Amber Sarker and Carolyn Caudle
Amber Sarker is beginning her third year of doctoral coursework with Texas State University, pursuing a PhD in Developmental Education with a focus on literacy. Amber has worked in a variety of educational settings, including elementary school, undergraduate courses, online environments, museum programming, and teaching adult second language learners. She has been a member of The Education Institute for two years, which has provided opportunities to co-create professional development, revise curriculum standards, and co-author grant proposals. Amber’s research interests are campus climate, postsecondary literacies, solidarity with students, and educational allyship with LGBTQ+ populations.
Carolyn Caudle is pursuing a Master’s degree in Developmental Education with a focus in literacy from Texas State University. Carolyn began her career teaching kindergarten and fell in love with literacy education after watching children swell with pride when reading their first word. After taking a few years off work while her children were young, Carolyn decided to go back to college and shift her focus to literacy at the post secondary level. She has special interest in improving students’ self-efficacy and boosting confidence within reading and writing.
Integrated Reading and Writing (IRW) has become an increasingly popular option for Developmental Education literacy courses. While reading and writing should continuously be the focus of each assignment and text (Holschuh & Paulson, 2013), embracing students’ digital literacies is an additional relevant and needed component of IRW instruction. The need for instructors to acknowledge and build on students’ digital skills is a result of academia’s shift from students being assigned static texts to complex hybrid texts (Lea and Jones, 2011). Moreover, multimodal meaning making, or comprehending a message using a variety of modes, occurs in a variety of cultural practices, and as a result, emphasizing this in the IRW classroom would benefit students greatly (Cope & Kalantzis, 2009). In order to provide context for this aforementioned research, this article briefly describes how an IRW course can use Adobe Spark to showcase connections students make in their personal lives in comparison to a novel read in class.
Cope and Kalantzis (2009) stated that embracing multiliteracies allows students to not simply restate ideas, but become “transformers of meaning” (p. 115). The ability of students to transform meaning using digital literacies is the central focus of the IRW lesson we are proposing. Our suggested assigned novel for an IRW course is Love and First Sight by Josh Sundquist. This novel is about a high school student, Will, who has been attending schools for the visually impaired his entire academic career, but decides to transfer to a mainstream high school. The text details his struggles and triumphs in this new environment. After reading the novel, students would identify a time in their own life when they were challenged with an unfamiliar environment and were required to navigate using a new literacy. They would then be asked to chronicle their own “fish out of water” experience using the free application Adobe Spark. Using this digital program, students could share their story using images, sound, and text to create a professional multimodal presentation.
College students are adept at navigating multimodal texts and resources. Unfortunately, this integration of technology often does not transfer to the classroom. To further prepare our students, embracing multimodal technology and making it the cornerstone of our instruction is paramount (Yu, 2014). Our suggested Adobe Spark storytelling project stresses the importance of New Literacies in an IRW course and suggests a method utilizing visual and auditory modes that can be used to augment instruction.
Cope and Kalantzis (2009) explained, “Experiencing the known involves reflecting on our own experiences, interests, perspectives, familiar forms of expression and ways of representing the world in one’s own understanding” (p. 125). By using Adobe Spark to connect a text to their own lives, students are able to digitally represent their world to their peers. The intersection of students’ experiences and the experiences of characters allows for an opportunity to understand varied perspectives and representations of ideas. Additionally, using Adobe Spark allows students to pre-record their presentation, allowing for a chance to revise the message intended for the viewer.
By creating experiences where students can use digital literacies to convey information, educators provide opportunities for students to “critique, resist, challenge, and change discourses” (Leander & Bolt, 2012, p. 33). Moreover, by using multimodal presentations, students are able to interact and communicate with peers in an engaging way (Jewitt, 2014). In addition, using a platform such as Adobe Spark allows students to interact with an engaging tool in order to connect the meaning made from the text to a larger audience. Implementing varied uses of technology in an IRW course allows students to better understand the intersection of discourses and digital literacies.
Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2009). “Multiliteracies”: New literacies, new learning. Pedagogies, 4(3), 164-195. doi:10.1080/15544800903076044
Holschuh, J. L., & Paulson, E. J. (2013). The terrain of college reading. College Reading and Learning Association. Retrieved from http://www.crla.net/index.php/publications/crla-white-papers
Jewitt, C. (2014). Different approaches to multimodality. In Author (Ed.), The Routledge handbook of multimodal analysis (2nd ed., pp. 31-43). London, GBR: Routledge.
Lea, M. R., & Jones, S. (2011). Digital literacies in higher education: Exploring textual and technological practice. Studies in Higher Education, 36(4), 377-393.
Leander, K., & Boldt, G. (2013). Rereading “A pedagogy of multiliteracies”: Bodies, texts, and emergence. Journal of Literacy Research, 45(1), 22-46.
Yu, E. (2014). Let developmental students shine: Digital writing. RTDE 3(2), 99-110.