Engaging Learners With Digital Literacy Practices

Engaging Learners With Digital Literacy Practices

Jessica Mantei (University of Wollongong, Australia), Kylie Lipscombe (University of Wollongong, Australia), Lyn Cronin (University of Wollongong, Australia) and Lisa Kervin (University of Wollongong, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-9438-3.ch002

Abstract

This chapter explores the ways two educators and their academic partners engaged young learners with digital literacy practices. In an educational environment dominated by print-based texts, the need to work with learners as both consumers and producers of digital text becomes integral. Drawing on theories of new literacies and multimodalities, the authors designed teaching and learning experiences to highlight the structure of digital text, and the complexity of the interrelationships between the language modes through deconstruction of live texts. The learners then demonstrated their understandings of these elements through their collaborative production of digital text. While this research was conducted with young learners, in this chapter the authors present important pedagogical considerations that can guide educators in their support of learners at all ages as they examine digital literacy practices for both text consumption and production.
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Introduction

I’m dreaming of a holiday…Who wants to come? When can we all get away? Where will we go? How will we get there? What will it cost? What will we do? So many questions.

I post on Whatsapp: Who’s up for a holiday? 😎

The chat fires back and forth among the group as we negotiate budgets, hotels, travel, sun v. snow, luxury v. economy:

Skiing?

Bushwalking?

Europe? Can’t afford that! 💰 😭😭😭

Can’t wait to go shopping:) 👠 👗👛

Ooooh let’s fly business class - I’ve got the points ✈️ 💕💕 😃...the excitement builds as we explore the possibilities.

And so, the planning begins, and it requires us to engage a range of complex digital literacy practices to get the gang to this European vacation safely, at the right time and at the right price. To start, we share our Outlook diaries, and after much negotiation, settle on travel dates. Next, a GoogleDoc to allocate jobs for each person, post itineraries, share ideas and give each other feedback about what’s possible and what’s Out Of The Question.

In the online environment, we conduct searches for everything from accommodation and flights, information about tourist destinations and best times to travel. We sift and sort through the multitude of hits from our searches, carving out our individual pathways to our goals. We are discerning in locating trusted sources of information and discarding others. We make connections between and among the different texts to start to build our understanding of the culture, accommodation, costs and the possibilities for a happy time.

Searches like these require the opening of multiple tabs on the laptop, flipping forward and back across the menu bar, we gather images, ideas, itineraries and bargains together for sharing on the GoogleDoc. Friends share tips in Whatsapp - Don’t forget to bookmark your sites so you can go back to them! Remember to check the conversion rate.

Slowly, the itinerary comes together. Bookings are made and paid for through secure gateways, contact details shared with providers, itineraries emailed and filed away into our shared Dropbox. And just for fun, we all install an Eiffel Tower shot as the wallpaper on our smartphones to keep the dream alive. As the departure date nears and the packing begins, text messages abound, complete with photos of potential outfits, requests for help, for opinions, advice and scrutinising of the train app so we get to the airport on time. One final check on the airline app and we’re off!

Digital technologies feature in our daily lives, often quite differently from the ways we are required to be literate in educational settings. Academic literacies in the main continue to privilege print based texts - essays and reports, even PowerPoint presentations with an oral monologue. Educational settings are bound by their histories and ways of being that mean change is slow and gaps between home and school literacy grow. But many educators have an appetite for change, a desire to realign home and school, and to more thoughtfully meet the current and future needs of their learners.

This chapter reports on two such educators supported by their academic partners to design and facilitate learning experiences that draw on and develop learners’ digital literacy practices. The chapter shares an account of an educator early in her career and her mentor, an experienced educator, as they adopted teaching practices that bring print and digital literacies together. The educators used pedagogical approaches designed to align print, sound, image, movement, use of space and gestures in the creation of digital multimodal text similar to the sorts of texts they engage with on websites both in and out of school. The chapter examines pedagogical implications for engaging learners of all ages with digital literacy practices.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Text Production: The creation of text using a range of modes, for example, print, image, and sound.

Text: A resource that conveys meaning through a range of modes and media, for example, storytelling, a book, street sign, poster, website, or app.

Digital Text: Resources created in written, oral, visual, and/or multimodal modes that are produced through digital or electronic technology.

Text Deconstruction: A pedagogical approach where texts are analyzed or “pulled apart” so learners can understand the social contexts within which they were created, their purposes, and the ways structural and multimodal features were employed to make meaning.

Educator-Led Instruction: Learning experiences explicitly designed for the educator to demonstrate and explicate skills and knowledge required for a specific purpose, for example, the ways to “read” images.

Traditional Text/Print-Based Text: Paper-based resources such as books, posters, etc. that privilege the linguistic mode of expression, often supported by image.

Multimodality Theories: Perspectives on the ways meanings are represented through language, image, sound, gesture, and movement, and the functions of each of those modes in conveying meaning in different yet related ways.

New Literacies: Theoretical perspectives on emerging texts and related literacy practices generated by the rapidly changing technological landscape. New literacies theories acknowledge the social nature of digital literacy practices as well as the key role educators play in supporting the development of those practices.

Unit of Work: A series of connected lessons or learning experiences designed to deepen and broaden learners’ understandings about particular topics, skills, strategies, and dispositions for application both within and beyond the immediate learning focus.

Educator: A person with the responsibility of designing learning experiences and teaching learners, for example, a teacher, lecturer, or tutor.

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