“I Would Like Other People to See His Stories Because He Was Woke!”: Literacies Across Difference in the Digital Dialogue Project

“I Would Like Other People to See His Stories Because He Was Woke!”: Literacies Across Difference in the Digital Dialogue Project

Julie Rust (Millsaps College, USA) and Sarah Alford Ballard (Murrah High School, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0000-2.ch007

Abstract

This chapter explores the varied participatory practices that were triggered during the Spring 2016 iteration of the Digital Dialogue Project (DDP), an initiative that connected different age groups in distinct subject-area classes within contrasting schools embedded inside divergent communities. During the project, youth (from 3rd grade to 12th grade) engaged in three phases: (1) producing multimodal products connected to curricular goals, (2) virtually sharing/viewing/commenting on the digital product with small groups of 3-5 youth from different schools, and (3) meeting face to face at a culminating field trip to engage in collaborative theater exercises to dramatically embody the groups' digital stories. Authors provide concrete examples of the kinds of participation that the DDP evoked as well as key pedagogical commitments to literacies that were central to designing and implementing the project. Throughout the chapter, real talk for practicing teachers is provided in order to offer guidance for those interested in imagining similar participatory projects for youth.
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Background

The entrance of technology into K-12 classroom spaces have opened up a range of opportunities for teachers and youth interested in multimodal meaning making. By enabling the weaving together of music, image, voice, layout, video, and text, such composition practices enable a host of semiotic potential for communicating a message to a wider array of audiences (Kress, 2009; Jewitt, 2009; Hull & Nelson, 2005). It is becoming common practice for teachers to engage youth in slideshow design to demonstrate research findings (e.g. Sewell & Denton, 2011); assign book trailers in place of book reports (e.g. Dalton & Grisham, 2013); and imagine podcast production as a means to demonstrate learning beyond traditional essays (e.g. Goodson & Skillen, 2010). Without a doubt, the entrance of new media into contemporary society has ushered forth the need for, not merely familiarity with new technologies, but a new literacies ethos (Lankshear & Knobel, 2007), one that readily accepts the ever changing, multiplicity of tools for meaning making that call for dispositions and practices “central to full civic, economic, and personal participation in a world economy” (Leu et al., 2014, p. 14). Multiliteracies (NLG, 1996) have thus replaced the more stagnant view of a monomodal conceptualization of literacy as merely decoding and encoding print (Cope & Kalantzis, 2000).

In this chapter, we expand on the burgeoning work in the field of multiliteracies to explore the varied participatory practices that were triggered during the Spring 2016 iteration of the Digital Dialogue Project (DDP), an initiative that connected different age groups in distinct subject-area classes within contrasting schools embedded inside divergent communities. During the project, youth (from 3rd grade to 12th grade) engaged in three phases: (1) producing multimodal products connected to curricular goals, (2) virtually sharing/viewing/commenting on the digital product with small groups of 3-5 youth from different schools, and (3) meeting face to face at a culminating field trip to engage in collaborative theater exercises to dramatically embody the groups’ digital stories.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Multiliteracies: A new literacies paradigm that broadens the understanding of literacy (decoding print on page) to a more varied set of practices involving a range of tools, platforms, and purposes.

Digital Dialogue Project (DDP): A semester-long project that partnered youth across age groups and school settings to virtually share and comment on multimodal compositions and then perform their stories together during a culminating field trip.

Embodied Literacies: Meaning-making that is made visible by using the body, often during any kind of dramatic performance.

Multimodal Composition: Any form of composition or design (e.g., the creation of a podcast, movie, or website) that incorporates more than one mode (e.g., text, image, audio).

Dialogue Across Difference: The ability to both listen and communicate with others that have had any kind of different life experiences (e.g., different age, gender, socioeconmic status, sexual identity, race, ability, etc.).

Socio-Identity Literacy Practices: Meaning-making practices that foreground self-expression and social affiliation/communication.

Participatory Literacies: An understanding of literacies that highlights the active, social, ideological underpinnings of meaning-making over independent, isolated skills.

Participation Gap: The notion that not all meaning makers have equal access to the most generative forms of digital technologies, platforms, mentors, and experiences.

Transliteracies: A frame that accounts for the (im)mobility of meaning making that flows across time, spaces, technologies, and modes.

Literacy Toward Equity: Providing meaning-making opportunities that recognize and account for systemic and personal obstacles that individuals and groups face in order to promote a more just society.

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