Sparking Interest with Multimodal Assignments in Integrated Reading and Writing

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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.

References

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.

 

 

Technology + Pedagogy Guide: Bringing Method to the Madness

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Shaunna Smith, Ed.D.

Dr. Smith is an Assistant Professor of Educational Technology in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Texas State University. Her research interests focus on technology integration strategies within K–12 and post-secondary learning environments. As a former secondary art teacher, she is particularly interested in exploring how the hands-on use of design-based technologies (e.g., digital fabrication, 3D modeling and printing, computer programming, and robotics) can impact multidisciplinary learning that transcends traditional content contexts. At her mobile makerspace, The MAKE Lab, she is currently researching how recurring experiences with these design-based technologies impact self-efficacy and positive attitudes toward failure (e.g., grit and persistence in the face of obstacles; reconceptualization of failure as a paradigm for creative learning) with teachers and K–12 students.

It is easy for educators to get lost in the madness of the overwhelming number of instructional options and technology tools available today. If we aren’t careful, we can easily become the Alice who falls down the rabbit hole into a technology wonderland, quickly becoming enamored and sidetracked with every tool as they get “curiouser and curiouser,” discouraged by the Mad Hatter who suggests a new approach to everything we’ve been doing, or frightened by the Queen of Hearts who suggests that change is unwelcome. As educators, our time is precious, and we need to be mindful of our productivity; however, we also need to learn how to leverage our own individualized knowledge and easily accessible technology in order to enhance our instruction and student learning potential.

Although published before digital technology was commonplace in education, Shulman’s (1987) theories of “pedagogical reasoning” and “pedagogical content knowledge” remind us that a teacher must remain focused on their instructional intent and interconnectedness to subject matter. Mishra and Koehler’s (2006) Technological Pedagogical Content Knowledge (TPACK) draws upon Shulman’s theories by adding considerations of technological knowledge and its connections to pedagogical knowledge and content knowledge, thus creating a context for discussing the new complexities of considerations that teachers must contend with. Content connections are found relatively easily with textbook companion websites and the like; however, making a meaningful connection between technology and pedagogy can be a little bit more complicated.

Designed as a helpful decision-making tool, the Technology + Pedagogy Guide can aid educators in instructional planning of activities that integrate instructionally appropriate technology tools to support a variety of learning contexts (the complete Technology + Pedagogy guide is available at: https://tinyurl.com/techology-pedagogy). Table 1 shows how it organizes commonly accessible and free technology tools into categories related to their essential characteristics (tool affordances) and ability to align with Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy (Krathwohl, 2002) to support student-centered learning objectives:

TECHNOLOGY CATEGORIES ESSENTIAL CHARACTERISTICS

(Tool Affordances and Instructional Purpose)

CONNECTIONS TO BLOOM’S TAXONOMY LEVELS

(Learning Objectives)

Acquisition & Investigation Tools Technology tools that allow users to capture and collect information. Remembering
Presentation & Remixing Tools Technology tools that allow users to demonstrate understanding of concepts through original expression or through remixing (editing existing content by putting a new ‘spin’ on it). Understanding

Applying

Discussion & Reflection Tools Technology tools that allow users to communicate ideas and experiences with self and/or others. Analyzing

Evaluating

Creation & Editing Tools Technology tools that allow users to generate original artifacts to demonstrate personally meaningful knowledge. Creating


Acquisition and Investigation tools
assist learners in capturing and collecting information, which is appropriate for instructional goals that align with the lower-level Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy levels of Remembering. This category of tool is perfect for the beginning stages of research projects when you want students to capture and collect information related to a topic. Leveraging digital functionality, students can use these technology tools to complete individual assignments or to co-construct as a collaborative group, with the added benefit of even being able to communicate across time and space — beyond the four walls of your classroom.

Presentation and Remixing tools assist learners in demonstrating their understanding of concepts through altering existing content and application of concepts through presenting information to others. This category is appropriate for instructional goals that align with the Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy levels of Understanding and Applying. This category of tool is perfect for brainstorming ideas and organizing concepts or presenting proposals to the class. Leveraging digital functionality, these tools can easily be worked on outside of class and can be shared with others through using URL links.

Discussion and Reflection tools assist learners in communicating ideas and experiences to themselves and/or others. This category is appropriate for instructional goals that align with the middle levels of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy levels for Analyzing and Evaluating. This category of tool can be used to inspire diverse perspectives throughout an on-going learning module or project, as well as a culminating reflection to examine personal learning at the end of the semester. Leveraging digital functionality, these tools can easily take advantage of the ability to “comment” and “reply” to student posts as well as share URL links of creations to spark further dialogue.

Creation and Editing tools assist learners in generating original artifacts to demonstrate their own personally meaningful knowledge. This category is appropriate for instructional goals that align with the highest levels of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy levels for Creating. This category of tool can be used to support smaller scale creative activities throughout a module or can be expanded to allow students to explore open-ended original artifact creation. Leveraging digital functionality, these tools can easily take advantage of the wide variety of free tools that can allow students to create a wide variety of media (i.e. photo editing, videography, 3D modeling, computer programming) but also easily share online with others.

Conclusion

Given the right level of support, even technology novices who are overwhelmed by the initial madness of this technology wonderland can transition into becoming confident and effective technology integrators who can select tools to amplify and transform their teaching. Through using the Technology + Pedagogy Guide, educators can focus on student-centered pedagogies by recognizing the categorical affordances and characteristics of the tools. In doing so, educators can develop a more richly constructed transference of knowledge by having an essential understanding of what qualities to look for in the ever-changing palette of technology tools in order to match pedagogical goals that will remain relevant as the technologies continue to evolve.

References

Krathwohl, D. R. (2002). A revision of bloom’s taxonomy: An overview. Theory into Practice, 41(4), 212.

Mishra, P., & Koehler, M. (2006). Technological pedagogical content knowledge: A framework for integrating technology in teacher knowledge. Teachers College Record, 108(6), 1017-1054.

Shulman, L. S. (1987). Knowledge and teaching: Foundations of the new reform. Harvard Educational Review, 57, 1-22.

Transforming Instruction with Technology

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Nathalie Vega-Rhodes

Nathalie Vega-Rhodes is currently a professor of mathematics and the mathematics technology coordinator at Lone Star College – Kingwood. She specializes developmental education redesign and focuses on researching and create valuable resources for students and instructors. Prior to her time at Lone Star, Vega-Rhodes taught mathematics and college student success courses at other institutions around the Houston area. Vega-Rhodes earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in mathematics with a minor in geology from the University of Houston and a Master of Science degree in mathematics from the University of Houston-Clear Lake. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, traveling, and scuba diving.

Technology is advancing exponentially in our world; its use is growing in our classrooms whether we want it to or not.  Beetham and McGill (2012) observed that technology is “transforming what it means to work, study, research, express oneself, perhaps even to think.”   Bowen (2014) agrees and would further add that this growth has made course design and pedagogy more important than ever.  Given this current and irreversible trend, we must harness the benefits of this tool to enhance learning in the classroom.

As instructors, it’s incumbent upon us to leverage technology to engage students as well as organize our courses in a clear and concise manner.  Learning management systems (e.g. Moodle, Desire2Learn, Blackboard, etc.) at most institutions are a means by which instructors can manage learning and connect with students.  Clearly-named modules, checklists and release restrictions ensure access to relevant information and keep students on track.  Additional features such as Intelligent Agents allow instructors to define criteria for automated and personalized communication at critical points throughout the semester.

Other options for creating dynamic courses are college-supported software programs such as Softchalk or Webex.   For example, Softchalk can be used to create interactive lessons, while Webex can be used to meet with students virtually, thereby eliminating the age-old problem of providing timely feedback for students who are not present in a traditional face-to-face classroom.  Instructors and students can share screens to discuss concepts or work out examples, either one-on-one or in a group.  An added benefit of these software programs is that they can be integrated with most learning management systems, making for a seamless student experience.

While proper organization is unquestionably important, by itself it is insufficient.  One of the problems that instructors have traditionally faced is lack of available information, which means that instructors may not always know when to intervene or what interventions are necessary.  A valuable tool to solve these problems is the analysis capabilities in online homework systems. Easily accessible reports can be used to track progress and determine challenging concepts for individual students or the entire class.  This data can be used for evaluating current assignments or improving future courses.

In addition to online homework systems, an easy and convenient way to engage students is by harnessing the capabilities of pervasive smartphone or tablet apps.  A few favorites include Attendance (easy recording/reporting of student attendance), Show Me (easy video creation), Notability (note-taking), and Google Voice (texting/phone calls without sharing a personal phone number). Each of these apps have the potential to increase efficiency with everyday tasks.

In summary, these tools, when coupled with thoughtful implementation, can truly impact teaching and learning.  McLoughlin and Lee (2008) stated that “technological resources provide opportunities for a range of interactions, communicative exchanges, and sharing, but it is not possible to base an entire sequence of learning episodes based on tools.”  Indeed, I am able to do more and better for my students since the immediate feedback allows me to tailor specific solutions based on each student’s needs.  I look forward to increased productive interactions with my students using innovations, both present and future.

References

Bowen, J. A. (2014). The teaching naked cycle. Liberal Education100(2), 18-25.

Littlejohn, A., Beetham, H., & McGill, L. (2012).  Learning at the digital frontier: a review of digital literacies in theory and practice. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 28(6), 547-556. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2729.2011.00474.x

McLoughlin, C. & Lee, M. J. W. (2008). The three p’s of pedagogy for the networked society: Personalization, participation, and productivity. International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, 20(1), 10-27.