Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

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A Curriculum for the Future: English and Design

July 16th, 2014 · No Comments

Over the course of this education program, I have done a lot of thinking about what it means to be an English teacher in the current day and age. In his article “A Curriculum for the Future, Gunther Kress puts into eloquent words all that has been swimming around in my head. I truly believe that what he outlines as a new direction for curriculum in general and for English classes specifically is one toward which we should all be moving.

He starts off by prefacing his argument with the suggestion that “the presently existing curriculum still assumes that it is educating young people into older dispositions, whereas the coming era demands an education for instability…. When tomorrow is unlikely to be like today and when the day after tomorrow is definitely going to be unlike yesterday, curricular aims and guiding metaphors have to be reset” (133-4).

He then delves into a lengthy explanation of what the new curriculum should entail. Words that are frequently used are creativity, multiliteracies, innovation, adaptability, ease with difference, comfortableness with change, instability, agency, transformation, communication. These words remind me of a statement I made in this class a few days ago, about how in teaching English we are moving toward giving students the skills to talk about, write about, think about, and interact with content rather than simply teaching them the content itself. Rather than learning being top-down and content focused, I think that learning needs to become student-centered and innovative. Kress takes my point of view even further by arguing that the driving force of this new curriculum should be design. Students should  be learning to take what they know and transform it, design it to reflect their interests and to make it serve as a means for their interaction with and decoding of their personal environments and the globe as a whole.

Kress states that “What remains constant [in the new curriculum] is the fundamental aim of all serious education: to provide those skills, knowledges, aptitudes, and dispositions which would allow the young who are experiencing that curriculum to lead productive lives in the societies of their adult periods” (134). What has changed is the needs and requirements of society. Active citizens now need to be able to decode vast amounts of information from a wide variety of sources and recorded using a variety of literacies in an ever-changing environment and comment on it, interact with it, and produce something new, thoughtful, and useful.What arises from this need is an “Education for instability” (138), in which students are given the tools they need to adapt to this transforming world and to be the agents of their own designs and processes. Kress states, “Design makes the learner agentive in relation to her/his interests in a specific environment and in relation to the resources available for the production of that design. He or she is transformative, creative and innovative. Design asks for production of the new rather than replication of the old. Thus putting ‘design’ at the centre of the curriculum and of its purposes is to redefine the goal of education as the making of individual dispositions oriented towards innovation, creativity, transformation and change” (141). This idea of agency made me think about the principles introduced in today’s class on Gee’s article “Good Video Games and Good Learning.”  I think that a lot of the learning principles he outlines apply to the fundamental concepts of Kress’ new curriculum. Identity, interaction, production, risk taking, customization, agency, and situated meanings all apply to the notion of a curriculum of design within instability; ideas of transformation, agency, design, change, understanding, openness, communication, adaptability, innovation, multiliteracy, and creativity.

I think that a multiliteracies approach in the classroom that focuses on design through inquiry, agency, and creativity is one in which students will be shaped into individuals that are competent and skillful at navigating our developing and “unstable” current and future worlds.

– Rebecca Thomas

Gee, James Paul. “Good Video Games and Good Learning.” Phi Kappa Phi Forum 85.2 (Summer 2005): 33-37. Web. 13 July 2014.

Kress, Gunther. “A Curriculum for the Future.” Cambridge Journal of Education 30.1 (2000): 133-145. Web. 16 July 2014.



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The Social Media Telephone Game

July 16th, 2014 · 2 Comments

Greetings fellow English Extrapolators! (Attempting a wink towards Carl Leggo here…)

Here is our second media project.


Adapt the Adapted

-George, Leona, Dalyce, and Naz

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Re: De Castell and Jenson’s “Digital Games for Education: When Meanings Play”

July 16th, 2014 · No Comments

De Castell and Jenson’s article discusses, with admirable candour, the difficulties in representing and conveying “educational” content through the medium of video games. They describe the process of designing a game called Contagion that seeks to address several public health issues, namely the class dimensions of disease transmission and state policies vis-à-vis virulent outbreaks. From their description, it is made to sound like a junior action/adventure approach to epidemiology or the “Social Determinants of Health” (but with the dystopic glamour of a pandemic panic!)

The candour I alluded to above instantiates in the authors’ admissions that the “funnest” parts of the game were the ones that touched on the social-political context of the game in only the most cursory or perfunctory ways (126). For example De Castell and Jenson describe a driving game portion of the larger game wherein players drive “through the streets of lower Pyramidea [the name of the city-state that constitutes the game world] at night, trying to locate and treat patients identified as needing assistance, while avoiding the patrolling…vans” (126). While this scenario may seem relevant to the social-political context of the game as I’ve described it, the authors allow that, essentially, “it’s just another driving game” (126).

De Castell and Jenson’s admission that the most appealing parts of the game contained the least “content” in terms of educational import lead to their greater point that the true “educative” aim of any game is, in sense, the “fun” itself:

The learning goal is such a game is simply to play it, to be in that setting, as an active and engaged participant, stringing together the parts, none of which is self-contained, but all of which can be fitted together to make up a richly educative whole (130).

The authors also go on to decry the utility-driven, instrumentalist vision of education that demands concrete measures for the displaying of learning processes that are often highly complex, social, internally-experienced, and not amenable to quantification. In this I completely follow them; I, too, think we need to resist the injunction to constantly test and show what we’ve accomplished as students and teachers. However, the question that is provoked by this line of thinking, precipitated as it has been in this article by a discussion of educational games, is what purpose the designation of “educational” content serves. Presumably, students are “active and engaged” participants in the settings of the commercial games that they play outside of school. If what educational games supply to them is something they are learning from the games that they play anyway, then is the purpose of an educational game an ethical one at its core? De Castell and Jenson do not explicitly state this to be the case, but the upshot or corollary of continuing to advocate for educational games (while admitting that they do very little to convey content) is to argue that there are suitable or unsuitable games for children of a certain age. Of course, this should not be a controversial idea. The horrific violence and virulent sexism that we see in computer games necessitates that we exercise some degree of gatekeeping. If we (and, presumably, the authors) agree that the project of edification (or, at the very least, protection from oppressive ideas) is defensible, then a careful articulation of that position might have accompanied an argument advocating gaming for gaming’s sake.

Works Cited

de Castell, S., Jenson, J., & Taylor, N. (2007). Digital games for education: When meanings play. Situated Play, DiGRA Conference, Tokyo, Japan. 590-599.

– Peter MacRaild




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The Reality in Fantasy: A Digital Dialogue

July 16th, 2014 · No Comments

The Reality in Fantasy:

A Digital Dialogue


In David Buckingham’s Media Education (2003), he argues that “media representations can be seen as real in some ways but not in others: we may know that something is fantasy, yet recognize that it can still tell us about reality” (58). Taking Buckingham’s notion several steps further, the philosopher Slavoj Zizek claims that it is only through fantasy that we are able to approach so-called reality (“Slavoj Zizek on the Matrix and Video Games”). To my mind, nowhere is the mediated dialogue between reality and fantasy staged more consistently than in digital gaming. Indeed, digital gaming does not separate fantasy and reality but rather associates them for a tidy profit.

Fantasy, in these instances, has the potential to jump out of traditional categories and illustrates the volatile and productive association between “illusion” and “reality”, one of dependence and solidarity. When we isolate fantasy from reality, we limit a wide range of experience and expression that can arouse activism and nourish new modalities for change – deadly serious ones not because they elude the logic of traditional barriers and hierarchies but because fantasy looks at reality from unique and inverted angles. And it is precisely these angles of fantasy rubbing up against the edges of reality that lets us theorize and try to represent new dimensions and thought.The connection that digital gaming draws between these two categories suggests that, for a gamer, it is not about reaching a condition that no longer requires illusions, but instead imagining a reality where fantasy is possible. And the fantasy that seems particularly impossible to recognize in our present is the fantasy Marx refers to as the “species life” of society – those occasions where individuals regard themselves as members of a community, and, therefore, where their actions are consciously performed as communal beings (Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts 33-34). The fantasy we refuse to entertain is the reality of social production: against the backdrop of a global economy (where the pervasiveness of commodification is matched only by its intangible abstraction, where the clothes I purchase (re)produce exploited spaces and lives, where the figures with whom I may identify are “the gamer”, the “blogger”, and “the first person shooter”, and where social relations are virtual but no less concrete for all that) the capacity to consciously reconfigure our relationship to our own labor and consumption has never been more imperative. Ironically, maybe the place to start is in our “fantasies” rather than our “realities”.



Works Cited

Buckingham, David. Media Education. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2003. Print.

Marx, Karl. “Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844” in The Marx-Engels Reader. 2nd

Ed. Trans. Martin Milligan. Ed. Robert C. Tucker. New York: W.W. Norton & Company,

1972. Print.

“Slavoj Zizek on the Matrix and Video Games.” YouTube. 17 Nov. 2011. Web. 24 Nov. 2013.


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“A Girls’ Day Out” And Everyone’s invited: E-Literature = Interactive or Directive?

July 16th, 2014 · 1 Comment

“A Girls’ Day Out” And Everyone’s invited:

E-Literature = Interactive or Directive?


There is an old aphorism declaring “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.” This piece of conventional wisdom presents a useful foil around which to discuss Kerry Lawrynovicz’s interactive e-literature poem “Girls’ Day Out” (2004) – a prominent goal of which is precisely to foreground the process of production. I want to suggest that her poem as well as similar forms of e-literature attempt to undermine the stereotypical attributes of autonomy, individuality, and elitism accorded the literary text as a fetishized object and to the cult of the writer as an artistic genius through an emphasis on process/concept over product/author. To stretch the aphoristic analogy, then, we might say that modes of conceptual interactive e-literature like that displayed in “Girls’ Day Out” critique the institutional nature of literature as a practice: a motley assortment of unappetizing scraps of language are ground together, stuffed into a virtually transparent casing that ensures a recognizably intelligible form, and is then presented as a hypostasized product that effaces the unseemly labour of literary production.
Lawrynovicz’s poem, in contrast to conventional literature, accentuates self-referentiality, reflexivity (i.e., writing about writing), intertextuality, the procedural generation of language, and/or the strict adherence to a governing principle or controlling conceptual system. Yet perhaps the most controversial technique of her poem is the “repurposing or detournement” of “found language” wherein “previously written language comes to be seen and understood in a new light” (Dworkin xliv). Here, the initial prose poem describing the idyllic horseback adventure of two young girls is laid bare with the click of a mouse, literally exposing a buried narrative of serial murder with phrases appropriated from a newspaper article that chronicles the real-life events and deaths with which the shifting text engages. According to Kenneth Goldsmith, this literary practice of appropriation operates along the same lines as Marcel Duchamp’s notorious reframing of gallery space, a critique directed against the sacrosanct status of the art object and the rarefied notion of the process of artistic production. Thus, works like Lawrynovicz’s stress the aspects of recycling and selection inherent to literary production and to the significance that context plays in the conveyance of meaning: if you change the context of reception or audience, you change the meaning. Consequently, Goldsmith envisions the role of the conceptual writer as that of a cultural “arbiter”, a filter of “taste” (xix).

In my opinion, however, Lawrynovicz’s “Girls Day Out” provides a more nuanced and critical representation of conceptual writing in general and of the interactive e-literature writing movement in particular, in contrast to the laudatory advocacy of conceptual writing by Goldsmith and others. In many ways, Lawrynovicz’s text is a self-criticism of conceptual writing and interactive e-literature as institutionalized practices in and of themselves. In fact, I read her text as an interactive conceptual critique of interactive conceptual writing. That is to say, a critique deeply implicated in what it is criticizing; at once critical and perplexed, simultaneously ironic and sincere. For instance, the unsettling imagery of sheltered complicity riding unwittingly over the bodies of the murdered suggests on some level that such a protected and privileged existence is predicated on the exploitation and vulnerability of others. In addition, the interactive and suspenseful quality of the piece invites the reader to explore another variety of complicity: the gruesome unfolding of the narratives in the poem mirror a sensationalized account in the media where an audience’s interest is a contradictory mixture of revulsion, horror, and macabre fascination. Finally, just as a story in the media can take on a life of its own and obscure the original issue at stake, so too does the sheer intricacy of the formal design of Lawrynovicz’s poem deliberately begin to overshadow the murdered women and transform a dedication into an aesthetic, interactive, and conceptual experience. The blending of social critique, suspenseful narrative gimmicks, and “interactive” (or complicit) audience participation ambiguously conflates these often mutually exclusive practices and suggests we critically engage with the representational and aesthetic methods of e-literature and submit them to the same questions that we would political platforms, to the issues of class, gender, ethnicity, or agency, for instance.


Works Cited

Dworkin, Craig. “The Fate of Echo” in Against Expression: An Anthology of Conceptual    

Writing. Ed. Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith. Evanston: Northwestern University Press,

2011. Print.

Goldsmith, Kenneth. “Why Conceptual Writing? Why Now?” in Against Expression: An

Anthology of Conceptual Writing. Ed. Craig Dworkin and Kenneth Goldsmith. Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 2011. Print.




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Instant Messaging and the Future of Language

July 15th, 2014 · No Comments

Baron highlights how there is a problem with viewing Computer Mediated Communication (CMC) as either good or bad. I personally feel torn on this subject, and while I understand the need and place for proper grammar, I do not think at times it is of highest importance. Baron writes how in the mid twentieth century, “writing instructors were commonly advised to focus on content and de-emphasize mechanics” as some of the finest graduates could not spell properly nor could they use correct grammar.

I’m torn on this subject for two reasons. While I personally appreciate proper grammar, and generally feel quite irked when someone engages in a horrific display of linguistic murder, I also know that some of the brightest individuals I have ever met, cannot spell to save their lives. When it comes down to it, is proper grammar and spelling really a necessity, or is it something that has been drilled into our heads as required etiquette? I’ve met social workers, teachers, doctors, and other professionals who excel in their areas of work, but cannot connect the dots when it comes to linguistics. Sometimes I fear that as a society, we have grown too rigid in our definition of what we classify as intelligent, and may at times look down on individuals who do not display perfect grammar.

However, because we live in a society which values proper grammar, perhaps educators should place a greater emphasis on teaching kids how to write and spell properly. Baron explains how at times, teachers may “tolerate IM novelties in classroom written assignments” so as not to appear “out of touch with contemporary culture”. I do not see a problem with teachers allowing text lingo in certain assignments, however I do believe that if IM lingo is used too often, students may out of habit, forget how to write ascribing to proper grammar etiquette. If students become too comfortable with writing in abbreviations, they may find themselves struggling when the time comes to write a resume or a cover letter. It is great that teachers are making an effort to engage the culture rather than oppose it, but they must do so carefully and still keep in mind the best interest of their students. If our future society points towards the extinction of IM language, then our teachers must do their best to discourage its use. However, if we are headed towards a greater openness to language of all form and variation, then this diversity should not only be celebrated, but encouraged in all.


Works Cited

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

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Blurred Lines and Word Crimes

July 15th, 2014 · No Comments

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Changing Language Over Time and Text

July 15th, 2014 · 1 Comment

One of the topics of discussion this past week was whether texting and instant messaging are in fact abominations of the English language and have no place in schools or whether they are valuable forms of literacy. While I don’t think the articles by Carrington and Baron intended to completely disregard instant messaging culture, they made it very clear that this type of literacy is not the dominant form and should not be the dominant form. I would argue, however, that texting, messaging and even some form of e-mails are already the dominant way of communicating for young adults and adolescents. Baron references a traditional ideology stating, “if some traditionalists are correct, we must take swift action now, before these children are reduced to marginal literacy” (pg. 29). I do not feel that the author agrees with this sentiment entirely but there still is anxiety surrounding the possible loss of traditional literacy. There is also the suggestion that adolescent literature, which consists of these instant forms of communication and perhaps the genre of YA fiction, is not formal enough (pg. 31).

My question then is who makes the rules about language? Who says a text is not formal enough and why does it have to be formal? We know that language is always changing with new words being created daily. Some of them fall into habit (twerking, irregardless, selfie etc.) and some don’t. Not one person, or small group of people, control the use or misuse of English. Today perhaps more so than any other time in history, evolution of language is happening at a faster and more prolific pace simply because of the tools of instant communication we have so readily available to us. Those who are afraid of this change in language should be reminded of the changes English has undergone throughout its history. We are very far away from English as it was spoken in Shakespeare’s time and we will continue to evolve in the near future.

Finally, to return to the idea that texting is already the dominant form of written language for many young individuals my point is confirmed by the fear that “recreational use of texting may ultimately lead to addictions and a lowering of an individual’s ability to shift between text types according to social context—that increasing mastery and use of text ipso facto lead to withering skills around other text forms embraced within the parameters of Standard English (Carrington pg. 167) If we are concerned with individuals becoming addicted to this form of writing does that not mean that it is heavily influencing young minds and is a dominant force in their consciousness? I do know young individuals that struggle with the difference between conversational register and formal register just like many young people did before the instant messaging revolution. This does not mean that the bright minds of the next generation will confuse texting with academic work.

Carrington, V. (2005). Txting: The end of civilization (again)? Cambridge Journal of Education, 35(2), 161-175. doi:10.1080/03057640500146799

Baron, N. (2005). Instant messaging and the future of language. NEW YORK: ACM. doi:10.1145/1070838.1070860

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A Curriculum for the Future

July 15th, 2014 · No Comments

I find just as I am finishing my E-Portfolio I am finalizing my concepts on what I should include in my teaching philosophy. I found this article particularly appealing as it comments on that the “new arrangements seem to need to demand an education for a period of fluidity, of instability” (138). I find my own beliefs in teaching English are grounded in my hope that future citizens learn not necessarily thematic investigations into texts, but instead the ability to this logically and creatively on their own. The world is only constant in that it is continually changing and students need to be able to think flexibly. The ways students interact with each other is changing seemingly by the month, “in new communicational webs” (143).

A part of our own understanding of how our students communicate is rooted in the realization that they will always be finding new means. It is near impossible for us as teachers to stay ahead of the curve of our student’s technologies. Instead, I see it as imperative that students learn how to adapt to any textual resources that they come into contact with. Kress articulates a difference of exposure results between two siblings and how their perceptions of the media can be so different (143). I find this to be a perfect example of how different even two of our students can be from each other. It is not important then for us to be “hip”, using Instagram, Snapchat or Tumblr to try and keep up with our students, but to instead present to them a variety of literacies and allow them to adapt them to their needs. Honestly I can’t imagine myself in my 50’s caring about what the new fads and technologies are. What will be necessary at whatever time will be an ability to teach students to understand materials presented to them and to clearly articulate and defend their ideas.

Kress goes into detail that the structure of education in the past does not fit well with what our students need today (134). I find this particularly invigorating, as I agree that the old molds and factory processing of students is not our future. What I find disheartening though is our very own teacher education program should so reflect exactly what we should be moving away from. We have a strict order of what is required of us, a rigorous schedule, and (nearly ritualistic in their repetitiveness) reflections. Interestingly enough, what we praise is not what we practice.

Kress, Gunther. “A Curriculum for the Future.” Cambridge Journal of Education 30.1 (2000): 133-45.

Tags: multiliteracies · Social Media · Uncategorized

How We Can Learn from Game Developers

July 15th, 2014 · No Comments

“Good Video Games and Good Learning” by James Paul Gee.


The author mentions several great points linking video games with active and effective learning. Playing a video game encompasses so many different literacies which can be linked to learning. One of the strategies that James Paul Gee mentions in his article is that in playing a video game, we take on a different role, which he argues that we should be encouraging students to do in the classroom. Have them role-play as scientists in the lab; as writers in the English classroom; as artists in the studio. This type of hands-on approach is what will yield better results in assignments.

The interaction we see in games is something that would translate well in the classroom. Gamers become more fully invested in the game, as it is their character, their work, their story they’ve worked through, and so they are more apt to be willing to see the game through to the end. We need to instill this brand of ownership on our students so that a greater sense of pride will be felt in their work.

Another great strategy that Gee mentions is that video games incorporate a great deal of creation as well. You are essentially writing your own story when you play a role-playing game, as gamers tap into their creative side in constructing their own characters and stories. As Gee mentions in the article, “Customized curricula in school should not just be about self-pacing, but about

real intersections between the curriculum and the learner’s interests, desires, and styles.” (Gee, 35). The student should have a say in some of the direction the curriculum is heading.

While Gee noted many great facets that show we as educators can actually learn from video game producers, there are a few other examples he left out. One is that these games often include a map for the user to follow, which is a literacy in itself. The cardinal directions must be followed to orient your character to the next objective. Some maps are often modelled after cities, to scale, which is obviously very useful as gamers can get to drive, run, or web-swing New York City as is the case in Spider-Man 2.

Something else to consider is that these games also aid students in grasping the English language, as there is often dialogue to follow or instructions to read. Critical thinking is also prevalent in these games, as is paying close attention to the narrative being presented in the game. As Gee writes, “players need to think of how each action taken might affect their future actions and the actions of the other players playing against them as they move their civilizations through the ages. In our complex society, such complex system thinking is crucial for everyone” (Gee, 36).

The issue of including games in the classroom usually begins and ends with “they can be beneficial if used appropriately and with pertinence to subject matter.” But perhaps there is more to the argument. Perhaps we ought to be learning lessons from the gaming world as to how to better engage our students critically.




Gee, J. (2005). Good Video Games and Good Learning. Phi Kappa Phi Forum,85 (2), 33-37.

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