Sunday, 13 March 2016

Final Post: Assessment of New Knowledge

For the past few months, I have been inquiring about the effects of the integration of multiliteracies on learners who are considered struggling readers and/or writers. During the final phase of my inquiry, I decided to speak to the ICT teacher LeeUng at our school. Lee and I often collaborate in order to integrate technology into our units of inquiry. During this particular time of the year, all classes had been preparing for a  school event called "project week" where parents and community members are invited into our school and learners share their learning in connection to one area of focus. Since our school is an International Baccalaureate school, our focus areas for this year were learner profiles and attitudes. Learner profiles and attitudes are essential components which make up the Primary Years Program within the International Baccalaureate, with a goal to foster lifelong learners with international-mindedness.

Listed below are the learner profiles and attitudes. 

Learner profiles: risk-taker, inquirer, communicator, principled, caring, reflective, thinker, balanced, open-minded, knowledgeable

Attitudes: confidence, commitment, cooperation, curiosity, creativity, appreciation, empathy, respect, tolerance, integrity, independence, enthusiasm

For "project week", Lee and I discussed how to help the learners articulate the learner profiles and attitudes they were using during different activities in school. As Lawson, Layton, Goldbart, Lacey, and Miller explain (2012), a literate person “...makes intentional use of some enduring representation (an artifact) in order to purposively assign and convey meaning” (p. 106). In other words, the learners needed to represent their understanding of how they demonstrated aspects of the learner profiles or attitudes in various learning activities. What representation would help them convey their messages to the visitors on the day of the event? I knew that simply asking them to write down their ideas without artifacts would make it difficult for some children to reflect back on their own learning, which was an essential aspect of this project.

Since I already had an ongoing class blog which highlighted key learning activities since the beginning of the year, we decided that learners could reflect on their learning processes by looking through pictures of themselves in my blog posts. Lee and I worked together to create a class website using Weebly with a collaborative platform called Padlet embedded into the site.

Using this setup, learners selected pictures of themselves in the class blog, learned to copy and paste the “image link” onto the Padlet and comment on which learner profile/attitude the chosen picture represented. Throughout the process, many of the students discovered that they could also add videos which the PE teacher had previously posted onto the school website. Using this tool, students were able to reflect on their own learning process in a truly transdisciplinary manner and make connections between various subject areas.

After the project, I interviewed a few of the learners about how they found the process of commenting on pictures and videos in comparison to writing ideas down on paper. One learner responded that being able to see what other children were typing on the screen helped him to consider which pictures he would choose, and helped him develop his ideas on how and what to comment. He further explained that when he was confused about the meaning of a certain learner profile or attitude, he could look at what a classmate had written regarding the particular word, which at times helped him to infer meanings. This way, the platform served as a window into other children’s thinking processes, which helped learners develop their own ideas. During the lessons leading up to the event, I also noticed that many of the learners were pointing out their classmates’ comments on the screens and verbally giving and receiving feedback to their peers sitting close by. This idea of learning from social interactions is consistent with Vygotsky’s (1987) theory of social constructivism which explains that learning takes place when a child interacts with a more “knowledgeable other” within the zones of proximal development. In the digital age, such interactions can certainly take place in both online and offline learning environments.

Another learner explained that having the photographs and videos helped him determine what to write about, rather than being required to develop ideas out of the blue. In other words, looking at artifacts, in this case pictures or videos which represented his process of learning, helped him write comments in connection to his own personal experiences. As Wiseman, Makinen, and Kupiainen (2015) state, integrating multimodal tools such as photography helps learners make connections to personal experiences, which helps them process and express themselves effectively in various ways. Children, especially those who struggle with reading and/or writing, therefore tend to be more successful in expressing themselves in comparison to being restricted to monomodal communication.

Based on this experience, I would like to make two recommendations to other educators. 

Firstly, I recommend not to be afraid to collaborate with other teachers or staff, especially when it comes to the integration of technology. Although multiliteracies does not always require the use of technology, digital tools can often open up possibilities for expression in various forms. With the rapid development of devices, programs and applications, it can be difficult for teachers to remain up to date with what is available. This is why I recommend collaborating whenever possible, to avoid the repeated use of the same programs, applications or devices when better, more appropriate tools may be available. Collaboration also makes it easier for educators to share new information gained from various professional development opportunities. What better way to implement new knowledge than to apply it through collaborative lessons?

Secondly, I recommend that educators widen their views of what it means to be truly literate. In the 21st century, the definition of literacy is no longer confined to traditional views of simply reading and writing words and sentences on paper. Literacy in this age involves a much wider scope that keeps developing as new technological tools are invented, allowing users to express themselves in new ways. As Lawson et al (2012) stated, literacy involves intentionally assigning and conveying meaning to representations. Although this new definition of literacy opens up possibilities for people to express themselves in a multitude of ways, it also makes teachers responsible to help children develop 21st century literacy skills which are essential to communicate both safely and effectively, especially when they are online. Finally, teachers must keep in mind that the focus of lessons should not be on how to use a specific technological tool, but to enhance learning for that child. Therefore, deliberate planning of lessons with clear learning goals are integral to ensure that the students develop the skills and knowledge necessary to become active communicators of information in the 21st century. 


Lawson, H., Layton, L., Goldbart, J., Lacey, P. and Miller, C. (2012), Conceptualisations of literacy and literacy practices for children with severe learning difficulties. Literacy, 46(2), 101–108. 

Vygotsky, L. S. (1987). Thinking and speech. In R.W. Rieber & A.S. Carton (Eds.), The collected works of L.S. Vygotsky, Volume 1: Problems of general psychology (pp. 39–285). New York: Plenum Press. (Original work published 1934.)

Wiseman, A. M., Makinen, M., & Kupiainen, R. (2015). Literacy through photography: Multimodal and visual literacy in a third grade classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44(201), 1-8.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Post 2: Review of the Literature

            My overall understanding of multiliteracies has gradually been developing since I first heard of the term at the start of my master’s of education program. As I learned more about this aspect of language, I started to understand how implementing new literacies enables learners to communicate through multiple modalities, leading to students expressing themselves in more dynamic ways compared to more traditional forms of literacies. Despite this realization, I feel that I have not yet been able to fully visualize how practices relating to new literacies could be implemented to benefit all learners in my class, especially those who are considered to have various learning disabilities. Thus, I have chosen to inquire into how the integration of multiliteracies into my teaching may influence the achievement of learners who have diverse needs. More specifically, I was interested in how a focus placed on new literacies would enable struggling readers and/or writers to communicate through multiple modes of expression.

Summaries of Articles
Lawson, H., Layton, L., Goldbart, J., Lacey, P. and Miller, C. (2012), Conceptualisations of literacy and literacy practices for children with severe learning difficulties. Literacy, 46(2), 101–108. 

            Literacy has traditionally been understood as being a linear process of acquiring the necessary set of skills required to read and write text effectively. ‘New Literacy Studies’ proponents believe that literacy is a social practice in which communication occurs through multiple modalities. Often, teachers with conventional views of literacy who have students with severe learning difficulties (SLD) either teach with conventional goals in mind, or preclude opportunities of teaching literacy and instead focus heavily on teaching direct communication skills (e.g. speaking, listening, responding).
            When an individual is literate, he or she “…makes intentional use of some enduring representation (an artifact) in order to purposively assign and convey meaning” (p. 106). Since direct communication such as speech or signing is only one aspect of literacy, students with SLD should be given equal opportunities and support to develop their communication using artifacts, in forms which can be accessed from distant place and time.

Wiseman, A. M., Makinen, M., & Kupiainen, R. (2015). Literacy through photography: Multimodal and visual literacy in a third grade classroom. Early Childhood Education Journal, 44(201), 1-8.

            The integration of visual images in literacy lessons helps struggling learners develop their literacy skills, partly because the tools provide opportunities for students to connect personal experiences to their learning. Moreover, utilizing multimodal tools such as photographs helps students process and express what they have learned, while conventional text-based approaches may lead struggling readers and writers towards frustration.
            This primary research article explored the impact of integrating photography into writing lessons and its effects on how students create meaning. Interviews were given to two students: one described by the teacher as “academically gifted” and the other as struggling with reading and writing. Qualitative analysis took place using NVivo software in coding and categorizing. The student described as struggling with reading and writing explained that taking photographs as a part of her writing process helped her visualize images so that she could produce detailed pieces of writing. The student who was labeled as “academically gifted” explained that using photography enabled her to communicate and refine her ideas through collaborative work as she responded to her partner’s questions on how the photograph should be taken.
            In short, both students with differing skills in terms of the traditional sense of “writing” were able to benefit from the integration of visual images. Thus, labels such as “struggling” and “gifted” may lose meaning when learners can choose from multiple modalities to learn from, since students who are expressive in one modality may struggle in another.

Dalton, B. (2014). E-text and e-books are changing the literacy landscape. Phi Delta Kappan, 96(3), 38-43. 

            According to the Universal Design for Learning framework, integrating digital literacies helps struggling readers and writers learn through multiple means of representation, engagement, and expression. E-text can enhance word recognition in the following ways: 1) providing instant audio to match the words (text-to-speech or TTS) 2) integrating animation to display words in decodable chunks 3) enabling readers to record and listen to their own reading.

E-books can be used to develop vocabulary, comprehension, and engagement
through functions including access to glossary, hyperlinks to related information, strategy prompts, and summaries. However, e-books with functions such as irrelevant sound effects, animation and games can distract readers from focusing on comprehending the text, and decrease parent-child discussions about the story. With a goal to personalize reading instruction by using e-books, students should be instructed on how to use various functions and tools through the gradual release of responsibility model.

Price-Dennis, D., Holmes, K. A., Smith, E. (2015). Exploring digital literacy practices in an inclusive classroom. The Reading Teacher, 69(2), 195–205.

            Students with diverse learning needs often are not able to fully participate in digital literacy projects due to pull-out lessons on isolated skills. As an alternative to pull-out models for students with learning disabilities, inclusive push-in models help learners develop literacy skills when used in integration with appropriate technological tools to help students learn through multiple modalities.
            The following elements help to scaffold learning in order to develop 21st century literacy skills: working as a learning community, integrating digital literacy to make the curriculum accessible, and connecting learning outcomes to real-life issues. Moreover, inquiry-based collaborative environments where learner choice is valued helps students connect the curriculum to their personal life experiences, and share their newly constructed knowledge through multiple modes of expression.

Emerging Themes
            The first emerging theme is about how all learners should have equal access to learning experiences where multimodal texts are used to enhance communication. Many students labeled as “struggling” have often shown improvement in their literacy skills when they have the choices in the modalities they use to access the content as well as how to represent their knowledge or understanding. Thus, regardless of skills, all students should be given the choice to express themselves through a variety of modes. Research shows that the integration of new literacies can benefit both struggling and gifted learners; therefore, struggling learners should not be missing out on multiliterate learning opportunities due to pull-out lessons which tend to be focused on isolated skills on conventional forms of literacy.
            The second theme explores the necessity for each student to learn as a valued member of a community of learners. Connecting to the philosophy of social constructivism, students benefit from interacting with each other throughout the learning process. This does not necessarily mean that students are always working in large groups. In contrast, students should have the choices to work alone, in pairs or in larger groups, based on their strengths, needs, preferences, and goals. Regardless of the choices in groupings, students should be given the opportunities to engage in whole-group discussions to share and compare ideas as well as give and receive feedback. For example, learners could be referred to as “experts” to help their peers by using their knowledge and skills (Price-Dennis, Holmes, & Smith, 2015, p. 200). In terms of literacy, learning as a community can increase student motivation towards learning as they are able to recommend books to each other both online and offline. In the online environment, online spaces such as class wikis can be used in order to share information (Dalton, 2014, p. 42).

Next Steps
            First of all, I realized that there are many learning outcomes within our school curriculum (International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program Scope and Sequence) which connects well to lessons which help students develop their new literacy skills. This clear curricular link will help me justify and explain the purpose of my lessons to administrators and parents who are more familiar with traditional forms of literacy instruction. Specifically, our language arts curriculum states the following:

· realize that visual information reflects and contributes to the understanding of context
· select and use suitable shapes, colours, symbols and layout for presentations; practise and develop writing/calligraphy styles
• realize that text and illustrations in reference materials work together to convey information, and can explain how this enhances understanding
· realize that effects have been selected and arranged to achieve a certain impact, for example, the way in which colour, lighting, music and movement work together in a performance

            After taking a close look at the strands, I realize now that I had not been placing enough emphasis on communicating through the use of various semiotic resources. My focus had been placed primarily on more conventional forms of literacy, perhaps as a result of my own experience as a student. Specifically, when I was attending elementary, middle, and high school, it was extremely rare to have the choice to decide on the mode of communication.
            Secondly, I’m starting to ponder what “reading” entails, and what it really means to be a struggling reader. My current understanding is shifting from an idea of a traditional understanding of “reading” to a more multimodal definition. This shift in understanding will obviously have an impact on how I plan and deliver my literacy lessons.

            My past language arts blocks were focused more on conventional forms of literacy, such as developing phonetic awareness, accuracy, fluency, comprehension, and so on. There was very little emphasis on other modes of expression, such as the effects of layout, sound, visuals, and so on. I am starting to realize that my developing understanding of multiliteracies will start to impact the way I plan for my language arts blocks. I can foresee some challenges though, as I am unsure how I can add components of multiliteracies in the already inflexible timetable. I am planning to speak to a colleague who’s role is a technology specialist at our school, and works in collaboration with classroom teachers to integrate digital tools into lessons. I am curious to hear her thoughts on how the integration of various technological tools will enhance learning experiences for diverse learners.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Post 1: Question and Rationale

I chose the following question for my inquiry: How do Multiliteracies practices affect struggling readers and writers in their learning?

(1) Significance of Question in my Teaching Practice and Context

The question is significant in my teaching context because of the demographics of the students at my school, and particularly in my class. I currently work at an international school in Japan in which our mission statement states that we are an inclusive school. Therefore, many students with various needs are attending our school, coming from a variety of ethnic, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds. Unlike public schools, we do not receive any government funding because we are a private school with no financial ties to the Japanese ministry of education. Therefore, we often do not have the resources necessary to effectively support learners with disabilities, such as appropriate tools and specialists. In addition, since many of the families come from a variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds, we have many English Language Learners who struggle in literacy as well. Therefore, I would like to explore how Multiliteracies would benefit struggling readers and/or writers. This would include children who have disabilities, speak English as an additional language, or have a combination of both.  

(2) Significance of Question to my Students’ Literacy Learning in Contemporary Times

In contemporary times, students are required to show their learning in a variety of ways. At my particular school which is an International Baccalaureate school, the skills to communicate their knowledge through multiple modalities is a prominent component of the program. Specifically, at the end of the Primary Years Program which starts in Kindergarten and ends in grade 5, students inquire into a central idea over the period of approximately six weeks. Throughout the process of inquiry learners collaborate with their peers, teachers, and other people from the community to gain deeper understandings of the central idea. At our school, student in grade 3 and beyond use a tool called Google Community to share their learning, give constructive feedback and problem-solve through a digital platform where resources and information in multiple modalities are used on a daily basis.

In the final exhibition, learners present their findings in front of the school and community. In this process, they are required to share what they have discovered through their inquiry in a variety of ways. For example, in past exhibitions, there were student-created videos, visual arts, music, theatre, and more. A main goal of the program is to help learners develop the skills necessary to communicate in dynamic ways through multiple modalities, which is an essential component of becoming a life-long learner. Therefore, the program focuses on supporting learners in the process to build the skills to collaboratively learn and share their new knowledge and understandings through multiple modes of expression.

(3) My Emergent Understanding of Multiliteracies Characteristics

The purpose of education is to prepare children to successfully participate as citizens in the global workforce. Since the nature of the workforce has drastically changed in the past 100 years, the nature of education must adapt to such changes (Robinson, 2008). In the old economy, traditional forms of literacies and content knowledge through memorization adequately prepared children for a workforce which were the “product of the industrial revolution: factories, production lines and hierarchies” (Robertson, 2013). In contrast, the new economy requires “problem solving, creativity and information and communication technology literacy,” (2013) since we are preparing our students for our unpredictable economies of the 21st century (2008). As a result of the difference in what the new economy requires, the education also must shift in accordance to this global trend.

Along with such drastic changes, the English language itself has also diverged into multiple versions of English, depending on the culture, subculture, country, ethnicity, interests, and so on (Cope and Kalantzis, 2009). Consequently, the nature of communication itself has become more dynamic, as stated by Cope and Kalantzis, “…the need to conceive meaning making as a form of design or active and dynamic transformation of the social world, and its contemporary forms increasingly multimodal, with linguistic, visual, audio, gestural and spatial modes of meaning becoming increasingly integrated in everyday media and cultural practices.” (2009, p. 166) In short, children are now encouraged to construct meaning using multiple modalities to reflect the changing nature of the social world. Furthermore, traditional forms of alphabetical literacy are no longer adequate, and must be combined with the use of multimodal forms of communication (Cope and Kalantzis, 2009, p. 166)

Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2009) “Multiliteracies”: New
literacies, new learning. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 4(3), 164-195.

The RSA. (2010, October 14). Changing Education Paradigms [Video file]. Retrieved from

Robertson, C. (2013, April 10). Why Multiliteracies? [Web log post]. Retrieved from