Changing classroom practice through blogs and vlogs.
Being literate in today's society is significantly different from that of decades past. The effects of new technology and globalisation have transformed the amount and diversity of information available, how information can be presented, and the ease with which anyone can become a published author for a global audience (Jewitt, 2008; Potts, Schlichting, Pridgen, & Hatch, 2010). In addition, children's learning of literacy is no longer limited to the classroom, as students are constantly engaged in the process of making meaning and sharing multimodal texts in their out-of-school lives (Rowsell & Walsh, 2011).
In many classrooms today, literacy education appears to be different from what has been traditionally expected: students use technology to access information online and they use it to produce a range of computer-generated, colourful, professional-looking end products. But, literacy education needs to do more than integrate technology 'to learn old things in old ways' (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009b, p. 88). As educators, it is imperative we understand how the nature of literacy is evolving and how changes in technology mean more than easy access to, and reproduction of, information.
This article will explore how teachers can critically review and transform their current literacy practices by understanding the current research in literacy education and the significant technological advances that have occurred. It begins by discussing recent understandings about multiliteracies, then it presents my rethinking of literacy practice in relation to my Grade 5 class and the consequent writing of blogs and vlogs.
The New London Group (1996) developed the term multiliteracies to describe the complex nature of literacy that exists in today's society (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009a). The New London Group recognised that, to be literate, individuals needed a variety of communicative strategies that they could use flexibly to engage in a range of social and cultural settings. They highlighted that literacy education could not be limited to reading, writing and speaking a national language. Hence, according to the literature (e.g., Education Queensland, 2002), a multiliteracies approach includes three key dimensions:
* cultural and linguistic diversity;
* media and technology;
* critical literacy.
Integral to a multiliteracies approach is the understanding that students develop the skills to unpack the messages behind images, text and audio, understand that all texts are socially constructed and engage as active citizens who recognise that they have the choice to reproduce or transform the ideas that surround them (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009a; Jewitt, 2008; Rowsell & Walsh, 2011; Unsworth, 2001). Many authors (e.g., Education Queensland, 2002; Jewitt, 2008; Rowsell & Walsh, 2011; Unsworth, 2001) discuss the way that multiliteracies is more than developing students' technological skills, while Cope and Kalantzis (2009b) provide a detailed yet succinct summary that is very helpful. They discuss four dimensions of new media that are different from those of traditional media:
Firstly, new media provide opportunities for increased agency. The interactivity of reading and writing online, social media and digital entertainment allows everyone to select their own path to investigate or view. Traditionally, information was disseminated in one direction, via politicians, established experts or bosses, who were the producers of information; but now 'consumers are creators and creators are consumers' (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009b, p. 91). Increased agency leads to the freedom of difference being openly shared, celebrated and explored. Hence, Cope and Kalantzis recognise divergence as the second dimension of new media. New media provide everyone with the opportunity to publish and share perspectives and ideas. Cope and Kalantzis explain that this sharing and exploration of diversity leads to even more diversity and ultimately allows 'knowledge and culture to become more fluid, contestable and open' (p. 94).
Thirdly, the technology of new media means that text and image are made from the same raw material, pixels. So, creating messages using one or more modes has become easily achievable for everyone. In just a short time, this has resulted in images replacing the written word as a dominant mode of communication (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009b; Jewitt, 2008). Finally, Cope and Kalantzis (2009b) describe how new media require individuals to monitor how they think. They call this fourth dimension, conceptualisation.
To be an active participant in the world, one must do more than view, read and consume. One must use metacognitive skills to successfully navigate media and understand how messages are constructed. A thorough understanding of the multiliteracies approach and the four dimensions of new media can help educators to identify which areas of their current curriculum support students to develop their multiliteracies competencies and to identify areas for improvement.
I currently teach a class of Grade Five students (10- and 11-year-olds) in a large international school in South East Asia. The school is well resourced with one-to-one laptops and the availability of iPads, which are shared within the grade. Students are proficient in using and collaborating with Google applications such as Google Docs and Slides along with many other applications on the computers and iPads.
As a school, we have a structured and rigorous reading and writing program that provides students with a range of strategies to become readers who think deeply and writers who explore different ways to enhance their writing. The literacy program encourages students to be metacognitive through regular teacher-student conferences. The student is always the centre, with discussion about strengths and the next steps that will help the student move forward.
As a teacher, I thought my integration of technology in the classroom was very good, as students in my class regularly access technological tools to enhance learning through gathering information, recording their thinking using a variety of platforms and using technology to collaborate as learners. However, as my own understandings of multiliteracies developed, I started to review the literacy program I provided to my students. The readings I have already mentioned and a table provided by Bull and Anstey (2010, p. 5) were helpful in supporting my critical reflection. As shown in Table 1, some aspects of my teaching were aligned with a multiliteracies approach, while others were not.
What became clear through this critical reflection was that my program had many elements of a multiliteracies approach, but three vital elements were absent:
* critical literacy development;
* students did not have the opportunity to share their knowledge with the community beyond our classroom walls;
* multimodal texts were accessed for information gathering purposes, but no deeper investigation or critical lenses were applied to understand them or to consider how they are constructed.
The culminating unit in Grade Five is called Exhibition of Learning. This unit gives ownership for students to lead their own inquiry learning and to demonstrate the skills they have developed through Junior School. During this unit, students have the opportunity to research, in small groups, a topic about which they are passionate. In their groups, students ask questions and research extensively using a wide range of primary and secondary sources, in order to become experts. Using their expertise, students are encouraged to take action to make a positive difference in their sphere of influence. In the past, this unit has largely been isolated to our Social Studies program and not integrated with literacy. With my developing understanding of multiliteracies, it became clear that this unit needed to be more purposefully linked to the literacy program. Prior to beginning the Exhibition of Learning, the reading unit was adapted to include critical literacies and I began working with students to develop their understandings of multimodal texts and how they are constructed.
From my critical reflection outlined in Table 1, I recognised the possibility of providing students with the opportunity and skills to share their own knowledge to a wider audience. Through the medium of blogging, students could develop their skills to publish their own messages to the world through text, images and audio. Several researchers of educational blogs (Jimoyiannis & Angelaina, 2012; Kim, 2008; Novakovich, 2016; O'Byrne & Murrell, 2014; Yeo & Lee, 2014) identify numerous benefits to blogging and show how this platform can support multiliteracies pedagogy. For example, the benefits can include:
* learners feeling empowered and motivated to communicate;
* the easy integration of a variety of modes;
* the alignment of the participatory culture with real world literacy practices;
* critical thinking encouraged through commenting.
Ebrecht (2015) highlighted that blogging promotes meaningful communication and develops critical and analytical thinking, along with collaborative and reflective skills. O'Byrne and Murrell (2014) stated that blogging helps students to construct meaning and participate in meaningful dialogue within and beyond the classroom.
To support teachers' implementation of a multiliteracies approach, The New London Group (1996) described a pedagogical framework that contains four pedagogical acts: situated practice, critical framing, overt instruction and transformed practice. This framework was later adjusted to focus on the types of actions required by students: experiencing, conceptualising, analysing and applying (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009a, pp. 185-186; Kalantzis, Cope, & the Learning by Design Project Group, 2005). Using this framework, along with understandings of multiliteracies, the new literacies studies and multimodal research, Mills and Levido (2011) developed a very practical and teacher-friendly pedagogical model named iPed. As can be seen in Table 2, this model incorporates the key areas identified by Cope and Kalantzis (2009a), but it simplifies them and makes them more accessible for developing units for students in all age groups. As can be seen by the unit detailed in Tables 4 and 6, the phases of the iPed Model are not linear and may be repeated or cycled during a lesson or unit.
A writing unit: Blogs and video blogs (vlogs)
In this section, I present the culminating unit for Grade 5 that I designed. I set out to transform how students reflected upon and shared their learning during the six week Exhibition of Learning unit. Students were encouraged to think deeply about the whole learning process they were experiencing. The blogging platform offered the students an authentic audience with whom to share a range of meaningful messages. Students received regular feedback via peers, parents and other teachers.
Table 4 shows the unit's assessment and Table 5 shows the writing checklist used by the students to self-reflect. The next tables present the unit outline, which incorporated Mills and Levido's (2011) iPed Model. Table 6, Table 7, Table 8 and Table 9 show Week 1, Week 2, Week 3 and Weeks 4-5 respectively.
The integration of a multiliteracies approach in this unit provided the students with the opportunity to use multimodal texts to reflect on their learning and to connect with a wider, authentic audience. Students felt empowered by the realisation that they had the power to share their ideas and knowledge with the world. Knowing their posts could be read by anyone, most students demonstrated a higher level of thought to their work and took greater care to edit before publishing. They recognised that their audience was not limited to readers this year, but it also included future Grade 5s who would be able to read their posts and find them useful.
Student choice was critical in ensuring that this unit was successful. It allowed differentiation to occur naturally, in addition to inspiring creativity. Students showed more enthusiasm and commitment to their work because they had the opportunity to choose the purpose of their post, as well as to decide whether it was written (a blog) or video (a vlog).
Students experienced the natural power of 'hooking' the reader through powerful words, images and text layout. A post that utilised one of these three elements or a combination of the three generated more comments from those reading/viewing the blogs/vlogs.
Using the iPed model to support the planning of the unit helped me to ensure that learning opportunities for the students were balanced and in line with multiliteracies research. In particular, it helped me to ensure that I was linking the learning to the students' own real life experiences and incorporating opportunities for the students to be both critical viewers and writers as they were developing their own texts. Figures 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 provide examples of the students' work.
After watching a Kid President clip, available from YouTube, students recorded their thinking on to the Google slide shown in Figure 1. The students were encouraged to use their critical thinking skills to analyse how different modes--sound, image and language--were used to portray a particular message. They had so many ideas that we needed three slides to record all of their thinking.
Students experienced agency through choosing their own topic for each blog post. This led to increased motivation and gave insight into what they valued in their learning. The post in Figure 2 shows a student's reflection on his learning about using the Internet for research and on staying focused.
New media provide students with access to a variety of perspectives about one issue. This helps them to see beyond the stereotypes often generated by mass media. Through their blog posts, students were then able to share their own perspective with a wide audience, as indicated in Figure 3.
Figure 4 shows how comments were used as part of the unit. The commenting feature of blogging provides students with authentic feedback--from their class peers, as well as from students in another school. In addition, students were able to see that their posts have a positive impact on others.
Image has joined written word as a dominant mode of communication. In their blog posts, students were encouraged to utilise the power of images to hook a reader's attention. An example is shown in Figure 5. Students were taught how to attribute the images they used. In Figure 5, a Creative Commons attribution accompanies the image and shows that the image came from https:// www.flickr.com/photos/vinothchandar/5793059580/.
The nature of literacy has changed. An understanding of multiliteracies and the underpinning pedagogy can empower educators to transform the literacy curriculum in their classrooms. The new dimensions of technology provide clarity in understanding how to ensure the curriculum is not simply using technology at a surface level, but rather develops students' understanding and skills to be critical thinkers and creators who can share their perspectives of the world and be agents for positive change.
Using blogs and vlogs in the classroom enhanced students' engagement and their desire to produce writing of a high quality. For some students, the blogging platform linked to their own experience of creating texts and sharing media; for other students, it provided them with the knowledge, understanding and skills to inspire them to be publishers of meaningful text in the future.
Bull, G., & Anstey, M. (2010). Using the principles of multiliteracies to inform pedagogical change. In D. Cole & D. Pullen (Eds.), Multiliteracies in motion: Current theory and practice (pp. 141-159). London: Routledge.
Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2009a). 'Multiliteracies': New literacies, new learning. International Journal of Learning, 4(3), 164-195. doi:10.1080/15544800903076044
Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2009b). New media, new learning. In D. Cole & D. Pullen (Eds.), Multiliteracies in motion: Current theory and practice (pp. 87-104). London: Taylor and Francis.
Ebrecht, B.M. (2015). A case study of classroom blogging in three elementary schools. Journal of Educational Research and Innovation, 4(1), 1-22.
Education Queensland. (2002). Literate futures: Reading. Brisbane: Queensland Government.
Jewitt, C. (2008). Multimodality and literacy in school classrooms. Review of Research in Education, 32 (1), 241-267. doi:10.3102/0091732X07310586
Jimoyiannis, A., & Angelaina, S. (2012). Towards an analysis framework for investigating students' engagement and learning in educational blogs. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(3), 222-234. doi:10.1111/ j.1365-2729.2011.00467.x
Kalantzis, M., Cope, B., & the Learning by Design Project Group. (2005). Learning by design. Melbourne. Vic.: Victorian Schools Innovation Commission & Common Ground Publishing.
Kim, H.N. (2008). The phenomenon of blogs and theoretical model of blog use in educational contexts. Computers and Education, 51 (3), 1342-1352. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2007.12.005
Mills, K.A., & Levido, A. (2011). iPed: Pedagogy for digital text production. The Reading Teacher, 65(1), 80-91. doi:10.1598/RT.65.1.11
Novakovich, J. (2016). Fostering critical thinking and reflection through blog-mediated peer feedback. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 32 (1), 16-30. doi:10.1111/jcal.12114
O'Byrne, B., & Murrell, S. (2014). Evaluating multimodal literacies in student blogs. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(5), 926-940. doi:10.1111/bjet.12093
Potts, A., Schlichting, K., Pridgen, A., & Hatch, J. (2010). Understanding new literacies for new times: Pedagogy in action. International Journal of Learning, 17(8), 187-194.
Rowsell, J., & Walsh, M. (2011). Rethinking literacy education in new times: Multimodality, multiliteraceis, and new literacies. Brock Education, 21 (1), 53-62.
The New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.
Unsworth, L. (2001). Changing dimensions of school literacies. In Teaching multiliteracies across the curriculum: Changing contexts of text and image in classroom practice (pp. 8-20). Buckingham, UK: Open University Press.
Yeo, H.I., & Lee, Y.L. (2014). Exploring new potentials of blogs for learning: Can children use blogs for personal information management (PIM)? British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(5), 916-925. doi:10.1111/ bjet.12117
Sarah La Caze | United World College South East Asia, Singapore
Sarah La Caze is a Grade 5 teacher at United World College South East Asia. She is currently working towards a masters degree in Education.
Caption: Figure 1. A slide showing students' thinking about how different modes can portray a message
Caption: Figure 2. A student's blog showing his reflections on the use of the Internet for research
Caption: Figure 3. An example of a student's blog that shared a perspective with a wide audience
Caption: Figure 4. The use of the commenting feature of blogging
Caption: Figure 5. A student's use of image and Creative Commons attribution
Table 1. Reflecting on teaching in relation to a multiliteracies approach Areas aligned with Areas not aligned with a multiliteracies approach a multiliteracies approach * Students are supported and * Reading and writing programs encouraged to be knowledge are heavily print-based. producers. * Students have agency in * The audience for writing is choosing reading books and predominantly the teacher. writing topics within a specific genre. * Students' life experiences to * Students' prior knowledge is create texts using digital valued and built upon during technology are not recognised or units. developed. * Metacognition is modelled * All summative literacy and encouraged. assessment is print based. * Students have access to * There is no instruction to technology and confidently use develop students' understanding a range of applications (e.g., of how multimodal texts are Google applications and Pages, created or to explore a word processor from Apple) synesthesia (Cope & Kalantzis, to record, share and 2009b). collaborate. * Limited instruction to develop * Discussions between teacher critical literacies. and students and between and amongst students allow students to process and articulate their thinking as well as hear alternative perspectives. * Teacher's role is facilitator Table 2. The iPed Model, adapted from Mills and Levido (2011) iPed Pedagogy Link to the work of Cope and Kalantzis (2009a) Link * Provide opportunities to make Experiencing connections to students' experiences. * Teachers support students in making three kinds of connections: text to self, text to culture and text to world. Challenge * Teach students that social Analysing meanings are inherent in text. * Develop students' abilities to judge authenticity and authority question the underlying message and look for alternative perspectives. * Students question and critically analyse the messages underlying their own products. Co-create * Scaffold learning by developing Conceptualising + specific terminology and skills, Applying co-producing media for a real (functionally) audience. * Three phases of instruction: 1. Predict: Anticipate new knowledge for students and support. 2. Demonstrate: Teacher or other experts demonstrate how to create, thereby building terminology and process skills. 3. Do: Students apply their knowledge and create in a supported environment. This cycle may occur many times within a lesson. Share * Publish texts to a meaningful Applying audience for interaction and (functionally or feedback. creatively) Table 4. The unit's assessment Summative Assessment: Students select 2 of their blog posts to evaluate. Students self-reflect using the writing checklist (see Table 5) before teacher assesses it using the same checklist. Pre-Assessment: Small group and class discussion to determine prior knowledge and experience. Formative assessment: Open feedback by peers and wider community through comments; teacher reading posts and giving regular feedback via comments; teacher/student conferencing. Table 5. Checklist for students' self-reflection and teachers' use Benchmarks Checklist Tick the Star the Put a or Targets ones I areas I triangle have shown really in the in this focused on areas that piece of during I still writing this piece need to work on (max. 3) Structure I can organise my writing to have a clear focus and/ or message. I can organise my writing into a logical sequence of separate sections, bullets or numbered lists. I can introduce and conclude my writing to help the reader understand my focus. I can use transitional words to help readers follow my thinking and connect my piece. Sometimes the transitional words are within sentences, sometimes they begin a sentence, e.g., as a result, consequently Critical I can support my thinking/ ideas with Reflection evidence or examples. I can synthesise and summarise my research/ experience and show deeper thinking. I can recognise and include different perspectives. Text I can use images features and graphics to complement and support my focus. Vlogs I can use a Give variety of modes example: (linguistic, audio, spatial, gestures, visual) to enhance my message. Word I can make choice deliberate word choices that complement the purpose of my post, e.g., persuade, teach, reflect. Punctuation I can use capital letters, commas and full stops correctly I can make deliberate choices to punctuate my work to emphasise my message and make the reader stop and think. References I cite all images from outside sources. I use hyperlinks or Easybib to reference sources. Table 6. Week 1 of the unit outline, showing how the phases of the iPed Model were incorporated Week iPed phase Learning experiences Resources (1- (from to-l laptops Mills & and headphones; Levido, iPads 2011) available) 1 Link Introduce the term blog and Model blogs discuss prior knowledge. (example blogs that showed how Students explore four examples blogs can be of blogs that connected to used in their world in some way contexts relevant to During exploration students their were asked to consider: experience and people they * What is a blog? knew): * How do people use them? * Why do people use them? * Exhibition blogs from another international school * A blog by the school's digital literacy coach * A blog by a parent of a student in the class * A blog written by a previous student Co-create Students identify and name common elements across the four examples. Guest speaker: Digital literacy coach discusses her blog and answers questions. As a class develop the key features a blog must have. Set up blog access and permissions for students. Demonstrate: How to write an About Us page. Do/Share: In groups, students write their About Us page. Challenge Whole class and group discussions around questions (Mills & Levido, 2011, p. 84): * What is the purpose of our blog? * How can I use words, images and audio to enhance my message? * Who is our intended audience? * Who can view this blog? * What personal information/ images should we share or hide? * How do my blog posts build on the work of my peers? * How do I show respect for others in my post and comments? * What perspectives do I include or leave out in my posts? Why? * Who benefits from my blog? Why? Guest speaker: Parent blog writer addressed her response to many of these questions. Link Demonstrate: How to add a Writing Co-create meaningful image that guidelines with Share represented their Exhibition examples, topic to Blog Header. available online for Do: In groups students found a students meaningful image to represent their topics. Writing posts Students explore connection between Blogger and other programs they are familiar with. Do/Share: Students reflect on shared experience to create their first blog post and publish to the blog. Guidelines from previous lesson available as framework. Do/Share: Students choose from suggestions in guidelines to write another post and publish on group blog. Table 7. Week 2 of the unit outline Week iPed phase Learning experiences Resources (1-to- (from 1 laptops and Mills & headphones; iPads Levido, available) 2011) Week Link Commenting: Reflect on Show several 2 Co-create established practices of examples to Share giving feedback to peers via illustrate conversations, sticky notes appropriate and and Google docs. thoughtful commenting Make connections to how Example on the commenting can be used in digital literacy blogs. coach's blog Demonstrate: Explore examples of comments and discuss. Use to develop class guidelines to write comments. Do/Share: Students comment on the blog of students from another international school. Link Hyperlinking in posts (links Blog example Co-create to reading unit) relevant to our reading unit Review websites used during reading unit. Discuss how hyperlinks were used to strengthen the argument the author presented. Allow reader to read further about the issue. Demonstrate: Model summary of one website and how to add hyperlink. Do: Students write summary of one or two websites including hyperlinks. Co-create Do/Share: Students write a blog post, choosing their own focus and comment on another person's post. Table 8. Week 3 of the unit outline Week iPed phase Learning experiences Resources (1- (from to-1 laptops Mills & and headphones; Levido, iPads 2011) available) Week Link Vlogs: Vlog slideshow providing 3 Challenge Link to students' prior information Co-create knowledge of videos on the about vlogs, Share internet. guiding questions and Students independently explore links to vlogs examples using guiding on YouTube questions. Shared slideshow that Students develop list of what allowed they noticed. students to add their thinking Demonstrate: Students develop to share with possible topics for vlog. the class This also provided a Whole class select a topic and record for discuss how to plan vlog and students to recording techniques. refer to later when developing Do: Within Exhibition groups, their own students choose to work vlogs. independently, in partnerships or in triads to plan and practise vlog. Students upload vlogs to their blogs. Co-create Do/Share: Students write a blog Share or vlog per week and comment on another person's post. Table 9. Weeks 4-5 of the unit outline Week iPed phase Resources (1 to (from Learning experiences 1 laptops and Mills & headphones; Levido, iPads 2011) available) Weeks Link Do/Share: Students blog after 4-5 Co-create their Exhibition presentations Share are complete. Link: Whole class discussion about how to regard the appropriate end posts for blog. * What final messages do you want to share with your viewers? * What will be the most appropriate mode (e.g., vlog or blog) to do that? * Will you vlog individually or in a group? Do/Share: Students write their final post on the blog. Do/Share: Students comment on each other's final posts. Students choose 2 posts from Checklist their collection to assess (see Table 5) using criteria set by class. Students reflect on unit.
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|Author:||La Caze, Sarah|
|Publication:||Literacy Learning: The Middle Years|
|Date:||Feb 1, 2017|
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