In the past week, my understanding of digital literacy has changed dramatically, due in part to the excellent readings by the NCTE and the IFTF on new and emerging digital literacies that all students need to have in order to be relevant with future workplace needs. I’ve realized that a much more meaningful focus, using the focus of Essential Skills for the 21st Century, as beautifully laid out by collaborators Jen Stewart-Mitchell and Genna Rodruigez, may provide a better start for instructors to understand how to authentically incorporate meaningful instruction in new ways to meet these needs, while at the same time not feeling like they’ve jumped overboard the ship traditional teaching practices.
In William Kist‘s 2013 article New Literacies and the Common Core, he provides four strategies for assisting in integrating new media literacies in the classroom. This was a great eye opener as it offers excellent suggestions that will help transition teachers not comfortable using digital technology, as well as to encourage teachers to branch out and to embrace all forms of media in their instruction. So without further ado, here they are:
Give Students Practice Reading Screen-Based Texts
“Some of the new media classroom activities that I’ve observed focus on helping students gain practice in a key skill advocated by the Common Core standards: the ability to read texts closely—to be text detectives. As students enter a world in which they will do much of their reading and writing on a screen, it makes sense to start by looking at non-print texts, such as in the genres of video, music, and visual art.”
Student activities do not solely focus on reading online texts. Rather, the term text can be multi sensory and non-print in nature, going from video, music, visual art, video games, etc.
Often looking for details in a video, such as watching for the way a movie may use edits and types of alternating shots to establish a momentum or tempo, is easier than pulling out similar literary devices. As a precursor to analyzing a print based text, looking at a non-print text will both refine the student’s ability to be a text-detective in any format, with the added benefit of helping the student to recognize the differences and similarities in the creation of those different texts. The following video, Speilburg’s expertly directed chase scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark is the de facto example of how control and precise execution of editing, shots, and soundtrack (establishing shot, close up, etc.) create tension and tempo to an already exciting scene, making it that much more engaging to watch.
Give Students Practice in Digital Writing
“Anyone who has ever written for online publication knows that screen-based writing presents different challenges from those involved with page-based writing. For example, online writers need to understand when adding a hyperlink assists the message and when it detracts; they also need to consider graphic design and layout. The teachers I have observed spend time teaching their students to understand writing for online publication, including all the opportunities that such writing provides.”
The activity proposed by the author is a multi-genre autobiography, where students pull in a wide variety of different texts (print and non-print) into a digital powerpoint type program, such as Google Slides, Prezi, Slidecast, etc. Students then have the opportunity to analyze the similarities and differences of how each text influenced them. It also provides students the opportunity to work on digital writing, in both a print and non-print fashion.
“Going through this exercise is a kind of postmodern adventure as we demystify various kinds of texts and help students see our commonalities and differences as human beings who have grown up with a huge smorgasbord of texts.”
This sounds like an excellent activity for students to work on, especially in terms of seeing how our identity is largely informed by the external influences on our lives. Being able to understand this will allow students to be more judicial when choosing what to post online, knowing that these things may go against what they want to be associated with.
Give Students Practice in Collaborative Writing
Both the NCTE article on 21st Century Literacies and the IFTF article on Future Work Skills 2020 focus on the need to be able to work collaboratively with others across cultural and physical boundaries through the use of digital technologies. While this may seem like science fiction to many, the reality is that with many businesses being internationally based, with offices across the world, having the toolset to work in this fashion, as well as the ability to interact non-judgmentally with others will be a huge asset, or may even be the expected norm.
Giving students the opportunity to work with other classrooms around the world on projects would be of great benefit to improve student worldview, as well as to see the benefits and the ability to workaround or adapt to any possible limitations such technologies and interactions would enable.
Collaborative writing can be even done within the classroom, through use of a Google word document that all students in the classroom can edit or add to on the fly. I have found this activity to be a great motivator for students, especially when the document is also projected in front of the classroom, so periodically we can all stop to reassess the working document, and to provide praise for student work.
Give Students Practice Working with Informational Texts
The use of non-fiction texts in the classroom are becoming more and more prevalent, in part, thanks to the ability to find vast amounts of relevant information through the internet. Gone are the days of looking through the encyclopedia, or even accessing similar tools through CD-rom. With all this information available, it’s important students have the ability to sort and process this information into something relevant to their task at hand. So, what better time to teach these meta-cognitive strategies than now. Teachers need to be explicitly teaching these strategies to their students, then giving them the opportunity to practice them in a safe supportive environment.
Accessing these informational texts through online collaborative projects, as well as the aforementioned multi-genre autobiography are two excellent ways of authentically incorporating. Having students create their own wikipedia pages about informational content will also have them sourcing and compiling relevant information, citing the sources, and working on presenting it all in a aesthetically and purposeful fashion.
Having the foresight to integrate these four strategies into the way you approach your instruction meets a litany of technological and literary goals that students will need to be an active member in our future competitive workplace, as well as providing them the ability to be a much more open-minded and empathetic individual. And best of all, it’s really not too tough to integrate. Our school board actively encourages use of Google Drive and Classroom, and once these are comfortable to the instructor, they provide the opportunity for all the above listed activities.
Featured image: Otomo Katsuhiro’s Tetsuo, found in the seminal cyberpunk work Akira