Composing in the Cloud

Composing in the Cloud

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3212-5.ch004
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As the availability of technology expands in public schools, so do opportunities for composing in the cloud. Over the course of two years, 51 third grade students composed multimodal stories using two cloud-based programs: StoryJumper and Storybird. Specific cases are highlighted in this chapter to illustrate literacy learning potential, affordances of each tool, and how the tools best support diverse learners. The relationship between images and words is examined within literacy events where co-composing and co-designing occurs. The collaborative nature of cloud-based tools extends and scaffolds learning experiences for all students. Using the cloud as a resource is just one avenue for extending a ‘basic' curriculum.
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Rachel and Valerie (emergent bilinguals) traversed the cloud as they designed personally interesting stories using StoryJumper. Rachel worked on a story called “The Girl’s Problem” where a princess was trying to keep a bunny from being squished. Valerie began a book about pirates at the beach. Each text maker chose to work with backgrounds and images first, prior to writing any language. They were making decisions about the best clip art to select based on the choices provided by the program. Each author sought the advice of the other about essential details like whether the princess should have a “happy face” or not. Valerie wanted to know, “Do you think this is good? I just have the ocean and a treasure box. No pirates.” Rachel responded, “That is good, but where will pirates be? They have to be on some pages. It’s part of your title so they need to be there.”

Composing in the cloud highlights two years of research that recorded the digital writing experiences involving 51 third-graders representing a variety of home languages and ethnicities. StoryJumper and Storybird were the two sites employed by students to create multimodal, digital stories. Numerous examples of student authored textual products and transcripts surrounding those literacy events are provided to offer insight into the learning process and the semiotic resources utilized. Intertextual and cultural connections are noted in particular examples (Bloome & Egan-Robertson, 2004).


Digital Writing In 21St Century Classrooms

Digital technology continues to rapidly change the ways people communicate and interact in the 21st century. This means modifications in literacy instruction are needed in order to advance the writing experiences in public school classrooms. There must be an accounting of multiple factors such as multimodal compositions, role of collaboration, online navigation of cloud-based sites, and personalized learning (Sefton-Green, Marsh, Erstad, & Flewitt, 2016) along with conventional forms of writing. Many young learners maneuver their world through a technocentic lens where they are continually connected through the use of digital tools (Karchmer-Klein & Shinas, 2012). The ability to digitally compose and function as an agentive learner and to exchange messages across platforms is key for success in a global world. The National Council of Teachers of English (2008) officially recognizes the essential role that classroom literacy practices play in being prepared for the interconnected world as active citizens.

Writing is becoming more of a creative design process given the vast array of affordances available on the Internet. Word processing is a very small portion of what counts as contemporary writing, and the construction of digital texts is only limited by the semiotic resources available in a particular context. Being a writer means being a designer who is able to navigate a plethora of modes while integrating the most apt ones by moving backwards and forwards during the design process. This involves substantial innovation and creativity on the part of students and teachers (Howell, Reinking, & Kaminiski, 2015).

Albers (2007) states, “The desire to make images and to communicate something that is beyond words is part of the human desire to create (p. 3).” She provides insight into the significance of semiotics (different forms of communication that include written language and the arts) and its role in individual expression. Meaning resides in the interplay of multiple design elements of any given ‘text’. Signs are culturally based and informed by larger social collectives encircling each person. When differing modes of sociocultural representation are available to children, they actively move across modes to transform their creations (Kress, 1997).

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