload.

UBC Campus

UBC Campus

You probably recognized the picture and you’re certainly going to be able to relate to the contents of this slide show.

WARNING: Don’t get your hopes up because it’s not really all that exciting! Remember… this is really about trying out new Web 2.0 technologies, right?

Click here to review the SlideShare Presentation

Cheers all


November 29, 2009   No Comments

Connections and reflections

This course was my first with UBC and it was a (how can I describe it?!?) somewhat stressful, engaging, rich, eye-opening experience. Having taken my first 5 courses with ITESM, I must say that working with UBC is very different: from the planning and design of activities, methodology and resources used- completely opposite. This was the first course in my MET classes that I’ve worked completely alone… that was a handful to take in.

From the experience this semester taking two courses with UBC, I can honestly say I won’t do it again! LOL! There were a lot of very interesting readings and discussions going on that I sometimes wasn’t able to digest because of the massive amounts of information from both courses.

I also have to admit I wasn’t at my best this semester because of personal and work-related circumstances, and although I did read very interesting posts and comments from everyone, sometimes I couldn’t get around to responding. One thing that was very encouraging though, was to find “classmates” willing to give you a hand and share their experiences and expertise wholeheartedly.

I learned to enjoy (I didn’t at first!) browsing and reading through the Weblog, it really spices things up and changes methodologies from the very structured Vista work format. I enjoyed the folksonomic (cloud) tagging, it’s a very visual way to identify were the group was heading to.

I really enjoyed Bolter’s book since it was a very “light” reading, yet full of interesting and powerful statements and messages. I’ve also managed to make my online archive of readings and sites from this course which I’m sure I’ll use later on.

Regarding the course topics, the ones I mostly enjoyed were “Orality to Literacy” and “Literacy and new Media”. These were very engaging topics I hadn’t discussed or analyzed as we did in this class.

Thank you for commenting on my posts and for engaging in rich, motivating discussions. I hope we’ll meet again in another course!

November 29, 2009   1 Comment