Padlet Walls, Weeblies, and Twitter: Incorporating Multimodal and Digital Literacies in the San Antonio Writing Project and in a Seventh-Grade English Language Arts Classroom

Padlet Walls, Weeblies, and Twitter: Incorporating Multimodal and Digital Literacies in the San Antonio Writing Project and in a Seventh-Grade English Language Arts Classroom

Shannon Blady (San Antonio Writing Project, USA) and Roxanne Henkin (The University of Texas at San Antonio, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-5982-7.ch013
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This chapter takes a close look at how digital tools were integrated into a professional development experience for writing teachers and the ways in which digital tools were then integrated into the literacy practices of a seventh-grade English class. The authors, Roxanne and Shannon, are director and co-director respectively, of the San Antonio Writing Project (SAWP), a chapter of the National Writing Project (NWP). Following NWP's teachers-teaching-teachers model, the site provides opportunities for teachers to share their expertise and teaching practices with other teachers in the area. Over a handful of years, Roxanne and Shannon observed a major shift in technology use by teachers during the summer institute. Among other affordances, digital tools became more collaborative and user-friendly. Not only were teacher participants using these tools for their daily learning experiences, but they also modeled effective instructional practices that integrated technology. Shannon and Roxanne set out to see how Shannon's middle school students could use these tools in her English class and later reflected on other SAWP teachers' experiences as they explored various digital tools with their students.
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During the summer institutes of the SAWP, we have discovered how impactful it is to invite teachers and students to express themselves in various modes beyond the traditional linguistic ones. It not only motivates learners to participate, but it allows them to draw on and extend their range of semiotic resources (Janks, 2010; Kress, 2003). Particular talents and/or interests are valued while learners are exposed to the literacies and modalities with which they will need to be familiar in our increasingly diverse, digital, globally-connected society.

For effective literacy professional development, teachers need to be engaged in the same types of technology-rich literacy activities that they would design for their own students (Grabill & Hicks, 2005). In 2007, the SAWP moved from traditional pen and paper to integrate more technology. The teachers began to create their own digital stories each day, were required to reflect on and store important resources on the Google site at least once a day, and integrated multimodal digital technologies into their best-practice demonstrations.

In 2010, Shannon completed the SAWPSI, having previously been a part of the Greater New Orleans Writing Project in 2004. She immediately noticed that the tools the teacher participants were using had transformed. The three-ring binder became a USB drive and a Google site; the black and white composition notebooks had been replaced by laptops. The teacher participants in the summer institute were encouraged to share their best-practice demonstrations with various Web tools and through various Web platforms. They shared a site they had previously heard about or they explored one that was introduced by the SAWP Technology Liaison. These included Prezi, SlideShare, Glogster, Wikispaces, Wordle and Tagxedo. They also created digital movies, using programs such as MovieMaker, iMovie, and Animoto.

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