I just returned from the Australia Literacy Educators Association (ALEA) conference in Sydney. Like all conferences that I've attended it put a fire in my belly to do better, to work smarter... and so since I've been home I've been sleepless trying to do the stuff I want to which includes using Augmented Reality in my teaching.
The iPad I have has a camera roll and on it are some videos I've made but I want to be able to download my own videos from either my dropbox or my YouTube channel but I can't figure out how to do this without download Jailbreaker stuff which sounds, to me, kind of dodgy.
So Augmented Reality... I downloaded an app Aurasma Lite onto my iPad. It can take pics and add another dimension including video to layer the meaning of the image, or add meaning to it. There are lots of entertainment applications for which this app is good. However, I would like to use it for an education purpose.
Soon I have to do a professional development workshop for some members of staff at school, on visual literacy. That's not an issue, but I'd love to afford them learning opportunities using their iPads and this is how I think it should go.
I have a range of visual images, science, history, images from picture books and the workshop I'm supposed to present is to help the teachers develop visual literacy skills so they can teach their students that images have more of a purpose than just to sit on the page and look pretty.
Now NAPLAN isn't my favourite thing... actually I think it is reductive and dangerous and in many schools I fundamentally believe it is being misused by schools and that makes me both angry and sad. Anyway this workshop is to afford teachers opportunities to develop metalanguage and to apply the language of visual grammar in their own key learning areas so that students don't just cut to the image in their NAPLAN test without really using skills to analyse how the text (visual and linguistic) make sense together.
Okay so I have images like this one:
and I've made a ppt movie like this one http://youtu.be/INuG5D8nHEM to show the ways the language of visual grammar can be developed. And a more specific examples is here: http://youtu.be/C0xYpvLm0kM
And now this is the main frustration... with the iPad when I use Aurasma I can only access videos on my camera roll but I made this movies on my Mac... so I'm frustrated!
Below is some of the grammar that will assist you when you analyse visual texts:
Representational MeaningsInteractive Meanings
Colours - are the colours used within the text symbolic? e.g. Red - passion, anger, fire, all things intense and passionate
Image, act, gaze
Information - value - distance
Represented participants (Who/what?)
Framing, social distance
Salience (What do you see first?)
Transactional processes (Who/what?)
Power, status (angles)
Positioning - Left/right/top/bottom/centre margin
Reactional processes (Who is reacting and how?) Modality (real>idealised>abstract)
Framing - Strong, weak, isolating, inclusive
Vectors (lines within the image - that create reading paths)
Colour scales and brightness (saturation)
Text - Font, positioning, size
Levels of illumination
Background (contextualised, non-contexualised)
When you start analysing multimodal texts questions should begin your analysis
1. What is the purpose of the text?
2. What is the salient image?
3. How are the vectors within the image used to frame the subject of the text?
4. Who are the represented participants and what sort of relationships are developed in the text, through the gaze, social distance and interactions?
One wonders why a person would put themselves through the trauma and exhaustion of nominating themselves for both the delivery of a workshop and a paper at a conference. Over-achiever? Perhaps, but I think if you love something it is important to spread the word about why and what you love. English teachers are presumed to be a stuffy lot and I'm sure there are some who fit that role well. (As a school student I think I had one teacher who wasn't stuffy!) But when you hear them talk about their subject it becomes pretty obvious they love it. The words, the books, the social nature of the English classroom.
At the moment my biggest concern for subject English is the notion that we can quantify, through league tables, and standards what English can teach them. English is one of the humanities which is far more complicated than measuring the uses of a literary grammar. I am astounded at the retrograde discussions in the newspapers (an archaic text if ever there was one) about returning to some halcyon days of education where grammar made the world a better place. It didn't. I learned grammar at school and teaching it in isolation for a test designed to marginalise students seems so sad. Anyway when I process what's happening in my mind about where we should be moving in English I'll write more.
Blogging is a great way not only to reflect on the aim and purpose of your teaching but also for students to demonstrate their learning. There are, of course, some parameters that you'd need to consider.
1. Be clear about the purpose of the blog e.g. if your writing about digital narratives, and what's good about them as a form of expression, express the need for serious consideration about what you include... (in this form of narrative keep the number of pics to 20, number of words 250 and the music appropriate and original). Links between the different modes is key! (I actually think this is where most meaning is made - in the liminal spaces between the pictures, words and music.)
2. Clearly establish (if you're using blogging for education) what sort of language you'd expect to include - and if you're the blogging demonstrate that language as well as personal opinion. Let's say you are blogging about digital narratives (lol not to be repetitive!) Using words like orientation, contrast, complexity, resolution as well as the technical language for the ICT you're using is imperative.
3. The basis of all good digital narratives is evoking a response in the audience... identify the type of emotional responses you're aiming for in your blog. Here I think the idea of taking an emotional journey is important if you start out bleakly go somewhere good, and vice versa.
4. Blogs are also important to express the things that fail... so let's say you're writing a blog about something that didn't match your expectations then say so... what failed and if you figure out particular points in the narrative that didn't work and conversely any elements that were successful is always useful reflection.
5. If you're writing about failing also remember that you need to be able to learn from and move on from failure. So try and include comments, expressions and wishes about how things might improve in the future. These expresses about moving forward and upward are really important!
So here's an example of what my last digital narrative experience felt like in the classroom.
Instructional vid on how to make digital narratives
The class read a number of poems about marginalisation - some of the poems were lyrics from songs. The aim was that the students were going to construct a visual text to interpret their take on the poem/song. I thought the aim was pretty clear. (Haha!) I realised that the aim was mine and although I stated it and wrote it on the assessment sheet, how 16 year olds interpret what I say isn't always a direct match!
A couple of things we learned were to use large photographs and it is always better to use photographs that the students take themselves rather than appropriate (steal) them from the internet - unless you use wikimedia commons stuff which is copyright free. (This actually works well because the students actually physically express themselves in ways that directly relate to the emotions in the poetry). It is also good to construct your own music using sound clouds or garage band... this way the issues of copyright don't loom.
One of the most difficult things to learn about is how to create drama through contrast, but I think generally because of the culture of youtube there are heaps of examples and students (and even some adults) have an intuitive understanding about what manipulates an audience.
Example of an interpretation of a poem... in digital narrative form
I learned a new word this week 'ennui'. In the context of education it means that even kids who are good at English ‘...don’t like what they learn' but at the moment there seems to be a number of things converging for me with regard to digital narratives in teaching and learning. I really believe we learn heaps of stuff through storytelling; culturally, socially, educationally. I know people talk about oral traditions as though they are transient and somehow not sophisticated but in terms of understanding the world I think using narrative is key. Why do students dislike what they learn, why can't play (making stories using digital technologies) work to alleviate this resistance to learning. In my experience (all anecdotal of course) students respond enthusiastically to making digital narratives, even it if means reflecting on their learning about literature.
I've also been thinking lately about how we learn... and we learn deeply and meaningfully through association. For example if you give me a mathematical equation to learn unless I have something to associate it with, something upon which I can build, it hardly means anything to me. Further to that learning needs to be personalised. That has something to do with association but it also has a lot to do with relevance. So, you may ask, what has all this to do with digital narratives.
Digital narratives use personal associations to make sense to the people who make them. They link to context and concept and text when they are constructed in English as a reflection to texts and about texts and ideas. They can be playful, they can be serious, they can be a whole pile of things.
This sort of sums up what I've been thinking (with the help of some other dudes and dudettes:
How we teach, in the 21st century, is as critical to the learning process as what we teach. Professor Carey Jewitt, Institute of Education (IoE) University of London, writes that ‘…the ways in which something is represented shape both what is to be learned, …and how it is to be learned.’ (Jewitt 2008). She further identifies three key areas, which are most affected by technology’s impact on education: including knowledge as curriculum; learning and pedagogy; and literacy across the curriculum. (Jewitt 2006).
Literary study competes with a broad range of texts in secondary school English (Jewitt, 2006; Kress, 2003; New London Group, 2000) but remains the subject’s foundation. As a facilitator for the English Teacher’s Association NSW (ETA) National Curriculum forum in Armidale (April 2010) discussions highlighted increasing concerns, that the study of literature, grammar and multiliteracies in senior secondary contexts, appear inherently dichotomous and oppositional. Professor Len Unsworth (Unsworth 2008) extends similar concerns, as he asserts that ‘teachers do not feel confident or comfortable in the world of digital multimedia.’ While the Stage 6 syllabus ‘encourages students to reconsider and refine meaning and to reflect on their own processes of responding, composing and learning’ (BoS 1999) it is imperative that teachers also position themselves as reflexive learners in 21st century.
An Australian study makes three observations in regard to digital technologies which assert that teachers focus on skills that are already possessed by students, relatively few teachers motivate students and enrich learning (by developing multiliteracy skills) and teachers, when using digital technologies in their classroom, fail to focus on ‘higher order thinking and reasoning skills’. (Kimber & Wyatt-Smith 2009). These higher order skills link with the attainment of ‘higher-order social, aesthetic and cultural literacy’ (BoS NSW 1999) where the ‘study of English enables students to recognise and use a diversity of approaches and texts to meet the growing array of literacy demands.’ (BoS NSW 1999) At this time, (during the construction of a National Curriculum) it is imperative that notions of ‘deficit teaching’ (an idea appropriated from Halliday’s writing on grammar) (Halliday 2002), where the trepidation that teachers recount while using multiliteracy contexts in their classrooms, be addressed.
Students in Stage 6 English in NSW, are required to ‘learn to evaluate the effectiveness of processes and technologies’ (BoS 1999) and it is imperative that teachers develop skill sets to support this and future learning. ‘Monitoring and assessing the most appropriate technologies and processes for particular purposes of investigating, clarifying, organising and presenting ideas in personal, social, historical, cultural and workplace contexts’ (BoS 1999) (while a student learning outcome) (BoS 1999, [9.3]) will inform the study tour so that the tenants of teaching through multiliteracies will be evaluated.
The key tenants of teaching literature and grammar, with regard to digital narrative are the:
• Use of multimodal resources in pedagogy • Implications for literacy and grammar acquisition as emphasis increases on digital text production • Links between multiliterate pedagogical practices and literature course delivery in senior secondary English classrooms.
Is there a plot against English literature, Australian literature, the values of the print media? Miranda Devine, in today's Sydney Morning Herald, English Teachers have lost the plot, slags the ETA and asserts that Sophie Masson's sons didn't enjoy English for their HSC. This article hardly shows a considered response to a complex syllabus and an even more complex subject. Subject English has a number of components, it is not just the study of literature. It is fundamentally a subject which explores how texts make meaning. And yes texts can be printed, visual or multi-modal.
Maniacal laughter follows...
According to the article, the English curriculum has become so broad, for many teachers, and students, the joy of English literature appears to have been eroded. I find it extraordinary that Devine's assertion supposes students can complete the HSC Advanced or Extension English courses without reading! Both these courses require detailed reading from a wide range of texts, including the bastions of English literature: Shakespearean Drama. So let's just support the notions that Shakespeare is civilising, Australian texts are important in nation building and every other contemporary text has no merit or value! (Oh, by the way I'm using hyperbole purposefully here!) The fundamental element that stops students enjoying the study of English is the Higher School Certificate exam - prescriptive, archaic and stress inducing for both teachers and students. This is the cause of the lack of creativity in the English curriculum.
It is a simple thing to lambast an organisation like the English Teachers' Association but Devine and other pundits of 'English is literature campaign' (and predominantly Australian literature at that) need to look at how the world is changing, how information has changed and the ways in which creativity is learned and taught in English.
Time clatters by... I've constructed a wiki as part of our school Professional Development day on 29 August. It has been pretty quick really and not too many hiccoughs except for the forums... I think I've nearly figured it out and the materials are all available through the wiki which means the PD can be used all over the place and revisited, if of course teachers are interested. Still struggling with the forums...Arrrrggggghhhhh! But I will put on my manga attack expression and overcome any difficulties!
Cool book, worth a look...HSC 'Belonging'. If you click on the book you'll be taken to a pathfinder that has some stuff on Belonging...if you need more info contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
REALLY COOL CREATIVE DUDES AND DUDETTES and some useful sites