Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

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Video Games and the Classroom

July 15th, 2014 · 1 Comment

James Paul Gee’ article, Good Video Games and Good Learning focuses on the learning principles incorporated by video games serving a challenging and educational purpose. He proposes that “challenge and learning are a large part of what makes good video games motivating and entertaining”. It is an interesting concept, considering some of the opinions floating around Canadian education today. Just last week the topic of discussion in my inquiry class (EDUC 452) centered around the fact that 40 is the new 50 in regards to student performance. Students, who are now coming close to meeting the 50% passing requirement, are pushed through to the next level without being required to complete the necessary work.

Is it possible that these same students who hate challenge and learning in the classroom, are then heading home and spending hours being challenged and vigorously learning on a different platform? Gee points out how some of the criticism aimed at video games claims that “what you learn when you learn to play a video game is just how to play the game” but he argues that along with playing the game, the player inhabits its surroundings and engages with sixteen various learning principles.  I find this article very interesting and it challenges a lot of the preconceived notions I hold about video games. I seldom played video games as a child, and when I did the occasional time at a friend’s house, I’d always feel guilty that I was not playing outside or better yet, doing something more productive with my time. I would walk away from a two hour game of Mario-Kart or Super-Mario, feeling as though I had wasted too much time playing around with video games and had now successfully contributed to the rotting of my brain. Looking back now, I had no concrete evidence to back up my reasoning and my sentiments towards video games had arisen out of what others had told me or what I had seen on the news.

In taking a look at the fifteen principles present in good games, I now see video games presented from an entirely different angle. Previously, I had thought that a person’s interaction with the game was a purely responsive one, without any initiative or truly intellectual engagement on part of the player.



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

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Thoughts on “Good Video Games and Good Learning”

July 15th, 2014 · No Comments

In Gee’s article “Good Video Games and Good Learning”, he touts gaming as being better at promoting learning than school. One of his arguments is that books and textbooks that are used in schools are passive, while games are able to talk back. In this sense games are interactive, while schools are not as they allow the players to, “ “write” the worlds in which they live – in school, they should help “write” the domain and the curriculum that they study” (35). I do not fully agree with this argument. Although students may not be writing they IRP, many teachers often consult them on what they are interested in learning. This feedback often helps to create the learning goals for the class. Another point Gee makes is that good video games lower the consequences of failure, so players can start from the last saved level (35). This then encourages players to take risks, explore, and try new things. Contrastingly, school allows much less space for risk and hinders exploration. This is an excellent point. Often school can stop students from being creative because they fear failing. However, with the current importance placed on formative assessment and assessment for learning, this fear should decrease.

Students must also have agency in their learning. Gee states that because players are able to choose the level of difficulty that suits them, and help “write” games, they feel far more agency in what they are doing. I agree strongly with the notion and feel that it is also possible, and present within classrooms through inquiry. Students who are allowed agency in their learning are able to participate in a more meaningful learning experience through the discovery of new knowledge. By allowing students to choose the topics they wish to study they will be encouraged to “learn how to learn” rather than simply memorize facts. Inquiry based learning allows students agency in their learning, encourages curiosity, and personalizes learning in an engaging way. In addition to agency, Gee also claims the games are superior at providing well-ordered problems. Gee draws on the fact that games have levels, which challenge the players, but not before they are ready to be challenged. However, school also has levels, they are called grades. Although, within a grade level students are at varying levels of strength it is the role of the teacher to teach within the student’s Zone of Proximal Development. This allows students to be challenged, but just enough so they are able to reach understanding without being frustrating and giving up. Gee points out many positives aspects of games. However, school is growing in its use of technology, and beyond the old school teaching model of rote memorization. Teaching is becoming more advanced and is continually changing and improving.


Anna Fenn


How can schools integrate student agency into the curriculum?


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







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First Media Project and rationale

July 15th, 2014 · 1 Comment

The Failed Prototype

My first media project can be found on the following web link:

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Thoughts on Carrington

July 14th, 2014 · 1 Comment

A few scattered thoughts on today’s presentations and readings:

I am not a gatekeeper of language.  I do not possess the skills or the will to protect so called “standard” English against other invaders.  I do agree that there is a time and a place for different registers, but this needs to be taught explicitly.  Different registers should not be condemned in and of themselves.  Informal language has it’s place in our lives, as does academic or standard English. But we should not be placing different registers or dialects of English (or other languages) in hierarchies to each other.  As Carrington notes, arguments and crisis such as the one presented by the Australian media on the decline of standard English “establishes battle lines between competing textual forms and social practices” (168-69).  Language helps us communicate, think – particularly about more abstract constructs, and express ourselves.  Both Standard English and texting are used to communicate but in different arenas at different times.  We cannot the practice of communication in one area and context because it does not look like what we expect or want it to look like.

There are also unintended benefits and spin-off effects of being fluent in several registers or dialects.  For example: I grew up without the internet.  My family did not have a computer until I was 13.  I was terrible at typing in school and it was A CLASS.  JC! – we had a TYPING CLASS, and was terrible at it.  FML.  Anyways, it was not until MSN Messenger came around that I could actually type. It was slow at first; it wasn’t instantaneous, but if you wanted to IM, it was less embarrassing to not take fifteen minutes crafting a three sentence paragraph all the while your chat partner looking on watching the screen as “typing…” flashed.  The more I engaged socially, the more adept I became at a very real life skill – typing. And the more engaged I was with the medium, the more fluent in it’s lingo and structure I became.  So this debate is not brand new.  This text language did not just show up with the advent of the popularization of the cell phone.  I was saying “G2g”, “LOL”, “BRB” before it was kool too (I AM a hipster, why do you ask?).  Being fluent in this speak/text did not impair my learning or knowledge of standard English; if anything it deepened my understanding of it.  Being fluent in one register, dialect or form of language does not need to impede on the other.   As noted, “all competent language users shift between various types and forms of textual and other language use on a daily, even hourly basis in the course of our daily activities” (Carrinton 168) already. Going from talking to your boss, to your co-workers, to your clients/employees, family, parents-in-law, people you went to high school with, lovers, spouses, or friends, already takes a lot of skill.  These language skills are slowly honed and (sometimes) taught; why is texting treated any differently?

Languages evolve, mutate, change and go backwards.  Languages are lazy and constantly adapt and look for shortcuts.  As Carrington states on this discussion: “[p]olemic, or oppositional positions, between Standard English and texting are
discursively constructed, with txting represented  as the abnormal intruder” (167).  Setting up this black and white dichotomies is not a valuable or useful activity.  English is not that simple.  Our job as language arts pupils is not to be complete prescriptive in our approach to language (there is obviously some prescription in the classroom, but we have to be flexible). because language itself never stops changing.  We have to observe how it adapts, describe that adaptation, and deal with the new and resulting patterns and forms.  We can TRY to hammer English down, peg it, classify it, and make it  one thing all we want, but the only language to stop changing is a dead one (ex. Latin).

Carrington, Victoria.  “Txting: The End of Civilization (Again)?” Cambridge Journal of Education 35.2 (2005): 161-175. Online.


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My Own Thoughts on Adaptation

July 14th, 2014 · No Comments

My presentation today was based on the theory that having kids adapt material is the best way to assess their knowledge and retention of classroom content. In terms of fidelity discourse and the Bortolotti-Hutcheon article, I share their opinion that a work can be ever-changing and evolving much like we are as people. In support of this theory, I quoted Stephen King.

In a recent letter on his website, where he addressed “concerns” from his fans that the television version of Under the Dome is not faithful to the original story, King quotes the late James M. Cain in an interview with a young reporter in which they had much the same conversation about his books The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity: “’The movies didn’t change them a bit, son,’ he said. ‘They’re all right up there. Every word is the same as when I wrote them.’” (King’s full letter can be found here, and is definitely worth a read.) In an interview with Buzzfeed appropriately titled Stephen King Isn’t Afraid Of The Big Bad Adaptation, King addresses the same topic, stating: “writing a book or writing a story is like being in a room that has a lot of doors. I chose one to go through, but you only get one choice when you’re writing a novel. So this is getting a chance to go back.”

The “5 Cs” as outlined in the presentation are:

  1. Creativity. Manipulation of subject matter is an essential skill for students to acquire, and the creative adaptation is a simply effective way to teach it. When a student is given the opportunity to choose how they approach a subject (choosing a show to adapt, as in the Shakespearean Sitcom assignment, or choosing format, language and style as in the Romeo and Juliet scene studies), they are not only identifying with the material but they are learning what skills they possess and can use to their advantage (ie. performing on stage vs using video; using original language vs translating, etc.).
  2. Control. Put plainly, a student can’t adapt material if they don’t understand it. Following Bloom’s Taxonomy, adaptation is one of the last steps towards mastery. Showing they can adapt subject matter shows students not only understand the material itself, but they also understand the elements of the style to which they are adapting.
  3. Conciseness. The ability to take a multitude of information, pick out what’s important and turn what’s left into a coherent narrative is, again, an essential skill.
  4. Compounding. According to my Microsoft Word dictionary, compounding is defined as “the act of combining things to form a new whole”. This, combined with classification, is the heart of the adaptation.
  5. Classification. The ability to classify or organize information into a logical format is not only important in creative projects, but is essential to anything from expository essays to recipes, or even learning trade skills.

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Re: Baron’s Instant Messaging and the Future of Language

July 14th, 2014 · No Comments

I follow and assent to Naomi Baron’s central thesis, namely that the idiosyncratic codes of CMC (computer-mediated communication) do not represent an essential degradation of formal or Standard English. She does not, however, see text-speak (or IM lingo) as an unequivocal good: for her there is a threat that students who apprehend this type of  lingo at a very young age might struggle to switch between formal registers and the informal textual codes that they’re immersed in. Nearly ten years on I think that her fears remain relevant, but so does her prescription for addressing this potential problem: conscientious teaching of linguistic conventions, forms, and standards in Language Arts classrooms. I do support and appreciate her call for vigilance in this regard, but I don’t actually believe that teachers, as a cohort of professionals, have ever even needed to have this caution made explicit. Just as students are more linguistically sophisticated and sensitive to register than many imagine, so are teachers able to teach academic register and diction even as they incorporate, respond to, and learn the felicities of the CMC that their students use. There is much room to play in an English classroom.

I do, however, find some disturbing revelations in Baron’s short article; revelations to which she responds blithely, if not enthusiastically:

Participants in focus groups reported feeling comfortable juggling multiple online and offline tasks. Several of them     indicated that engaging in only a single IM conversation (doing nothing else online or offline) would feel odd. IMing, they    suggested, was something they did under the radar of the other virtual and physical activities vying for their attention. (30)

This narrative of “natural” multitasking–perhaps emergent in 2005 but seemingly widely professed amongst youth currently–is one that demands pause. It is true that all significant new technologies encounter an apocalyptic (perhaps pseudo-) humanist rhetoric about the costs of acceleration and some sort of concomitant loss of “soul” on the part of younger generations. I want to be careful to avoid re-marshaling such a line. However, I think there is now some evidence that this comfort with multitasking that Baron observed masks a degradation not in language, necessarily, but in cognition itself. Clifford Nass’s work at Stanford ( and Jiang et al’s at MIT ( strongly suggest that multitasking is inefficient, at least. I wonder–at the risk of rehearsing a sort of belated nostalgia–whether the vacillations of the various modes and media of contemporary information technology have effects on the human mind that need to be described in something other than utilitarian terms.


Works Cited

Baron, Naomi. “Instant Messaging and the Future of Language”. 48 Vol. New York: ACM, 2005. Web.

– Peter MacRaild

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Interesting Read re: :)

July 14th, 2014 · No Comments

Read it!

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Gee Response (Weblog #2 – Ashley Slade)

July 14th, 2014 · No Comments

I really enjoyed reading James Paul Gee’s article “Good Video Games and Good Learning”. There are several reasons for this: I enjoy reading classical literature, I enjoy playing video games (on or offline; single or multiplayer), and I enjoy interactive learning through the incorporation of technology in the classroom. I was hooked by Gee’s personal narrative at the opening of his article: he talked about the curiosity he had while watching his son engage in a child-starred game. He wanted to play the game to see what was so fascinating about this playing experience (Gee, 2005, p.33). From there, he began to look into how game playing can be used as a model for in class education.

What Gee claims holds us back from using games as a method of learning is the content found within games (p. 34). Some people may believe that when you play a game, you are only exposed to content (or game) specific material. For example, if one is playing a video game set in a distance fantasy world, the content they are being subject to is not real or applicable to the lives they live here on Earth. However, games require learning of content and processes, which is something that teachers should be doing within their classrooms as well. For example, an English teacher needs to ensure their student can read and write before expecting them to write an essay. Just like the person playing the fantasy space game, the student will need to learn the rules of the game, how to operate the technology, and solve problems within the game itself.

The best section of the article was the list of learning principles that Gee claims are found in good games that should also be found in the classroom setting. The principles of learning that I feel are most important to include in the classroom are the principles of interaction, risk taking, and performance before competence. Interaction is important no matter where you are or what you are doing: engagement occurs when your actions are required for something further to happen (p. 34). Gee also states that in good games, and good learning, players or students are encouraged to take risks (p. 35); in most schools, we discourage risk taking in our Grecian Urn model of teaching: we assess summative work and give students a value based on what marks were deducted or “wrong”. This can hinder students from experimenting with their own inquiry based projects, because they are afraid of handing something in that is less than “perfect”. This is a serious flaw in our education system. This could be changed through the incorporation of a more problem or project based teaching curriculum in which students are given the opportunity to explore and use a genre, style, or method before knowing all the rules. This performance before competence approach (p. 36) could actually encourage our students to be more creative and engaged with topics and material.


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

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Literature and Image

July 14th, 2014 · 2 Comments

While we focused mostly on the benefits of graphic novels in the classroom for our presentation, the article we summarized was mostly discussing the use of “image” in general and how any type of image when used in conjunction with the written text, can be of use in the classroom. For my part, what I find most beneficial with using imagery and text together is how it can help in differentiated learning. Literature and the written world is a very abstract thing. As readers we have to make sense of words that are placed one after in a sequential and logical order. However, the word is basically a symbolic thing. It is there to represent something else. For example the word “tree” is a representation of the actual object: tree. However, it is not the thing, the tree, itself. If we use the image of a tree, though, show a picture of have a student draw the object, this image in fact is closer to reality and less of a symbolic representation. As teachers, this becomes helpful to us when we are met with a student who has a more difficult time with abstract ideas and conceptual thinking.

By making understanding easier for kids we can make literature more accessible. This is what the image allows us to do. Students who would otherwise feel threatened or lack confidence because they have a hard time understanding a literary work can feel more comfortable and safe when they approach the same work through its images. But this accessibility isn’t only to learners who find the abstract challenging, nor, as at the article states, a gateway for language learners to better acquire linguistic skills. During my practicum I had the experience of being in a special education classroom, where the majority of students were diagnosed with high functioning autism. Now while many of these students were able to accomplish certain things in regular classrooms and in some cases excel in them, almost all had difficulty with understand and interpreting emotional cues, especially when that emotion was being communicated to them in the written form. so here what the special education teacher did was to use a separate sheet of paper with pictures of faces that expressed emotions like “sadness”, “surprise”, “anger”, etc. The teacher worked with the students over several hours to help them distinguish and differentiate between the facial expressions. He then would use the graphic novel, or images of certain texts, for example, the surprised face of the lead character in the graphic move Persepolis to help the students connect it to the face on their sheet. This then helped the student understand characterization and the emotional life of the main character in the story, where before when just reading the word “surprised” would not help them at all to understand what the character was feeling or expressing.

Using images in conjunction with text students can in fact learn the written text better and feel more comfortable and perhaps be more willing to engage with literature and a perfectly fine reason to incorporate any kind of “image learning” in a literature classroom.

Work Cited


Frey, N. and Fisher, D. (2004). Using Graphic Novels, Anime, and the Internet in an Urban High School. The English Journal, 93(3), pp. 19-25. Stable URL:


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Blurred Lines

July 13th, 2014 · 2 Comments

After presenting the other day on blogging as a form of classroom learning I was reflecting on the discussion aspect that focused on the prevalence of blogging and digital media in the classroom. I wanted to particularly contemplate the point of how students are already so immersed in the digital world outside of the classroom that they want to take a break from it during class time. In my personal experience and in my preference I can understand both sides of the argument. On one hand, students should be able to use and participate in building online resources and materials in an academic and elevated way. On the other hand students should not have to participate in an activity that mimic their own Internet practices at home. I find activities that attempt to be “cool” or very relevant actually dissuade me from wanting to participate. These “cool” assignments sometimes blur the lines between school and home, a distinction I would like to keep separate.
In Lankshear and Knobel’s article Blogging as Participation: The Active Sociality of a New Literacy I was interested to see the emphasis on “collective intelligence” and with the Internet space “as open, continuous and fluid” (pg. 1). Collective intelligence and open, fluid space definitely bring certain benefits to the production of knowledge but it again blurs the lines for myself in terms of who is actually responsible for the creation of certain pieces of the puzzle. It also begs the question, where does the Internet space stop and where does reality begin? I could go into an extremely philosophical discussion about what is real and what is not but I will refrain from doing so! I also know that many people experience the Internet as a reality but for myself I do not feel like what I do on the web is part of my existence in the material world.
That being said, these blurred lines (to quote Robin Thicke) are only made more so by the accessibility of the Internet for all. Internet blogging tools have “made it relatively easy for internet users who were unfamiliar or uncomfortable with using hypertext markup language and the principles of web design for coding and designing their own weblogs” (pg. 3). Now everyone can contribute to online knowledge as well as us and our students. I wonder, however, whether students, like myself, find the nature of online intelligence and the accessibility we are now afforded, almost an uncomfortable fusing of realities and worlds. Would it be better almost to give students class time to complete their blogs like we would give them time for exit slips? To what extent are we expected to maintain our classroom life at home? Perhaps I am too antiquated in my perspective of how one should be consciously involved in the spaces around them but I would prefer to keep my worlds separate. I want my school life and my home life to be distinct as well as the line between my Internet activity and my physical reality.

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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