Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

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July 26th, 2014 · No Comments

I found Bortolotti and Hutcheon’s (2007) extremely compelling as it approaches a fairly commonplace topic in an academic and insightful way.  People are often employing fidelity discourse in their day-to-day lives, and with the multitude of movie remakes and book turned movies this is not going to end anytime soon.

I appreciate the interrogation of fidelity discourse, as I myself have often grumbled about movies not being “true enough” to the original – but why? We see the world in a very linear way, always seeking a point of origin and and moving from that place.  Many are, not so quietly, under the impression that the “original” is the truest form of a work, and any changes made in adaptations are perversions.  I love seeing these changes instead as adaptations.  It can be extremely useful to make comparisons between adaptations of the same work, but to hold them up beside one another and protest that one does not do a good enough job of mimicking the other is a complete waste of time.

I think that this discussion is relevant and worthwhile for so many reasons.  One issue that I see, having to do with the ELA classroom, is that the English discipline can be a hostile place.  “Oh, you haven’t read Brave New World? Strange.”  Intellectuals in this discipline are notorious for being snobby, and I myself notice that I hold back certain information for fear of being judged.  If I have not read a novel that everyone has read, I try to keep it to myself.  If I commit the cardinal sin of watching a movie before reading the book, I either remain quiet about it or blurt the embarrassing truth out apologetically.  There can be so much judgement in English, and there should not be. If my students want to engage critically with a movie, how is that any less valuable than engaging with a book?  If they want to creatively interpret or adapt a literary work, they should not be worried about stay “true to the original,” rather, they should be taking risks!

Bortolotti, G. and Linda Hutcheon. “On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and “Success”: Biologically.” New Literary History, Vol. 38, No. 3, Biocultures (Summer, 2007), pp. 443-458

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Media Project Rationale and Rubric for Robb, Peter, Justin, Rahela, and Brian

July 20th, 2014 · 2 Comments

This is the Media Project 2 Rationale and Rubric for Peter, Robb, Rahela, Justin, and Brian.

Media Project 2 Rationale and Rubric

Geoanimate Project: Media Project 2 by Geezers on GoAnimate

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My (very late) thoughts about our presentation & connections to the course

July 20th, 2014 · No Comments

During the beginning of our presentation on folksonomies and collective knowledge, a comment was made about how a classmate does not like to participate in online information sharing for fear of being harassed by trolls.  I, too, share these sentiments as I am an avid reader of blogs and articles but rarely, if ever, have I consciously participated by sharing my own thoughts and feelings.  The idea of being bombarded by strangers for being wrong or being misinformed is something I do not want to experience.

After our presentation, I started to think about why this bothers me so much.  One idea that I struggle with is not being an expert.  What I mean by expert is that when I post online I want to be as knowledgeable as possible and make sure that I am posting something that is truthful.

Over this term, I have had to write blog posts and comment on my classmate’s work a number of times.  While I see the merit in this type of exercise as it creates a place for discussion, I was also very hesitant to post my own thoughts and feelings.  I have had the experience of posting both anonymously for one class and with my name for another class.  I thought this would make a difference but I do not believe it affected me as much as I had previously assumed.  What I did find that made a difference in my contributions was my level of comfort and expertise with the subject matter.  In 1 class (where my name was made visible to my classmates), I made significantly more comments and posts as opposed to a class where I felt less comfortable with the material.

Lankshear and Knobel’s article “Blogging as Participation: The Active Sociality of a New Literacy” look at the idea of “collective intelligence” and the Internet “as open, continuous and fluid”.  What I struggle with is the collective part of this “collective intelligence”.  While I want to be a creator / producer in this space, I am still hesitant about whose space this is.  What authority do I have in this space of knowledge creation?  I know this example of a class blog seems like a silly example but I think it speaks to the fact that other students may feel the same way about navigating the online blogging atmosphere.

I want to end with a question I have as an educator still trying to figure out where I stand and fit in with this creation of a “collective intelligence”: how can I as an educator (and participant) make my students feel more comfortable sharing and posting ideas about topics that they are not experts about?


Works Cited

Lankshear, C. and Knobel, M.(2006). Blogging as Participation: The Active Sociality of a New Literacy. American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, US.


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My Thoughts On Our Social Media Presentation

July 18th, 2014 · No Comments

Beginning with the clip that we presented from 30 Rock, which I believe is a fairly accurate representation of the state of much of the communication online today, the central ideas that I struggle with every day are the idea of expertise and public information.

With classrooms moving more and more towards being communities of learners and knowledge being created rather than curated, it is clear (as we discussed in our presentation) that teachers are no longer the safeguards of knowledge. How then, do we justify our positions as authority figures in the classroom? With our many years of higher education, class upon class discussing this same central idea, we have come up with more questions than we have answers, but the consensus seems to be that we are no longer teaching content, but instead teaching skills – and not just academic skills, either.

The advent of social and emotional learning means that teachers have moved beyond trying to teach children about books and numbers and into an attempt to mould them into socially literate, emotionally competent global citizens. But how does this apply to social media? Going back to the idea that “everyone and no one is an expert”, I am of the opinion that it is now part of our job as teachers to educate these digital native children on the difference between opinion and fact; information and misinformation; and most importantly, the difference between public and private.

The mere format of current social media means that one’s online presence becomes a highly curated version of one’s self. Social media is a place where opinion, fact, information, misinformation, public and private become a blur of share-and-share-again narcissism saturated with selfies and pictures of food. Racism and ignorance are rampant, ideas transform into certainties, and the failures of global education are evident in the poor spelling and grammar that permeate the platforms. In addition, the relative anonymity of online communication has created a mob mentality which, unfortunately for all involved, has real world consequences.

We must teach our children that online communication is no longer anonymous, that how you present yourself in the virtual world has become just as important as dressing for a job interview or knowing how to converse with superiors. We must teach them how to find and use reliable sources, how to recognize bias or slant, and how to defer to expertise while still thinking critically. Today’s children (or “screenagers” as they’re being referred to in Maclean’s) need to be taught that the virtual world has become the real world, that if they wouldn’t scream something out loud in a crowded room that they shouldn’t say it online, and that they need to be careful about what they share to safeguard their own privacy. In short, we need to prepare Generation Z to overcome the narcissism and entitlement of the Millenials, and begin a whole new era of social media.

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Robb Ross Commentary 3: Video Game Presentation

July 18th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Robb Ross: Commentary on presentation on “Good Video Games and Good Learning” article by James Paul Gee

I enjoyed this group’s presentation and thought they explored the topic of how engaging with video games develops universal and transferable skills. However I would like to further expand on the conversation that ensued after.

But before I do, Teresa, could we just consider the emails we exchanged on this subject to be my 300-word commentary, and call it a day?


About 2 hours ago, as we were walking, I suggested that perhaps there was a link between the fact Naz, Peter, and I spoke critically of this topic because we have Master’s Degree and are older than other students. Therefore, we may have more entrenched (conservative) views about writing and the study of English. I have to confess that I harbor a very judgmental view that anyone reading comics or watching anime after the age of 12 is in some form of arrested development. Cognitively I know that’s harsh and limiting, but it’s just a visceral reaction I have. So when I hear about using games in the classroom I shudder.

Another issue is that for the past 4 years I’ve been an overseas high school IB teacher. I don’t teach ELA. My students write papers on existentialism in Albert Camus’ The Stranger or explore alienation in Kafka’s Metamorphosis. As well, the syllabus is packed and I often have only 12 classes to teach a complex novel and also conduct assessment. Therefore, time is an issue.

Part of the problem is that I’ve been pondering the use of video games in English lessons for only 4 days. I’m going to need time to evolve on the issue. As I said in class, I would think that the validity of using them could be tied to the nature of the text. Fantasy novels like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe like C.S. Lewis would seem to more naturally mesh with learning through video games.

Probably the comment that most resonates in my mind is when you said that the types of narratives that exist in video games also exist in literature. Both can be equally complex or simple. As that’s the case, then video games can be a valid way to motivate students and explore the text.

What it likely comes down to is that I stopped playing video games when I was 10 years old. I just don’t know enough about them yet to make an informed judgment.

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Meme challenge

July 18th, 2014 · No Comments

Follow the link for my meme of myself!

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Meme Challenge

July 18th, 2014 · No Comments


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IM as the Future of Language

July 17th, 2014 · 2 Comments

 Instant Messaging and the Future of Language

This article accurately and poignantly addresses a growing concern in our society caused by the astounding prevalence of instant messaging among youth. The concern is that the constant use of IM—which, in its essence, has many users employing an excess of shorthand, incorrect spelling, grammatical errors, and the incorporation of numbers in their messages. The fear is that this shorthand will, and in some cases has, bled into the arena of academic writing.

I feel that this fear is an irrational one, and that we ought to give students more credit than they are being given. This article addresses this fear as though it is impending, but the article was written in 2005, and nine years later this isn’t as big of a problem as the author has forecast. Beyond this, it is far more important to teach students the importance of different registers, and when it is important to use each one. Seeking to shut down this new language of the youth of today will ultimately stifle their own creativity; it is more reasonable to educate them on the different situation to use these different registers.

There can actually be benefits to embracing students continuing to text in this fashion. One example of this is that most smartphones today come equipped with an auto-correct feature. With students persisting to use this new form of literacy, they would at least see the correct version of the word they are spelling on their phone, and the correct spelling will be engrained in their mind for when they have to complete a writing assignment in class, obviously with the appropriate register.

Another benefit is that we as educators can harness this emerging form of literacy to use for motivational purposes. Constructing a writing assignment where students create a conversation between two characters texting each other is a great example of this, and students would react well to being able to write in this style. We can then reinforce the more traditional style of writing by having students translate a partners assignment into proper, grammatically correct prose with the right spelling.

Something else to consider is the priority we are placing on these students’ written outputs. We ought to be more concerned with the content that students are writing, with less of an emphasis on syntax, grammar and spelling. While it is obviously of importance to teach the correct rules of grammar and correct spelling, we should be paying more close attention to the content of what our students are writing, given that the poor grammar and spelling doesn’t detract from the meaning of the written output.


Baron, N.S. (2005). Instant messaging and the future of language. Communications of the ACM, 46(7), 30-31.

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On the Visual in Literacy

July 17th, 2014 · 1 Comment

When I think about it I can’t find any evidence that the “visual” aspect of literacy has ever been separate from our general literal abilities. Even if we discount the fact that people once drew pictures on stones to function in tandem with their stories, there is no one who could argue that we do not all imagine some visual image in our minds when we read text or hear stories. The visual is essentially inseparable from literacy and as Messaris says, “it can be argued that, by acquiring visual literacy, people enrich their repertoires of cognitive skills and gain access to powerful new tools of creative thought.” I personally think that we’ve already been engaging cognitively with with the visual, however what Messaris is getting at is that with new forms of media this literacy is growing ever more complex. I like how how Messaris uses the cinematic form to emphasis this, especially in his analysis of the “close up” or movement of the camera and its effects on the viewer. Messaris states that “By controlling the viewer’s positioning vis-a-vis the characters, objects, or events in an image, including the image sequences of film or television, the images producers can elicit responses that have been conditioned by the viewer’s experience of equivalent interrelationships with real-life people, things, and actions.” What Messaris is referring to here is the analogical aspect of so prevalent with the visual form, especially the moving cinematic form. In real life we have access to “close-ups.” Our eyes work like cameras. The focus in and out of objects and people in our periphery, and even scan across lines so that we can position ourselves in place and even time. The cinematic visual functions in much the same we. The camera can examine a face and elicit emotion in the viewer much like a person can with say the face of a lover a desired object. In fact we’ve been doing this from the beginning, as we can see when babies deeply examine and scan their mother’s faces to understand emotion and respond emotionally. In fact we learn how to “read” faces long before we learn how to read words. I see what Messaris is saying more as a going back to our roots and in doing so, developing cognitive skills, related to “reading” (understanding emotional cues, intent, and even literary elements like foreshadowing) by incorporating a new form of literacy. Yes as the article states, the viewer already naturally does this but does not know it. Messaris emphasis, with regards to the the visual film form, that “because they appear to be simple extensions of our every day, real-world perceptual habits, we may interpret them without much conscious awareness or careful scrutiny.” And here I think that this is all the more a reason to tach visual (film) literacy in the classroom, since we are already naturally equipped, at least subconsciously, with the skills and techniques to engage with the medium. All that remains for us is to bring these skills to the fore and from there who knows what other forms of visual literacy may emerge.

Work Cited

Messaris, P. (1998). Visual Aspects of Media Literacy. Journal of Communication, 48(1), 70-80



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Txting is OK, but don’t do away with language rules altogether

July 17th, 2014 · 1 Comment

Carrington states that Standard English and txting are “oppositional positions” with “txting represented as the abnormal intruder” (2005). While Carrington makes the case that txting is a reflection on the media that we use, and that we need to be flexible to allow for new modes of expression, I personally believe that txting belongs in the world of mobile phones, and needs to stay there. In a way, I do think that txting IS the “abnormal intruder.”

During Shakespeare’s time, spelling was not regulated, allowing writers to use endless different ways to spell their works. The problem with non-standardized rules of language, however, is that meaning may be lost along the way. For example, when I read the “essay” written by the Scottish girl, I thought that “FTF” meant “F*ck that family” or some other variation using the expletive (as in abbreviations such as FML, LMFAO, OMFG, etc). Consistency, for me, is an important thing. I am not saying that all instances of the letter “F” in abbreviations need to stand for “F*ck,” but there is a point at which I ask: was that abbreviation necessary? Is it worth the extra time to have your reader try to understand it?

In the face of so much txting, most of us laugh off funny spelling and grammatical errors, point them out to students, and continue on with our teaching. While I don’t think that txting is decimating the population’s ability to write properly, I think that we need to look more seriously at the errors that do occur in formal circumstances. Schooling is formal, and thus it must be done in a formal language. I wonder, sometimes, what happened to the emphasis on learning grammar and spelling in school. Of course students need to be able to express themselves and make mistakes. But this does not mean that we need to ignore the need to teach this formally in school. When I was teaching in China, I was ashamed to learn that many ESL students knew English grammar better than your average English first language, Canadian-born student.

With this impoverished grasp of the English language, then, can we take lightly the fact that students often prioritize their grasp of txting lingo over that of Standard English? Txting is a great way to expand social networks and develop identity through language. This I don’t deny. But we cannot look at grammar and spelling errors in school with the same lightness of attitude that we use to look at txting.

I also believe that txting cannot be held solely responsible for the proliferation of an I-don’t-care-attitude towards the rules of language. Say what you want about the constantly changing landscape of the English language, but the fact remains that those who write a resume or essay with faulty spelling and grammar will still be looked down upon (or not taken seriously as a scholar), regardless of age or generation.

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