The most important part of any literacy program is how the students internalize and use what they are learning. Technology, social media, and the internet are a huge part of my students' lives. At times, it can be a huge distraction. I'm excited to learn ways to make it more productive for them, especially as it relates to literacy.
As Wilber (2010) points out, new literacies are more interactive than traditional literacies. If you write a paper and turn it in, you read it and the teacher reads it. That's usually it. If you write something on a blog, your classmates can read it. Your family can read it. Strangers can read it. Anyone can have an opinion on what you write. This could be both beneficial and detrimental. I think my students might put more thought and effort into their writing if they knew that it would be read by a wider audience. They might also learn the value and importance of the written word. On the other hand, I think it would be hard for some of them to have their writing and ideas criticized, especially by someone they don't know.
I have not used blogging in my teaching practices. I think about it often but worry about what my students would post and how I would "police" that. I have used it extensively in my personal life and have found it very helpful in connecting with others who are walking through a similar life journey. Both Wilber (2010) and Huffaker (2005) pointed out that blogging can connect our students to peer-groups in the virtual world. This could be especially helpful for some of my students who are not really connected with the other students in our very small classroom.
I think one of the biggest things that we have to be careful of is intentionality. Introducing new technologies is not the same as using new literacies. Teachers must be very careful to use the new technologies in collaboration with data-driven pedagogies to promote literacy among students and not just increase technology time. As Gillen and Barton point out, schooling and training in technology are often steps behind the emerging technology because creating programs and curricula takes time. I think this is yet another reason to choose technologies and programs carefully. If schools are going to invest in technology, it needs to be something that will be useful and relevant for a significant amount of time.
I am looking forward to learning new ways to incorporate new media and new literacies into my classroom to help my students better connect with and understand texts.
This post was written in response to the following articles:
Gillen, J & Barton, D. Digital literacies: A research briefing by the technology enhanced learning phase of the teaching and learning research programme. 1-30.
Huffaker, D. (2005). The education blogger: Using weblogs to promote literacy in the classroom. AACE Journal, 13(2), 91-98.
Wilber, D.J. (2010). Special themed issue: Beyond 'new' literacies. Digital Culture & Education, 2:1, 1-6.