Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Suddenly It All Became A Lot Less Hazy

As I was reading this week's articles, I kept thinking "Wow, I wish I had read this last semester for Digital Writing." They answered so many lingering questions I had about exactly how digital writing is different from alphabet-based texts (I got that term, which I love, from the Burke & Hammett article) and what exactly these new literacy skills are that we've been talking about.

I am convinced that in order to assess multimodal texts, we will need to begin by expanding our definition of what a text is. We also have to train teachers and students how to use elements of design to convey messages. In some ways, the articles made me feel once again that I don't have nearly enough training in design to be able to effectively teach digital writing. Nor do I necessarily feel that I can "read" on-screen texts that well. My traditional reading and writing skills are coming up a little bit short.

I was especially impressed with the way that Bearne described the skills that multimodal writers need (like "uses technical features for effect"). That section of the article was so refreshing because it was concrete. Theory and abstract concepts were actually broken down into real, understandable standards that we might use to assess our students' multimodal texts! It felt so useful.

Mostly these authors convinced me that we have an obligation as teachers to learn these new literacy skills and incorporate technology into our teaching. I'll be the first to admit that I often resist technology in favor of more traditional alphabet-based texts (there's that term again). I've been part of the chorus of teachers saying "Yeah, who needs this techno stuff when we can just read actual books and use pencil and paper to tell our stories?" But, I feel now that it's almost a moral obligation to incorporate these new skills into our language arts curriculum. To not do so is neglecting to teach important literacy skills that our students will need to communicate and express themselves. As Burke & Hammett argue, "We must embrace larger notions of text and invite multimodal forms of representation into our classrooms. We need to reexamine beliefs about the equity found within language representation, and to learn how to accept and value learning that comes from outside the classroom" (p. 8).

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